Posted in Cozy Series, Guest Post

Character Guest Post by Anastasia Pollack from The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries by Lois Winston

On Being a Reluctant Amateur Sleuth

By Anastasia Pollack

It isn’t easy when an author hijacks your life for her own literary purposes. One day you’re minding your own business. The next thing you know, your husband drops dead in Las Vegas, leaving you up the wazoo in debt with a loan shark breathing down your neck, your communist mother-in-law as a permanent houseguest, and a dead body glued to your office chair. That’s what happened to me nine books and three novellas ago when author Lois Winston decided to forsake writing romance and began killing people for a living. My name is Anastasia Pollack, and thanks to Lois, I’m the very reluctant amateur sleuth of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

Since turnabout is fair play, I decided to hijack this guest post she was supposed to write and give you my side of the story for a change. Believe me, I would have been perfectly happy to maintain my predictable suburban life. I had two great teenage sons and a job I loved as the crafts editor of a women’s magazine. Granted, it’s not easy raising teenagers, and editors at third-rate women’s magazines don’t make the big bucks, but life was comfortable.

Or so I thought. Lois had other ideas. You see, we characters don’t come with self-determination. We’re putty in our authors’ hands. Now, along with being a widow with debt that rivals the GNP of many Third World nations, I’m juggling a malevolent communist mother-in-law and Manifesto, her French bulldog (I ask you, who names a dog after a political treatise?)

You’d think that would be enough, right? Heck, no! Now, every time I turn around, Lois has me tripping over dead bodies! Does she think I’m New Jersey’s version of Jessica Fletcher? Apparently so.

At least Lois decided to write humorous cozy mysteries. In her prior writing life, she wrote some really gritty romantic suspense that would keep her readers sleeping with one eye open at night, thanks to the extremely evil villains she created. She wrote me into a genre of mystery where readers would protest if she penned plots similar to those of her romantic suspense books. I have it bad, but what she did to poor Emma Wadsworth in Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception…All I can say is thank goodness cozy readers would revolt if she tried to pull that stuff on me!

And I’ll admit, she even has me laughing at times—when she doesn’t have me staring down a killer. You wouldn’t believe the cast of supporting characters Lois has given me. Along with my nasty communist mother-in-law and her dog, there’s my much-married mother, who claims descent from Russian nobility, and her haughty Persian cat, Catherine the Great. And lest I forget (not that he’d allow me to), there’s Ralph, the Shakespeare-quoting parrot. I inherited him from my great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle. We’re all crammed into my tiny mid-century suburban rancher. At least I don’t have to share my bedroom with either my mother or mother-in-law!

Over the course of the series, Lois has also introduced some new characters, one of whom has been driving me bonkers from the moment he entered my life. Ira Pollack, my husband’s previously unknown half-brother, showed up with his three spoiled kids in Revenge of the Crafty Corpse. That was bad enough, but in Drop Dead Ornaments, Lois has him moving from across the state to across town!

When I saw what Lois had planned for me at the start of the series, I staged a revolt, demanding that if she was going to give me so much grief, she had to give me a little light within all the gloom and doom. After all, she’s got me two steps away from living in a cardboard box on a street corner. And believe me, no matter how big a carton, that would be one crowded box! She finally gave in and created Zachary Barnes, the photojournalist who rents the apartment above my garage, and allowed us to develop a relationship.

But we’re talking Lois here. She couldn’t leave well enough alone, and right from the start she has me wondering if Zack is really just a photojournalist or if that profession is cover for a more covert one. Which brings us to A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. Lois has finally gotten around to revealing some of Zack’s backstory in this book. And believe me, it’s not what I ever expected!

A Sew Deadly Cruise

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

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USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


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Posted in Freebies and Special Offers

Win 5 Cat Paperbacks and Ebooks

I’ve teamed up with 4 other authors for a Cat Cozies and Feline Fantasies Giveaway that will run from October 25 through October 29 on James Cudney’s blog, This is My Truth Now. One lucky winner will win 5 paperback books, and runner-ups will win an eBook from each of the participating authors.

a Raffle copter giveaway

Check out the paw-some books:


It’s October in Cobble Cove, and Alicia is busy preparing for the library’s Halloween party when she learns that John’s aunt from Florida has died and that John’s cousins and their spouses are coming to town to bury their mother. The day after the funeral, the caretaker’s son is found dead by John’s grandfather’s gravestone, from a blow on the head. The only witness seems to be Sneaky the library cat, who, having left the library, turned up at Alicia’s door with blood and dirt on him. As Alicia, Gilly, and Sheriff Ramsay investigate, a generation of family secrets is uncovered. Are one of the guests staying at the inn a killer? Will the humans solve the crime, and can Sneaky, Kittykai, and Salem, the inn’s guest cat, team up to help?

Lynley Cannon is the crazy cat lady, but she’s not quite crazy yet, though a bizarre connection to a bumbled heist and a double homicide has got her wondering in this 1st Crazy Cat Lady mystery. Retiree Lynley Cannon usually enjoys her old Portland home with her clowder of rescue cats, but when elderly Fluffs drags in a dusky brown beach agate that turns out to be a priceless chocolate diamond, things change fast. The uncut stone, one of a pair called the Cats’ Eyes, has been stolen from its wealthy owner, but how it ended up a cat toy, even the robbers cannot guess.Threatened by theft, kidnapping, and murder, Lynley is determined to maintain her serenity, even if it means finding the crooks herself. With the police completely baffled, friends, family, and a hunky humane society investigator come onboard to help.The killer, convinced that Lynley has the diamonds, is prepared to go to any lengths to get them back. Will Lynley live to clean the litter box another day?


Saving the world is such a bother when it makes you late for your nap. Blessed (or cursed, depending on who you ask) with human intelligence, Sir Edgar Allan Kipling, magical talking cat extraordinaire, spends most of his time keeping his human out of trouble. Of course, having a wizard for a human means that trouble is never far away. When Sir Kipling’s human goes away for the weekend and leaves him to guard her magical library, things start out quiet. But when he discovers a witch smelling suspiciously of demon magic snooping in his human’s office, quiet goes out the window and chaos looms on the horizon. Will Sir Kipling be able to outwit the intruders before their mischief causes permanent damage? If you are a cat person, you will adore this book. If you are a dog person, you will also adore this book, and upon completion will be inexplicably compelled to go out and adopt a cat. You have been warned.

Ever feel like your entire world has been turned on its head? That’s how I’ve felt ever since the gang and I found out that Nan has been keeping major family secrets stashed neatly away in the attic.

What’s worse, we still don’t know exactly what happened, and I have so many follow-up questions, like is she still the same woman I always assumed she was? And can I ever fully trust her again?

With Nan unable to give me a straight answer, I invite my parents to join me for a cross-country train trip so that we can all discover the truth, once and for all.

Octo-Cat hitches a ride with us, too, and it’s a good thing he does, because it isn’t long before a dead body joins us in the dining car. Now we have two mysteries to solve, and fast—our lives and legacy depend on it.

Life is supposed to get easier the older you get, right?

After a life of world travel and jujitsu competitions, retired museum curator, Dorothy Claes, is ready for a quiet life. Despite the rambunctious antics of her feline companion, Solomon, taking over the antique shop her late-father left her seems like the perfect way to settle down.

But when a mysterious stranger comes to call, spinning tales of magical artifacts, and the organization in charge of them, life becomes anything but quiet. With Solomon in tow, Dorothy heads out on her first mission: Discover, Obtain, and Neutralize the artifact that is causing pedigree cats in Paris to disappear and their owners’ memories to be wiped, before it ends up in the hands of someone far more sinister.

If you like International Travel, Feline Myth and Lore, and Tough-As-Nails Mature Female Leads, you’ll love CP Morgan’s Magical Cozy Mystery series. Grab your copy today, and curl up with your favorite feline.

Posted in Freebies and Special Offers

Award-Winning Psychological Thriller, Vista Al Mar, the Spanish Version of Sea Scope, is On Sale Through October 27

The Spanish translation of my psychological mystery, Sea Scope, is available as a .99 Kindle download from 10/23 thru 10/27. This book received a 5-star review and won a silver medal from Readers’ Favorite, in their 2020 contest. It also won a cover award from Top Shelf Magazine, and was a finalist in the mystery category of the Author Academy Awards.

Download Spanish edition for .99 via Amazon

Overview / Description:

Sarah Collins necesita un escape.

Mientras sufre el duelo por la muerte de su hermano y la inminente ruptura de su matrimonio, regresa al hogar de su infancia en Carolina del Sur, donde su familia regentaba una posada.

Sarah no había regresado a Vista al Mar durante veinte años; desde que ella y su hermano Glen descubrieron un cuerpo cerca del faro.  Ella nunca comprendió por qué sus padres se marcharon de Vista al Mar tan repentinamente, ni las razones detrás del suicidio de su padre.

Después que Sarah regresa a la posada, enfrenta recuerdos enterrados hacía mucho tiempo y unas pistas extrañas.  Algo no está bien en Vista al Mar.  Reunida con personas de su pasado, ella intenta descubrir qué está ocurriendo en el hogar de su infancia.

Cuando el pasado y el presente se encuentran, Sarah debe enfrentar las verdades de su familia, y lo que ocurrió aquel a de verano en el faro.  ¿Pero sobreviviría para contar la historia?

Vista Al Mar – Extracto del libro


Posada Vista al Mar, Veinte años atrás

Mi hermano Glen y yo corríamos por las escaleras del faro.  Mi cola de caballo se agitaba salvajemente a medida que mis zapatos deportivos golpeaban los escalones de hierro en espiral.  Como de costumbre, Glen tomó la delantera y yo reduje mi velocidad, con dolor en mis muslos.  Ciento sesenta y siete escalones después me reuní con él en la barandilla, doblada y jadeando.  Con una sonrisa pedante, él estaba allí de pie con sus brazos cruzados y relajado.

—Te gané de nuevo, Sara la tortuga. —Sacó su lengua.

Me enderecé. —Pequeño diablillo.  Se lo diré a Mamá.

Glen volteó los ojos y me dio la espalda mientras caminaba por el borde del balcón, mirando hacia abajo por la barandilla.

Luego se detuvo.

—Ey, ¿qué es eso? —preguntó, inclinándose por encima de la barandilla.

Vacilé.  Lo último que quería era mirar hacia abajo.  Glen, por otro lado, no le tenía miedo a nada.

—Aléjate de allí, Glen.  ¿Qué nos dijo Papá sobre acercarnos demasiado al borde de la barandilla?

—Tienes que venir a ver esto, Sarah.  Hay un hombre allá abajo, —dijo sobre su hombro, señalando el suelo con su dedo regordete.

A pesar de mi estómago revuelto, me asomé por el borde y seguí su mirada hasta un hombre que estaba durmiendo en la hierba arenosa.  Estaba boca abajo e inmóvil, sus brazos y piernas extendidos en ángulo, su camisa a cuadros rota.

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Freebies and Special Offers

Win 1 of 3 Copies of No Gravestone Unturned, My New Cozy Mystery, in Huge, Multi-Author Halloween Giveaway

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I’m giving away 3 copies of my new cozy mystery, No Gravestone Unturned, featuring a murder on Halloween, in this huge multi-author giveaway on Writing in the Modern Age. My entry is #64.

It’s October in Cobble Cove, and Alicia is busy preparing for the library’s Halloween party when she learns that John’s aunt from Florida has died and that John’s cousins and their spouses are coming to town to bury their mother. The day after the funeral, the caretaker’s son is found dead by John’s grandfather’s gravestone, from a blow on the head. The only witness seems to be Sneaky the library cat, who, having left the library, turned up at Alicia’s door with blood and dirt on him. As Alicia, Gilly, and Sheriff Ramsay investigate, a generation of family secrets is uncovered. Are one of the guests staying at the inn a killer? Will the humans solve the crime, and can Sneaky, Kittykai, and Salem, the inn’s guest cat, team up to help?

Here’s a direct link to the Rafflecopter to enter the contest:

The winners will be announced on October 31st.

Posted in Spotlight

Spotlight, Blog Tour, and Giveaway for The Firefly Warriors Club, A Texas Boys Adventure, by Susan Count

The Firefly Warriors Club (Texas Boys Adventures)
by Susan Count

About The Firefly Warriors Club

The Firefly Warriors Club (Texas Boys Adventures)
Middle-Grade Story – Age Level: 9 – 12
1st in Series
Publisher: Hastings Creations Group (October 13, 2020)
Paperback: 200 pages
ISBN-10 : 099708832X
ISBN-13: 978-0997088328
Print Length: 148 pages
Digital ASIN: B089M1XJXW

They chase a light and then it chases them.

When a mysterious light entices twelve-year-old Davy and his bothersome cousin, Anderson, into the woods, they discover the forest is alive with wonder. Firefly magic dazzles the boys, and they vow to save the insects from destruction.

Then a fire rages in the forest. Despite the cousins’ creative efforts to help the firefighters, the situation for the fireflies plummets from grim to dire. As the blaze consumes the fireflies’ habitat, the young warriors despair.

They enlist the support of the neighboring farms to protect and save the habitat of the magical treasures. If only there was—even one left.

About Susan Count

Susan Count writes for the joy and entertainment of young readers. She is a best-selling, award-winning author of the Dream Horse Adventures Series. Susan confesses to being overly fond of brownies, and horseback riding on forest trails. The Firefly Warriors Club was written for her three grandboys who wanted an adventure of their own. What’s a fairy grandmother to do, but wave her magic pen and create.

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October 15 – I’m All About Books -SPOTLIGHT

October 15 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 16 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

October 16 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW

October 17 – Miss W Book Reviews – REVIEW

October 17 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

October 18 – I Read Kid’s Books – REVIEW

October 18 – – SPOTLIGHT

October 19 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

October 19 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW

October 20 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 20 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

October 21 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 21 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 22 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 22 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW

October 23 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

October 24 – Jemima Pett, Author – REVIEW

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Posted in Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery

Spotlight, Blog Tour, and Giveaway for A Waffle Lot of Murder, A All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery by Lena Gregory

A Waffle Lot of Murder (All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery)
by Lena Gregory

About A Waffle Lot of Murder

A Waffle Lot of Murder (All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
4th in the Series
Publisher: Lyrical Press (October 6, 2020)
Paperback: 208 pages
ISBN-10 : 151611048X
ISBN-13: 978-1516110483
Digital ASIN : B082WR2ZHJ

For diner owner Gia Morelli, her seasonal fall menu calls for two main ingredients—maple syrup and murder . . .

While the first hints of autumn grace Boggy Creek, Florida, Gia misses the colorful harvest traditions she left behind in New York. On a scramble to make new fall memories—and promote her irresistible pumpkin spice waffles—things take a dark turn when she gets roped into the Haunted Town Festival, a spooky celebration held on deserted farmlands. The desolate area conjures plenty of eerie vibes at night, but Gia and her best friend, Savannah, are nearly frightened to death upon the discovery of the event organizer’s body buried in the nearby woods. More alarming, the local rumor mill says the woman’s shady dealings may have egged someone into sending her to an early grave. Now, there’s no shortage of creepy clues to feast on as Gia and her pals try to stop a killer with a very scary appetite . . .

Includes recipes from the All-Day Breakfast Café!

About Lena Gregory

Lena Gregory is the author of the Bay Island Psychic Mysteries, which take place on a small island between the north and south forks of Long Island, New York, and the All-Day Breakfast Café Mysteries, which are set on the outskirts of Florida’s Ocala National Forest.

Lena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island. She recently relocated to Clermont, Florida with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Her hobbies include spending time with family, reading, jigsaw puzzles, and walking. Her love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night. She works full time as a writer and a freelance editor and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

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October 7 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

October 7 – I Read What You Write – CHARACTER GUEST POST

October 8 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST

October 8 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

October 9 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

October 9 – Christa Reads and Writes– SPOTLIGHT


October 10 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

October 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

October 11 – Moonlight Rendezvous – REVIEW

October 12 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

October 12 – Ms. Cat’s Honest World – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

October 12 – Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT

October 13 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

October 13 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

October 14 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

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October 15 – Baroness’ Book Trove – GUEST POST

October 15 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – RECIPE

October 16 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW

October 16 – Jane Reads – GUEST POST

October 17 – Sapphyria’s Books – REVIEW

October 17 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW

October 18 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

October 19 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW

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Posted in Conference

My Panel Experience at Virtual Bouchercon

Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, is held annually in honor of mystery fiction author, editor, and critic Anthony Boucher. This year it was scheduled to take place in Sacramento but, because of the Pandemic, it was rescheduled as a virtual event. The two-day conference that kicked off on Friday, October 16, included On-Demand programs and hourly panels on different topics as well as the Awards ceremony for the Anthony Awards. I enjoyed the “Far Away: Building a Fictional Town,” “Not So Secret Lives of Authors,” and “Things That Go Bump: Writing Other Worlds in a Mystery” panels. I was particularly interested in the “With a Little Help from my Friends” and “Our Furry Friends” panels because they featured some discussion about animals in mysteries. While I couldn’t view all the panels, I hope to see them during the YouTube playback on November 1st. But the highlight of the event for me was my debut as a panelist. Although I hadn’t attended Bouchercon before, I was selected to serve on the “Keeping Secrets” panel with fellow mystery authors: Jess Montgomery, John Copenhaver, Michelle Falhoff, and Lisa Towles. Author Keir Graff moderated the panel.

Since it was my first panel and was live, I was a little nervous, but I was put at ease by the moderator and the other authors. I enjoyed speaking about how the cats communicate with one another and help investigate the murder in my latest cozy mystery as well as the secret rooms, secret hiding places, secret affairs, and other secrets that are featured in No Gravestone Unturned.

In addition, I found interesting the discussion about writing series books vs. standalones and shared my experience writing the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series and my standalone mysteries. 

Kudos goes to the organizers of this wonderful virtual conference. While not the same as the regular 4-day convention, it was a nice, safe substitute. After this taste of Virtual Bouchercon, I’m considering 2021 in New Orleans in August. I will update this post with a playback of my panel and the link to the other sessions when they are available.

Posted in Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery, Guest Post

Guest Post and Blog Tour for Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco by Richie Narvaez

Going Back in Time to 1979: Researching the Disco Era

by Richie Narvaez

 I never thought I would write a historical mystery or a YA mystery. But the process of writing Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco (Pinãta Books, 2020) involved a fair bit of time travel. And a lot of in-seat dancing. I decided to set this book in 1979 because I was going to write about a 14-year-old protagonist. And the last time I had been 14 was in 1979.

But that meant a little sentimental journeying. I got out the old high school yearbook and found pages and pages of character suggestions. For the book, I scrambled names and personalities, I made an old friend the school principal, I made an old rival look like an idiot. This is what writing is all about! This was great!

But the thing that helped me most get back to that long-ago era and get into the right mood was music.

For most of the ’70s, I listened to the likes of John Denver, Harry Chapin, Janis Ian, and a lot of American Standards — because that’s what Pop liked and Pop had command of the radio. But as my sister and brother got older, they would bring home these disco albums to play (on our wonky record player in our rickety entertainment unit). At first, I balked at John Revolta and his three-piece suit and the chipmunk sound of the Bee-Gees. Jeez louise!

But then there was this song called “Supernature” by Cerrone. With its bizarre lyrics (telling a story similar to a dozen Animals Gone Wild movies from the ’70s) and insistent beat, it was like a 10-minute B-grade horror movie you could dance to. This appealed to my nerdy, sci fi- and horror-loving pre-adolescent mind. Then there was “Devil’s Gun,” by C. J. & Company, which had a neon green demon/alien on the cover. Hello, you’ve got my attention.

So, I learned to like disco quite a bit. But, really, I was too young to love it the way my sister and brother did. I never learned to do the Hustle, never went to Studio 54. Musical genres like Modern Rock and Freestyle were more a part of my formative years.

As I sat down to plan the book, I realized I hadn’t thought about disco in a long time. There was quite a bit of social history to uncover. Disco may have been maligned for its sameness and mindlessness, but there were clearly undertones of homophobia and prejudice in the malice directed toward it.

As to the music itself, I dove right in — by listening to music the way you do nowadays. I went to YouTube. Now, I don’t usually listen to music when I scribble, but my neighbor upstairs had been proving particularly lead-footed, so on went the headphones.

First I focused on what was popular, and I found I still wasn’t crazy about the Bee Gees. But then I rediscovered Donna Summer! That plaintive, sultry voice is mesmerizing. From there I listened to MFSB, Tavares, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Hues Corporation, France Joli, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and more. I even discovered I had a favorite disco song: “Native New Yorker,” by Odyssey, a melancholy slow-disco meditation on Big Apple dreaming.

There was so much to listen to. Every day, I’d go through playlists and find singers and bands I wanted to learn more about. You know the idea of a wikihole? It’s an Internet-age rabbit hole of discovery after discovery. I went down that path willfully, gleefully, rocking in my chair, if not rocking dancing shoes.

I think Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco came out all the better for it. I was able to get into the mood of the era. I was able to hear what my teen detective protagonist was hearing and imagine her reactions. And if I could do that, then I could take my readers’ hands and invite them on to the dance floor with me.

Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco
by Richie Narvaez

About Holly Hernandez and
the Death of Disco

Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco
Young Adult Cozy Mystery
Grade Level: 10 – 12
1st in Series
Publisher: Pinata Books (May 31, 2020)
Paperback: 248 pages
ISBN-10: 1558859020
ISBN-13: 978-1558859029
Digital Publisher: Arte Público Press (June 22, 2020)
Print Length: 255 pages

Holly Hernandez, voted “Miss Bright of ’79” and valedictorian at her previous school, is excited to start fresh at Flatbush Technical High School, one of the most competitive public schools in New York City. She’ll be one of thousands; anonymous. But her dreams of a normal school life disappear when her mother, a homicide detective, has to investigate the murder of Mr. Friedman, the social studies teacher.

One of her classmates, Xander Herrera, quickly becomes the primary suspect. The tall, awkward boy is socially inept, but Holly doesn’t think he’s a murderer. She is intent on exonerating him—but he wants nothing to do with her. To Xander, Holly is the overly enthusiastic student who always sits in the front row and answers all the teachers’ questions—correctly. He hates perky people!

Eventually cleared of the crime, Xander is determined to find the killer before Holly. As they race to solve the case, their separate investigations lead to a slew of suspects, including another teacher seen arguing with Friedman and a mysterious person named Steve who met with him several times before his death. Could it have been a disgruntled student? Ultimately, a trophy for a disco-dancing contest leads the intrepid young detectives to the Mission Venus nightclub and a murderer intent on killing again!

About Richie Narvaez

Richie Narvaez is author of the award-winning collection Roachkiller and Other Stories and the gentrification thriller Hipster Death Rattle. His latest novel is the historical YA mystery Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco.

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October 18 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – GUEST POST

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October 19 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

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October 21 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Cozy Mystery, Interview, New Releases

Interview of Sarah E. Burr, Author of #Trending Topic: Murder, A Trending Topic Mystery

Welcome to Ruff Drafts, Sarah. I see you’re from New York City which is not far from my home on Long Island.

How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

In 2017, I began my writing journey with self-publishing. My first title was a novella called The Ducal Detective. Taking place in the fictional Realm of Virtues, my little novella about a Duchess solving the murder of her parents has since turned into an eleven-book saga that continues to grow. My latest self-published novel is Harrowed Heir, with a new Court of Mystery novel arriving this winter.

Trending Topic #Murder is my first traditionally published novel, which arrived on the scene September of 2020. It is first in the Trending Topic Mysteries, published by Camel Press.

Congratulations! We have a lot in common besides being New Yorkers, as I also write mysteries. I just published the fifth book, No Gravestone Unturned, in my Cobble Cove series.

Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

Trending Topic #Murder, first in the Trending Topic Mysteries, shines the spotlight on celebrity blogger and social media consultant Coco Cline after she discovers a dead body in her clients’ store. With her rep on the line, Coco is forced to untangle a web of deadly secrets in her small, beachside town.

Coco’s story takes into account how ingrained social media has become in our everyday lives and showcase really just how much information is out there at our fingertips. It goes to prove that anyone can be a couch detective if they put their mind to it!

Trending Topic #Murder made its debut September 8, 2020, and I am currently working on Book 2 in the series.

I will also be releasing the next Court of Mystery novel this winter.

Interesting choice of occupation for the character of your new novel.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

My main writing goal has always been to capture all the stories whirling around in my head and wrangle them into a manuscript. There are so many unfinished tales that have been marinating in my mind for years…my goal is to write as many of them down as I can. I also want to explore more genres outside of mystery/cozy mystery. My first major writing project that I ever completed was a fantasy series for young adults. I wrote most of it while in college, so it definitely needs some polishing, as I’ve learned so much about writing and communicating my thoughts since graduating. I would love to return to that series someday, clean it up, and publish it. I also have a few psychological thrillers in mind.

Achieving these goals is all about time management. I already write two series, so for any projects that pop up outside of those, I need to be mindful of time and my publication commitments. They come first. But where I’m blessed to be able to write full-time, I have the ability to carve out “project time” during my workday to pursue these other writing interests.

Sounds like we have the same goals. I like to explore other genres, as well, and have written short eBooks and stories in them, as well as non-fiction articles and will be publishing a non-fiction cat book soon. I’m also hoping to add a second cozy series. I agree time management is essential. It’s very important for me to organize my writing and promoting time because I also work full-time as a librarian.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I would love to bring more young women and men my age to the cozy mystery genre. Sometimes, I think cozies get overlooked by twenty and thirty-year olds, which is funny because most cozies feature a young heroine. By creating a more contemporary and modern main character in Coco Cline—someone who is attached to her phone and knows the power of social media and the web—I hope I have created a character that younger generations can identify with. I’ve loved cozies all my life, so I’m a little bias about how awesome the genre is, but I think a lot of people could benefit from reading about an everyday heroine who takes justice into her own hands. I think if we were all more like the heroines in our cozy mystery novels, the world would be a fairer, more just place.

That’s very true. While my main character is in her forties, I try to feature characters of various ages including teens, children, and seniors in different books of the series. The main character of my new cozy that I’ve been querying to agents is a young woman in her twenties.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Believe in your work. You know its value, so don’t give up because a few people thought differently. Querying can be one of the most demoralizing experiences in the world. You’ve put your heart and soul into your submission, only to have it rejected over and over again. I kept a spreadsheet of every rejection I received during this whole process. I pull it up every so often to remind myself that it only takes one person, one publisher to believe in your work as much as you do.

On a more practical note, proofread your submissions multiple times and even have a friends or family member proofread for you. A polished piece does wonders for the person on the other end of the line experiencing your work for the first time. And a catchy tagline for your book or series is always a winner!

Excellent advice. I think authors can identify with that.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I really struggled convincing the literary world that the cozy mystery genre was ready for a social media-savvy main character. I got a lot of rejections saying readers wouldn’t be able to understand or identify with Coco using her phone and computer to investigate her victim and suspects. I found this odd, considering my 83-year-old grandmother has a Bitmoji character. It felt like some publishers didn’t quite understand that the world had gone viral. Luckily, I found a publisher that believed in this book and believed that audiences would fall in love with Coco Cline and her squad.

Even before I started querying, I struggled with being ready, or believing my manuscript was done. Of course, it was far from done, but I eventually realized I had gone as far as I could go without help. Help from an agent, help from an editor. That was when I knew it was time to query. I needed someone else to help me take this book to the next level.

Thanks for sharing.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

As of right now, I am not involved with any writing groups. I am about as introverted as can be. A bit ironic, since I write about a main character who loves the spotlight. I tend to bounce my ideas off my beta readers.

You’re not alone in that. Many authors do the same.

 What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Every writer is a reader, first and foremost. I love sitting out on my porch with a good book. I am also an avid video gamer, lover of Broadway musicals, and swimming. I am a big movie and TV buff, as well.

Nice variety of interests.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

What I like most about being an author is connecting with readers. I absolutely love knowing my books connect with people and bring them joy. Hearing from readers how much they enjoyed one of my books has got to be one of the best feelings in the world.

What I like least about being an author and my toughest challenge are linked together. I’m really kinda awful with my newsletter. I try to write a newsletter quarterly, but I find it really tricky to share new details. I use social media so much to connect with readers and let them know the big news, that my newsletters always felt like a regurgitation of information. To overcome this hurdle, I’ve started using my newsletter to share exclusive content regarding my books, like short stories or character profiles. Since it is a more creative outlet, I find writing those types of newsletters more enjoyable than just listing my accomplishments or upcoming release information.

I have a similar issue with my newsletters, and I really like your idea for creating interest.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I love picturing myself as my heroine. It gives me the chance to live another life and have adventures I’ve not experienced. I love the warm, welcoming feeling of a cozy mystery setting. I moved around a few times growing up, so I never really had those deep bonds that cozy MC’s have with their hometowns or the places they live. I also love the idea of solving a mystery. For the longest time, I wanted to be a detective (my idol still is and will forever be Nancy Drew) so writing mysteries has become as good as solving mysteries to me.

I know the feeling. I also enjoy the writing process and becoming absorbed in my own story.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

From Trending Topic #Murder:

I nodded, heading toward the front door, surprised by the lump forming in my throat. Not one to normally show an abundance of fragile emotion, I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. As much as I wanted the horrible image of Stacy out of my head, pushing her away felt disrespectful. Adding to the fact I hardly knew her, even though I saw her every day for nearly a month, I was racked with guilt over the whole thing. If I hadn’t waited around before letting myself in, perhaps I would have thwarted her attacker, or at least taken him by surprise. Why was she alone at the store? Olivia and Peter were always there to supervise her work. How did the culprit get in and out of the store if all the doors were locked? As I slid into the driver’s seat, I realized I hadn’t yet asked myself the biggest question of them all. Who could possibly have killed her?

Great excerpt. Thank you.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I’m an open book! I love connecting with readers, so please feel free to reach out to me through whatever channel you enjoy best. I love posting content about my books, but also about my new dog, Eevee. She’s my first furbaby as an adult, so she is getting a lot of screen time!

Thanks so much for the interview, Sarah. I’ve shared your blog tour below. Best wishes on your new release and your forthcoming books.

Trending Topic #Murder (Trending Topic Mystery Series)
by Sarah E. Burr

About Trending Topic #Murder

Trending Topic #Murder (Trending Topic Mystery Series)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Camel Press (September 8, 2020)
Paperback: 218 pages
ISBN-10: 1603816305
ISBN-13: 978-1603816304
Digital ASIN: B08DH78VXM

Meet 28-year-old celebrity blogger Coco Cline, who has started her own social media consulting company in her hometown of Central Shores, Delaware. Her new clients, Peter and Olivia Chen, are ten days away from the grand opening of their specialty consignment shop when Coco finds their store clerk Stacy dead behind the register.

Worried that a cloud of suspicion will ruin their chances of a successful business launch, the Chens ask Coco to work alongside the inexperienced, small-town police force to speed up the investigation. Using her celebrity status and social media savviness, Coco realizes Stacy’s seemingly ordinary life was all an act. Following a trail of cryptic online posts and muddied gossip, Coco and her friends discover Stacy’s questionable relationships just might be the reason for her untimely demise.

About Sarah E. Burr

Sarah E. Burr grew up in the small town of Appleton, Maine and now lives outside New York City. Since she was seven, Sarah has wanted to be Nancy Drew, but she wasn’t stumbling across any mysteries in corporate America. Deciding it was time to follow her dreams, Sarah left her career in healthcare information technology three years ago and started writing mysteries of her own. The Trending Topic Mysteries is her first traditionally published series. Sarah also writes the Court of Mystery series.

Sarah attended Elmira College and graduated with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy & Religious Studies. She loves to weave these themes into her writing. When she’s not spinning up new stories, Ms. Burr is off seeing Broadway musicals, reading up a storm, video gaming, and enjoying walks around the city.

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