Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jovan Mosely and The Long Way Home

I was privileged today to hear a presentation by Jovan Mosely and Laura Caldwell about Jovan's horrifying experience of unjust incarceration. Laura Caldwell wrote a book about Jovan's experience, and about the two female attorneys who worked to have him exonerated.

Jovan spent 48 hours in an interrogation room with no chance for food or a bathroom break.

He was coerced into signing a document which alleged he committed a crime of which he was innocent.

He was not provided with legal representation for five months.

He spent six years in jail before he was finally given the trial that ultimately exonerated him.

He is sad, but not bitter, about this experience. He subsequently earned a degree from Loyola University and is getting ready to take his LSATs.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

A New Title

The second book in the Lilah Drake Undercover Mystery series is available on Tuesday. Lilah's story began in THE BIG CHILI (Berkley, 10-15) and continues in CHEDDAR OFF DEAD (Berkley 9-16), a Christmas-themed mystery in which Lilah witnesses the murder of a Santa Claus.

After this traumatic event, Lilah turns to her ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, a detective on the Pine Haven Police Department, who must determine who would want to kill this seemingly innocent Santa in a time of good will and celebration.

Lesa Holstine of Lesa's Book Critiques writes "Cheddar Off Dead is an enjoyable entry in a favorite new series . . . It has everything a reader wants: Christmas and murder (and recipes). "

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Blog Giveaway Winner

Thanks for your comments on Jess Lourey's interview! Jess has selected a winner from the list of commenters, and it is . . . SUSIE!  Susie, please e-mail me at to verify your mailing address.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Writer Jess Lourey on Using Stress, Crossing Genres, Creating Art and Loving Life

Jessica Lourey is the critically acclaimed author of over twenty novels, articles and short stories.

Jess, we have known each other since 2006, and in the ten years since you have accomplished many amazing things. Of which are you the most proud?

Has it been ten years? You have not aged a bit. I still have the lucky purple writing elephant you bought for me at the Madison farmer’s market when we first met, by the way. The book I am proudest of is The Catalain Book of Secrets, a magical realism novel that became nearly everything I wanted it to be. Everything but a bestseller, that is. As to my career in general, I’m proudest that I haven’t given up. Writing as a career is a long game, and you have to keep following the story you want to tell, no matter what the agents or the publishers or the market say.

I remember the purple elephant! And thank you. I guess we don't see aging in others so much as we do in ourselves.

You have THREE books coming out in the next year. Clearly you have an amazing work ethic, but can you share one secret (for lazier writers like me) that helps you stay focused?

Wife, mother of two, full-time teacher, and author? Doesn’t sound to me like you’re a lazy person. I think, like me, you must be a good organizer of time. I have a two-part, surefire way to stay focused when writing a book: 1) Make writing important to you. We all make time for what is important to us, and 2) Don’t confuse the struggle of creating art for anything else—not writer’s block, not a life-or-death need to organize your spice rack, not the sudden and complete loss of anything to resemble talent. Those are all the games your ego will play with you when you create. I face them every day, even ten years and 14 books into my career, and I put my head down and write through them.

You recently gave a TEDx talk. How does one go about doing this? When will yours air?

Aiyiyi, yes I did. Outside of my writing career, and my teaching, and my children, and my marriage, that TEDx is what I’m most proud of. It required me to face two crippling fears: public speaking on a major stage, and sharing personal details with strangers. Here’s the thing. I have always dabbled in writing, but I immersed myself in it in 2001 after my husband committed suicide. Writing a novel saved me from going dark, and as a bonus, channeling my fears and secrets into a novel made for stronger writing. The more writing workshops I taught, and the more unhappy people I met, the more I realized that I couldn’t keep my experience to myself, as much as I wanted to. So, I shared it on the stage, and I also wrote a book so others can learn to turn their experiences into healing, compelling fiction. The book is called Rewrite Your Life, and it comes out April 2017.

You write in several genres—in what genre do you most like to read for pleasure? What book is on your bedside table right now?

Right now, I have four books on my nightstand, all of them mystery novels written by people I will be moderating on a panel at Bouchercon. I most like to read YA for pleasure, honestly. The pace and pathos sweep me away and recharge me. It’s close, though, because I’ll read any good book and devour fantasy, mystery, thrillers, horror, magical realism, and lit fiction with equal relish.

I won’t ask political questions, since that type of thing always seems to cause division and outright warfare, but I will ask this: what’s the most essential quality you want in a leader?

I read “what’s the most essential quality you want in a reader” when I first read that sentence. J My answer to that one is “$15.” Ha! 

In a leader, though, I would love to see three qualities: intelligence, compassion, and diplomacy. I hear people talk about how they want their elected officials to be like they are, but I want the person in charge to be better at life than me.

Good point. As we discussed above, you have written a book about writing. Can you share one of the tips from this book?

My favorite writing nugget came to me from Elizabeth Gilbert, who I heard speaking at a meditation and yoga retreat a little over a year ago. She said that you should write everything with a single person in mind, whether it is an article or a novel. Having that sort of focus makes for resonant writing, and also precludes every writer’s nagging concern about what to include and what to leave out. Tell your story to one person, and everything falls into place.

You recently got married! Are you enjoying your newlywed status?

I am. It continues to be funny to me (more “laugh so I don’t cry” than “haha”) how much of my life I spent dating men who were not a good fit and telling myself that they’d change, or that a certain amount of conflict is a necessary part of every relationship. The truth is, I was mistaking familiarity for chemistry. Any relationship is work, but when you find the right person, the work feels like you’re building rather than burying something.

I’m realizing, as I list your many accomplishments, that many of them are on the top ten list of “most stressful experiences.”  How do you deal with stress?

This is horrible, but I function the best under stress. It might be where I get my super powers from. I keep envisioning a life where there is no stress and I relax and everything is butterflies and red wine, but I think it’d drive me crazy not to have problems to solve and situations to fix.

Chocolate: yes or no?

HELL YES. Preferably dark chocolate with nuts.

In Jasper FForde’s wonderful THE EYRE AFFAIR, characters can jump inside books and interact with famous literary creations. If we really had the machine available to Fforde’s Thursday Next, into what book would you want to jump and why?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because you’ve got me thinking about chocolate now.

You must have realized many of your writing goals. Do you have new goals on the horizon?

I do. I want to write a coming of age book about a 12-year-old girl struggling to make sense of life in the 70s. It’ll be literary fiction and challenging to write because it’ll require me to recycle my own experiences. The result will be ultimately healing, and hopefully create great fiction, but it is never comfortable to mine your past like that. I also want to be a full-time writer. Some day soon, I hope.

 For the romance readers among us, how did you meet your husband?

OK Cupid. His handle was TallDorkandHandsome, and mine was MysteryLovesCompany. I didn’t come up in his search because I was too short, but he came up in mine, and so I contacted him because he’s 6’6” and his pictures were hot as hell. We emailed for a few weeks and finally agreed to meet for coffee. I was going out with my niece for coffee at 8:00 that same morning, and then driving an hour and a half to Minneapolis to meet Tony afterward. I texted my niece at 7:45 am and told her I was early, and did she want me to get her anything to drink? Except I had actually texted Tony, who thought I was FATAL ATTRACTION crazy and waiting at the coffee shop three hours early. We worked it out.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

My perfect day is the first day of summer, when I am done with the school year and have all that time laid out before me like the most delicious buffet. It makes me delirious to think of all the writing and reading I can do, all the time I get to spend with my kids, mornings sleeping in with my husband, all the vegetables I get to grow and food I get to cook.

In Jess Lourey’s view, what’s the most beautiful place in the world?

I have visited so many magical places, and there’s so many left to see, but at the moment, the creek behind my new house is my favorite place. I’ve been riding down it in an inner tube a lot, a frosty hard cider in my tube’s cup holder. The water is cool and clear, and the sun filters through the oak trees lining the banks in such a way that it turns the air this beautiful sea green. It’s a lazy, perfect, fairy land.

That is just lovely. How can readers find out more about you, your books, and your upcoming projects?

My website just got an overhaul which includes fireflies! Please check it out at I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. All are welcome! Thanks so much for having me, Julia.

Thanks for talking with me, Jess! Good luck in all of your literary endeavors!

Note to readers: Jess will send a copy of Salem's Cipher to one lucky commenter! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Writer Judy Penz Sheluk Weighs In on Publishing, Patriotism, Plot and Puppies

Judy Penz Sheluk's debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man's Noose, was published in July 2015 from Barking Rain Press. Skeletons in the Attic, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her Marketville Mystery series, will be published in August 2016 by Imajin Books. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon. 

Hi, Judy! Thanks for visiting my blog.

Thank you for hosting me.

Sure! When did you realize you wanted to write mysteries?

Mysteries have always been my go-to genre. I spent the better part of my teen years reading Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dick Francis, and I’ve been an avid reader of mysteries ever since. When I decided to try writing a novel, mystery seemed the logical choice. After all, reading is the best teacher.

What came first for Skeletons in the Attic, the story or the title?

The story. I started writing it as Calamity Barnstable (not exactly a grabber for a title). Early on, Calamity (Callie) discovers a skeleton in the attic. As soon as she made the discovery, I knew I had my title.

       When you write, do you tend to focus on plot, character, or setting the most?

I try to give each have equal weight. Readers will have to tell me whether or not I’ve succeeded!

You also have a great deal of experience in antiques. Do you use this knowledge in your fiction?

In The Hanged Man’s Noose, definitely, as one of the main characters, Arabella Carpenter, owns the Glass Dolphin antiques shop. In Skeletons, not as much, although Arabella makes a brief appearance and there is a vintage locket that is important to the story (it’s even featured on the cover). I enjoy other authors’ series where there’s a crossover character (Michael Connelly does this brilliantly), so I thought it would be fun to do that with my Glass Dolphin and Marketville Mystery series. Arabella was my first pick, probably because of the antiques angle.

You live in Ontario with your husband. How did the two of you meet?

We met in our early twenties at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Toronto. He was a Loss Prevention Engineer and I was in the Credit Department. He was in charge of the NFL football pool. I had no interest in football, but I did have an interest in him, so I joined the pool. We dated for a while, had a huge argument one day, broke up, and went our separate ways. 

We both moved a handful of times, and ten years later, my mother ran into Mike at a shopping mall. He asked if I was married yet. She said no (much to her chagrin!) and he asked for my number. We met for dinner (each in our own car) and two months later we were buying a house together. We’ll be married 27 years, this October 13th (we got married on Friday 13th). 

Mike always said if I wasn’t so stubborn we’d have been married 35 years, but I say we’d have been divorced for 27 years. We both needed those years to figure out who we were and who we wanted to be.

That's actually a very romantic story! 

Canadians and Americans have much in common. What would you say is the biggest cultural difference?

I think Canadians tend to be less vocal about their patriotism, which in way I find sort of sad, but by nature, I think we tend to be a bit lower key than our friends to the south. That said, I quite admire the way Americans embrace their patriotism.

Something that always amuses me is this: When a Canadian visits the US, we will say, “I went to Chicago or New York, or Dallas…” An American will inevitably say, “I went to Canada.” Doesn’t matter if it was Toronto or Vancouver or Newfoundland!

That's so true!

 Do you have a favorite mystery author? A favorite book or series?

Oh, so many…my current favorites are Tana French, Sue Grafton, Louise Penny, John Sandford and Michael Connelly. They are all brilliant writers, and I’ve read every one of their books. I’ve also recently discovered Hamish Macbeth by M.C. Beaton – great fun. If I had to pick an all-time favorite, desert island series to take with me, it would be Agatha Christie.

Some great names there! I do love Christie, and I am also a huge Grafton fan. I still have to investigate the others! 

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Canadian literature. Favorite books include Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden and The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Both books are very dark, but very compelling reads.

What book is on your nightstand right now?

Should’ve Played Poker by Debra H. Goldstein. I met Debra at Boucheron 2015 in Raleigh and really liked her, so when her book came out, I knew I had to read it. It’s a light mystery set in a nursing home, and so far it’s very enjoyable.

Do you have a rigid writing schedule? If not, when do you write?

Definitely not rigid. I gave up rigid when I left my day job in 2003. Since then, I’ve been a full time freelance writer/editor, and my hours are very fluid (I like to say my boss is very flexible). I don’t do much freelance magazine writing these days, but I am the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal and the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine Canada, so a lot of hours are spent working on those publications. I do try to write at least six days a week, and when I’m working on a book, I aim for a chapter a day. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the goal.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I’m a passionate, if not particularly good, golfer and belong to two ladies 9-hole leagues. I don’t really enjoy 18 holes – takes too much time – but I really enjoy playing nine.  I’m also a runner and have done some marathons and half marathons, though these days I’m happy to run 5k (3 miles) three or four times a week. And I walk my dog, Gibbs, a Golden Retriever, 3 or 4 times a day (two decent walks and a couple of short ones). He’s only nine months old, so he needs the exercise. If you’re into counting steps, most days I get between 20-25,000


How can readers find out about you and your books?

My website is, where I write about the writing life and interview other authors. My Amazon page is

Thanks, Judy! Good luck with the new book.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Gothic-Inspired Reads

In honor of Ann Bradstreet's birthday, Playbuzz and Berkley have compiled a list of Gothic-inspired novels, and I am thrilled to be on it!

Friday, May 06, 2016

Female Mystery Writers Create Box Set

Guest Blog by Judy Alter

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries, the box set, is the creation of Lois Winston, USA Today bestselling author, creator of the Anastasia Pollock Crafting Mysteries and an award-winning author of mystery, romance, romantic suspense, humorous women's fiction, children's chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and as Emma Carlyle. Lois is no stranger to anthology projects—she edited Love, Bake, Write, featuring Brenda Novak and over a hundred other authors, and was a contributor to the anthology Happy Homicides and the box sets Romance Super Bundle I, Romance Bundle II: Second Chances, and Romance Bundle III: Always & Forever.

Sleuthing Women is her most ambitious anthology to date—it brings together the first book of series by nine authors. Lois decided that if she could sell a collection of first books cheaply enough to entice readers, she could get readers hooked on the series and persuaded to read more in each series. Her only stipulation to authors was that a series had to have at least three titles.

My contribution is Skeleton in a Dead Space, the first of six Kelly O’Connell Mysteries. I was inspired, if that’s the word, by a dead space in my own kitchen—a narrow spice cabinet between a deep pantry and a deep oven and storage above and below. I now am pretty sure there’s an old brick chimney behind my dead space—it may be holding the roof up for all I know.

With that idea rattling round in my brain, I noticed a house being remodeled in the nearby Fairmount National Historic District. Suddenly I thought, “There’s a skeleton in a dead space in that house,” and I had my idea for a novel—my first published mystery. The Fairmount Neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas, is very real, as are several places mentioned—The Old Neighborhood Grill, Nonna Tata, Lili’s Bistro, and others. That’s been fun for local readers, but the actions of this novel never happened, to the best of my knowledge, and the characters are also fictional. This is a work of the imagination, as are all the other books in Sleuthing Women. Hope you enjoy!

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

 Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder… 

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends' funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn't realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her. Retirement Can Be Murder,

A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

 Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME's On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

 A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

 Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve. 

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

Interested? Here are the Buy Links:

Judy Alter is an award-winning novelist and the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, and Desperate for Death. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House and the current Murder at Peacock Mansion.

Finally, with the 2014 The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries. She is also the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West, including Libby Custer, Jessie Frémont, Wild West Show roper Lucille Mulhall, pioneer physician Georgia Arbuckle Fix (in Mattie), and Etta Place of the Hole in the Wall Gang. Her latest book, just released, is The Gilded Cage, set in late nineteenth-century Chicago.

 Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame. Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.