Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gone to the dogs – but not the snakes! By Maggie Toussaint

Our guest blogger today is popular mystery and romance writer Maggie Toussaint who talks about her brand new Five Star/Gale mystery:

In Gone and Done It, sleuth Baxley Powell has her hands full with her Pets and Plants business, raising a preteen, and trying to remove her name from the suspect list. A young woman was found murdered under a tree Baxley recently planted, along with Baxley’s trowel.

Petsitting clients keep dumping their animals on her. Softhearted Baxley can’t turn her back on a four-legged pet in need, especially if it’s temporary.

Muffin is a furry Shih Poo who belongs to a friend of a friend. This tiny bit of fluff came to stay with Baxley temporarily and immediately claimed her daughter Larissa’s lap. Muffin’s full name is Stud Muffin. Muffin is savvy enough to hide when there’s trouble.

Elvis is a quivering Chihuahua, Baxley is holding for a jailed felon. He was keeping the little guy penned up in the house with the church’s holy rattlesnakes. Poor Elvis was a bundle of nerves by the time Baxley found him. Elvis took one look at Larissa and jumped in her arms. His feet have hardly touched the ground since he moved in.

Baxley pet sits for dogs and cats and the occasional iguana or bird, but she draws the line at snakes. If you need someone to care for your pet snake, you have to call someone else.

Unfortunately for Baxley, another person on the suspect list knows of her fear of snakes. When Baxley won’t do his bidding to use her special skills to help him out of his online gambling problem, he decides to get even.

Here’s a snip from Gone and Done It mid-story after Baxley’s two dog alarm system goes off. She steps outside, armed and anxious:

“This was crazy. I was in my backyard. There was no visible threat. But I couldn’t calm my nerves. My terror seemed elemental, instinctive. A few more steps and I’d be safe inside my truck.

Unlocking the door, I swung my backpack around to rest on the passenger seat. I climbed in holding the Glock. I didn’t want to let go of it, but I couldn’t drive holding the gun. I’d shoot myself for sure. I should put it somewhere—the glove box, under the seat, or in my backpack.

On my next inhalation, I became aware of an odd smell. A musky smell. Concurrently, I realized the passenger side window was rolled down because a strong cross breeze flowed through the truck since I hadn’t closed my door. I hadn’t left that window down. Someone had done that. Someone had been in my truck.

I should have come out of the house in a tight crouch, firing off random shots into the air. Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw movement. Bright patterns of color. Then I heard an ominous rattle….”

Gone and Done It is available in Kindle format and in hardcover.
More info at Maggie's Website

Southern author Maggie Toussaint loves to blend murder and romance in her fiction. With eleven published books to her credit, her latest release is Gone and Done It, a paranormal mystery. Coming in late August is Rough Waters, a new romantic suspense in her Mossy Bog series. Maggie likes yoga, beachcombing, and music. Visit her at

Feel free to leave comments or questions for Maggie! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

New book releases...

My second book in the feisty family series Patchwork Family came out the end of March. Unlike my first novel Feisty Family Values, I'm taking the marketing a little slower and more selectively. Why? I'm older? Nah. It's because it's not my first book release. I have a little more experience now, and plan to repeat what worked and not repeat what wasn't as successful. Duh, right?

In 2010, when FFV came out, electronic publishing was just gaining in popularity. The electronic rights weren't even mentioned in the contract I signed in 2008. That has definitely changed. Over the past four years I've watched as electronic books have moved up in popularity and in some areas surpassed print books. I sold more print copies of FFV, but things will probably change over time, and electronic sales will pass it. Also, new print-on-demand publishers keep your books available basically forever, and you don't have unsold stock gathering dust.

My new publisher says to anticipate electronic sales being higher than print. Everything is digital now and tech rules. That doesn't mean there won't be lots of people who enjoy reading a paper book, obviously paper is not dead. It's demise has been incorrectly forecast for centuries.  But the reader likes the convenience of hundreds of books at their fingertips, a lower price point, and the ability to carry that library around in a single reader. Convenience rules. 

Personally, I read both paper and ebook. And if I'm on a road trip I enjoy audio books. With gas over $3 a gallon we don't take as many road trips, but it won't stop most families from driving to the lake or mountains to enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. When I'm on vacation - I read. When I travel for work - I read. When I'm stuck behind a train - I read. I'm not alone. Why else would people be reading on their cell phones, if not for the ready convenience?

Okay, I digress. Because of the change in the publishing industry authors have had to change their marketing strategies. Social Media is a great way to build an audience and let them know about events - like your new book release. I've reconnected with extended family and friends who moved away through Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and I love the fact that I can reach out immediately with news.

Being visible on and are also great ways to keep some buzz going. I love visiting bookstores (especially the indies) and libraries. They have always been successful venues to talk about writing, books and answer reader questions. So, you'll see events on my calendar for both, whenever possible. I found out something the other day I didn't know. Not everyone knows what happens at a reading & signing event. My neighbor had no idea we talked about why an author wrote the story, or where thet got the inspiration for the characters. She just thought you bought the book and read it. The end.

I love talking about books I've read to other readers, leaving reviews all over the place, sharing my joy. When I get the opportunity to meet a favorite author I'm filled with questions about not only the story, but them personally. It's a wonderful exchange and very satisfying for an author and hopefully for the reader, too. If you've never attended an author reading and signing, I highly recommend it. You meet the coolest people. Face it, readers are way cool!

Another thing I do as a reader, I make sure my local library has a copy of my favorite books, so when I talk about them my friends have easy access. I also share my copies until they are tired and well worn. Books make great gifts to reading friends. If you read the same types of books, they will no doubt love the same books you do. So Share! Tell everyone you know, because they may have missed hearing about the story.

New book releases from favorite authors are like birthday parties. We get to hold the new baby, coo over it, and unlike someone else's baby - we can take this one home!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Author Interview with Nancy J. Cohen by Jacqueline Seewald

Last week’s giveaway of a print copy of THE BAD WIFE has been completed, the winner notified, and the book mailed. Expect more giveaways in the future.

Today at Author Expressions I have the pleasure of interviewing mystery and romance writer Nancy J. Cohen who is as prolific as she is successful.

Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide for writers on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. Her titles in this genre have won the HOLT Medallion and Best Book in Romantic SciFi/Fantasy at The Romance Reviews. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, reading, and outlet shopping.

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Hanging By A Hair is a traditional mystery. I like reading humorous mysteries and so that’s what I like to write. All of the titles in my Bad Hair Day series relate to the hair salon business but they also hint at the story. My amateur sleuth is a hairstylist and salon owner in sunny South Florida. In this case, her next-door neighbor—the homeowners’ association president—is found dead after Marla’s husband argues with him at their first HOA meeting. If she wants to make her neighborhood safe again, she’d better find the killer before he chooses another victim. Chances are it might be her as she gets closer to the truth.

Question:   What inspired this novel series? How did it come about?

After writing several romance novels, I decided to write a straight mystery. One day while getting a perm, I glanced at the other women waiting for their timers to go off and thought, “We need something gripping to read to kill time. Let’s kill off one of these ladies.” Thus my series was born. A hair salon is a great setting for a mystery series. People confide in their hairdresser. You overhear gossip. Customers come and go all day. Plus a hairstylist doesn’t have to be confined to a salon. She can do a wedding party, for example, or models for a fashion show. It’s a lot of fun to research. I’ve just turned in #12 in the series, Peril by Ponytail. As long as fans keep wanting these stories, I’ll keep writing them.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?
My hairdresser sleuth, Marla Vail, is a caring person who can’t help getting involved when someone she cares about is endangered. Although Marla starts out single, divorced, and not wanting children due to a past tragedy, she ends up falling for the police detective investigating the case when her client dies in the shampoo chair in book #1, Permed to Death. Detective Dalton Vail comes with a twelve-year-old daughter and lingering grief for his deceased wife. His relationship with Marla is tumultuous until they both let go of the past and realize they are stronger together. I love how this series has developed. I don’t believe in static characters. My people’s relationships have grown and changed like in real life.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Hanging By A Hair is my 20th published novel. I’ve also written Writing the Cozy Mystery, an instructional guide for writers on how to write a winning whodunit. This short book has gotten great reviews. It has tips that work whether you’re a beginning writer or a seasoned author.

And I still write romance. My Drift Lords Series are paranormal romantic adventures involving ancient prophecy, Norse mythology, hunky heroes, and women with special powers. These stories take place in modern day but with elements of myth and magic. Warrior Lord, #3 in this series, will be my next release from Wild Rose Press. They’re fun and wild stories to write. Manic Readers says, “Cohen’s futuristic, paranormal romance series blends aspects of science fiction with magic and mythology then tops it off with steamy sexy scenes that are so hot you will need a fan and a mint julep drink to cool off.” It’s refreshing for me to switch genres and write something different.

Question:   What are you working on now?

I’ve turned in Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day series. I’ll be working on getting my earlier mystery titles into audio now that I have those rights back.

Question:   What made you start writing?

I’ve always wanted to write. In my early days, I wrote poetry and short stories. Then I bought a book called Structuring Your Novel and learned how to write a book-length work of fiction. It took years of study, rejections, revision, and persistence until I sold my seventh novel. I am compelled to write. I can’t stop even when I try. It’s part of my nature.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Never give up, never surrender. Practice the 3 P’s: Persistence, Professionalism, and Practice. Take your time to learn the basics and don’t rush. There are no shortcuts or secret handshakes on the road to publication. Join your professional writing organizations. If you need feedback, enter contests and get into a critique group. Attend conferences and workshops. Study, write, and revise. There’s always room for improvement. Keep writing.


Hanging By A Hair, a Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again? 

Amazon Kindle:

Follow Nancy Online

Comments and questions for Nancy are welcome here!

Friday, May 9, 2014

“Mashup”: The Future of Fiction? by Jacqueline Seewald

In 2009, the term “mashup” came into being. Mashup simply defined means taking two or more different genres and mixing them up. For instance,  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, both by Seth Grahame-Smith, are good examples of mashup novels that take either historical figures or classic literature and combine them with horror. This form of hybrid work brings up intriguing questions regarding the future of fiction. Is this form of cross genre a good thing or is it merely pop culture at its worst? Short story writers have been combining genres for many years. Thus, the “speculative” fiction label often combines science fiction, fantasy and horror with  mystery, romance, historical and even literary elements. So this is not new.

 However, reviewers as well as readers are often confused when authors move away from pigeon-holed tried and true formulas for genre novels and experiment. Charlaine Harris, for example, tossed aside the usual rules of mystery writing and simply wrote what she really wanted to create--the secret to her superstar success. She wasn’t afraid to be different in style and subject and actually have fun with her writing. “Old school” mystery reviewers and writers frown on using paranormal elements. They consider it a kind of cheating. Charlaine didn’t worry about that. The results speak for themselves.

Kim Reynolds, my psychic detective in four mystery novels, tries her best to repress this ability but it keeps showing up and helping her uncover murderers. My mystery series is also strong on romance which is another no-no in old school mystery circles. But I look at novel writing as a dynamic, growing literary form. So I’ve been somewhat daring with it. This is also true in my romance novels as well. My heroes, for example, in my historic romances THE CHEVALIER and TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS are not paragons of virtue. They’re alpha males, strongly masculine but decidedly flawed. In my short fiction I often mix genres and write a combination of elements. In my recently published YA novel, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, I combine paranormal elements with everyday teen life, mixing reality and fantasy. In TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, elements of the supernatural are combined with Regency romance, historic elements and people of those times.

In the 18th century, many authors experimented with novel writing, considering it a dynamic form of written expression. The writers weren’t afraid to be original or different. They created unique novels with unforgettable characters such as: CLARISSA, TOM JONES, ROBINSON CRUSOE, GULLIVER, JOSEPH ANDREWS, PAMELA, MOLL FLANDERS and my favorite, TRISTRAM SHANDY. There was diversity in character, style and plot type which inspired subsequent generations who followed. The mashup novel is yet another experiment with the novel form. Will this manifestation last? To my mind, that is not the significant question. Will the novel survive as a literary form? I think the answer is emphatically yes because it is an art form that allows for change and constant evolution.

Do you take chances as a reader or a writer? Will you read or write books or short stories that do not follow standard genre formula plotting and characterization?

To celebrate Mother’s Day, I’m giving away a review print copy of my mystery thriller THE BAD WIFE to someone who comments. If interested, leave an e-mail address along with your comment.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Indian Crime Fiction

The people and culture of India have loomed large in crime fiction almost from the beginning. Consider Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, or Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. And yet, up until 1980 there were only a handful of mysteries set in India proper, and most concerned foreigners getting into trouble in a foreign land. Among the few that had any focus on India and Indians were the series titles featuring Inspector Ghote. H.R.F. Keating introduced the much loved and intrepid Inspector Ghote in 1964 in The Perfect Murder, and followed this with 23 more entries. The Ghote series is very much in the Agatha Christie tradition.

For mystery readers who love to read about India, there weren’t many other options than the endearing Inspector Ghote. This was part of the motivation that pushed me to write about Anita Ray, an Indian American photographer who lives in her aunt’s tourist hotel in South India. Anita made her debut in the short story “A Murder Made in India,” in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (2003). Since then she has appeared in 12 more short stories and three novels. The third novel is For the Love of Parvati, available in May 2014. 

India may be thousands of miles away, on the other side of the globe, with more people and worse weather, but many of the problems are the same. In For the Love of Parvati Anita travels with her aunt to visit relatives, but it’s clear at once that the old and revered family is well on its way to disaster, and a woman who has fled a war zone in another country is terrified of something she won’t or can’t explain. She entered the country illegally, and she has nothing to go back to.

An equally important and violent character in the story is the monsoon. It’s hard to explain the drenching unrelenting rain that comes twice a year. Rivers flood, bridges and roads are washed out, and trees are often uprooted. Anita is not surprised when she finds signs that a leopard has been stalking the area, driven out of the nature preserve farther up in the hills. She is surprised, however, when she realizes that a man is stalking the house, and her worry is only intensified when it turns out that the household servant has not gone on pilgrimage but is instead missing.

Similar in tone is the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall. The Most Private Investigator Vish Puri is introduced in The Case of the Missing Servant (2009). Three more mysteries followed. Also in this category is the series following treasure hunting professor Jaya Jones, who appeared first in Artifact (2012) by Gigi Pandian. Manjiri Prabhu published at least one book featuring Sonia Samarth, a private detective who solves crimes using astrology, in Cosmic Clues.

Barbara Cleverly introduced Detective Joe Sandilands in The Last Kashmiri Rose (2001). The series is set in 1920s and 1930s colonial India, and depicts life among the British and other Europeans of the time. Darker and more varied in setting and characters is the collection from Akashic Books, Mumbai Noir, edited by Atlaf Tyrewala (2012), offering stories by 14 writers from India. These writers take us into corners of Mumbai no outsider was ever expected to see. You can’t get farther from the Taj Mahal than the dark corners of Mumbai.

India is no longer the most unusual place on earth, the hardest to reach and hardest to understand. But all these books have a few things in common—the traditional ways of dealing with authority and elders, the delicious food, the challenges of getting anything done in India, the extremes of wealth and poverty, the pervasive corruption, and the exotic beauty of the country. All are set in North India, an area that has long been much more accessible to foreigners.

The Anita Ray stories are set in South India, in the state of Kerala, once the location of an old kingdom, Travancore. The ruling family is still active in civic life and much admired by the local population. Kerala is also one of the last areas to relinquish the matrilineal system, and many who live on the fringes of the modern world still adhere to the older ways.

For links to the Anita Ray books, go to