Tag Archives: new release

Crime Writer’s Interview…A New Misterio Author, Sasscer Hill!

We are delighted to announce that we have a new misterio author, Sasscer Hill. Please help us welcome her to our happy band of mystery writers! (She was already scheduled for a crime writer’s interview when we invited her to join us.)

Crime Writers Interview logo
a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill

Sasscer Hill was involved in horse racing as an amateur jockey and racehorse breeder for most of her life. She sets many of her novels against a background of big money, gambling, and horse racing. Her mystery and suspense thrillers have won multiple awards and many award nominations.

Her newest title and first non-horse racing mystery, is Travels of Quinn, a mystery-thriller based on a real American group of gypsy con artists.

Kass (on behalf of the whole gang: I am so pleased to welcome you to misterio press, Sasscer! What can you tell our readers to help them get to know you better?

Sasscer Hill: I was born with horses in my veins and started galloping about the family farm on a stick horse when I was four years old. By the time I was seven or eight, I was sneaking rides on the Belgian plow horses. I did this because my father didn’t like horses and considered ponies dangerous. So instead, I drummed my heels on the sides of a 2,000-pound draft mare, while grasping whatever string or rope I managed to tie to her halter.

a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill

When I was sixteen, my father passed away. Shortly after that, a wealthy banker and racehorse breeder, Alfred H. Smith, Sr. took me under his wing and gave me a right-off-the-track steeplechase horse to ride.

At sixteen, I was fearless, and by the time I was thirty-six, I was breeding racehorses on my family farm and even rode in and won a timber race in Potomac, Maryland.

Because I had so much experience breeding, raising, training, and racing my horses, writing a horse racing mystery seemed logical. My first book, Full Mortality was nominated for both Agatha and Macavity Best First Book Awards.

Kass: What subgenre of mysteries do you write—cozies, traditional whodunnits, historical?

a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill
Sasscer’s first book

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Sasscer: I call my subgenre, “Edgy Cozies.” Some of my characters swear every so often, and sex fires a bit of heat in some of my books.

Not the kind of graphic, gratuitous sex you find in some romance novels, but if there’s a particularly handsome and sexy male in the story my heroine will always look twice, and sometimes more if it moves the plot forward.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Sasscer: My favorite childhood book was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I loved all his wonderful action-adventure horse stories and devoured them, starting with a picture book of The Black Stallion given to me when I was three or four.

I’ve always loved books filled with mystery, action, and adventure. After reading everything by Walter Farley, I graduated to the Dick Francis horse racing mysteries. As I got older, I read everything by Robert Parker, then went through all the Dorothy Sayer, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and other excellent writers of British mysteries.

The spare writing style of Francis and Parker is what I loved best, and my style tends to go in that direction. I’ve never liked books where the author wanders off into tangents and long descriptions. Anything that slows the pace down too much is a turn off for me.

Kass: So, you already have several books out, most traditionally published. With the latest book, what led to your decision to become an indie author?

I never fit in all that well in the work world. I much prefer self-employment. Novel writing is wonderful; if you write a good story, the readers don’t care if you’re the independent type.

I’ve been with two traditional publishers, one a very small press and the other a larger, better known one. I loved my editor there, but neither publisher did much in the way of marketing—despite the fact that Flamingo Road (my first book with the second publisher) received excellent reviews, including an editor’s pick in the Toronto Star, a starred Booklist review, and it won the $10,000 Ryan Award for Best Book in Horseracing Literature.

When I started working on Travels of Quinn, I suspected it was different enough that traditional publishers wouldn’t be interested. My agent did make an effort to sell it to several of them, but I became tired of the waiting game and self-published it in February of 2020.

Kass: And I read it and loved it, and that started the whole process that culminated with you joining us here at misterio. By the way, huge congrats for winning the Ryan Award!

Tell us, has there been anything particularly interesting you’ve ever had to research for your books?

Sasscer: The oddest thing I’ve ever researched was for the first Fia McKee book, Flamingo Road. There is a drug called Demorphin that was first used at Remington Park racetrack in Oklahoma. It is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and a few of the shoddiest and most horrible trainers were using it. Their sore or injured horses would run through the pain and win—if they didn’t break down before the finish line. The drug was made from enzymes and peptides collected off the skin of a certain South American tree frog. Race trackers referred to the drug as “frog juice.” 

a new misterio press author, Sasscer Hill

I got a tip from a former trainer that I should call Dr. Craig Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University. I did and he was delightful. We talked about everything from frog juice to how much we loved the series, “Breaking Bad.” Stevens was the doctor who produced the first test for Demorphin. Thanks to him, trainers were stopped from using this drug. 

But I needed frog juice for my book and asked him what if there was a different South American tree frog which also produced a Demorphin-like substance? And what if the chemical makeup was different enough that Stevens’s test wouldn’t catch it in a horse’s bloodstream? He said it was possible, and I almost did a happy dance knowing I had my drug for Flamingo Road.

In the recent Travels of Quinn, I had to write about Quinn’s time in prison. The novel takes place here in Aiken, SC, and I was lucky enough to meet with Capt. Nick Gallam, who runs the Aiken County detention center. He took me on a tour of the entire facility and answered every question I had.

Armed with accurate information and mental images of the women I’d seen in this prison, I was confident and enthusiastic as I wrote about Quinn’s experience in jail.

Kass: What are you working on now?

Sasscer: I was able to get the rights back for my Nikki Latrelle series. I’ve re-released them with new covers. My novel in progress, Shooting Star, will be my fifth Nikki Latrelle book, and I am delighted to be bringing it out with misterio press!

Kass: And we are delighted to have you as a misterio author!! Folks, see Sasscer’s new book, Travels of Quinn, below…and you can see my review of it on BookBub HERE.

You can connect with Sasscer on her website, or on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram, and you can follow her on BookBub and/or Amazon for updates on new releases.

Travels of Quinn

Born into a subculture of American gypsies, Quinn’s father and stepfamily raise her to be a con artist. Can she escape a binding marriage contract and a life of crime?

Jailed for theft, Quinn pays restitution working on a horse farm. Unfamiliar with horses, her love for them surprises her. They make her hope for a better world.

Until the farm’s owner is brutally murdered and Quinn is the prime suspect.

On the run, Quinn uses every scam and con she knows to save herself. Can she find the real killer before she’s imprisoned for life or murdered because she knows too much?

A mystery-thriller of deceit, murder, greed and hope, by multiple award-winning author, Sasscer Hill.

Available at:

AMAZON ~ NOOK ~ APPLE ~ KOBO

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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2 Off-Week Goodies: Comfort Words plus History and Fiction

Photo by Inside Weather on Unsplash.com

You’ve heard of comfort food, well this article talks about comfort words. What are the words that you use to help you cope, to get yourself through hard times?

It’s a great article (although you might want to skim the first part).

Check it out. Then come back and tell us…

What are your comfort words?

Also, Kathy Owen is guest posting this week on Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog, talking about the challenges (and rewards) of using a real historical figure in your writing.

Pop over and have a look.

And she has a new release!!! Yay!

THE SECRET OF THE FORTY STEPS, The Fourth Chronicle of a Lady Detective

Money, love, and murder in 1880s Newport high society…

Pinkerton detective Penelope Hamilton is summoned to fashionable Newport to investigate the two-year-old death of a wealthy matron. Did she fall from the Cliff Walk’s Forty Steps in the middle of the night, as was presumed, or was she pushed by her much-younger husband?

The case is personal this time, since Pen’s client is her own mother—breaking her near-decade of silence—and the man under scrutiny is to marry Pen’s cousin in a week’s time.

The lady detective discreetly enlists the help of a local, but the inquiry quickly unravels when he turns up dead. To make things worse, Pen’s identity as a Pinkerton is uncovered by Newport’s most prominent summer resident, whose complaint to her boss brings Pen’s estranged husband and fellow Pinkerton, Frank Wynch, to Newport.

With her cousin’s wedding day nearly here and no answers yet, Pen has no choice but to accept Frank’s help while dodging his romantic overtures. Nothing like a little danger to heighten an already-fraught relationship, as they work to expose a desperate adversary…who could prove deadly to them both.

Available at these online retailers:

Amazon ~ Apple ~ B&N ~ Kobo

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

A Memorial Day Salute to All our Heroes, Including Our Readers!!

by Kassandra Lamb

Memorial Day salute to the fallen in war, and to the first responders and healthcare professionals fighting our current war.
photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unpslash

This year, we would like to honor three groups: our fallen warriors, our first responders/ healthcare workers, and our readers.

First, we’d like to recognize all those who have given their all to defend our country! It is hard to even find words (and I’m a writer so words are my thing) to express our deepest appreciation for their sacrifice. Where would the U.S. be today without these selfless warriors?

And this year, we would like to include our gratitude to first responders and health care workers, who are on the “front lines” of our current war against coronavirus. Your fortitude and courage are amazing and awe-inspiring! Thank you so much for all that you are doing.

Also, today we’d like to honor our readers, and explore a bit the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers.

We ran a contest for free books recently, and, as you can imagine, we got a lot of responses. It was gratifying to connect with our readers through those comments. But one comment in particular touched my heart.

I love this blog. The authors are treating us like friends. That makes us very happy. Thank you so much.

comment from Joyce W.
That comment got me thinking about the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers.

Obviously readers need authors to produce the books for them to read.

Honoring the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers.
photo by Dan Dumitriu on Unsplash

But authors need readers as well, and not just because of the “trying to make a living” thing. Authors, of course, want to be paid for their efforts … but I think if I were making a million dollars a year in book sales, and I never heard from a single reader, I would get pretty discouraged after a while.

The pleasure of receiving an email from a reader is right up there with the thrill of holding one of my new books in my hands for the first time. Yes, I love writing, and I love seeing my work blossom during the editing process into something worthy of sharing with the world.

But that sharing it with others is a huge part of the satisfaction of being a writer.

Early on in my writing journey, I went to my first writers’ conference. An established author asked if I was a writer.

When I stumbled over my answer, he said, “Do you write?”

“Yes.”

“Then you are a writer.”

“But I’m not published yet.”

“If you write, you’re a writer.”

I ran into him the next day, toward the end of the conference, and I said to him, “I’ve been thinking about what you said. Yes, I am a writer. And you know what? I’m going to get published, one way or another. I have to. Otherwise, my characters will die a slow death inside my computer.”

And that is the essence of the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers.
Honoring the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers.
photo by Kourosh Qaffari RrhhzitYizg on Unsplash.com

You, the readers, keep our characters alive.

We create characters out of thin air, but they become real to us. We have a relationship with them.

Without readers, though, they would die.

Every time a reader opens a book, they breathe life again into the characters in that story.

So thank you, Readers! We love you!

We couldn’t do this without you. And to show our appreciation, we have new releases!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #9

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client.

The only true innocent seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him. Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer.

The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets…and one of them could be deadly.

Just $2.99 for a limited time, so grab a copy quick!

AMAZON ~ NOOK ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #2

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime.

AMAZON ~ NOOK ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

Live Where You Thrive (Lessons from a Pandemic)

by Kassandra Lamb

Live Where You Thrive ~ Happy Mother's Day!
We hope all mothers out there had a fabulous Mother’s Day! (photo by Karolina Bobek on Unsplash, so not my magnolias, but my magnolia tree is starting to bloom!)

A few weeks back, I wrote a post wondering how this pandemic, with all its short-term repercussions on families and finances, etc., might change our lives in more permanent ways.

And maybe, at least in certain areas, for the better.

I mentioned that one impact it had on me was to make me grateful for the things I had previously taken for granted (like toilet paper 😉 ).

Recently, I realized something else to be grateful for, that I can live where I thrive.

For the first five decades of my life, I lived in the state where I was born—a place that I kind of liked a good bit of the time, hated some of the time (winter) and never really loved any of the time. Then we moved to northern Florida, where I love it about half the time and definitely like it the rest of the time.

But we’ve been here almost sixteen years now, so I was beginning to take it for granted.

Live Where You Thrive ~ spring in Florida
The azaleas along one side of our fence. (photo copyright by my hubs)

And then we had a pandemic, and I’ve had to stay on my own property pretty much all day, every day for weeks on end. Fortunately, this was during my favorite time of the year down here—spring.

Yes, spring starts in March (sometimes late February), runs through April and usually at least a few weeks into May. It’s relatively dry and fabulously sunny that whole time, with temps most days in the 70s to low 80s, and mostly low humidity.

Spring in Florida has really made the pandemic lockdown tolerable for me. Indeed, it’s probably kept me from sinking into a depression (and also helped me to keep writing!!)

I realize that not everyone has been as lucky. Many have been cooped up in apartments—others in parts of the world where they were still experiencing winter or the chilly, damp beginnings of spring during March and April, or in the Southern Hemisphere, autumn. (And yes, I get it that some people like autumn or even winter; yay for you!)

The lesson learned is that it’s really important to live where you thrive.

Live Where You Thrive -- my editing chair
My editing chair. 🙂

I know that’s not always possible. We have to go where the work is sometimes, or where family is, or spend some time at school in a less than ideal climate for us.

But I think in making such decisions, all too often we Americans put climate and the local culture too low on our list of considerations. Yes, work and school and family are very important.

But being able to live where you can thrive should also be very important.

A couple of my friends and family members up north have asked me a few times if I would ever move back to Maryland. It’s my home state and I love it for that reason, but the answer is a resounding “No!”

Climate isn’t the only thing I’m talking about here.

The culture of a place is important too, and other things, like how densely populated it is.

Are you a country person, who loves a lot of space around you, or are you someone who thrives on the excitement of the city?

Or maybe somewhere in between?

I’ve always been a country girl. I loved the wide open spaces enough that I was happy to drive half an hour to get to anything, including a gas station or convenience store. My husband liked the fresh air and the fact that a nice piece of property, in Maryland, was much more affordable in the country than nearer to the city. But he didn’t particularly like the inconvenience of living in the boonies.

When we moved to Florida, he wanted to live in a more convenient location. I figured I owed him, since I’d had my way for decades. Well, we lucked out. We now live in a medium-small city, in an older neighborhood with decent sized lots and plenty of mature trees.

Live Where You Thrive ~ view from my back porch
The view from my editing chair on the back porch.

With a tall privacy fence in our backyard, I have my own little slice of country, while nothing in the entire city is farther away than a twenty-minute drive.

We have found a place to live where we both thrive!

How about you, do you live where you thrive? What about where you live now works well for you? Or is there something you would change if you could?

My sister misterio author, Kirsten Weiss, has also recently relocated to a place where she is thriving, Colorado. She misses the nice weather in California but loves the wide open spaces.

She and I have been thriving so well that we’ve both managed to get stories ready for publication during these stressful times. Here’s her next installment in her Tea and Tarot series, and mine in the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries.

Both are available for Preorder Now and will release on May 26th.

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #2

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime…

Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.

Click HERE for Preorder links!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #9

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself, to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client, to the beautiful but not very bright young woman whom her client has a crush on.

The only true innocent in the bunch seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him.

Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer. The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets, and at least one of them could be deadly.

Click HERE for Preorder Links!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

A Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Ann Bell

(Announcement to those who entered our Bag of Books Contest: Winners have been randomly selected and contacted; we will announce the winners on the blog as soon as we’ve heard back from them. — Check your spam folders, just in case.)

For authors who had book releases scheduled during this period of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it has been challenging, since their in-person book launch events and signings have all been cancelled. So we’ve reached out to a few of them to offer online interviews. For you all, our readers, we wanted to help you find some new authors…just in case your to-be-read list is getting low. 🙂

We are pleased to introduce you to Donnell Ann Bell.

Donnell has written several bestselling romantic suspense novels and is now introducing the first installment of her new police procedural series, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense (Kass’s review below).

Here is Donnell’s bio:

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell

Award-winning author Donnell Ann Bell knows statistically that crime and accidents happen within a two-mile radius of home. With that in mind, she leaves the international capers to others, and concentrates on stories that might happen in her neck of the woods.

Writing around the theme of “suspense too close to home,” Donnell’s single-title novels—The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed and Buried Agendas—have all been Amazon bestsellers. Before turning to fiction, she was an editor for the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine.

Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, is a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for best Thriller. To learn more about Donnell, check out her website.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of the whole misterio gang): We always like to start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Donnell Ann Bell: I am literally and figuratively a small-town girl. What is interesting about putting myself in that mindset, is that I thought Farmington, New Mexico was huge while growing up there, and I still consider it home. My parents abandoned me (well, not really; I was in college) and moved to Denver. There, I got a glimpse of what “big” is. Still, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I’ve heard people in New York and Boston refer to Denver as a Cowtown. Funny, I’ve always thought that title went to Fort Worth.

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Donnell: What a great question, and one I ask myself regularly when I become embroiled in what-if scenarios and research. I love intricate puzzles. I love pitting a worthy antagonist up against a worthy protagonist, and I love writing about justice in a world that doesn’t always play fair.

My first four books are romantic suspense, and I love romantic suspense, but I’ve never been able to write a straight romance. In defense of romance, it’s a hard genre. Keeping a conflict going without making it seem cliché or a huge misunderstanding is a testament to the many bestselling authors who make up that genre.

Kass: I absolutely agree. I have written some romantic suspense as well and the romance part is much tougher for me to write than the mystery. What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write?

Donnell: I write a cross between romantic suspense, suspense, police procedural mystery and thriller. My readers have never quite put me in a box, thank goodness.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Donnell: Oooh, hard question. Three books come to mind. The Velveteen Rabbit, Charlotte’s Web,  Lord of the Flies, any Nancy Drew or Hardy book mystery. Okay, that’s more than three. 🙂 I loved emotional reads and books that made me look outward.

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Donnell: I have numerous books in a “drawer.” But five published books and I’m working on number six. I’ve been writing for years, but in between writing, I’ve volunteered and coordinated contests, which was a win/win for me because I saw firsthand the amount of talent that never reaches the bookstore or the Internet.

I write around the theme Too Close to Home. Tying in with my small-town mentality, I guess, I like to write about places I’ve been to and leave the international exploits to people such as Daniel Silva, who is my favorite author.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?

Donnell: Thought-provoking questions. Research is the most challenging, I think. I can create a plot, and have an idea about the characters, but I have to know that the plot can work first. So, I spend weeks and months researching. I received a huge compliment from retired profiler and FBI agent Peter M. Klismet, who has read my books and said when it comes to research, I’m tenacious. He knows; I have him on speed dial. 😉

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Crime Writers Interview:  Donnell Bell
The road to Montrose, Colorado, where much of Black Pearl is set.

Donnell: Well, I’ve researched some fairly odd topics. I’ll tell you about one book that never quite made it out of my drawer. I was researching cyanide and arsenic and wanted to do something different when framing my protagonist. She had a peach orchard behind her property and was a woodworking expert. I decided to have cyanide found on her wood press.

I interviewed mining engineers in Cripple Creek, my longtime pharmacist, and finally went to the El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Sheriff’s office. I sat down with a lieutenant and sergeant who kind of gave me this squinty-eyed look. Finally, the lieutenant said, “Where does your story take place?”

“El Paso, Texas,” I replied.

At that he frowned and said, “Why don’t you just go across the border and get some?”  He pointed out that criminals are not very smart and are not very complicated.  

That lieutenant, by the way, became my impetus for another character for my debut novel, The Past Came Hunting, so I consider that one of the most fortuitous meetings of my career.

Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Donnell: The ending. As I said I wrote romantic suspense for my first four books. In romance, you always have a happily-ever-after ending. But now I’m writing a series. I did tie up all the loose threads and made my ending downright cheery, but I also needed something to encourage the reader to read Book 2.

Debra Dixon is my publisher and editor, and she had me read a novel that I considered Noir—every character was SO damaged, and I didn’t care for it very much (although the plot was spellbinding). But it was the best teaching moment ever, because I saw how the author set up her book for book two. You cannot go wrong with reading outside your comfort zone.

Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Donnell: Again, the ending. Also, I layered a bit more. My story revolves around Tahitian pearls, and I added more depth to the story surrounding them.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Donnell: What would you do if you had all the money in the world?

First, I’d make sure children never went to school hungry, and I’d give all the teachers, who make sure they don’t, unlimited access to funds and a huge pay raise besides for all their selflessness. I’d also give money to cancer research, Alzheimers, ALS and all the devastating diseases that take loved ones away from us before their time.

After that, I’d keep on writing.

Kass: Oh please, please do keep writing. I love your books. I’ve read The Past Came Hunting and Black Pearl, and am very much looking forward to Book 2 of your Cold Case series.

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell -- Black Pearl book cover

A cold case heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene, pointing investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years earlier. A calling card—a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned to strike again?

Soon, the hunt for a multi-state killer is on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders; a rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of the Black Pearl Killer, who is now a cop.

Go to https://donnellannbell.com/books for more info and buy links.

Here is Kass’s review:

In this well-paced police procedural, the author brings together a somewhat unlikely task force to look into the fourteen-year-old cold case of an abducted and murdered teenager.

A hardened Denver police detective investigates a fresh case that might be related, while the FBI agent who worked the original case goes to Montrose, Colorado, where the earlier abduction occurred. With him is the girl’s best friend who got away from the abductor, only now she is grown and a seasoned police officer.

Not only is the case fascinating, but the characters are three-dimensional and carefully crafted. I can’t wait to read their next adventure. I give Black Pearl five fingerprints!

You can reach Donnell at:

Website:  www.donnellannbell.com ~~ Facebook:  https://bit.ly/3552VOV ~~ Instagram:  www.instagram.com/donnellannbellauthor/ ~~ Twitter:  @donnellannbell

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Crime Writers Interview with Donnell Bell. Any questions for her? And how about you, readers … have you tried any new authors lately that you really liked?

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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Need a New Career or Side-Gig? Announcing the Freelance Writer Bootcamp!

Hi, all! Gilian Baker here.

When I asked myself how I could best serve the global community during this national emergency, teaching others a skill they could use to provide security for their families was at the top of the list. While talking with a friend and fellow entrepreneur, I came up with the idea to create a 30 Day Freelance Writer Bootcamp to help those who love to write and have lost jobs or need a side gig to help support their families.

Freelance Bootcamp

While other industries are slowing down or have stopped completely, there’s never been a bigger need for digital content! Companies, both large and small, are struggling to move their marketing budget from offline to online. This means a HUGE opportunity for those who have the skills they need to produce quality content.

As Part of the 30 Day Freelance Bootcamp, You Will:

Understand the freelance writing market  

Know where to find legit writing jobs     

Acquire a toolbox of free resources

Improve your writing skills

Build a portfolio to show potential clients

Gain experience as a freelance writer

Create at least one profile on a top freelance website

 *And have the chance to become part of my writing team!*

I have no doubt that those who take the chance to start a freelance writing business now will never again have to worry about earning a living! 

I’m honored to offer you this opportunity to transform your life during these unprecedented times!  Click the link to learn more and apply: https://mailchi.mp/6f0a91fd329c/30-day-freelance-writer-bootcamp

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author, freelance writer, and writing coach. She’s the author of the Digital Detective Mystery Series. Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Halloween Goodies from Our Authors (Recipes and Book Bargains)

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

We’re celebrating Halloween this year with some autumn recipes and a bunch of sales on our books!! See below for the bargains, but first browse our recipes for some stick-to-your-ribs dishes and some lip-smacking sweet treats. We hope you enjoy these Halloween goodies from our authors.

First up is K.B. Owen with one of those sweet treats ~ Because life is short; eat dessert first!

K.B. here. In our household, nothing says autumn and Halloween quite like pumpkin fudge. The spice combination, the creaminess, not to mention real pumpkin being in it…yum! I make it at least once in the season.

It’s a particular favorite of our youngest son, Corey. In fact, I’m about to make a batch to bring up to Rochester when we visit him next week (he’s a freshman at RIT…7 hours away! sniff). Enjoy!

Pumpkin Fudge (makes 3 lbs)
Halloween goodies from our authors
Corey has always loved pumpkin. Here’s a pic of him (from a few years ago) taking a bite out of one.

Ingredients:
3 cups sugar
¾ cup butter
5-oz can evaporated milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
10-oz pkg butterscotch flavor pieces
7-oz jar marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla
Optional – ½ cup toasted chopped pecans

Directions: Line a 13x9x2 baking pan w/foil, extending over edges of pan. Butter foil; set aside.

In a heavy 2-qt saucepan combine ingredients down through the cloves. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. (Clip candy thermometer, if you have one, to side of the saucepan.)

Reduce heat to medium-low; continue to boil at a moderate, steady rate, stirring constantly, until reaches 234 degrees Fahrenheit OR mixture reaches soft-ball stage (20-25 min).

sweet treat Halloween goodies from our authors
K.B.’s pumpkin fudge

Remove pan from heat. Stir in butterscotch pieces until melted. Stir in marshmallow crème and vanilla until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with pecans, if desired. Score into 1-inch pieces while warm.

When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan. Cut fudge into pieces. Store in fridge up to 1 week.

Gilian Baker asked the main character of her Digital Detective series, Jade Blackwell, to share one of her slow cooker recipes. Yum!

Jade Blackwell, Gilian Baker’s protagonist here. As the weather turns each autumn, we get a hankering for homemade soup. If you are anything like me, you want to keep your time in the kitchen to the barest minimum. Enter the slow cooker! Here’s one of my favorite fall soups. It’s a family favorite too, and you can’t go wrong with it.

The best time to make it is when you have veggies in the fridge that are looking kind of sad, and/or when you need to free up space in the freezer or the pantry. If you plan it just right, you can make up a big batch and won’t have to cook for a few nights! We like to eat it with a hunk of sharp cheddar and a crusty baguette from Tea & Sympathy, the tea shop/bakery in our small (fictional) town of Aspen Falls.

Jade’s Slow Cooker Clean-Out-The-Fridge Soup
stick-to-your-ribs Halloween goodies from our authors

Ingredients:
A couple of squash and/or zucchini
A couple of small potatoes
Some carrots
Some celery
Some cabbage
Some onion
Some tomatoes ( From the garden, if we have any left, especially if they are a bit overripe.)
Any other veg in the fridge that is looking a little like now-or-never
Homemade chicken stock (or store-bought)
2 or 3 cans of beans (or dry) — Whatever you have in the pantry will work. Dust off the cans that have been hogging up space and plop them in the slow cooker.

If dry beans are what you have, soak them overnight with half a potato. (The potato will absorb all the gas-causing enzymes from the beans as they soak. This little tip makes bean soup much more enjoyable for everyone. DON’T eat the potato; pitch it!)

Directions: Cut up all the vegetables. Dump the chicken stock, crunchy veggies, and beans in the slow cooker. Wait to add the softer veggies that don’t take as long to cook—zucchini, squash, and celery—so they don’t get mushy. Once the crunchy veggies are soft, it’s safe to add them. If you want some chicken in your soup, shred some and toss it in.

Cook on low for 6 hrs. or so, depending on what vegetables you used and when you added the quick-cook ones.

And here’s another stick-to-your-ribs recipe from Vinnie Hansen that actually makes me want to eat vegetables (not usually my fave foods).

Vinnie here. To me, autumn means eating more root veggies, so one thing I make as the weather gets cooler are roasted roots. That includes potatoes and yams for sure, definitely onion, carrots probably, but also possibly turnips, beets, and parsnips.

Stick-to-your-ribs Halloween goodies from our authors
(Photo by Beatrice Murch CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I slice them up, put them in a large cake pan coated with olive oil, sprinkle them with the spices that call to me–salt and pepper for sure, but then maybe thyme, or if it’s closer to Thanksgiving, maybe rosemary and sage (this is never a measured thing).

Then I roast them at 400 degrees, for about 45 minutes or until soft, flipping the veggies around once or twice during the process.

We need to wash that all down, so how about some mulled wine, from Shannon Esposito
liquid libation Halloween goodies from our authors
photo by element5-digital on Unsplash

Ingredients:
1 bottle red wine (I like cabernet sauvignon)
1 cup apple cider
1 cup cranberry juice
1/3 cup sugar (or your preferred sweetener)
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 oranges (zested and juiced)
12-14 whole cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp star anise


Directions: Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir. Cook on high until warm (about 30 minutes).

Garnish with leftover orange peel or cranberries and serve warm.

And yet another sweet treat from Kirsten Weiss — Autumn spice cookies.

(Um, after posting all these recipes, I need a snack! Bad!!!)

Kirsten here. These cookies are easy to make and lots of fun. Use Halloween-themed cookie cutters for the season!

sweet treat Halloween goodies from our authors
Vampire Bat Cookie (photo by Ralph Daily CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Ingredients:
Dough —
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
10 Tbsp softened, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Icing —
2 egg whites
2 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Food coloring (Halloween-themed colors of your choice)

Directions: Whisk the flour and spices for the dough in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter and sugar (electric mixer on high) until the mixture is fluffy. Add the 1 whole egg and the vanilla extract. Mix well.

Reducing the speed to low (so you don’t end up breathing in a flour cloud), gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat until the dough is thoroughly blended.

Lightly flour a cutting board or other smooth surface. Turn out the dough and knead lightly. Divide the dough in half and flatten halves into two disks. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F and grease two baking sheets.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8” thick. Cut into Halloween shapes using cookie cutters that are roughly the same size (so the baking times will be the same). Re-roll the scraps and repeat. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.

For the icing, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Keep beating until the mixture is thick and shiny. Separate into small bowls and add food coloring. Ice the cookies when they have cooled.
Enjoy!

And now, more Halloween goodies from our authors~Book Bargains for You!

alchemical detective book cover

FREE!!

Kirsten has Alchemical Detective FREE through October 31st!

And Fate, her new Doyle Witch Cozy, is just $2.99 during preorder!! (Price goes up after release on 11/15.)

Fate book cover

99 Cent Sale! (click on links under covers for book descriptions and buy links):

Legend of Sleepy Mayfair cover
Buy Links
Thru 11/2
Murder over Medium cover
Buy Links
Thru 11/2
Lady Luck Runs Out cover
Buy Links
Thru 11/2
Entire Series! thru 11/15

~~~~~~

Grab these bargains before they’re gone!!

~~~~~~

Also, if you click on each author’s name above, you might find more free stories available. Most of us offer free ebooks to folks who sign up for our newsletters.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Who Are The Guppies? (plus New Releases)

by Vinnie Hansen

If you are a long-term reader of mysteries, you’ve probably heard of Sisters In Crime, but have you ever heard of a special chapter of SinC, called The Guppies?

So who are the Guppies? …Organizations for crime writers abound. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is one of the most well-known, with chapters across the United States. I belong to the Northern California Chapter. In spite of wide-spread chapters, writers can still face obstacles to active participation. Many chapters draw from a vast membership area. The Northern California chapter of SinC spans 150 miles north to south. I’m located near the southern tip of the area with a dangerous mountain road separating me from most of the monthly events.

Other areas of the country are too sparsely populated to support a chapter at all. And for some, even if a chapter is nearby, health issues prevent them from attending.

Because of such obstacles, the on-line Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter proves invaluable. Several unpublished members of SinC started The Guppies in 1995 as a place to support one another with advice and encouragement. The Great Unpublished (Guppies) became a nationally recognized chapter within a few years and quickly grew into SinC’s largest chapter.

Over the years, many Guppies have gone on to be published authors. Among our ranks we count five-time Agatha winner Hank Phillippi Ryan! The Guppy experience is so rewarding that members don’t leave just because they become published, or even famous.

So Who Are The Guppies Specifically and Why Become a Guppy?

The Guppies currently have over 750 paid members from across the country! I asked some of these members, “What is your favorite thing about the Guppies or being a Guppy?”

The Guppies’ table at CCWC.

The Guppies are “a supportive, welcoming group, regardless of a writer’s level of expertise and experience. … When I can get to a conference or writers’ gathering, I look for those little Guppy pins—I know I’ve found a friend,” said Kathleen Rockwood.

Indeed, I was just at the California Crime Writers Conference. At breakfast and lunch, I looked for the Guppies table where I knew I’d feel at home.

In addition to the warmth of the Guppy pond, Kathleen also pointed out that Guppies have the opportunity to submit short stories for the Fishy Anthologies. In conjunction with Wildside Press, the Guppies publish an anthology every other year.

Lida Bushloper and I at our CCWC signing table.

Many of the Guppies mentioned in this article have stories in the newly released FISHY BUSINESS. At CCWC, Lida Bushloper and I, both Guppies, were given a signing table.

Guppy Susan Bickford says, “I would never have been published without the Guppies. It’s hard to count the ways, let alone settle on just one: fabulous courses, including Necessary Parts; critique groups; lots of advice on a whole range of topics, including just good moral support.”

I was in the Guppy on-line critique group with Susan. She, Andrew MacRae, Connie Berry, and I all went on to have our critique-group novels published. It was a strong collection of writers and the best critique group experience I’ve ever had. I also second Susan’s recommendation of Ramona DeFelice Long’s class, Necessary Parts, which helps writers whip their synopses and query letters into shape.

In addition to classes and critique groups, our outgoing president, Debra H. Goldstein, benefited from the Agent Quest program and the Emerald Short Story subgroup.  These were “instrumental in me landing an agent, selling/publishing five books, and having forty short stories published—including ‘The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,’ which not only was my first submission and acceptance by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, but went on to be a 2018 Agatha and Anthony nominee.”

(Sound effects obtained from https://www.zapsplat.com)

Who are the Guppies? Lida Bushloper summed it all up, “I’m lucky to be a member.”

To become a Guppy, one has only to join the national Sisters in Crime. Then just sign up and pay your dues. I recommend the group to all writers of crime fiction.

And check out Fishy Business for an introduction to some great authors.

Plus, Kass Lamb has a new release coming up, now available for preorder!

The Sound and The Furry, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #7

The Sound and The Furry book cover A tropical paradise turns deadly.

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks had thought it was the perfect arrangement—stay on her client’s private Gulf-coast island and get the human phase of the training done more quickly, while enjoying a much-needed break from the chaos of house renovations back home.

This certainly wasn’t the tranquil getaway she’d envisioned, however. Two resident ghosts, a sour-puss housekeeper and bearing witness to her client’s shaky marriage are bad enough. But within days, she’s discovered even deeper and darker layers of dysfunction.

Via emails and static-filled phone calls, fiancé Will Haines convinces her to get herself and her dog Buddy out of there, but before Marcia can accomplish this, a late-season hurricane abruptly changes course and strands them on the island… with a murderer.

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ NOOK

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching English, Vinnie is retired. In addition to writing, she plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat.

She’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams, plus her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Tea and Tarot… and Murder

by Kirsten Weiss

The introduction of my new Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series led to the other authors at misterio press asking me about Tarot readings… how do they work, what do some of the cards mean?

Tarot cards, with their mysterious archetypal images, frequently turn up in books and movies. Let’s face it, with cards like Death and the Devil, throwing a Tarot card down on a table can be a great way to build suspense.

Tarot cards
Tarot cards with the Death card (image from Pixabay)

But those two cards in particular tend to freak people out. I’ve heard of some Tarot readers who actually remove them from the deck, which seems a bit like cheating to me.

Because here’s the good news – scary-looking Tarot cards usually don’t mean the obvious. Tarot, like a good mystery novel, is chock full of subtext.

The Death and Devil Cards

Sometimes, the Death card can mean a physical death. But 99.999% of the time, it refers to a symbolic death, an ending. Perhaps the end of a job or a relationship or of a way of behaving in the world.

Death is a natural cycle, and inevitable, just like many changes in our lives. And while change can be terrifying, the Death card tells us that it can be easier to go with the flow. Change is a’coming, whether you like it or not, so… may as well accept it.

As to the Devil, this card usually refers to an unwillingness to see the truth. Our own willful blindness – towards the results of our own actions, towards a situation we may be in – locks us in, chains us. We are our own devils, and most of us lie to ourselves… quite a bit. Sometimes the lies we tell ourselves are fairly innocent.

But the Devil card warns us that our self-deceptions are going to cause us trouble if we don’t wake up.

Tarot Readings

Tarot cards laid out for a reading
Image by soulful stock on Unsplash

A Tarot reading takes you out of your “normal” world, and because of this, it can enable us to see the patterns in our lives more easily. As my hero, Hyperion Night says, in the hands of a good, honest Tarot reader, the cards can be a powerful tool for self development.

Once, when I was feeling low, I walked into a tea and Tarot room (the inspiration for my new series). The reader told me that I was going on a trip in May, and I’d meet a man.

Maybe it was because I was looking for that trip, that relationship, but it happened. The power of positive expectations is real. Or maybe the reader was really that good. But it gave me the boost of optimism I needed to move forward and through a scary situation.

But not every person with a deck of cards is good or honest. A common scam is for Tarot readers to warn their victims that a curse has been placed on them, and the reader can remove it… for more money. Basically, any time a Tarot reader asks you for more money beyond what was initially agreed on for the session, alarm bells should go off.

For a fun introduction to Tarot, and a great mystery, check out Book 1 in my new series…

Steeped in Murder, A Tea and Tarot Cozy Mystery

BOOK COVER

Tea, tarot, and trouble.

Abigail Beanblossom’s dream of owning a tea room in her California beach town is about to come true. She’s got the lease, the start-up funds, and the recipes. But Abigail’s out of a tearoom and into hot water when her realtor turns out to be a conman… and then turns up dead.

However, not even death puts an end to the conman’s mischief. He rented the same space to a tarot reader, Hyperion Night. Convinced his tarot room is in the cards, Night’s not letting go of the building without a fight.

But the two must work together, steeping themselves in the murky waters of the sham realtor’s double dealings, in order to unearth the truth – before murder boils over again.

Steeped in Murder is the first book in the Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series. Buy the book to start this hilarious caper today.

Recipes in the back of the book!

Available on AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ BARNES & NOBLE ~ GOOGLE PLAY ~ KOBO

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten’s never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking red wine. The latter gives her heartburn, but she drinks it anyway. She writes genre-blending cozy mystery, supernatural and steampunk suspense, mixing her experiences and imagination to create vivid worlds of fun and enchantment.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

The Great Oxford Comma Debacle of 2019 (PLUS a New Release!)

If you’ve written anything in the last 35 years, you may have gotten conflicting advice about the necessity of using certain commas. The Oxford comma has been the subject of great debate during this time (I kid you not!) with people standing firmly in one of two camps.

What The Heck is An Oxford Comma and Who Cares?

The Oxford comma, sometimes called the serial comma, is the punctuation that occurs just before a coordinating conjunction in a series of three or more items.

Huh?

For example, in the below sentence, the Oxford comma is placed before and:

Ross pulled himself heavily to his feet, picked up his glass, and drained the last bit of iced tea.

OH! Those commas!

You probably either always use them or never do. See, you might have your own opinion about the Oxford comma but didn’t know it! 🙂

So, why is this one little punctuation mark so hotly debated? Well, many would argue it’s more stylistic than necessaryin most cases. Every editor, teacher, and writer (published or not) have an opinion on this little devil of a punctuation mark.

There are two schools of thought on the Oxford comma (okay, three…):

  1. They should always be used to avoid any confusion for the reader.
  2. They are unnecessary in most cases, so don’t worry about using themunless the sentence could be totally misread without one.
  3. If you write properly, you don’t need them.

The reason for such differing opinions about this little comma is that humans use language. And, since humans are always changing (we hope evolving), so does our language. Grammar rules and stylistic no-no’s go in and out of favor. When I was in middle school, I was taught to always use the Oxford comma. By the time I got to my freshman year of college, they were considered outdated and usually unnecessary. Language and its governing rules are living things, always changing.

Are you asking yourself why I’m discussing the pros and cons of the Oxford comma?

Because, in the first scene of my new book in the Digital Detective Mystery series, Libel to Kill two wanna-be authors are duking it out over the Oxford comma.

See for yourself how the book opens:

Libel to Kill Oxford comma

“No, no, no,” Bernadette “Bernie” Comer said sharply. “I’ve told you, the Oxford comma is vital for clarity.

Phyllis Buckley straightened in her chair. “Well, I have a brand-spankin’ new grammar book that says it’s up to the writer’s whether to use ‘em.”

“I was taught in school to always use them, and I stick by that.” Bernie sternly nodded her head once as if determining the matter was settled.

The weekly meeting of the Writing Alliance Circle, or WAC, was in full swing, as was evident from the argument that periodically resurfaced. During each meeting, writers have the chance to get feedback on their work-in-progress. It was sheer bad luck Phyllis had landed with Bernie this week.

“You were in school back when Moses brought the stone tablets down from the mountain. I hardly think we can go off that antiquated advice,” Phyllis’ voice grew loud.

I knew where this was leading, and it was nowhere good. I looked at the ceiling, gathering my patience. I stood and headed over to them. I needed to intervene before they came to blows.

Bernie huffed and crossed her arms over her ample chest. “Phyllis Buckley, you are older than me. How dare you bring my age into this. I’ll have you know my cardiologist recently told me I’d live another twenty years, regardless of my—” Libel to Kill is now available! Amazon

Why Did I Start The First Scene This Way?

The theme for Libel to Kill is overcoming societal conventions that hold us back from being who we truly are. When I was plotting the book, the idea of the Oxford comma debate came to mind, and I snagged it. I’ve been in these debates, both in person and online. They can get heated (I’m not making that up!) It was the perfect way to open the bookwith a convention that has changed over the years. And one we are sometimes forced to use, (by teachers or editors) no matter our thoughts on the subject.

Below are just a few of the sentences using the Oxford comma from Libel to Kill:

  • This is what I’d hoped for when I’d started the group—an intimate band of wanna-be authors coming together to share our joys, frustrations, and feedback.
  • In the drainer beside the sink, Bernie had neatly stacked a couple of plates, a glass, silverware, and a teapot.
  • She [Ellie] slammed her fork down on the table, stood up, and dashed up the stairs.
  • Up close, I could see she [Marjory] had a rash on her neck, face, and hands.
  • Attempting to stay objective, I wrote the sins Bernie had assigned, along with any details about their motive, means, and opportunity, next to each name.
  • Bernie had an ample supply of toilet paper, hand towels, and wash clothes under the sink, along with her disposable hypodermic syringes.
  • Evan, Ned, and Reverend Holt could lose their businesses or vocation if their indiscretions came out.
  • She [Phyllis] perked up a little, dragging out lists of possible caterers, swatches for bridesmaid dresses, and a list of songs they’d like the band to play.
  • The first couple of pages listed chapters, the characters, and their indiscretions bulleted underneath.
  • Both [Bernie’s kids] had sandy-brown hair cut in easy-to-maintain styles, were tallish, and dressed in basic jeans and plain t-shirts.
  • Feeling dejected after my discussion with Bernie’s kids, I pushed aside my plate, put my elbow on the table, and anchored my chin on my fist.
Libel to Kill

Libel to Kill Synopsis

Jade Blackwell had no idea when she started the Writers Alliance Circle (affectionately known as WAC) it would lead to murder. Though everyone else in the village believes the old battleax, Bernie Comer, died of natural causes, Jade can’t help but see the inconsistencies. Isn’t is just possible someone killed Bernie to keep their secrets from being revealed in her libelous novel?

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also her disastrous attempts to write a mystery novel and her argumentative daughter home from college for the summer. False starts, misdirection, and a Bible-quoting parrot can’t hold Jade back for long, but would she have been better off letting sleeping dogs lie?

With her usual sidekicks too preoccupied with their own dramas, Jade is forced to seek justice on her own. Ignoring the snickers at her expense, Jade investigates Bernie’s death while trying to fly under the naysayers’ radars. 

Libel to Kill is now available! Amazon

Find out how Jade Blackwell got her sleuthing start...for free! Just tap HERE to get your immediate download of Blogging is Murder.

When you sign up, you’ll also automatically be registered to win one of four grand prizes! Read Jade’s first adventure for free HERE!

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former English professor who has gone on to forge a life outside academia by adding cozy mystery author to her C.V. She’s the author of the Digital Detective Mystery Series.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.  )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.