Saturday, July 31, 2021

What We're Writing Week: Julia Shows Character

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It will surprise no one to hear I've been distracted from writing the past couple of weeks. On the "difficulties" side of the ledger, my Dad's broken hip and resulting cognitive issues means he's not going to be able to go back to his continuing care one-bedroom apartment; I'm heading to Syracuse next week to visit him, tour a possible nursing home, and help my brother pack up the apartment and put most of it into storage. (Why storage? Because this is a difficult adjustment to make, and knowing we're not giving away all his stuff is important to Dad.)

I've been immersed in the world of care-giving/making decisions for an elderly parent, along with my sister and brother, and I've been making the trip to Central NY every other week since the rehab facility he's currently in got the okay from the NYS Department of Health to open - a little. Visitors are restricted to every other day; even or odd, depending on your loved one's room number. And we're still masked - my sister and I ended our joint visit a few weeks ago by knocking on Dad's window and  waving, so he could see our smiles. It's not ideal, in that Barb and I are both seven and six hours away, respectively, but having Dad stay close to his old home means his friends and neighbors can visit him (on odd days, while wearing masks.) And it is giving me a wide knowledge of Airbnb offerings in the greater Syracuse area!

On the "joys" side of the ledger: I've recently adopted two Shih Tzus! Well, one Shih Tzu and one Shih-we don't know what else. Some sort of small terrier. Kingsley and Rocky are a bonded pair, rescued in Mississippi and  shipped up here to Maine, where we have a high rate of dog adoption. 


Somebody loved this pair a lot, because they are utterly overjoyed to meet everyone, and they are very, very well behaved. Rocky, the smaller of the two, is a total cuddlebug, who loves to lay in the crook of my arm and get belly rubs while I'm watching movies. Kingsley is a bit more typically Shih Tzu like; he wants to be around people but isn't a lap dog. The fostering agency had listed them as 6 year old brothers, but I suspect, after a week of walks, that Kingsley is older and may in fact be Rocky's father. Sire? The Maine Millennial is already planning to get one of those doggy DNA kits.

So what does all this have to do with writing? I'm being reminded, in a visceral way, of how interconnected we all are, and of how many ties we have, with parents, siblings, friends, and yes, our beloved pets. Sometimes, in fiction, it's tempting to simplify these connections, or downplay them, because we don't want to bog the story down or slow up the action. (Jack Reacher is probably the ultimate example of this, and even Reacher had a brother, mother, and old Army friends who pull him into events.) But ultimately we don't read novels to figure out whodunnit or to chills and thrill as the hero survives everything thrown at him - although those are very nice parts of the experience!

We read to connect with the characters - characters who in turn are connected with others in their lives. It is those relationships - Kincaid and his son Kit, Daniel and Molly Sullivan, Nathan Bransford and his dog Ziggy - that make them human, and reading about those fictional people, and identifying with them, makes us, the readers, more human. (I'll add that when Hank and Hallie wrote about writing this week, they wrote about fathers and sisters and husbands.) Everything begins with character, and we reveal our characters when they walk their dogs on a beach and visit their elderly parents.

So, dear readers, am I right? And what are some of your favorite character moments from books you've loved?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Even Fictional Kids Grow Up

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've never been much for rereading my own books (hence a few embarrassing continuity errors!) except for picking through bits here and there to refresh my memory of a particular event or character.  But I recently picked up DREAMING OF THE BONES (Kincaid/James#5), wondering how it had held up, and I must say it was a treat!

(How I loved this original cover, with the poet Rupert Brooke and the clock set at ten to three, as in his famous poem.)

One of the things I especially enjoyed was reading the scene where we meet Kit, Duncan's son, for the first time. Of course at this point in the story, Duncan doesn't yet know that Kit is his son. Here is our first glimpse of Kit, from Gemma's viewpoint, as she and Duncan arrive at Duncan's ex-wife's cottage in Grantchester:

Then the door flew back with a crash, and Gemma found herself staring down into the inquisitive blue eyes of a boy with a shock of straw-colored hair flopping on his forehead and a faint dusting of freckles across his nose. He wore a faded rugby shirt several sizes too large, jeans, and the dirtiest white socks she's ever seen. In  his right hand, he held a slice of bread spread with Marmite.

"Um, you must be Kit," said Kincaid. "I'm Duncan and this is Gemma. We're here to see your mum."

"Oh, yeah. Hullo." the boy smiled, a toothy grin that won Gemma instantly, then took an enormous bite of his bread and said through it, "You'd better come in."

Kit was eleven here. Now we are FOURTEEN books later, and much has happened in all the character's lives. Kit is fifteen! He lives with Duncan and Gemma and their two younger children (Toby and Charlotte) in Notting Hill, and he's working part time in his friend Otto's cafe just off Portobello Market. 

In this snippet from a scene in the book in progress, Kincaid has stopped on his way home to check on Kit at the Elgin Crescent cafe:

Reaching Otto’s, he glanced in the window. The small cafe was busy and Kit, wearing a white apron over his jeans and white shirt, was clearing tables.

Kincaid gazed through the glass. He was, he realized with a shock, seeing his son as a stranger would. When had his lost boy become so grown up? Kit looked so self-assured and confident, balancing stacks of plates and chatting to the patrons with a friendly smile. He looked, in fact, not like a boy at all, but like a young man, and a handsome one at that. One young woman’s gaze followed him appreciatively as he disappeared through the door leading down to the kitchen.

Kincaid felt suddenly as if he were trespassing, and that going into the cafĂ© now would be intruding on his son’s newly adult—and separate—life.

Shaken, he walked on a pace and sent a text instead, saying he was passing if Kit was ready to go home. The answer was swift.

Helping Otto until closing. You go on.

Well, that was him put in his place. Kincaid felt an uncomfortable sense of loss. But a moment later, his mobile dinged again.

But thanks. See you later, okay? the message read, followed by a row of smiling emojis.

Reassured, he walked on, his step lighter.

You can see Duncan is having some separation issues! As am I, but I can't stop time entirely for my characters, even though I've slowed it down. I keep spacing my book timelines closer together to keep the kids from growing out of the series!

REDS AND READERS, do you like seeing the progress of families through the course of a series? What are some of your favorites?


What We're #Writing @LucyBurdette

 LUCY BURDETTE: I think the better question might be what I am not writing... Which would be practically nothing because everything is coming together at once! Two weeks ago I finished major edits on the thriller UNSAFE HAVEN, which is coming September in the UK and December in the US. It needed a lot of work and fortunately I had a terrific editor. Then the edits on the edits came back and had to be returned within the week. So that all got emailed to England on Friday the 16th. And I've gotten a few more queries this week. (You can pre-order it through your independent bookstore, or Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.)

Meanwhile, A Scone of Contention is coming out August 10 and that means blog tours! So I’ve been busy with those and hope you will enjoy visiting the various hosts with me--I'll keep you posted about when and where. Regular readers of Jungle Red should mark your calendars for August 18, when you can hear Jenn McKinlay and me talking about our new books with the wonderful reviewer Oline Cogdill, all sponsored by Murder on the Beach. You know that's going to be fun!

But this past week I've been working like a demon on food critic number 12, now known as A DISH TO DIE FOR thanks to my friend Ruth McCarty. Lots going on in this book--Nathan's dog Ziggy has found a body on the beach, Hayley's discovered an old Woman's Club cookbook in the bin of library donations with mysterious historical connections, and Nathan's father is visiting on the island. (Uninvited, as all of Nathan's relatives seem to do, LOL.) I thought you might enjoy a little snippet about the cookbook, since it's been so interesting to read and work into the plot: 

Back home on our boat, I spent the next hour studying the recipes and notes in the Key West Woman’s Club cookbook, searching for the angle I’d use in my article. Rather than being typeset, everything in the book had been written out in longhand and illustrated with drawings that ranged from stick figures to folk art. Then the pages had been copied and spiral bound. I noticed that a good half of the women who had contributed recipes identified themselves only by their husbands’ names: Mrs. Carl Johnson, Mrs. William R. Warren, Mrs. Cyril Marshall, Mrs. Frank E Bowser. 

I could imagine the women, each at her kitchen table, laboriously copying the ingredients for her best recipe and then instructions for preparing it. They’d have their hair pinned up in knots and be wearing dresses with cinched waists covered by frilly aprons. Had there been infighting about which recipes would be chosen, and who the artists might be? The recipes were a funny mixture of old and new, not shy about using canned goods or frozen vegetables, and yet not squeamish about pounding conch until the cartilage released, or cleaning feathers from a duck, or removing the bloodline from a piece of fresh tuna fish. 

One more thing, John came downstairs this morning and said "I just had the worst dream. I was trying to defend you, as lots of people were saying you didn't do anything. I had to scream at them, 'Sure and while she was doing nothing, she wrote 19 books!'"

Isn't he the sweetest guy in the world?? 

Do you own old cookbooks that tell as much about the history of the times as they do about food?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Rhys Revisits New York

 RHYS BOWEN:  Today's post has a New York theme!. 

Before I show you what I’m writing I have had some amazing things happen to me recently. But the most amazing thing is happening right now. THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK  is on a billboard in Times Square. Can you believe it? When I was a teenager I dreamed of being an actress and would have loved my name in lights on Broadway. Well… finally! Who’d have thought it?

Anyway, now back to reality and work. I am currently busy writing my second Molly Murphy book with my daughter Clare. She came to stay for a couple of weeks and then we spent a week together in San Diego while we plotted and now we’re about 100 pages into the story. Clare’s a little worried because nobody has died yet, but I tell her that I’ve written several books in which nobody dies in the first hundred pages. Other dramatic things happen, and we’re leading up to a big murder scene, so all is well.

I thought I’d share a little about how the book begins. Poor Molly--just when she seems settled and all is going well, I do like to throw that curveball at her!  Here is a snippet from the start of the book. Daniel takes Molly out for a walk and springs a big surprise on her (not going to tell you what it is), then this follows:

We walked down the right side of the street on the wide sidewalk past the 5th Avenue brownstones. On the other side of Ninth Street Daniel stopped at an impressive flight of marble steps with a wrought iron railing leading up to a white door framed with a decorated arch.

“Let’s pay a call, shall we?” Daniel lifted Liam out of the pram and into my arms then climbed the steps and rang the bell.

“Wait, Daniel,” I called after him. “Who are we visiting? You should have warned me. I’m not suitably dressed. A stroll, you said.”

Daniel looked back and smiled. “You look fine,” he said. “Don’t worry.

“I came up with steps to stand  beside him and stood rather nervously on the stoop. Really, I like a surprise but this was going too far. Was Sheriff that high a position that Daniel would now know people who lived in 5th Avenue houses like this?  Had we been invited to tea and here was I in my usual two piece costume and not a tea dress. It had probably never occurred to Daniel that women like to know in advance what to wear for every occasion. Honestly, men can be infuriating. But it was too late to turn back now.

The door was answered by a maid who didn’t show any surprise at seeing us. “You must be Captain and Mrs. Sullivan,” she said, giving us a shy smile as she dropped a curtsey. “You are expected, please come in. I’m Mary.” We walked into the front hall and Daniel took off his hat and hung it on the hat stand, then helped me off with my cloak and hung it up as well. The marble floor echoed as I set Liam down and he stomped his foot experimentally and headed toward the staircase in front of us.

“Shh. Liam come here.” I hurriedly took his coat off as well and lifted him up again. The maid waited and then indicated we should follow her through a curtained doorway. “The parlor is through here, sir.”

I walked in with a bright smile on my face expecting to be introduced to the man or lady of the house, but the parlor was empty. A fire burned in the marble fireplace. A table in the center of the room under the electric chandelier held a priceless looking vase and ornate shelves just across from me were full of decorative plates, cups and figurines. I instinctively clutched Liam a little tighter, making sure his hands were safely out of the way and decided that putting him down here was not a good idea.

“The family drawing room is back here, sir.” She led us through another silk curtained doorway and into a comfortable looking drawing room. The room was crowded with delicate embroidered sofas and chairs and carved mahogany tables in many sizes. There was a beautiful Persian rug on the floor and a large tapestry on the far wall. But still no people. My mind spun. Had Daniel brought me to a murder scene? Hardly an outing to bring your son along to. Were the owners of the house very shy?

“The dining room is at the back of the house and bedrooms are upstairs, sir if you will follow me.” Mary continued after a pause as we looked around the empty drawing room. The bedrooms?

“Daniel,” I turned to him in exasperation. “Why are we seeing the bedrooms? Is the owner an invalid?’

“No,” he replied, already heading toward the stairs.

“Daniel!” I called after him. “What is going on? Whose house is this.”

He turned to me with a big smile. “Yours.” He put his arms around both Liam and me. “Ours. Welcome home, Mrs. Sullivan!”

RHYS: How have they managed to move into this big and beautiful house? Has Daniel become a crooked cop? Is he taking bribes?  You'll have to read the book to find out. Our working title is   ALL THAT IS HIDDEN.

So, dear Reds and readers, would you be thrilled if your husband suddenly sprang a lovely new house on you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What Hank's Writing: Green Beans

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Today the topic is: green beans.

Some years ago, I came into the kitchen of my father’s house, where he was standing at the sink, snapping the ends off the green beans, and humming.

You seem happy, I said. Happier than I’ve ever seen anyone snapping off the ends of green beans. And, I have to say, there were quite a few of them, since dinner was for dad and his wife, and me and someone (I won’t go there, long ago) and four siblings and their significant others and various of his grandchildren. Lots of green beans.

Do you need help? I asked. Happy to pitch in.

Nope, he said. I’m fine. I like doing this.

And I said, why do you like snapping off the end of green beans? Hundreds and hundreds of green beans? It's going to take forever.

That’s exactly the point, he said. It isn’t going to take forever. It’s going to take me a finite amount of time, just as long as it takes to get all these green beans done. If you think about them as hundreds of green beans, it seems impossible but one by one by one, it’s nothing. And if you persist, and if you finish it, you’ll have fun of having all these nice green beans. And then you can share them. And then they’re delicious. And everyone is happy.

As you can see, that stuck in my mind, but most the time I thought about it when I was snapping off the ends of green beans of my own. I thought about my dad, and all lessons I learned from him, and thought it was sweet that the green bean lesson was so resilient.

But now here I am in my new book, I am on word --to be exact--47,842.

When I am in the middle of thousands and thousands of words in a story, with thousands and thousands words to go, I sometimes think; THIS IS GOING TO TAKE ME FOREVER. That there is no way I’m going to get to 100,000 words, no matter what I do.

And then I began to think about the green beans. And the arithmetic and patience involved. If I don’t write my book word by word– – bean by bean ––I will never have enjoy having all of those words. And by simple arithmetic, they all have to add up. I mean, it’s addition. Add a word, then another word, and then another word.

I teach a class called The Muddle in the Middle. In it, I explain to writers why the middle is so difficult, and offer some steps to avoid getting mired in it. And how to extricate yourself from the middle’s inevitable quicksand. We’ve all read books where this problem is apparent--where we just keep turning the pages, wondering is anything going to happen?  (And sometimes we think: STOP TALKING, YOU PEOPLE!) Until the author manages to crawl their way through the middle and get to Act III, where there is some big revelation and twist and surprise and yet another twist and then the wonderful emotional wrap-up coda.

There are lots of secrets you can use to keep your manuscript moving forward, and I must admit, with some amusement, that when I was sitting there at word 44,000 (see? I took a pic to commemorate the moment), I thought: what am I going to do? What what what am I going to doooooooo?

And then I thought well, Miss Smarty, why don’t you just take your own advice? So I thought about some of the things that I tell my students, and used one of them! (I will reveal that I had the power go out. And it turned out to be a great thing.)

I also reminded myself that I felt exactly the same way in the middle of HER PERFECT LIFE. (Which comes out in about 50 days. Yikes. ) And that time as well, I just kept typing. Just kept going. I just kept saying : write one more line, write one more line. And it all seemed to work very nicely.

Did I tell you HER PERFECT LIFE got starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly? Very very lovely.

Or you might say, cool beans.

So as I am writing the new book—pssst--just don’t tell anyone, it's called...well, no, I can’t tell you yet. But here in the middle, I think of my dad, and I think of those beans. And I just persist, bean to bean to bean.

And now I realize I sound like Ann Lamott (sort of), Bird by Bird, but that never crossed my mind until this moment. 

Maybe its falls to each of us to discover our own metaphor for patience. Our own way of muddling through the middle of something that we know it will be worthwhile. Something that is rarely easy, and a major hurdle, but in the end infinitely rewarding.

So thanks, Dad. Those were some magic beans!

Reds and Readers, tell us what you think about in the midst of a long and tedious task!

PS. I’ll be teaching The Muddle in the Middle as a Master Class at this year’s New England Crime Bake. (Where, Reds and Readers, I have been named Guest of Honor.) (An honor for which I am still in utter disbelief. And infinite gratitude. ) The registration is capped, so hurry to sign up for an incredible weekend! Here’s the link.

(And SO funny--just go to the Crime Bake website and see who the GOH was in 2020. :-) )

Monday, July 26, 2021

What we're writing: Hallie climbs into the way-back machine

HALLIE EPHRON: Since at this very moment my writing is on hold (my sweet husband has been sick), I'm remembering the very first piece of writing I had published. It was a poem about my sister getting on an airplane and leaving for college. Or that's what I think I thought I was writing about. I was eight or nine years old and my bit of doggerel ran in our town newspaper.

Here's as much as I remember...

Something something something
Something something something
I waved to my sister.
I waved to my cat.
The plane took off,
Sis and cat in it.
They were out of sight,
In less than a minute.

I don't remember being particularly chuffed about it, but the very fact that I *remember* any of it at all speaks volumes. Even now I am impressed. Pretty clever, rhyming "in it" with "minute."

I realize now that it was my first attempt at writing fiction. I do have a sister who flew off to college, but alas, no cats. Ever. (Or dogs. Only a duckling I won at a carnival and a short-lived turtle.) And seriously, there's no way I could have seen my sister ON the plane when I wasn't going with her, even in the days before TSA. So maybe: aspirational fiction?

I didn't publish again until decades later when I was teaching methods of teaching elementary school math at a local college. I placed a few articles in The Arithmetic Teacher. And I got an op-ed piece accepted in the Boston Globe. It was about the burnout teachers experience when, as they did in those days, they got a "pink slip" each June notifying them they've been RIFFED (Reduction in Force) and had to wait until September to find out if they had a job or not. Happy times. Easy to walk away from a career, even if you love the work, which I did.

I hit the big time with a runner-up submission to a Redbook Magazine writing competition. I wrote about being married to a man who is as klutzy and accident-prone as I am.  It was emphatically NON-fiction and I wish I could find it.
I only realize in retrospect that he's always been my muse.

Looking back, I can see that I was taking baby steps toward becoming a writer while I was having my babies and working 'real' jobs. For me it was a journey, not an MFA.

What were your baby steps? Or were you one of the lucky ones who came out of the chute knowing exactly what you wanted to be and doing it?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Hot Fudge Sundae Day!!!

 Jenn McKinlay: Although, I've lived-in AZ for almost thirty years, I can prove that I am a New Englander through and through. How? Well, I spent my teen years as a waitress at our local Friendly's restaurant, a chain which began as an ice cream stand, founded in 1935 by two brothers, Prestley and Curtis Blake, in Springfield, Massachusetts. You just don't get more Yankee than that. Side note: double-dip cones were 5 cents back then. Can you imagine? Me, neither. 

We do not have any Friendly's out west or even in the midwest, much to my dismay, because they have the BEST hot fudge on the planet bar none. Yes, that's a hill I'm prepared to die on. I am not kidding when I say that while I worked at Friendly's I lived on a triple scoop coffee ice cream hot fudge sundae with a mountain of whipped cream and a cherry on top. Every Single Day.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law makes an AMAZING hot fudge, so since it is
National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, I thought I'd share her recipe. You're welcome.


30 large marshmallows

2/3 cup of milk

1/4 cup of butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 package (12 0z) of semisweet chocolate chips


In a medium saucepan, heat the marshmallows, milk, butter, and salt over low-medium heat until the marshmallows and butter fully melt, stir frequently. Add vanilla and chocolate chips, continue stirring until all of the chocolate is melted and the hot fudge is smooth. Serve warm.

Makes 4 cups.

Photo from David Calavera on Unsplash

All right, Reds and Readers, what's on your sundae? Hot fudge? Caramel? Marshmallow? Sprinkles? Whipped Cream? Cherry on top? Tell me all about your perfect sundae!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Saturday Funnies

JENN McKINLAY: I spent last night without power. This is not unusual for monsoon season in Arizona. We have rolling blackouts, brown outs, and full on power outages. Or we used to. For the past five years we have had a serious lack of weather of any substance. In fact, I think the rainfall in 2020 in the metro area was a whole 5 inches FOR THE YEAR. Last night, during the microburst, we got hit with 2 inches in just one hour. Good times!

Needless to say, I felt the need for some humor to get me through my candlelit storm vigil as all of my people were away from home, stranded wherever they happened to be when the storm hit. So, I share with you a random collection of things that made me laugh, because it is now mid-day Friday and still storming out but at least we have power...for now.

To be clear, I am not laughing at the puppy but rather with the wee lad as I'm quite certain he is my spirit animal. Also, if you're on Twitter, Rex Chapman is an excellent follow for funny posts. And he used "Wait for it" in his retweet, which of course is the title of my upcoming August release - in case, you live under a rock and have missed me mentioning that a bajillion times.

This is for those of you who've traveled with children. It needs no explanation except...I've lived it! This is from the Scary Mommy Book Club on Instagram, another excellent follow for laughs.

Yes, I did pull a perineal tendon on the outside of my ankle while sitting at my desk. No idea how. But when I read this, it all started to make sense. Middle age, indeed. 

This gem came from a collection of book related memes gathered on My only thought was - if you think it's terrifying for the reader, try being the author! Eep!!!

Lastly, a nod to my childhood of the 70's/80's. The Bermuda Triangle was a big freaking deal. Didn't Amelia Earhart disappear in there? I share it from the FB page of the ever fabulous author Dakota Cassidy (she is hilarious). If you don't follow her, you should. One of my readers commented, "And I really thought quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it's been." LOL! So true!

So, happy Saturday, Reds and Readers! I now have to go pump out my patio...again. I think I'm gonna need some more laughs. Where do you go when you need a quick chuckle to keep the terrors away?

Friday, July 23, 2021

Why I Write Mysteries by Cate Conte

Jenn McKinlay: One of the blogs that we Reds love is The Wicked  Wicked Good Mysteries, and I am so pleased that we have one of them here with us today to tell us all about her latest! Please welcome Cate Conte, aka Liz Mugavero.  


Cate Conte:

Readers often ask me how I started writing mysteries. I think sometimes the real question they want to ask me is, why are you so obsessed with crime and murder, but regardless, it’s a valid question. 


In any event, I never really thought about it much at the beginning. I loved mysteries, had always (to my parents’ chagrin) been fascinated with serial killers and other high profile murders, and that was really as far as it went. But when I started writing the Cat Cafe Mysteries and my protagonist Maddie’s Grandpa Leo was born, I had to rethink that answer. 


In the books, Grandpa Leo is the former police chief of Daybreak Harbor, retired for a few years and still unwilling to let go of his job. He’s an integral character from the beginning, and the main reason why Maddie decides to return to her hometown. Through a series of events (some unfortunate) in the first book, Maddie not only ends up returning home but also decided to move into Grandpa Leo’s house, where she actually spent the first few years of her childhood. Her grandpa is her favorite person, she often says. 


Readers seemed to really like Leo, and as the series went on it became obvious that he was Maddie’s true sidekick. She has her animal rescue friends, her lifelong best friend, her business partner, her sisters, and some men in her life, but no one is better at looking at the murders that keep popping up in front of her and helping her figure them out than her grandpa. Yeah, his former job has a lot to do with it—not to mention his current job, the PI firm he opened to keep his head in the investigative game—but also it’s the way they each approach things, how well they bounce ideas off one another, get on each others’ nerves, and ultimately come together to put things to rights. 


So back to me and my twisted obsessions with murder. At some point on this journey, I realized I didn’t get there on my own. That my love of crime, mysteries and even storytelling is courtesy of my own grandpa. Like Leo, he was a cop at heart - a detective, not a chief - and took great pride in his work. Unlike Leo, he worked days as a mason and nights as a cop. Like Leo, he had a full head of white hair up until the day he died at 85. Also like Leo, he had a particular fondness for his granddaughter (that would be me).



My grandpa was my favorite person. He was funny, patient, brilliant, modest, hardworking. He loved to watch me practice piano and try out new dance moves - those never made it out of the basement - and he taught me and my brother how to play 45s, a card game that was unique to our particular area of New England. Those card games got pretty lively for sure. He had a great sense of humor and was super loyal to my grandma. They were married for 60 years. 



But most of all, he was a storyteller. I never thought of it that way until much later, when I’d started writing my own books. I mean, he never wrote anything. But he loved to literally tell stories. Tales from his police beat, tales about the characters he came across in his other life, stories about him and my grandmother from their early years together. He loved to captivate people with his words. Make them laugh. Make them care.


I hope all these years later I’ve done him justice in my own storytelling. And these days, when a reader asks where I picked up my crime writing habit, I tell them I got it from my grandpa - the best storyteller in the family. 


What about you, Reds and Readers, who was the storyteller in your family?


The latest Cat Cafe Mystery, Claws for Alarm, is out on July 27. 

Here’s a blurb:


Its the heart of the busy season, and JJs House of Purrs is booming―until a killer is let off the leash.


Maddie James has finally given in to her friend Katrinas pleas to open up her cat cafe to more than ten felines: theyre now up to fifteen purring friends. In fact, JJs House of Purrs is making such a splash that shes getting national attention. The East Coast Animal Rescue League is quite interested in the cafe, and so Maddie accepts a request to meet with Jillian Allen  the executive director. Jillian shows up at the cafe and asks Maddie if they can partner on a fundraiser to support the local rescue efforts―and she offers up her celebrity endorser and her celebrity cat to sweeten the deal. Maddie, caught up in the prospect, offers up her sister Val to help plan the event.


But when Val shows up for a site visit at the venue, she finds Jillian strangled with a fancy cat leash―a piece of swag they were intending to use for the fundraiser―leaving Maddie with a lot of questions to answer. Was her death a tragic one-off event, or is there something more sinister going on? Maddie has to figure it out fast, before anyone else in the rescue community is jeopardized.



Cate Conte writes the Cat Cafe Mysteries and the new Full Moon Mysteries. As Liz Mugavero, she writes the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, the first of which was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. She lives in Connecticut with her rescue pals.