Saturday, October 10, 2015

Daniella Bernett and LEAD ME INTO DANGER: "Leave Them Wanting More"

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Hearty congratulations to Daniella Bernett, who just published her first mystery, LEAD ME INTO DANGER. Daniella had me at London — and then again at jewel thief! Welcome to Jungle Reds, Daniella!

DANIELLA BERNETT: I would like to thank Susan Elia MacNeal, a writer whose work I have long admired, for giving me the opportunity to appear here on Jungle Reds. I feel honored to be in the company of such distinguished writers.

I’m very excited to let everyone know that LEAD ME INTO DANGER, the first book in my mystery series about journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief Gregory Longdon, was released on October 1 by Black Opal Books. It takes place in Venice and London. I signed a three-book contract with Black Opal back in December 2014 as the first novels in the series were completed. Book two is in the editing process and I have nearly finished work on Book four.

Susan suggested I write about what fills me with passion. Aside from my family and friends, writing is what makes my heart sing. To me, it is as essential as breathing. I simply must get my ideas down on paper (these days on my laptop).

I knew when I was nine years old that I wanted to be a writer. I have my fourth grade teacher, Miss Budway at P.S. 41 in Bayside, Queens, to thank for helping me to come to this realization. Once a week, she would have Creative Writing hour. She gave the class different assignments and I absolutely loved it. I knew that’s what I wanted to do “when I grew up.”

However, in my opinion, to be a writer one must be a reader first. I am, and have always been, a voracious reader. Mysteries, spy thrillers, the classics, history, biographies, anything (except science fiction and horror). My parents instilled in my sister and me a love of reading when we were very little. Thus, I developed an appreciation for language, and how it can used to convey ideas and weave delectable tales that captivate the imagination.

Now, I spin my own stories. My mother got my sister and me hooked on mysteries and thrillers. So, it seemed only natural that I when gathered up the courage to write my first novel it would be a mystery (with a whisper of romance to make things that much more interesting).

Agatha Christie is my favorite—the grand dame of mystery. The skill with which she plotted her stories was ingenious. In addition, Christie understood human nature and all its foibles. That’s why her characters are so complex and fascinating.

For me, mysteries have always been about the puzzle. I don’t need to know about how much blood and guts have been spilled. I want to know why the crime was committed. The author dangles the answer before the reader’s eyes. The clues are like pearls that are strategically dropped here and there. It is the reader’s job to collect and arrange all of them so that they form a necklace. And violà, the solution miraculously materializes.

I hope readers will feel the same way about my books. I want to leave them wanting more.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Love the metaphor of clues as pears and the reader collecting them to form a necklace! Reds and lovely readers, how hard to you work at solving the mystery? Are you an armchair detective or are you a reader along for the ride? (I confess to being the latter....) Tell us in the comments!

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America NY Chapter. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger is her first novel. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on the next adventure in her Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. 

Visit or follow her on Facebook at

Friday, October 9, 2015

Brenda Buchanan: Maine, winter, and COVER STORY

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Delighted to introduce novelist Brenda Buchanan, author of the Joe Gale Mystery series, talking about the approaching winter. (Cue the scary music!) She's from Maine, so she (like our Red Julia) certainly knows cold, snow, and ice. So, enjoy fall, maybe some apple cider, and the last of the warmth and colorful leaves and read her post on her newest Joe Gale mystery, COVER STORY....

BRENDA BUCHANAN: Have you noticed the signs?

That little eddy of cool air that lurks near the floor early in the morning? The chilly breeze that pushes through the screens at twilight? The swamp maples showing red?

Ready or not, here comes winter.   

It seems quick, no? Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago we dared to put the shovels away? After the record-setting (and not in a good way) winter of 2015, this year’s autumnal equinox is the equivalent of the ominous music that presages a scary scene in a movie. 

There’s a saying about Maine having only two seasons—winter and three months of poor sledding. Often, it’s only a slight exaggeration.

This year, after a hellacious winter, spring was an eyeblink, but summer was long and luxurious. We even had a post-Labor Day heat wave, allowing us to swim in the bracing North Atlantic well into September. Then poof! The warmth went away, and now it’s fleece season, soon to be replaced by heavy-duty fleece season, and, ultimately, wool and goose down season.

Most years, autumn is quite popular here at the very crown of rugged New England. We boast about the beauty of our foliage on our way to pick apples in our all-wheel drive vehicles, chuckling at the notion that winter is on the doorstep.

This year, nobody’s laughing. It doesn’t matter a whit that those in the know say we can look forward to an El Nino (mild) winter. Those who dread paralyzing snowfalls, brutal cold and tundra-like parking lots are freaking out.

I know we are not alone. The whole eastern seaboard was gobsmacked last winter. Boston’s statistics: Total snowfall, 110.6 inches, 94.4 of them during a 30-day period from late January to late February. Along with the incessant storms came bitter temperatures. Across southern New England, pipes broke, roofs collapsed and snow blower-owning neighbors became the most popular folks on the block.

During that same period, parts of Washington County, Maine got 122 inches of snow. I’m guessing there were fewer broken pipes and caved-in roofs, but that’s only because people who live in Downeast Maine bank their foundations with bales of hay (it’s cheap, effective insulation) and are old hands with the roof rake.

This is not Maine one-upwomanship. I’m simply setting the scene to talk about my just-released book Cover Story—the second in the Joe Gale Mystery Series.

The story takes place in January in Machias—the shire town of coastal Washington County and a mere 50 miles from the Canadian border. Joe Gale, a reporter at the imagined Portland Daily Chronicle, has journeyed five hours northeast of Portland to cover the trial of a man accused of killing the younger brother of Maine’s most high-profile politician.

In the local barbershop and the gritty townie bar, the prosecutor’s boast of an open-and-shut case doesn’t fly, especially after the defense lawyer starts picking at the state’s witnesses like a crow on carrion.  When Joe writes about the disconnect he finds himself in the crosshairs of somebody who doesn’t appreciate his diligent reporting. 
Then a nor’easter roars up the coast, and his shadowy nemesis schools him in the dangerous ways of winter in Downeast Maine.

On a warm, muggy night a couple of weeks ago I opened my pre-publication file of Cover Story to begin prepping for a round of post-launch readings. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The hair at the nape of my neck was damp with sweat. But the cover itself and the opening lines cooled me right down, better than the ice water at my elbow or the ceiling fan spinning overhead.

The evergreen boughs glittered in the setting sun, but I couldn’t afford to even flick my eyes at their beauty. A cold front had chased the morning’s freezing rain out to sea, and the following wind was brutal, scouring sand off the icy two-lane highway as fast as the road crews could spread it. Five miles south of Machias an oncoming Jeep slewed sideways through a curve, righting itself an instant before we scraped paint. 

Downeast Maine—dazzling and treacherous in equal measure. It would be a fitting slogan for the remote stretch of coastline that winds the hundred miles between Bar Harbor and Canada.

I hope Cover Story will serve as a creative way for readers to heal the lingering pain of last winter, especially those cursing the seven o’clock September darkness and the sudden need for a quilt on the bed.

Here’s my therapeutic advice: read a few chapters, then look out the window. Exult in the reality that the morning glories are still blooming, leaves have yet to fall, and it’ll be months before the  first snowfall.


So, Reds and lovely readers, how are you preparing for the season ahead? With dread or delight? What are your season-in-transition rituals? Let us know in the comments!

Brenda Buchanan is a former newspaper reporter with a deep reverence for small town journalism. Her Joe Gale Mystery Series features an old-school reporter with modern media savvy who covers the Maine crime beat.

Brenda holds a journalism degree from Northeastern University and a law degree from the University of Maine. She writes and practices law in Portland, where she lives with her spouse.

Brenda can be found on the web at and on Twitter at @buchananbrenda

Cover Story is available in digital format wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Here’s a plot summary: Maine newspaper reporter Joe Gale is at his best when covering the crime beat for the Portland Daily Chronicle. In the dead of winter he heads Downeast to cover the murder trial of fisherman Danny Boothby, charged with burying a filleting knife in the chest of politically well-connected social worker Frank O’Rourke.

O’Rourke held a thankless job in a hard place. Many locals found him arrogant, but say he didn’t deserve to die. Others whisper that O’Rourke got himself killed through his own rogue behavior.

After Joe’s hard-nosed reporting provokes someone to run him off an isolated road, he realizes his life depends on figuring out not only who committed the murder, but who’s stalking him—O’Rourke’s prominent brother, friends or enemies of the dead social worker or members of Boothby’s family. As he digs deeper, Joe uncovers enough secrets and lies to fill a cemetery. He'll have to solve this one fast, or his next headline may be his own obituary.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Advice Can Be Deadly @LucyBurdette #mystery

LUCY BURDETTE: Today I’m celebrating because the third book in my advice column mystery series is finally out as an ebook! Dr. Butterman (AKA Dr. Aster), the main character in this series, including ASKING FOR MURDER, is an advice columnist. Even though I’m a psychologist and an advice column junkie, I found that writing her columns was not so easy. After cranking out three of her books, I figured out how she would describe her approach: “Most people have a pretty good idea of where they’re already headed when they ask for advice. A wise friend simply shines a flashlight on the path.” 

But it didn’t come naturally to me, and I realize that other advice-giving professionals struggle too.

Dr. Phil, for example, is not one to stand by on the sidelines holding a flashlight. In 2006 while visiting Los Angeles for the “Sisters in Crime Goes to Hollywood” conference, I attended the filming of one of the shows in the doctor’s live studio audience. A pair of sisters who’d been estranged by boyfriend/husband issues fought like cats and dogs for the better part of their fifteen-minute segment. Even Dr. Phil, an expert on handling catfights, looked defeated by the end of the show. These women had come to Dr. Phil for help as a last resort, but darned if they were going to let him get a word in edgewise. After several attempts to expose the bones of the problem and redirect the sisters, he slumped on his barstool, chin in hand, and rolled his eyes at the audience—as if asking the question “where did I go wrong?”
 And Dr. Butterman (aka Dr. Aster) has a very young editor who always wants the columns a little more chipper than feels right to Rebecca. Here’s a little excerpt from ASKING FOR MURDER, showing how she sometimes struggled to hit the right note too:

I used the remaining minutes of my aborted lunch hour to choose a question for my advice column and rough out an answer. I’m a clinical psychologist by day, but in the off hours, I whisk on my advice columnist cloak and write the Ask Dr. Aster column for Bloom! ezine. Sometimes the column feels downright silly; other times, profound. I love it most when it evolves into a Greek chorus of my life, that I didn’t consciously intend. 

This month, my twelve-year-old (a slight exaggeration) editor, Jillian, had asked for columns that fit the category “Bloom! In spring!” In other words, no downers, no freaking stages of grief, no miserable housewives in housecoats abandoned by their freshly-vital, chemically-driven husbands. The advice should be uplifting, encouraging, bursting with new life and new possibilities. Sigh again.

“Happy people don’t ask for advice,” I told her.

“You’ll come up with something!” she chirped back. “I’ll check in with you later in the week.” (Scroll all the way to the bottom to read the column she came up with.)

LUCY AGAIN: I read every advice column I come across, but my favorite is Philip Galanes, who writes “Social Q’s” for the New York Times Style section every Sunday. He’s funny and sensible and pulls no punches. Dr. Aster could definitely learn from him!

Do you read advice columns? Any particular advice that has struck home?

And don’t forget, ASKING FOR MURDER is now available for Kindle. You can download it right here.

PS My favorite advice column fangirl moment? Our friend Pat Kennedy introduced me to Margo Howard, Ann Landers’s daughter, and a stellar columnist herself. She kept writing as she was reading DEADLY ADVICE, wondering if she'd sussed out the murderer: "I think it’s XXX. No it must be YYY." And so on. And here was her blurb:

A really plummy mystery, flawlessly plotted, that I especially loved because the heroine is an advice columnist – and a good one! Margo Howard
       “Dear Margo” on Yahoo! News and in 200 newspapers.
                                 (Formerly “Dear Prudence”)

Dear Dr. Aster: 

I volunteer at a local charity that fights mental illness.  I got involved because I believe in the cause, but I also hoped it might be a way to meet a nice guy with similar interests. (Isn’t that what you always recommend to your readers?)  The people on my committee are smart, caring, dedicated--and all married, except for one widower who's slightly older than me though smart and attractive. Lately the married folks take every opportunity to push us together.  There's a lot of winking and elbowing going on, and it's very embarrassing.  He's a nice guy, but there's no chemistry between us—certainly not on my side!  What can I do to stop the matchmaking?  I’d hate to ditch the committee to escape the man.
Yenta's Volunteer Victim in Vermont

Dear Yenta’s Victim:

    Gold stars are in order—I do recommend exactly the path you’ve taken. But oh dear, I had not anticipated this particular roadblock. One question: does Mr. Wonderful seem to feel the same lack of chemistry that you do? If so, it might be easy enough to enlist his help in shrugging off the well-meaning nudges. However, if he appears to have feelings for you, you’ll need another tactic. How about dropping a few not-so-subtle hints about the recent social whirl your new BOYFRIEND has swept you up in?
    And here’s one more thought: Since you signed your letter “Volunteer Victim,” don’t overlook your possible contribution to the drama that’s unfolded. Your fellow workers might be reacting to your subtly-sawing violin strings. Check to be sure you haven’t been moaning about your single status without being aware of it! If that’s the case, dost thou protest too much?
                    Keep up the good works and Happy Spring!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dreams Do Come True: J.A. Hennrikus and JUST KILLING TIME

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: It's wonderful to see someone's dream come true, isn't it? J.A. Hennrikus, who writes under the pen name Julianne Holmes, published her first novel, JUST KILLING TIME — and fulfilled her aspiration of being a published novelist. Congratulations from all the Reds, J.A.! Brava!

J.A. Hennrikus: As of Tuesday, October 6, a long time dream of mine was realized — I became a published novelist. JUST KILLING TIME by Julianne Holmes, my pen name for this series, marked the end of the chapter entitled “Aspiring Author.” I am thrilled that my first published novel is a cozy mystery, set in the Berkshires. I’m a lifetime reader and lover of the traditional mystery, and love when a new book comes out in series I follow. It’s like visiting an old friend, where justice prevails, and order is restored. What a terrific escape!

While there is tremendous pride in this moment, I have something to confess. I’m surprised by how mixed my emotions have been about this transition, so I’ve been checking in with other recent debut authors. Many have assured me they felt the same way. Ray Daniel put it best: “We knew how to be aspiring authors. We were good at that. But then you get published, and you’re living your dream. Now what?”

Happily for me, I have mentors who help me navigate this path. Two of them are on this blog — Hallie Ephron and Hank Phillippi Ryan. Both have reminded me, several times, to enjoy every minute of this time in my career. That I will never have a first book again. That this is a milestone to be celebrated. I am grateful for these women, and the others in my life, who both ground me, and lift me up.

Dorothy Parker once said “I hate writing, I love having written.” A lot, most, writers understand this quote. There are times when writing is a joy, when the words flow and are beautiful, when the editing process (which I consider writing) uncovers a diamond instead of stone, when the word count goal is met and surpassed with energy to spare. Then there’s the rest of the time—the slogging through the middle of the book, characters who won’t cooperate with your clever plotting, creating tension where there is none despite your best efforts. All writers, regardless of their place on the path to publication, understand this. We understand this, accept it, and still find joy.

There is one other aspect of writing a series no one warned me about. My main character, Ruth Clagan, has moved in with me full time. I see shoes, and think “not for me, but Ruth would wear these.” It goes beyond research when you think to yourself, “I need to tell Ruth about this clock exhibit” before you pause and remember that Ruth isn’t real. 

Ruth is a clockmaker. What an interesting, challenging, profession. I always found clocks fascinating, but never really thought about what it takes to make them work, and to keep them working. The profession takes years of training and apprenticeships before you can hang out your shingle. I am so lucky that the Roberts brothers at Clockfolk of New England patiently answer my questions. Visiting their shop helped me think about the Cog & Sprocket, the Clagan family clock shop. 

The series is set in Orchard, Massachusetts, a made up town in the Berkshires. What a great setting for a series—close enough to Boston and New York that you can get a stream of visitors, but a small community where everyone knows each other’s business, and the past drags down the future. I’m fortunate that I live close to the Berkshires and Western Mass, so research trips are easy and a lot of fun. 

JUST KILLING TIME is the first book in this 
series. I’m thrilled that I have written, I am published, and that the Jungle Reds invited me on the blog to celebrate!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Well, I'm pouring virtual) champagne! Reds and lovely readers, what do you think it is that makes getting a first novel published so special? What did you/ would you/ will you do to celebrate such a milestone? How do you celebrate the milestones in your own life?

Julianne Holmes is the author of Just Killing Time, the debut novel in the Clock Shop Mystery series and is the pseudonym for J. A. (Julie) Hennrikus, whose short stories have appeared in the award-winning Level Best Books. She serves on the boards of Sisters in Crime and Sisters in Crime New England, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She tweets as @JulieHennrikus. Visit

Ruth Clagan may be an expert clockmaker, but she’s always had a tendency to lose track of time. And when trying to solve a murder, every minute counts…

Ruth’s beloved grandfather instilled in her a love of timepieces. Unfortunately after her grandmother died and he remarried, Ruth and Grandpa Thom became estranged. She’s wanted to reconnect after her recent divorce, but sadly they’ve run out of time. Her grandfather has been found dead after a break-in at his shop—and the police believe he was murdered.

Now Ruth has been named the heir to Grandpa Thom’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, in the small Berkshire town of Orchard, Massachusetts. As soon as she moves into the small apartment above the shop and begins tackling the heaps of unfinished work, Ruth finds herself trying to stay on the good side of Grandpa’s bossy gray cat, Bezel, while avoiding the step-grandmother she never wanted. But as old secrets and grudges start to surface, Ruth will have to kick into high gear to solve the killer case before someone else winds up dead…

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Too Many Cooks? (Never!) Kate Flora on BEAT, SLAY, LOVE

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I'm delighted to introduce the lovely Kate Flora. She's one of the five ( ! ) authors from the blog Views from the Muse, who together wrote the culinary thriller BEAT, SLAY LOVE: One Chef's Hunger for Delicious Revenge together. New York Times-bestselling author Charlaine Harris says:  "For anyone who’s ever watched CHOPPED or even stopped in at Williams Sonoma, “Beat Slay Love” is the perfect read. An incredibly sly mystery, it has everything you’d want when you bite into a dish: suspense, spice, and a new take on an old classic." 

Take it away, Kate!

KATE FLORA: When a group of the authors who blog together at Views from the Muse decided to write a novel together, anything could have happened. How could five people who live in different parts of the country, don’t know each other well, and write wildly different types of books possibly do it? How would the process work? How would we even figure out what we’d write about?

There’s an old expression that goes “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Definitely not true in this case. With over a hundred years of writing and publishing experience, and more than 75 books among us, we might be taking on something entirely new, but we all knew how to write, edit, discuss, and collaborate. We quickly agreed on our theme: a serial killer who was knocking off famous TV chefs. Without much more of a plan than that, we embarked on what came to be called, Beat, Slay, Love, a send-up of the journey toward self-discovery, and Americans’ obsessions with celebrity culture and food, by the imaginary Thalia Filbert.

The writers:

Gary Phillips writes hardboiled tales of flawed characters and their pursuit of hollow dreams.  In addition to being part of the Beat, Slay, Love crew, he is co-editor of Occupied Earth, an anthology of life and resistance under the boot heels of the alien Mahk-Ra.

Katy Munger has written fifteen crime fiction novels, including series in the cozy, private eye, and modern noir genres. She was a co-founder of Tart Noir.

Lise McClendon writes mystery and suspense, celebrating 20 years in print last year. Her series include an art dealer in Jackson Hole, a private eye in Kansas City, and a lawyer with five sisters in France. She also writes thrillers as Rory Tate (PLAN X) and co-owns Thalia Press with Katy Munger.

Taffy Cannon has written a mainstream novel, thirteen mysteries, an Academy Award-nominated short film, and The Baby Boomer's Guide to SibCare.

Kate Flora writes two series—strong, amateur, female PI in her Thea Kozak series and cops in her Joe Burgess police procedurals. She’s published more than fifteen crime stories. She’s been a publisher at Level Best Books and teaches writing at Grub Street in Boston.

The process was simple: each of us would write a section, then pass the book along to the next author. Sometimes there was a pause while extra chapters were added in, or a discussion about the order of various events. Barbecue in Texas before or after lobsters in Maine? 

Sometimes different writer’s versions of the same character needed to be discussed and revised—was Jason Bainbridge a schlump or a hipster? Would he ever get together with the icy FBI agent? Or might she thaw? How hefty was our protagonist? Was it possible so many had done her wrong, and how had they done it? 

Still, even though it took a couple years, and involved a lot of work at the end to smooth it out and find just the right ending, it proved, as one writer observed, to be a lot more fun than we’d imagined.

The result? A book we’re all proud of. Read an excerpt here:

To celebrate we’ve put together a cookbook of party recipes called Thalia Filbert’s Killer Cocktail Party. To get a copy, send a quick note to Thalia (our pseudonymous five-person author) at

Beat Slay Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge
by Thalia Filbert

Thalia Press     October 1, 2015

•    To order the book for Kindle:
•    To add it to your Goodreads shelf:
•    To request a paperback at your local independent bookstore: ask for ISBN: 978-0-9819442-1-0
•    To buy a paperback online:

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Thank you so much, Kate! Reds and lovely readers, do you think you could write a novel in collaboration with others? (I keep thinking of the phrase, "Plays well with others".... ) Do you do best solo or as part of a team? Please tell us in the comments!