Posted in Blog Tour, Interview, New Releases

Interview of V.M. Burns and Spotlight for her new release, A Tourist’s Guide to Murder

I’d like to welcome V. M. Burns (Valerie Burns) from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Ruff Drafts.

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

My first book, The Plot is Murder was published in 2017. I have 3 series:

Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series, Kensington

  The Plot is Murder, November 2017

  Read Herring Hunt, April 2018

  The Novel Art of Murder, November 2018

  Wed, Read, & Dead, April 2019

  Bookmarked for Murder, November 2019

  A Tourist’s Guide to Murder, January 2020


RJ Franklin Mystery Series, Camel Press

  Travellin’ Shoes, July 2018

  Motherless Child, September 2019

  Steal Away, October 2020


A Dog Club Mystery Series, Lyrical

  In the Dog House, August 2018

  The Puppy Who Knew Too Much, February 2019

  Bark if it’s Murder, August 2019

  Paw and Order, August 2020

  Sit, Stay, Slay, December 2020

Congratulations! That’s quite a list.  Tell us a little bit about your books —  any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress.

I write cozy mysteries. My Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series is set in Southwestern Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan. The protagonist, Samantha Washington was a high school English teacher who dreamed of quitting her job and opening a mystery bookshop. After her husband dies, she sells her house and takes the insurance money and follows their shared dream. However, owning a mystery bookshop wasn’t Sam’s only dream. She also dreamed of writing British historic cozy mysteries. This series is unique in that it features two mysteries in each book. Readers get to solve the contemporary mystery Sam is living through, and the British historic cozy that she is writing.

That sounds great. I’m also a cozy mystery writer of the Cobble Cove mystery series featuring a librarian and a library cat, but I also write standalones and other genres.

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?

As a writer, I want to create entertaining, well-written mysteries that readers will enjoy. I’m not perfect and I’m constantly working to improve my craft and become a better writer. One of the best things that I have done to achieve my goal was getting my Masters in Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. The program helped me tremendously, but I know that I have much more to learn. So, I continue to take seminars, workshops, and courses to learn as much as I can. I read books on craft, as well as mysteries by other authors. Finally, I challenge myself in various ways to stretch and try new techniques. I hope to get better with each book I write.

Those are excellent goals. I agree that as writers, we need to keep learning, writing, and improving.

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

I think readers who like puzzles will enjoy cozy mysteries. Basically, that’s what cozy mysteries are. The reader is reading a story. Throughout the story, the author is dropping clues to help solve the puzzle to figure out whodunit. The author is also leaving red herrings (false clues) which may throw you off track. It’s up to the reader to put the pieces together and figure out whodunit by the end of the book. Cozy mysteries are considered “clean mysteries,” with no sex, bad words, and no graphic violence. Therefore, they appeal to people from all age groups.

Very true. Cozies have a wide audience.

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

Keep writing and don’t give up. Getting published rarely happens quickly. The road to publication is long, bumpy, and filled with potholes, roadblocks, dead ends, and detours. However, if you stay the course and don’t give up, then you will reach the end.

Perfect advice. Writers need to be persistent and a little stubborn to reach their goals. I’m still trying to find an agent as I continue to write and publish books and stories.

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

I think the biggest challenge I faced before I was published was in figuring out the publishing maze. Most publishers won’t accept manuscripts which aren’t submitted by an agent. Finding an agent can be like you’re on the quest to find the Holy Grail. Each agent wants something different (ie 10 pages and a synopsis, first 3 chapters, first 50 pages, first 50 pages and a plot summary, etc.). After you navigate the maze and send the query, then the waiting game starts. It can take months before you receive a rejection with no idea why. It was a long process for me, but perseverance paid off in the end.

I’ve experienced that myself and am still hoping my perseverance pays off with signing for an agent in the future.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime.

Great groups. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

As you might guess from my book covers, I’m heavily involved with dogs. When I was younger, I used to compete with my poodles (Coco and Cash) in canine obedience and agility. Both of my dogs were registered with Therapy Dogs International and made monthly visits to nursing homes and hospitals. I also enjoy baking and eating. And, I love reading cozy mysteries.

That’s nice that your dogs are therapy dogs. My parents had poodles when I was young, and they also had German Shepherds when I was growing up along with lots of cats, my favorite pets. I currently have 3 cats whom I’ve featured in my writing. I enjoy including both cats and dogs in my books and stories.

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

I love writing, but there are a lot of components to being an author which don’t involve writing and there doesn’t seem to be a guide on how or what to do. My biggest challenge is in staying on top of my social media feeds. I struggle with how to engage with readers on Twitter and Instagram (and all of the other forms of social media). However, I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, so I’m working on it.

LOL. You’re right on target with that. Working full time as a librarian, I find it difficult to juggle all the non-writing parts of being an author and still have time to write, but I think I’m getting a handle on it by prioritizing duties and keeping a strict calendar.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I love reading cozies and as a writer, I enjoy creating them. I love putting clues and red herrings together and trying to weave a plot that will (hopefully) entertain and intrigue the reader.

It’s true that it’s beneficial to write what you know and what you enjoy reading because that will be attractive to readers who like the same types of stories.

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

“Attention.” I clinked my knife against my glass. “Attention.” Unfortunately, no one listened, and the chatter got louder rather than softer.

My sister Jenna Rutherford leaned close and whispered into my ear, “Does the phrase ‘herding cats’ mean anything to you?”

I glanced down the table. My boyfriend, Frank Patterson, had reserved space for us in the upper level of his restaurant. Initially, I attributed the upper area seating to the fact that it was Friday night and the lower level of the restaurant and bar was full, so he was providing us space in the not-quite-open-to-the-public section to give us a quiet place to dine. However, after watching and listening, I suspected the seating arrangements had more to do with preserving the sanity of his paying customers.

Thanks for sharing an interesting excerpt. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

When an author is traditionally published, they don’t have control over many aspects of the publishing process (eg book prices, release dates, alternate formats). Most of those decisions are made by the publisher, not the author. However, I have been pleased that my publisher, Kensington Press, has made all of the books in my Mystery Bookshop series available in large print and all of the books in the Dog Club series are available in audiobook format. Making books available in multiple formats is more than a personal preference or convenience. It is vitally important for visually impaired book lovers to have access to books.

Those are good points. I currently publish with two Indie publishers who publish my books in various formats from eBook and paperbacks to large type, audio, and hardcover.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.






Thanks so much for the interview, Valerie. I’m sharing your new release’s blog tour and giveaway below.

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop)
by V.M. Burns

About A Tourist’s Guide to Murder

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop)
Cozy Mystery
6th in Series
Publisher: Kensington (January 26, 2021)
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN-10: 1496728955
ISBN-13: 978-1496728951]
Digital ASIN: B087YRY1S4

While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .

Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.

But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .

About V.M. Burns

V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She currently resides in the warmer region of the country in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Valerie is the author of the RJ Franklin Mysteries, the Dog Club Mysteries, and the Agatha Award-nominated Mystery Bookshop Mystery series.

Author Links







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January 21 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

January 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 22 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW, GUEST POST

January 22 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 22 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

January 23 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 23 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 24 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW

January 24 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT

January 25 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, GUEST POST


January 25 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

January 26 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

January 26 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

January 27 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 27 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 27 – Island Confidential – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 28 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW

January 28 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

January 29 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

January 29 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

January 29 – Books to the Ceiling – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

January 30 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 30 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 31 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 31 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

January 31 – My Journey Back – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

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Posted in Cozy Mysteries, New Releases

Wed, Read & Dead, A Mystery Bookshop Mystery, by V.M. Burns

Wed, Read & Dead
(Mystery Bookshop)
by V.M. Burns

About the Book

Wed, Read & Dead (Mystery Bookshop)
Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Kensington (April 30, 2019)
Paperback: 272 pages
ISBN-10: 1496718291
ISBN-13: 978-1496718297
Digital ASIN: B07G6RDBRV

Bookstore owner Samantha Washington sells and solves mysteries in North Harbor, Michigan—including the murder of her mother’s wedding planner . . .

Sam’s mother can’t wait to wed her wealthy beau, Harold Robertson. The big mystery is how they’re going to pull off a lavish wedding in three weeks. Harold’s snobby sister-in-law proposes a solution: engage flamboyant wedding planner Lydia Lighthouse. But their beacon of hope quickly sends everyone into a blind rage, most of all the groom-to-be. So when the maddening micromanager is strangled with her own scarf, it’s a shock, but not a surprise.

It’s a case of art imitating life as Sam pens her next historical mystery set in England between the wars. Lady Daphne Marsh insists on marrying Lord James Browning on Christmas Eve, three weeks hence. But when the fop planning their wedding ends up with a knife in his back, she vows to nab the backstabber before she walks down the aisle.

Meanwhile, when she’s not writing, Sam and her beloved and boisterous Nana Jo rush to shine a light on Lydia’s killer—so her mother’s new husband won’t spend his honeymoon behind bars . . .

About the Author

V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest, she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, The Plot is Murder was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at

Author Links:



Twitter: @vmburns

Purchase Links – AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBoundBooks-A-MillionHudson Booksellers

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April 23 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

April 23 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

April 24 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

April 24 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT

April 25 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

April 25 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

April 26 – Carla Loves to Read – REVIEW

April 27 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW

April 27 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

April 28 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

April 29 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

April 30 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

April 30 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

May 1 – LibriAmoriMiei – REVIEW

May 1 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

May 2 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

May 2 – Cozy Up With Kathy – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Cozy Mystery, Guest Post

Guest Post and Blog Tour for The Puppy Who Knew Too Much, a Dog Club Mystery by V.M. Burns

The Smelly Truth About Red Herrings

Before I started reading mysteries, I thought a herring was just a fish. Which of course, it is, but mysteries, especially cozy mysteries have a lot of herrings, in particular, red herrings. I’ve read a lot of mysteries over the years, but I have yet to read a mystery involving fish, especially herrings. I had to wonder, what’s the connection between herrings and mysteries? And, why are they called red herrings?

I’m not a fish lover, so I turned to Google for answers. I learned a lot about herring, too much. Don’t panic, I won’t burden you with the details. In fact, I will scale things back to prevent herring overload, by pointing out two facts. First, herring have a very strong scent (not a selling feature in my book, but to each his own). Second, herring are in the same family as Sardines (which might relate back to the first point now that I think about it). That’s pretty much all we need to know at this point. Although, I still had one other question. While, I saw a lot of pictures of herring (Atlantic herring, Pacific herring, Araucanian herring, etc), none of these were red. So, why do we call them “red herring?” Further digging provided that answer. When the herring are smoked and salted, they turn a brownish red color (who knew).

Now, let’s recap what we know. Herring is a fish which has a strong scent and turns a reddish color when smoked and salted. Yet, I still need to understand why these fish became associated with mysteries. Herring, specifically the red ones, are a big deal to the mystery enthusiasts. To the cozy mystery lover, a red herring means a lot more than a smoked fish. In mysteries, red herrings are false clues intended to challenge the reader and to divert them away from the real clues. So, why are these false clues called red herrings?

According to Wikipedia, the idiom “red herring” originated from an English journalist, William Cobbett, in 1807. As the story goes, a young Cobbett claimed to have used red herrings to train hounds to track. Apparently, he used the strong scented fish to lay a false trail for the hounds. Mystery solved. A couple hundred years later, mystery authors are still using red herrings to lay false trails and throw readers off the scent.

The Puppy Who Knew Too Much
(A Dog Club Mystery)
by V.M. Burns

About the Book

The Puppy Who Knew Too Much (A Dog Club Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Lyrical Underground (February 12, 2019)
Paperback: 190 pages
ISBN-10: 1516107918
ISBN-13: 978-1516107919
Digital ASIN: B07D233MVK

Lilly Echosby and her toy poodle Aggie find a fresh start in Chattanooga, Tennessee, spoiled by the scent of murder . . .

Having solved the shooting death of her cheating husband, Lilly’s left behind the drama of Lighthouse Dunes, Indiana, to start over in the hometown of her best friend, Scarlett “Dixie” Jefferson. As she gets settled in her new rented house, Lilly gives Aggie, short for Agatha Christie, her own fresh start by enrolling her in the Eastern Tennessee Dog Club, where Dixie is a trainer.

But drama seems to hound Lilly like a persistent stray. Her cranky new neighbor appears unfamiliar with Southern hospitality and complains that Aggie barks too much and digs up his prized tulips. But what the poodle actually unearths is the buried body of a mysterious man who claimed ownership of the lost golden retriever Lilly recently rescued. Now it’s up to Lilly and Dixie to try to muzzle another murderer . . .

About the Author

V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest, she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, The Plot is Murder was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at

Author Links:



Twitter: @vmburns

Purchase Links – AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound: – Books-A-MillionKobo

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February 11 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

February 11 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

February 12 – Mythical Books – GUEST POST

February 13 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

February 13 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

February 14 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW

February 15 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

February 15 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – GUEST POST

February 16 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

February 17 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

February 18 – Carla Loves to Read – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW


February 19 – Reading Is My SuperPower – GUEST POST

February 20 – Jane Reads – GUEST POST

February 20 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT


February 21 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

February 22 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

February 22 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

February 23 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

February 24 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

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