Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Ghostly Mixture of Murder and Romance

A murder mystery mixed with romance and ghostly doings... what could be more enticing to a reader than those possibilities?  That's what author M. S. Spencer brings us today in My Writing Corner as she introduces us to her latest book,

Our featured author says she has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, but the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

She has published eleven romantic suspense novels, and has two more in utero. She tells us she is the mother of two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine. So, take it away, M. S.! Tell us about your newest book, The  Pit and the Passion.

Thanks so much, Rebecca, for letting me talk to your readers about my new cozy murder mystery romance. The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel, takes place on the spot where John Ringling began building a luxurious hotel in the 1920s:

Left to slowly disintegrate over the decades, it inevitably came to be called the Ghost Hotel. And what do you find at a ghost hotel? Anyone?

Let's get a blurb:

At midnight, in the darkness of a deserted hotel, comes a scream and a splash. Eighty-five years later, workmen uncover a skeleton in an old elevator shaft. Who is it, and how did it get there? To find out, Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet, teams up with Rancor Bass, best-selling author. A college ring they find at the dig site may prove to be their best clue.

Although his arrogance nearly exceeds his talent, Charity soon discovers a warm heart beating under Rancor’s handsome exterior. While dealing with a drop-dead gorgeous editor who may or may not be a villain, a publisher with a dark secret, and an irascible forensic specialist, Charity and Rancor unearth an unexpected link to the most famous circus family in the world.

The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel opens when Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet meets Rancor Bass. He is preparing a compendium of ghost stories of the gulf Coast and she is tasked with helping him. Together they interview George the publisher, asking for all the ghost stories of the Gulf Coast he knew. The one ghost story he hadn’t heard involved a small child who haunted a restaurant on Longboat Key. When they go to interview the restaurant staff, they uncover a hitherto unknown mystery. 

Here's an excerpt:

“I said, you’re wrong. There has been a sighting there.”
“In the Ghost Hotel?”
“N…no. Not exactly.” He seemed reluctant to admit it. “In the Chart House. It’s built on the site of Ringling’s Ritz-Carlton, isn’t it?”
George put down his cup. “I can’t believe it. I thought between me and my father we’d heard of every event here on the key.”
Charity leaned forward. “What else do you know about it?”
Rancor looked past her to George. “Got the skinny from the bartender. It’s a little boy, about seven years old. Kid shows up in the men’s room fairly regularly. Plays with a toy or just sits there.”
“But who is he?”
Bass heaved a sigh, as though her questions were too, too exhausting. “Should make you wait for the book.”
“Oh, really?”
After a tense pause, he grunted, “Waiters call him Tommy T. Consensus is that he was the son of a carpenter working at the hotel. Fell down an elevator shaft.”
“How do I know? Isn’t that your job? To research and authenticate these stories. I just happened to hear about it at happy hour.”
Charity couldn’t help herself. “And what exactly is your job then?”
“To put the crap you draft into proper English. I’m assuming you’re incapable of decent prose, being a reporter and all.”
She rose an inch, but George put a hand on her knee. “Easy now.” He gave Bass a warning look. “Charity is here to help you, yes. However, you are perfectly free to contribute to the research, provided you have at least two sources for every item. The way a professional journalist would.”
“Yeah, yeah. So, what’s next?”
Charity reflected that she had never disliked a person quite so thoroughly—not even that first boss who loved to put her down in front of the staff—but she understood that George’s reference to professionalism extended not just to Bass but to her. “I want to interview the Chart House staff.”
“I’ll go with you.”
She kept her eyes on George. “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Bass.”
“Well, I want to.” He rose and dusted something minuscule from his faded jeans. “I need a drink. And besides, I can worm more information out of the waitresses than you can.”
Hateful. Absolutely, positively hateful.
Before she could come up with a crushing retort, George broke in. “Yes, take him along, Charity. We’d better get the story quickly—I don’t know when they’re planning to start demolition.”
Charity retrieved her cell phone and purse and led the way to her car. Bass regarded it with dismay. “Are you nuts? I can’t fit in a Mini Cooper.”
She looked him up and down. “What are you, six one?”
“And a half.”
Such a child. “You’ll fit.” She got in and started the engine. After a minute, his feet appeared, then his torso, and finally his head. He threw his jacket in the back and settled on the seat, his knees just grazing his nose.
“At least open the window so an extraneous appendage or two can stretch out.”
“All right.”
As they neared the entrance to the Longboat Key Club, a siren started up behind them. Charity pulled over to let two police cars and an ambulance go by.
They turned into the club drive. She followed them.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to see where they’re going.”
“What are you—an ambulance chaser?”
“No…a professional journalist.”
The ambulance made a left and headed toward the building that housed the restaurant, but instead of pulling up to the entrance, it stopped in a corner of the parking lot. Charity drove past and parked in another section. By the time Rancor had unfolded himself from the seat, she had reached the first squad car. “Hey, Pete. What’s up?”
The police officer—a husky man of about forty with the hard, brown skin of a fisherman—greeted her. “Oh, hi, Charity. Construction crew reported skeletal remains.”
“Really? In the Chart House?”
“Nope.” He gestured at a pile of broken asphalt. “Parking lot. Backhoe started breaking up the pavement in the southeast section and a sinkhole opened up. The foreman found bones at the bottom. Called a halt and us.”
“Mind if I tag along?”
Two medics were working on something in a deep pit. One of them looked up. “Hey, Pete, I think we’re gonna need a specialist.” His face was tinged an unattractive green.
“You okay, Carl? What kind of specialist?”
“Forensics.” He turned away. They heard gagging.
The other EMT added, “And maybe one of those physical anthropologists. Or a dentist.” He helped Carl up and they climbed out of the pit.
“How come?”
He laughed. “’Cause from the looks of this joker, he’s been around a looonnnng time.”
Charity ached to get a look at the thing but knew Pete wouldn’t let her until they’d secured the scene. Rancor apparently felt no such compunction. He marched past the policemen and peered into the hole. Turning to Charity, he yelled, “I think we’ve found our ghost.”
Buy Links:

Barnes and Noble:

Thank you, M.S. for being my guest and introducing us The Pit and The Passion. Any comments or questions for M. S.?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New Beginnings from Sad Endings

Normally in this space every week I look at new books that are coming out or have just been released and talk to the authors or characters about their story and writing journeys.  But this week, I am looking at new beginnings.  They are reflected in the new work I am doing and also the new look of my blog.  I've always looked at the new year as a way to either start a new project or get a fresh perspective on old projects or stories I've been working on for a while. It's also an opportunity for looking back -- at things and people who have made a difference in my writing and wanting to be a better writer.

One of those writers who first struck a chord with me as a writer is no longer with us, but she  had a big impact on me. I'm certain her work will continue to influence me and a good many would-be suspense writers in the future. I'm speaking of Sue Grafton, who wrote the Kinsey Millhone mystery series. When I heard of her death I felt like I had lost an old friend, even though I'd only met her a couple of times. Her death touched me because I felt like every year or so I would get the opportunity to check in with Kinsey and see what sort of trouble she was in now. 

I first discovered Kinsey way back in the 80s on a trip to Santa Barbara, and it struck me how similar Kinsey's hometown of Santa Teresa was so similar to it. (Duh!) The first book I read was "F is for Fugitive," but it sent me looking for all her earlier books. I was thrilled to find a number that I had to catch up on. After  getting through A - E, I was forced to wait for G, and I've kept up with every book ever since. Actually I not only read them all, I found myself buying the audio versions just to listen to them all again.

I've just finished listening to X, and I feel sad knowing that Y will be the final book I get to listen to. If I can find all of those audio tapes, I may listen to them all again!

But it wasn't just reading her books that touched me. Listening to her talk about her writing and her feelings about Kinsey at a booksigning in Denver and then the thrill of meeting her was a special treat for me. Getting the opportunity to listen to her talk about her beginnings as an author at a Left Coast Crime gathering in Monterey a few years later was even better.  Hearing her talk about working as a "script girl," and wanting more only made me aware of the struggles we all face. Best selling authors don't pop out of the bookstore shelves without a lot of work and she put in the hours.

So this year I am committing myself to new beginnings with my writing and working harder at getting books not only written but published.  I have more stories to tell, so I plan on getting them told! I may not have an alphabet to get through, but when I think of Sue Grafton and her drive to get through the alphabet it makes want to work a little harder to get those stories that are in in my head down on the written page.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Visiting a Time of Knights, Ladies and Great Romance

Romances have always been among my favorite books to read and I have to admit a weakness for anything set in medieval times. What could be better than sitting by a big window on a winter's day when the snow is coming down outside and curling up with a cup of hot tea and a good book? And what would be a better book to read on just such a relaxing occasion than a tale of knights and their ladies? And that's the sort of book I'm previewing today in My Writing Corner as we look at the new work of author Mary Gillgannon.

Mary is the author of seventeen novels, including romances set in the dark age, medieval and Regency time periods. Married and with two grown children, she says she now likes to indulge her nurturing tendencies on four very spoiled cats and a moderately spoiled dog. When not writing or working, she is employed at the local public library where she's worked for twenty-five years. She says her other interests include gardening, reading and travel. 

But it's her wonderful romances that continue to grab our attention and give us plenty of enjoyment every time we pick one up. She says she loves being a romance writer because "the process of  writing changes my brain and makes me feel calm and happy. And I love writing romance because it celebrates hope and love, family and friendship, and all the things that make life truly meaningful." 

Her latest book, which is being released this week, is titled Lady of Steel and it promises to give us more hours of going back in time for some great reading that takes us to another time and another world:

One rapturous hour sparks unforgettable passion between Lady Nicola and Fawkes de Cressy. But when Fawkes returns from Crusade, he finds Nicola enmeshed in a dark web of castle intrigue. 

Surrounded by enemies, the battle-hardened knight and the aloof wary woman must rebuild the bond between them. Or a sinister plot will destroy them both. 

Here are the buy links for order Lady of Steel:

Here are the links if you would like to get in touch with Mary or learn about her other books:

Thank you, Mary, for being my guest today and for introducing us to Lady of Steel. Any questions sor comments for Mary?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Uncovering a Treasure of Romance

To me, great characters have always been the heart and soul of any book I  read so I am always looking for new, exciting characters to get to know. What could be more fun to discover than a book with a determined pirate in search of more than just buried treasure and a beautiful widow disillusioned by love and living a lonely existence in the country? Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Canadian author, Luanna Stewart, who brings us just such a romance.

She says she has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered her grandmother's stash of romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after. She now writes full time, concentrating on sexy romantic suspense, steamy paranormal romance, and spicy historical romance.
Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Luanna has recently returned to the land of her birth with her husband and her two spoiled cats. She says that when she's not torturing her heroes and heroines in her books, she can be found in her kitchen baking something delicious. 

Her newest book is Love & Turmoil:

Six months after burying her wastrel husband, Lady Arabella Woodbridge has resigned herself toa lonely life in the countryside with only her two adopted nieces for company. Being a young, respectable widow is – frustrating. Then the charming and wickedly handsome Samuel Payn takes up residence in the neighboring manor house.

Retired explorer and occasional pirate Samuel Payn is on a two-fold mission – retrieve buried loot, and locate the father who abandoned his mother to a life of poverty. But a gang of murderous villains is also after the buried treasure. And someone is threatening to tear apart the lovely widow’s family.

Will Sam’s single-minded determination to uncover his true identity threaten Arabella’s happiness - and his life?

Of course I want to know more about these intriguing characters, so let's ask them some questions:

Lady Arabella, tell us a little about your current life.

          After living comfortably as the wife of a country squire I’m now in somewhat straightened circumstances. My late husband’s death—the idiot had no common sense. I warned him again and again to avoid those men. Be that as it may, his death forced me to leave my home and take up residence in a small rented cottage on the estate of an old family friend. Fortunately the small inheritance from my grandmother allows me to employ a cook-housekeeper and her husband, our coachman/gardener. I’m also able to provide a governess for my two nieces. My hope is that they’ll choose more wisely than did I when it comes to choosing a husband. Marrying for love was not a wise decision on my part.

What is it you want most in life right now?

              I would dearly love for that annoying relative to leave us alone! Mrs. Fagg seems to think she has some rights when it comes to Maddy and Nancy, my darling nieces, but I’ll not put up with her interference. If only I had some word that my father, the Earl of Dexter, was on his way to offer assistance. I can think of nothing else while this threat hangs over our lives.

What do you like about Samuel Payn?

              Mr. Payn is a handsome man but I know nothing of his character. He appeared suddenly and seems to have led the life of a nomad. His eyes sparkled with humour the one time we conversed, as well they should have given what we’d been discussing. It’s a wonder he didn’t—actually he did laugh in my face, the bounder. Still, he has agreed to help with the Fagg problem.

What is it about him that worries or frightens you?

              Mr. Payn is a man of secrets. After surviving my late husband’s addiction to gambling and lies, I have no patience for anyone who conceals the truth. There is too much at stake to put my trust in a man who’s past is shrouded in mystery. Plus, I fear his ability to make me forget the danger we’re under. His kisses—well, that’s neither here nor there. Suffice to say I’ll not be swayed by his tender regard.

And what about Mr. Samuel Payne? Let's hear more from him. Samuel, why have you given up life as an explorer?

              I was damned tired of insects that feasted on my blood. To say nothing of the spear carrying natives who objected to my existence on this planet. Adventuring is a young man’s game requiring strength and fortitude that I’m now lacking. To be successful you need to jump in without thinking too much about the consequences. I started thinking too much. Primarily about how much it would hurt to have one of those spears stuck in my belly. I had no need to lead expeditions for the money – my coffers were well filled.

Why are you looking at settling in the country?

              I’d been sailing around foreign lands for too many years and I realized it was time to return to the land of my birth. I’d like to buy an estate to manage, perhaps try my hand at farming. But first I need to find the bastard who seduced my mother. I need to make him pay for the heartache he caused. I’ll do my best to ruin him as he ruined my mother’s life. And as soon as my travelling companion arrives, we’ll retrieve a few trinkets we’d buried for safe keeping.

What draws you to Lady Arabella?

              The lovely Lady Arabella is a damsel in distress and I’m just the man to ease her worry. She’s also a widow who misses the marital bed, if that one kiss was any indication. While I’m in residence at Sir Reginald’s estate I’ll do my best to lessen her loneliness. Did I mention her beauty? Or her lush curves? Or the way her stare feels like a physical caress? Oh, yes, I’ll enjoy my time here.

What troubles you about her?

              I’m not troubled by Arabella so much as I’m troubled by my reaction to her. I’m supposed to be in the area for only a short while, but even after that one astounding conversation, that one embrace, that one delicious kiss, I’m questioning my plans to leave. To leave her. Damned inconvenient.  

These two characters make me want to immediately start reading their story! Here are the buy links where you can pick up a copy of Love & Turmoil:

And here is how you can get more information on Luanna Stewart:

Amazon Author Page:
Thank you, Luanna, for introducing us to your great characters and bringing us their story!
Any comments or questions for Luanna?

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...