Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A Winning Combination

As the authors of a mystery series myself and a longtime fan of mystery novels, I have always enjoyed getting the chance to find a new mystery series to read as well as get to learn more about the authors. Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Mary Ann Jacobs, who has a new book that has just been release in her Berkshire Mystery Series.

Welcome, Mary Ann, please tell us a little about yourself.

Currently, I am a writer, a retired teacher, and a writing coach.

My resume includes teaching Language Arts in grade school and high school, training preservice teachers, and teaching English and Children’s Literature in college. I have published many poems and essays in magazines, online, and in anthologies.

What was your road to publication?

Don’t Mess with Me never would have been published if it weren’t for the forced isolation caused by Covid. I immersed myself in reading cozy mysteries to ease the loneliness of confinement. I finally decided to get busy and try my hand at a mystery.

I had had poems and essays published and had a pile of rejections for my children’s books so I decided to search out the biggest publisher of cozy mysteries, Berkley.

The editor there was wonderful. She had me do an adverb purge which improved the manuscript. I was so hopeful that they would publish the book, but alas, they were told to not take on any new writers until they cleared their list from Covid. Talk about disappointed! However, my wonderful editor suggested I try The Wild Rose Press and within two days, they asked to read it, and Lea Schizas became my great editor. When I held the published book in my hand, I ran around the house yelling, “It’s real. It’s real.”

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?

The most challenging part for me is finding the time to write. I have always been very involved in multiple activities and have a hard time finding quiet time to be alone and write.

How do you come up with your plots?

My plots emerge after I have written several scenes for my characters and see how those scenes merge into a comprehensive story.

What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

Don’t Mess with Me in the Berkshire Mystery Series is set in the Berkshire Mountains where my daughter and four grandchildren live. After spending several summers there visiting, I was fascinated with the festivals in all the small towns and the active theater scene.

When I conceived my mystery, I decided on the setting first then let the characters emerge in different scenes. I used the small-town atmosphere with the unique shops you find in the tourist areas to develop the characters’ scenes. Some of the characters are based on my Lebanese relatives, the teenagers I met when my kids were in band, and my love of acting and theater. Being a big city girl, I found the small-town intrigue worth exploring, adding evil characters as well as caring friends.

Let's get a blurb:

Sheriff Houtman, who left Boston to have a more peaceful career, finds himself faced with two murders and a kidnapping. He is challenged by a band of amateur sleuths who doubt his competence. Will his conclusions hold, or will he have to admit defeat? Unfortunately, Sheriff Houtman’s judgement is impaired because of his infatuation with Sadie, and his immediate suspicion of a homeless teen that Robin and Sadie befriended.

Robin George narrates the story. She is a widow with a young son who moves to the Berkshires after her beloved husband died. Her bookstore, Bookworms, and Sweet Indulgences, her best friend Sadie’s restaurant, become the hubs for Robin’s amateur detective group where they plan how to solve the local crimes and exonerate Billy, the Sheriff’s main suspect.

Will they prove the Sheriff wrong?

And now an excerpt:

    The Sheriff, losing his normally calm demeanor, confronted Fergusson, “Are you aware that someone was murdered last night? Not only are we investigating a murder, but we also are looking for a vandal and a robber. I suppose you think a little noise is more important than all that. You are a self-centered so and so,” sputtered the Sheriff.

    Shaking, Sheriff Houtman turned around and said to the rest of us, “I’ll get back to all you later. One crime at a time. I better get back to the station and check out this rumor of arson. Let’s hope my deputy has turned up some evidence. Houtman then rushed for the exit.

    I thought, “Wow, he really went off on Fergusson. I wonder why. But the Sheriff is a coward to just leave without even a comment about Billy’s interrogation. I’m worried that Houtman has already tried and convicted Billy in his own snap-judgement mind.”

    Fergusson shouted at Sheriff Houtman’s fleeing figure. Fuming, Fergusson left the shop, banging the door behind him.

    Billy came back with his head down and his hands stuffed in his pockets. Gone was his cocky attitude. Whatever Houtman said to him seemed to have broken his spirit.

    “I’m really sorry, Ms. George, that I crashed through your door and made such a commotion,” said a subdued Billy. 

    Worried, Sadie went to Billy, and they found a secluded corner of the store and sat and talked. At least he seemed to be open to Sadie’s questioning. 

What’s your next project? 

I am working on the second mystery in the Berkshire Mystery Series. Many of the characters will return as well as some new interesting ones.

I am also trying to market a children’s book of modern-day fables as well as a book for children on how to write poetry.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Don’t let rejections get you down. Keep on trying and find a few friends who appreciate your talent and encourage you to keep on writing.
To learn more about Mary Ann and her new book, following are Mary Ann's buy links and social media contacts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

A Return Engagement

It's always great to have authors return to My Writing Corner when their newest books come out, and today that is true of this week's guest, Holly Schwartz, who writes as Susie Black.

Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but she now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. She says she  began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in the form of humorous mysteries. 

Susie says she reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit, she says, with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she tells us she’s become a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie says she lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 

My Writing Corner was lucky enough to feature Susie’s first book in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery series, Death By Sample Size. Now, let's get a blurb for her newest book, Death by Pins and Needles.

Who wanted Lissa Charney dead? The list was as long as your arm….but which one actually killed her? The last thing Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected to find when she opened the closet door was nasty competitor Lissa Charney’s battered corpse nailed to the wall. When Holly’s colleague is wrongly arrested for Lissa’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth sticks her nose everywhere it doesn’t belong to sniff out the real killer. Nothing turns out the way she thinks it will as Holly matches wits with a heartless killer hellbent for revenge. 

Want more? Let's get an excerpt:
    I’d combed the place from one end to another and found no sign of Lissa. Where the Sam Hill was she? Not in the showroom. Not in her office. Not in the kitchen. Not in the copier room.  In the ladies’ room? Abducted by aliens?  Hiding in a closet? I was out of options and time; so, for giggles and squeaks, I pulled open the doors to the enormous sample closet that stretched across the back wall and peered inside. Good news. I found Lissa Charney. 

A dozen swimsuits picture-framed Lissa’s battered, bloody corpse like a museum exhibit. Ringed with matching black and purplish-blue shiners, her wide-open, sightless eyes stared into space as though surprised by her situation. No kidding. That made two of us. I was no doctor, but you didn’t need a medical degree for this diagnosis. No need to take her pulse. One thing was for sure, Lissa Charney had made her last sales presentation. 

Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Do you want even more? Well, you're in luck! Susie has a freebie for you: She invites you to click this link and get a FREE electronic copy of her
swimwear fit guide.”

Definitely check out her buy links and social contact information below.
Thank you, Susie, for being my guest once more.  Any comments or questions for Susie?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Taking the Plunge

One of the best things about doing a weekly blog featuring authors is getting to meet (via email and books) so many different authors and learn their personal stories. It is fun and interesting to get to know how they come up with their books, why they write and how they develop plots and characters.. Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Terry Newman. Take it away, Terry! Tells us about yourself and introduce us to your latest book, Rewrites of the Heart, and its characters.

Two things you should know about me: I have an offbeat sense of humor and characters are constantly talking to me, trying to get me to tell their stories. Other than that, I’m a normal person.

I’ve spent most of my adult life writing in some fashion, from small-town reporter, to editor-in-chief and ghostwriter for a national natural health publishing firm. The last decade and a half I’ve worked as a freelance writer, penning ebooks that range from starting a doula services business to Native American herbs.

I finally took the plunge to fiction after pushing oh, so many doubts aside. My first novel with The Wild Rose Press, Heartquake, won a 4.5 Crowned Heart review with Ind’Tale Magazine.

All my books are set in fictional towns in northeast Ohio, where I grew up, and I write about things I love—like coffee.

I have a daughter, a son-in-law, and a grandpuppy and live in North Lima, a real town in northeast Ohio with all my characters. Yes, it does get crowded.

Let's get a blurb of your new book, Rewrites of the Heart.

JJ Spritely, romance author, writes characters that jump off the page. Figuratively, that is. She never expects them to make a literal leap off the page and smack dab into her world. But Alex Zurich and Blake Teesdale do just that. And they’re on a mission to help JJ write her own personal love story with a man she recently met, Kennedy King Cooper.

A history professor, Cooper doesn’t see the value of romance novels and he has even less regard for those who write them. Until he meets a woman who haunts his thoughts.

There’s only one small snag in Alex’s and Blake’s plan…okay…two rather large snags. JJ wants nothing to do with Cooper. The other snag? Alex and Blake aren’t able to return to the pages of their own book.

Will JJ ever write her own love story? And will it be with Cooper? Will Alex and Blake return to the pages of their own book?

Let's talk to the characters starting with JJ. Why do you write romance?

I started writing romance when I was in graduate school. It was an antidote to the pressures of my studies. While I was in school, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get my doctorate. But when I write romance, I know how the story is going to end. It’ll be a happily ever after. I believe in an uncertain world, this type of story is a great way to forget your problems, even for a little bit. As I told Kenn at the dinner party my sister hosted, “Because in a romance novel not one person worries about how they’re going to pay the cable bill this month. Not one person winces when the price of milk creeps up another couple of cents.”

We all deserve worry-free time.

JJ, how did you come up with your characters, Alex and Blake?

I chose a name for my heroine that is simple, which reflected her personality in a lot of ways. She’s in love with the idea of being in love. But underneath all of that, she’s complex. And she only allows close friends to see that. When she and Blake take courses at the University of Northern Ohio, psychology is her favorite subject. And I think that’s a reflection of her complexity.

Blake? I wanted a name that gave the impression of just how intellectual this character is. He appears at times to be absent minded or not listening, but when you least expect it, he pops his head out of a book and makes an insightful comment.

What frightens you about Cooper?

Everything. And nothing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a serious relationship. My husband, Geoff St. Clair, started out as my editor and soon become my husband. What if Kennedy King Cooper breaks my heart? I don’t think I could go through the pain of losing someone I loved again.

Alex tells me he’s the man of my dreams, but she sees life through the pages of her romance novel—where her happily ever after is guaranteed.

But then I realize I love everything about him, from the way he laughs to his mannerisms. I especially love his tenderness and his concern for my happiness. I tell myself there’s nothing to be frightened off. And you know, maybe there isn’t. While we didn’t see eye-to-eye on the merits of romance novels, which was our major conflict when we met, he was open minded about them. And I so love that about him.

Now let's hear from Cooper. What frightens you about JJ?

What doesn’t frighten me about JJ? She’s a smart, sexy woman. Oh, she doesn’t think she’s sexy, but that’s what so appealing about her. She’s fiery in a way I’ve never known a woman to be. I’m frightened because sometimes I’m not sure where I stand with her. There’s a depth to her silence that I’ve never experienced with someone before. And what I really am a pompous ass and she rejects me?

What draws you to her?

Her intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, JJ is beautiful, but I love the banter we experience. I love the conversations we have at the Physics CafĂ© over coffee about everything. History, spirituality, physics, and, yes, romance novels.

Everything about JJ draws me to her.

What kind of woman do you want?

I want the kind of woman JJ is. I know that now. Smart, funny, opinionated. I’ve dated many women—just ask my mother—and all have disappeared on me. Yeah, just walked out on me. Take Rain, for example. Yes, that’s her real name. I thought she was the one. Until she hopped on this motorcycle with some old guy on the premise of researching her dissertation. Yeah, right.

It may seem odd for me to say this, but I want a woman who wants a happily-ever-after. A woman I can spend the rest of my life. That’s JJ.

Want to know more? Let's get an excerpt:

“I was wondering if—” he continued.

Just then, his cell phone rang. He quickly looked at it and groaned.  

“Obviously someone you'd prefer not to talk to.”

“My mother,” he said, wincing.

“You know you can't ignore Mom.”

He sighed deeply and answered the call. She noticed he quickly sat up straighter in his chair, using perfect posture when talking with his mother.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Kenn, I have bad news. Sofie Addelmyer just got engaged.”

The volume on his phone was loud enough JJ could hear what his mother said. 

“To some accountant from Wilmington, Delaware. I know you're heartbroken dear, but—”

“Mom, I'm kind of busy here.”

“— but there's hope, sweetheart. I just ran into little Mary Margaret O'Mally's mom at a fund raiser. And she isn't dating.”

“Mom. No. Please. I can't talk right now. I'm having a conversation with my new teaching partner. Her name is JJ Spritely.”

Mrs. Cooper fell silent. “Mom, are you there?”  

“She's never speechless,” he whispered to JJ. 

“I heard that.”

“I thought you left me.”

“You couldn't be so lucky. But for a moment I thought you said you were with JJ Spritely.”

“I did.”

“Not the JJ Spritely.” JJ could hear his mom’s comment and she felt her cheeks get hot.

“I don't know. How do you know JJ Spritely?”

“Well, personally, I don't. But my book club has just finished her latest work, Love's Revenge. She paused, then gave a disappointed sigh and said, “No, it couldn't be that JJ Spritely.”

JJ enjoyed Kenn's bewilderment. “Uhm, I don't know. Let me ask her.” He moved forward so he was sitting on the edge of the chair. Removing the cell phone from his ear, he held it out so his mom could hear and asked, “Is Love's Revenge your latest book?”

He motioned to her to talk loud enough so his mom could listen in, “Yes, Mrs. Cooper, that is my latest book.”

“Kenn, let me talk to her right now, and don't you dare tell your mother no.”

He rolled his eyes and panic flooded his face. JJ, however, remained calm and motioned for him to give her the phone. She enjoyed the moment tremendously. 

“Oh, really? Well, thank you. Oh, you are? Well, I’m not sure. Oh, I see.”

She gave her teaching partner an amused look and shrugged her shoulders as she continued to listen.  

 “What was that all about?”

“Two things: Your lack of a love life and an autographed copy of my book.”  

Hearing the words love life he shrank as deeply into the chair as he could. It wasn't difficult to sense his embarrassment, so laughingly, she said, “You'll have to give me her address. She's a fan.”

He straightened up a little with that comment.  “Is everyone a fan?”

“According to my royalty checks and several reviews I've read, no, if that comforts you at all.”

Want to know what happens? You'll have to get the book! Here are the buy links and contact information for Terry.

Buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rewrites-Heart-Terry-Newman-ebook/dp/B0BQGP7Y7X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=16V3W4YPSLZOL&keywords=rewrites+of+the+heart+terry+newman&qid=1671466657&sprefix=%2Caps%2C114&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rewrites-of-the-heart-terry-newman/1142841043?ean=9781509246533 

Universal link: https://books2read.com/u/mY8NLV 

Universal url: https://books2read.com/u/bP7YAr 

Social Media Links:

Website: https://terrynewmanauthor.com/

Facebook: Terry Newman


Twitter: @tnewmanwrites


Instagram: terry.newman.31521


TikTok: @terrynewman614

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60574351-heartquake?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=99H2V7dnWm&rank=1

Thank you, Terry, for being my guest today. Any comments or questions for Terry?

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A New Series

Writing a series can take an overwhelming effort and I applaud anyone who tries it. But I also think it gives readers a real treat because they get to know characters or locations and everytime they pick up a book in that series they know a little about what to expect. Today's guest in My Writing Corner, Kaia Misk, brings us the first book in her new series. -- The Renzi Affairs Series. The new book is The First Born Son and it has just been released.  

Kaia is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, otherwise known as a “Yinzer.” Her parents grew up across the street from each other in a small town where most people worked in the steel mills. Their Italian and Slovak families were a strong part of her childhood which included foods, holidays and religion. Several of her characters are based on her family members and other Pittsburghers. 

Kaia has a background in legal and technical writing including training manuals, training presentations and legal documents. She is also an excellent tailor and patternmaker. Her IMDb page lists her work on two full-length films as a costumer.

She is particularly inspired by the Hat Squad books of Karen Rose and Joe Lansdale’s novels, although her first love was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. She follows numerous other authors and reads every day. She currently lives in suburban Pittsburgh with her Norwegian Elkhound, Boss. 

Tell us about your road to publication, Kaia.

Someone dared me to try to write a novel during the month of November a few years ago for NanoWrimo. She said I would not be able to do it. I could not let the challenge go unanswered. I wrote a full novel and self-published but needed better writing skills. Through some individuals on Goodreads and a critique group in my city, I created a draft of The Firstborn Son. I got suggestions from an editor who rejected the book. I took her suggestions and resubmitted. The publisher accepted the book.

What do you enjoy about being an author? 

The excitement of creating a new world that people can envision with some of their own adaptations. 

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author? 

Working through the first draft and adding details to the concept of the book. In other words, I can create two main characters in the romance, supporting characters for each and a bad guy. But how much action can revolve around chance and how much is generated by the characters’ prior actions? Then, what sequence do the actions follow? It can be a long process because I have a day job.

How do you develop characters? 

I tend to base my characters on people I’ve known throughout my lifetime. My mother’s Italian family provided many intriguing examples, like those who spoke with an accent. The stories my grandfather, aunts and uncles used to tell were seeds of larger tales. Also, I envision the character and try to assign a characteristic to them. It might be something they wear all the time, like a watch or a hat. A physical characteristic like a lisp or style of speech will let a reader know who the character is without stating the person’s name.

How do you come up with your plots? 

I like suspense in my books, so usually a crime is involved. I try to think of an interesting crime and how it would take place. Half of the plot revolves around the crime and the other half is the romance for a romantic suspense novel. Of course, there are thrill-seeking aspects that are fun like scaling a wall or a car chase that can add flavor to the original plot. 

What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

The Firstborn Son has characters that are similar to my Italian relatives and it mentions places where I grew up. I think the story revolved around the characters more than the characters revolved around the story.

Let's get a blurb.

Becoming a ruthless mob boss like his father is the last thing Frankie wants, but when Sofia’s father is gunned down, Frankie must become the very thing he loathes to protect the woman he loves. 

Sofia was a devoted girlfriend to Frankie, until he stood her up and she questioned his fidelity. Now that she’s alone and rich, mafia suitors slither around her. Marriage to him might be her only hope. 

They try to rekindle their love amidst a mob war. But can a hasty marriage withstand what the Mafia has in store? 

Intriguing, how about an excerpt:

    Her hands went to her hips. “I mean someone that puts me first. Like my father.”

    “Oh, I’m not signing up to be your father, sweet. I want way more than that.” 

    Lust, anxiety, and fear of a lonely future came to a fiery head within him. He prowled closer, grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. Heedless of the open window, he braced his arm behind her back with one hand behind her head. When he pressed his mouth against hers, she struggled for a moment. He almost let her go. 

    Slowly, her body settled. Chest to chest, hip to hip, her voracious kiss gave him hope. But he had to be clever, had to keep her mouth occupied so she wouldn’t argue. He stripped off his shirt and broke the kiss for a second. 

    Big mistake. She slapped him. The magic ended. 

    “This can’t happen, Frankie,” she said and stomped away. “You don’t get to seduce me and pretend everything’s all right. I love you. I want your body. I can hardly stand here and look at your chest without ripping the rest of your clothes off. But I need more than you’re giving me.”

What’s your next project? 

I am currently working on The Second Son. It is the second novel in the Renzi Affair series. Still set in Pittsburgh, the younger Renzi brother and his attorney pull out of a business transaction after finding the possibility of a financial crime. As a witness, the attorney becomes a target. 

For more information on The Renzi Affairs Series, check out Kaia's Youtube Channel:


What advice do you have for beginning writers? 

Start by writing anything. Find someone to act as a writing partner. This person can critique your work and vice versa. MeetUp groups in your area are good for this. Read Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell or some other work that teaches creative writing requirements. My editor recommended this book to me and it changed everything about my writing. 

For writer’s block, try listing a subject, verb, preposition and object. Make a sentence out of your list. Keep going until you have a small paragraph. Develop a story from there. This could become a chapter to a bigger work in progress.

Work with other writers. Volunteer to read something small, but don’t let it interfere with your own writing. Help others and hope you will be helped in return. When I find someone on social media who is seeking advice, I help when I can, although I’m a new author myself. 

Thank you, Kaia, for being my guest today.  Following are her buy links and social media links.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Firstborn-Son-Renzi-Affairs-Book-ebook/dp/B0BPLLTJX9

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-firstborn-son-kaia-misk/1142840680

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68044334-the-firstborn-son

IndieBound (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781509246755)

Alibris: https://www.alibris.com/booksearch?keyword=9781509246755&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=GwEz7vxblVU&utm_campaign=10&siteID=GwEz7vxblVU-i8cp942pBAOYRUB0p5M1RQ

Social Media Links:

Web Site:  www.kaiamisk.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/KaiaMiskAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KaiaMisk

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/authorkaiamisk/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH7bMsEqakACIdfpKMXwzew

 Any comments or questions for Kaia?

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...