<![CDATA[Ally Shields, Author - Blog]]>Sat, 25 Mar 2017 14:36:27 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[Coffee Chat Author Interview: Molly MacRae]]>Thu, 23 Mar 2017 04:17:28 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/03/coffee-chat-author-interview-molly-macrae1.htmlPicture
Welcome to the first Wednesday in Spring!

We actually had snow showers yesterday, but I'm hopeful! In any case, we're cozy inside with mystery author, Molly MacRae.

Morning, Molly. What may I get you to drink?

I usually have tea with milk. When I do have coffee, I want it to be one of those things that’s really more like liquid dessert, preferably with chocolate, whipped cream, and sprinkles.

Ally:  Tea it is (although I'll stick with coffee)! While I prepare our drinks, please introduce yourself to readers.


The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the award-winning author of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries and the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. After twenty years in northeast Tennessee, Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois.

Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio: "I like to exercise my writing muscles by stretching my abilities – not always successfully. Here are three examples. A long time ago, I wrote a series of mystery short stories in French. The stories weren’t too good and neither was the French. A shorter time ago, I wrote an even shorter mystery story in Scottish Gaelic (if three lines can count as a story). Again, the story wasn’t so hot, but the Gaelic was impeccable. Much more recently, I won a flash fiction contest at a mystery conference with a story called ‘Hammered by Hamilton’ written as a rap."

Author contact links:

Website: www.mollymacrae.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.macrae.9
Twitter: @MysteryMacRae
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/MollyMacRae/ 


Ally: What can readers expect when they open a Molly MacRae book?

MOLLY:  I write cozy mysteries, and while there’s a hint of romance, the heat level is very low.

Ally:  How do you choose and name your characters?

MOLLY:  Sometimes I choose them and sometimes they just show up. When I’m in control of the situation, I try to choose characters that a) I don’t mind getting inside their heads; b) who can best tell (or lie about) the story; c) who show me something about the emotional setting of the story; or d) who I don’t mind killing. Names can be tricky. I try to pick names common to the region I’m writing about, and that are appropriate to the character’s age. I try to avoid names that sound too much alike, and try not to have too many with the same beginning sounds.

Ally:  Does your real life show up in your writing? In what ways?

MOLLY:  Oh yes, and not always very well disguised. Take setting and occupations, for instance. All my books and stories, except for the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, take place in small towns in northeast Tennessee, all of them suspiciously like Jonesborough, a town I dearly love and where we lived for so long. Wilder Rumors is about a shady museum curator in one of those versions of Jonesborough. I was the curator (not too shady) of the Jonesborough-Washington County History Museum. Lawn Order is about Margaret Welch who owns a bookstore in another version of Jonesborough. I didn’t own a bookstore, but I left the museum to run The Book Place, a wonderful independent bookstore. The Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries are about a woman who inherits her grandmother’s yarn shop. My grandmother did own a yarn shop, although it wasn’t haunted and it wasn’t in Tennessee.

Most of my characters are combinations of people I’ve known, or met, or who have caught my eye or ear (or to whom I’m related), but a few of my characters are named after real people. Debbie Keith, Aaron Carlin, and Al Rogalla are co-workers of mine at the library who won the dubious pleasure of being in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries after donating money to our staff charity drive. (Al’s first name in real life is Mike, but I used part of his middle name to avoid confusion with my husband who is also a Mike.) Thea Green also works at the library, and she just showed up in the books one day and stayed. In the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, James Haviland, Sharon Davis, and the Paudel family are named after friends. Needless to say, nothing about the characters, other than their names, is anything like the real people. Although Thea might disagree, and the real Rogalla does have a Scottie named Bruce.

Ranger, Sophie, and Quantum, dogs in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, are based on dogs who belong to friends. In fact Quantum, who’s a very handsome and accomplished smooth collie, is joining me for a book signing at the end of April in Alexandria, Virginia. Word is, he’s very excited and looking forward to “pawtigraphing” books.

And then there are the bits of observed behavior and overheard dialog. About that, let’s just say if you see me hanging around, be careful; I’m nosy and I write things down.

Ally:  What is your next writing project?

MOLLY:  Scones and Scoundrels, book two of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, is almost finished. In it, an eccentric author, who’s visiting Inversgail for the Authors in Schools program, is found dead – poisoned by scones from the tearoom that’s now part of Yon Bonny Books. The book will be out in January 2018.

Ally:  Tell us about your home. Your life style.

MOLLY:  We live in a university town – Champaign, Illinois – in a small, yellow house in an old neighborhood within walking distance of work, a park, and restaurants. Before Champaign, we lived in northeast Tennessee for about twenty years, within walking distance of bears. Years before that, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a year.

Ally: How do you spend your non-writing/editing time?

MOLLY:  I work full time in the children’s department of the public library. When I’m not writing or working, I like to try new recipes, do crossword puzzles, read, and find more reasons for not dusting or weeding.

Ally: Please answer the following short answer questions:
  • Book you're currently reading?  The Wreck of the Argyll by John K. Fulton and Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.
  • Favorite accessory:  A bracelet that says “So many books, so little time.”
  • What comes to you first - character or plot?  Sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both.
  • What are your hobbies?  Cooking, crossword puzzles, and hoping that someday I’ll have time to improve my knitting, embroidering, and needle felting.
  • Typical breakfast?  Steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon, cardamom, salt, 1/3 of a banana, chopped walnuts, blueberries, and unsweetened almond milk; unsweetened yellow grapefruit juice; tea with milk.
Ally:  Thanks so much for spending time with us. Before you go, we'd love to hear about the novel you brought today, Plaid and Plagiarism.

Plaid and Plagiarism, book one of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries

A murder in a garden shed turns the four new owners of Yon Bonnie Books into amateur detectives, in a captivating new cozy mystery novel from Molly MacRae.

Set in the weeks before the annual Inversgail Literature Festival in Scotland, Plaid and Plagiarism begins on a morning shortly after the four women take possession of their bookshop in the Highlands. Unfortunately, the move to Inversgail hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’d planned.

First, Janet Marsh is told she’ll have to wait before moving into her house. Then she finds out the house has been vandalized. Again. The chief suspect? Una Graham, an advice columnist for the local paper―who’s trying to make a name for herself as an investigative reporter. When Janet and her business partners go looking for clues at the house, they find a body―it’s Una, in the garden shed, with a sickle in her neck. Janet never did like that garden shed.

Who wanted Una dead? After discovering a cache of nasty letters, Janet and her friends are beginning to wonder who didn’t, including Janet’s ex-husband. Surrounded by a cast of characters with whom readers will fall in love, the new owners of Yon Bonnie Books set out to solve Una’s murder so they can get back to business.

Buy links:

Your locally owned, independent bookstore: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781681772561
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681772566/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/plaid-and-plagiarism-molly-macrae/1123754332;jsessionid=B836C77F6B38724AA5A1414EA6C4842A.prodny_store02-atgap07?ean=9781681772561

Thanks for Stopping. Come back soon!

<![CDATA[Guest Author Interview with Kath Boyd Marsh]]>Thu, 16 Mar 2017 03:41:39 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/03/guest-author-interview-with-kath-boyd-marsh.htmlPicture
Welcome to this week's book talk!

My guest today is children's writer, Kath Boyd Marsh, who also happens to be my critique partner! It's great to have you on the Coffee Chat, Kath! How would you like your coffee?

If I have really good coffee, I’ll take it black and savor every sip. If it’s hot outside, pour it over ice and give me a splash of milk. WAIT!!! I just bought a bourbon liqueur that tastes like coffee and … maybe not before writing.

Ally: Oh, probably not. I'll pour two cups of black coffee while you introduce yourself to readers.


At seven years old Kath Boyd Marsh self-published her first fantasy on lined notebook paper, stapled together by her grandfather, and starring a creature based on her little sister- the ‘PB.’ Before Kath moved to Richmond, KY to write about dragons, wizards, and other fantastic creatures, she lived in seven states, Panama, and one very haunted house. The Lazy Dr'gon and the Bumblespells Wizard was her debut novel.

Something not in your usual bio: "
For five years I volunteered at Alabama Wildlife Rescue in Hoover, AL. I loved every minute of cleaning up after, feeding, and just being around injured and orphaned wildlife. Of all the creatures, I came to love oppossums (the young sneeze to call their mom) and black vultures the best. The vultures in the outdoor ‘flight’ cage had a sharp sense of humor and would untie my boots and steal my refuse garbage bag."

Author links:

Website: kathboydmarshauthor.com
Blog:  kath-lettersfromearth.blogspot.com
Twitter: @kmarshfen 


Ally: What genre do you prefer to write?

KATH:  My debut book is Middle Grade fantasy fiction for children. I also have a short story that will publish in an anthology this coming summer. That one is Young Adult. I like writing YA. Very PG.

Ally: What is your daily writing process?

KATH:  I check my email and get my morning encouragement from my critique partner. Her work ethic drives me onward!!! (Thank you. :) ) If she writes 2000 words, I try to get at least 1500.

Ally: Can you describe your journey to publication, including the bumps?

KATH:  Oh, boy. I started the first draft of the book I just published over twenty years ago. It was submitted and revised, and revised, and submitted, and revised for … well over twenty years before it found an editor who believed in it. On the way, I had a publisher send me a note saying they were reading that manuscript and everyone was laughing. And the next day I got a form rejection from the same publisher. No explanation, just Ouch.

On another manuscript- I sent it to an editor who requested it after hearing my pitch at a conference. He wrote back that it wasn’t dark enough, and if I wanted to tackle the darkness issue,  I could re-submit. BUT, by the way, He was quitting the publishing industry so I’d have to send it to the other editors at his old publishing company. They would read it. Uh huh. I darkened it, sent it, and got a fast rejection saying it was too dark. Uh huh.

I’ll never forget the agent years ago who sent back my query letter with “no” penciled in on the body of my letter. Ouch!

But during those twenty years I have drafted a lot of other manuscripts, which I continue to revise and hope …

Ally: How do you decide your characters' names?

KATH:  I cheat. My parents were heavily into genealogy, so I go to the book and seek an ancestor name or names that I like.

Ally: Since you write fantasy, I assume you've thought about supernatural powers. If you could have one, what would it be?

KATH:  I’d want two. Greedy, huh? First would be the ability to protect my family and friends from everything harmful. Keep them safe and healthy.

And even more greedy, I’d want the ability to eat endless amounts of Cheezits and drink Cherry Coke and NOT gain endless amounts of fluffiness/weight.

Ally:  Lol. I think we'd all like that one. But getting back to writing, what's the next project?

KATH:  I am working on revising my favorite series of manuscripts. Long ago Abdon Mallack, a demon with ambitions, stepped into my writing. I so want her stories published. She has a very dark sense of humor, a clumsy assistant I identify with, and a life that never goes smoothly. If it can go wrong, it will. And in the process of pursuing her goal of establishing her own Hell Colony, her true evilness, well it seems to be changing.

By the way. I did not get her name from my ancestors. Abdon is of course the name of one of the Judges from the Bible- a bit of irony. and Mallack is just evil.

Ally: Quick Answer Questions:
  • 1) Favorite Book:  Just one?  Clowns of God, Podkayne of Mars, and Seventeen.
  • 2) Author you'd like to take to lunch:  Although I’d be tongue-tied and gob-smacked- Samuel Clemens.
  • 3) Do you believe in love at first sight?  Well, I have to. That’s what happened when I met my husband. My roommate threatened me if I did not go down and eat dinner with the fraternity invited to our sorority for that night. I went grumbling, and in he walked!
  • 4) What would you do, if you couldn't write anymore?  Photography. I do love to take photos, even if they are awful and drive my cats and dog crazy.
  • 5) Favorite Place to write:   If the weather is good, outdoors. If not, wherever I can see outdoors. My office has the essentials, big floor to ceiling windows! I can watch the critters in our yard- turkeys, deer, squirrels, birds, raccoons (who are NOT supposed to be out during the day, but they obviously want a head start on the gingercake I put in the bird feeder. That cranky giant skunk will show up tonight, and no one argues with him.)
  • 6) Pets:  Rufus-the fox hound who found us three years ago and writes my blog.  Nikki Cat- whose mom found us and adopted us ten years ago when her kittens were born.  Zoe and Tuck Tuck-cats- who allowed us to adopt them just this fall.
Ally:  It was great to have you join us today, Kath. Love the liqueur, by the way. :) I hope readers will check out your book for their young readers. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there's a sequel coming soon!

The Lazy Dragon and the Bumblespells Wizard
Genre: MG fantasy

Book Blurb:

Can two misfits help each other? For Cl’rnce, a perfect day would involve a nap, another nap, followed by dinner, and a nap. So what if he’s the only dr’gon his age without a wizard partner or the ability to y? at sounds like work, and Cl’rnce is opposed to all forms of work. Moire Ain, on the other hand, has never known anything except miserable, soul-crushing work. She has lived her whole life as a virtual slave to the evil Hedge-Witch. When Moire Ain overhears Hedge-Witch plot to have Moire Ain kill a king, the girl runs away with only a magic book, her pet raven, and a dream of someday becoming a Great and Mighty Wizard. Moire Ain hasn’t even been gone a full day when she stumbles across an irritated Cl’rnce. Grudgingly, Cl’rnce has accepted a quest, and he now finds himself footsore, hungry, and trapped in a tree by a dr’gon slaying knight. With nothing more than some bumbled spells and a helpful raven, the two set o to complete Cl’rnce’s quest and, just maybe, save a king.

Kirkus Review!!!   http://bit.ly/2aZvOQN

Buy Links: 

Amazon.com:   http://amzn.to/2aFwBpO
Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lazy-dragon-and-the-bumblespells-wizard-kath-boyd-marsh/1124568990?ean=9781944821005
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2a4qD1G  
Indigo Music and Books at:  http://bit.ly/29UX6KY 

Thanks for visiting the blog. Come back soon!

<![CDATA[Interview with Author CJ Petterson]]>Thu, 09 Mar 2017 05:37:42 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/03/interview-with-author-cj-petterson.htmlPicture
Happy Wednesday, booklovers!

We have author CJ Petterson visiting this week with an anthology of eight historical western romances, entitled The Posse.

Welcome, CJ! How do you take your coffee?

I drink my half-caf coffee (about eight cups a day) black, no sugar.

Ally:  A gal after my own heart. While I pour, please introduce yourself to readers.


Author “cj petterson” is the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston whose publication credits include two contemporary romantic suspense novels as well as non-fiction and fiction short stories that have appeared in several anthologies. Retired from corporate life and now living on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, she takes her pen name from her paternal grandmother. She is currently working on a mystery series that features private detective Jannicka A. Konnor…of course there is a touch of romance.

Something unusual not included in your regular bio: "
I once out-shot my policeman (now ex-) husband on the police department gun range. Maybe that’s why there are guns in all of my stories." :)

Click on the links below to visit cj petterson: 

Simon&Schuster Author Page
Amazon Central Author Page 
blog at: www.lyricalpens.com 


Ally:  What made you want to be a published writer?

CJ:  I started writing creatively after I retired from a job that required a lot of report writing. A couple of years into retirement I was bored and took a university night class called “Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry.” I wrote my first seven pages, got gobs of positive feedback, and the ball rolled on from there.

Ally: Does your real life show up in your writing? In what ways?

CJ:  There is a part of me, real or wished-for, and/or my personal adventures in all of my female protagonists. That’s especially true in one of my romantic suspense novels. I once spent five-and-a-half days white-water rafting in Colorado and also spent two days driving a doors-off, stick-shift Wrangler on a Jeep Jamboree off-road adventure in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The protagonist in my CHOOSING CARTER romantic suspense novel enjoys some of these same adventures.

Ally: Talk about the research you do.

CJ:  I love to make deep dives into research rabbit holes and can get lost for hours chasing that Google rabbit. My first book, DEADLY STAR, was great because I learned about nanosatellites, genetically modified foods, DARPA, international politics. The next step was even more challenging and exciting: Using those facts to tell a story, keeping the author speak and info dumps of all my new-found knowledge off the pages. I do most of my research before I start the story, but as I create roadblocks for the characters, I’m always back at Google doing more. Occasionally, I do first-person interviews with law enforcement, or as when I wrote CHOOSING CARTER, with a white-water rafting group in Colorado.

Ally:  What's your best marketing tip? What didn't work out for you?

CJ:  Get your name, your brand out there. A good story introduces you, but you have to work at keeping your name on the top of someone’s mind when they look for their next story to read.  What doesn’t work for me is any marketing tool/method that doesn’t give me a good return on investment. I haven’t found that Facebook “boosts” give me enough bang for my bucks.

Ally:  What is your next writing project?

CJ:  A final edit on a novella that I finished on Jan 8. A beta reader currently has it. The tentative title is “Ms. Jake Konnor, PI.” Jake Konnor moves from Michigan to Mobile, Alabama, to begin her new career as a private investigator. Her first big case is about a man whose reckless behavior in his teenaged years comes storming back to haunt him thirty years later. When his wife is murdered and his daughter kidnapped, Jake realizes she’s working one of the most complicated cases a fledgling PI can have. I’m planning to submit the story to the publisher within the next month and keeping my fingers crossed that they like it. Else, I’ll start working on my self-publishing skills.

Ally: We can't let you get away without trying a few quick answer questions:
  • a. favorite book: Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, because it got me hooked on action, adventure, and historical fiction.
  • b. favorite accessory: Pierced earrings
  • c. Do you believe in love at first sight? Actually, yes…oh wait, maybe that’s lust.
  • d. favorite song:  “Amazing Grace” especially when played by a bagpiper.
  • e. favorite quote:  Mark Twain: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” 

Ally:  Thanks so much for joining us for coffee, CJ!. Good luck with the anthology. Give us an idea of what we'll find inside the cover...

THE POSSE (8 Historical Western Romances)

Short Story Collection (various authors)
Release date: March 15, 2017

“Bad Day at Round Rock” a historical fiction story is CJ Petterson's latest published work. It is written in overlapping segments about four people—one of whom is based on her maternal grandmother—whose lives are forever changed by a cache of twenty-dollar gold pieces that the outlaw Sam Bass stole in a train robbery. “Bad Day at Round Rock” is chock full of history, mystery, myth, greed, and love…as are the rest of the stories in the anthology. 

Seven authors contributed short stories to The Posse. All are human interest tales with all the action you expect in a story about the Wild West.

Lyn Horner: The Schoolmarm's Hero
Frank Kelso: One Way or Another
cj petterson: Bad Day at Round Rock
Charlene Raddon: The Reckoning
Chimp Robertson: Headed for Texas
Jim Stroud: Savage Posse
Chuck Tyrell: Set a Thief
Bonus- Frank Kelso: Tibby's Hideout.

Book Trailer:

99 cent EBOOK bargain!

Pre-Order/Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Posse-Historical-Western-Romances-ebook/dp/B06XCBBCS7

Thanks for visiting the blog. Come back soon!

<![CDATA[Coffee Chat Author Interview with Jim Jackson]]>Thu, 02 Mar 2017 05:53:08 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/03/coffee-chat-author-interview-with-jim-jackson.htmlPicture
Welcome to our Wednesday book talk!

Today's guest is mystery writer Jim Jackson, who has a short story in a new anthology, Lowcountry Crime.

Good morning, Jim. What may I get you to drink?

For years I had no caffeinated drinks. Now I drink Diet Pepsi straight up.

Ally: I'll grab one from the fridge while you introduce yourself to readers.

About the Author:

James M. Jackson authors the series featuring Seamus McCree, whose most recent appearances have been in his fourth novel, Doubtful Relations (8/2016), the novella “Low Tide at Tybee” included in Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas (2/2017), and the short story, “And Wine to Make the Heart Glad” cowritten with Tina Whittle for the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet (3/2017). Jim is currently the president of the 700-member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome.

Something about you that isn't in your regular bio: "
The closest I have been to a live wolf in the wild is fifteen feet." (Ally note: Oooh, that's scary close!)

Author Contact Links:



Ally: Before we get into specific question, give us a brief overview of what type of stories you write.

My work falls in the mystery/suspense/domestic thriller categories with sex off the page, so the rating depends entirely on your own imagination.

Ally: How do you select the traits and names for your characters?

JIM:  I often “sell” a character name or two as part of a charity auction. I’ll use the buyer’s name or the name of the person to whom they are gifting naming rights. In those cases, I make sure the name will work with the sex, age, and ethnicity of the character I choose.

For everyone else, I ask my characters who they’d like to be. I have some rules they must abide by. They can’t have a name that is likely to be confused with another character—unless that confusion is intended. After some experience, I’ve decided I don’t like names that end with an “s” when the possessive will require an extra ’s. As an example, I wouldn’t choose James with the possessive James’s. A name like Hayes is okay since his truck would be written Hayes’ truck.

My main character’s name, Seamus McCree, developed a bit differently. He is in many ways my alter ego, and I chose his first name for two reasons. First, it is the Irish equivalent of James. Second, it is a play on words because Shamus, pronounced the same, is Yiddish slang for a detective or PI, and I planned for my guy to detect things others couldn’t or wouldn’t.

Ally:  Tell us about the main character in the book you're featuring today.

JIM:  People often ask if Seamus and I are similar. My stock answer is that he’s younger, taller, faster, stronger, smarter, better looking and if that weren't enough, he's independently wealthy. and has all his hair. He should be careful though. With a few keyboard stokes, I can change all of that the next time he appears in print. He and I do think a lot alike and share many of our avocations. He enjoys the outdoors, is a birdwatcher, reads books, and lives in places I have lived.

He’s had a different career path than I. He planned to be a professional soccer player (I played semi-pro), but a severe injury in his rookie year ended that career. He went back to school and earned an MBA (I also have one) and went to Wall Street where he became the top-rated banking stock analyst for an investment bank (neither of which have I done). When a boss changed one of Seamus’s reports because it recommended downgrading a client’s stock, Seamus quit in disgust and ended up consulting with police about financial crimes, which is where we join him in the series.

Seamus is divorced and has a some-time hacker son, Paddy, who in the series has progressed from college kid to young adult.

Ally:  What was your journey to publication, developing your style and preferences, including bumps and missteps?

JIM:  When I retired early, I gave myself permission to spend six months turning down everyone else’s idea of what I should do and instead figure out what I wanted to do. Writing eventually became the answer to that question. In deciding what to write, I relied on what I like to read. At an early age, I became a fan of the mystery genre and decided to write what I love reading. I allowed my business background to dictate that I should craft a series because each book brings in new readers who, if they like what they read, will go back to book one and read the entire series.

I love reading series because the characters become a part of my alternate-universe family. I feel like I’ve grown up with Lucas Davenport (John Sanford, author) and participated in his maturation from stud to settled family man with an adopted daughter in college. I’ve rooted for Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly, author) as he progressed through and out of police ranks. I’ve been there when V I Warshawski (Sara Paretsky, author) became an insurance investigator and then moved on to be a private eye. And I “know” all the series side characters. When I pick up a book in a favorite series, it’s like comfort food.

A bonus of having series side characters is that different readers have different favorites among the cast. Some promote Seamus’s dart-throwing Mom. Some really like his son, Paddy. Others fall for nonfamily side characters like Owen Lyndstrom or Abigail Hancock.

Yet, I continue to read standalones because I think they often contain an author’s best work. I thoroughly enjoy William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series, but for me, his best book so far is Ordinary Grace, a standalone. The same with Steve Hamilton, whose Alex McKnight series is set in my neck of the Michigan woods: The Lock Artist, a standalone, is his all-time best. Usually those books come later in the writer’s career.

I wrote the first book, went to a local critique group, and discovered that my 140,000-word manuscript, that could double as a doorstop, contained most writing errors known to mankind. I rewrote that novel multiple times, sent it out to agents, received rejections, rewrote, rejected, repeated. And lo! An agent wanted to represent the book. But the agent was new and had a faulty contract (for example, no provision for what happened if the agent became disabled or died), so I decided not to accept the offer.

The agent is now well-known. Still, I don’t regret the decision because, in retrospect, that version of the manuscript really wasn’t good enough to be published.

I wrote the second book and again tried to get an agent before the manuscript was ready. (Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.) For entertainment, I played a lot of contract bridge and decided to write the how-to book I wished I had read while I was improving from beginner to intermediate. I sent a proposal to the largest bridge-book publishing company and they loved it. I soon had a contract and after a year of rewrites, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge became my first published work. It received excellent reviews in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Bridge World Magazine.

After my second novel won the Evan Marshall Fiction Makeover Contest (whose criteria were the freshness and commerciality of the story and quality of the writing), a friend I had met in the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime suggested that I try submitting my mystery directly to publishers. Since agents weren’t crawling over each other to sign me, I queried three publishers.

Within a week, two had responded back favorably, and I soon had signed with Barking Rain Press. They published Bad Policy in 2013 and Cabin Fever in 2014. My better half, Jan, suggested I should go back and give the first novel, Ant Farm, one more try. It was a good story and after I did a total rewrite, it won a Kindle Scout contest and Kindle Press contract. It was published in 2015. Determining that a small press couldn’t promote my books as well as I could on my own, I published Doubtful Relations, the fourth Seamus McCree novel in 2016.

Ally:  What is your next writing project?

JIM:  I consider that to be “Low Tide at Tybee” because I am in the throes of its marketing in the anthology Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas in which it appears. It released February 7th. “Low Tide at Tybee” brings three of the Seamus McCree series characters (Seamus, his octogenarian, darts-throwing mother, and his now six-year-old granddaughter, Megan) to Tybee Island, Georgia to vacation and escape winter up north. Megan spots a thief going through their beach bags, after which their vacation unravels with a series of twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the end, trying to figure out who done what.

Next up after that will be the fifth Seamus McCree novel, Empty Promises, which takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A mining company employee is killed on McCree land near the site of a proposed mine that has brought conflict to the local community. Expected release date is late summer/early fall of 2017.

Ally:  Before we get to the anthology, let's try a few short answer questions.
  • a. Book you're currently reading:  The Death Box by J.A. Kerley. Jack is a friend from Kentucky and is better known abroad than he is in the U.S. He writes excellent dark mystery/suspense.
  • b. An author (living or dead) you'd love to take to lunch:  I would love the opportunity to break bread with Ben Franklin. I could only hope it was a leisurely meal that gave me time to ask about the past and his thoughts of the present.
  • c. An item on your bucket list:  I’ve checked off many over the years, but flying in a glider plane during hawk migration is near the top.
  • d. What comes to your first - character or plot? When I start a short story or novel, I know the inciting incident and let the characters take it from there. I’m often very surprised how they drive the plot and who the villain turns out to be and why they did what they did.
  • e. Typical breakfast:  Oatmeal of the five-minute-stovetop-cooking kind. I mix the brown sugar into the water as it heats up and cook the oatmeal in the sugar water.

Ally: Thanks for joining us on the Chat today. Before you go, please tell us more about the anthology, Lowcountry Crime...

Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas

Lowcountry: That portion of the Southeastern United States characterized by low country, generally flat—whether barrier island, tidal marsh, tidal river valleys, swamps. piney forests, or great cities like Charleston and Savannah.

These four novellas capture the unique aspects of the Lowcountry with stories incorporating Charleston high life and Savannah low life, island vacations and life on a boat. You’ll be treated to thieves doing good and rapscallions doing bad, loves won and loves lost, family relations providing wonderful support and life after divorce. Within the broad range of the crime genre, these tales fit north of cozy and south of noir.

Each novella can be read in a single hour to hour-and-a-half sitting or enjoyed at a more leisurely pace, stopping at white space along the way. Within the broad range of the crime genre, these tales fit north of cozy and south of noir.

“Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming” by Tina Whittle is a prequel to her Tai Randolph Mysteries. Tai is accustomed to murder and mayhem . . . of the fictional variety. As a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia, she’s learned the tips are better when she seasons her stories with a little blood here, a little depravity there. She’s less experienced in real life criminality, however, preferring to spend her days sleeping late and her nights hitting the bars. But when she gets the news that her trouble-making cousin has keeled over while running a marathon, Tai finds herself in a hot mess of treachery and dirty dealings. Worst of all, the clues lead her straight into the moonshine-soaked territory of the most infamous smuggler in Chatham County—her Uncle Boone.

In “Last Heist” by Polly Iyer, Paul Swan, Iyer's character from her novel Indiscretion, travels the world buying exotic automobiles for wealthy clients, but underneath his believable cover is a first-class, never-been-caught diamond thief.
When he sees a picture in the Charleston newspaper of a magnificent diamond necklace on the wife of a visiting South American strongman, he can’t resist the temptation to steal it. Paul doesn’t anticipate what he finds in the hotel room’s safe besides the jewels. Now he has to figure out how to stop a political catastrophe without exposing himself as the thief who stole the diamonds, and he has three people complicating his effort: a sexy TV reporter angling for a story, a suspicious cop eager for an arrest, and a rogue mercenary bent on ending his life.

“Blue Nude,” by Jonathan M. Bryant introduces us to Brad Sharpe, who has problems. Not just the problems you would expect resulting from traumatic injury and a destructive divorce. His ex-wife has gone missing and a priceless Picasso has been stolen. The cops have pegged Brad as a person of interest in both cases. Worse, a violent sociopath might want Brad dead. Only with the help of friends and his knowledge of the Georgia Lowcountry can Brad fight to clear his name and resolve the case of the Blue Nude.

In “Low Tide at Tybee,” James M. Jackson brings three of his Seamus McCree series characters (Seamus, his darts-throwing mother, and his now six-year-old granddaughter, Megan) to Tybee Island, Georgia to vacation and escape winter up north. Megan spots a thief going through their beach bags, after which their vacation unravels with a series of twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the end, trying to figure out who done what.

Buy Links:

Kindle (free on Kindle Unlimited)
Print: Amazon
Print Barnes & Noble 

Thanks for spending time with us. Come back soon!

<![CDATA[Q & A with Author Amity Allen]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:57:21 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/02/q-a-with-author-amity-allen.htmlPicture
Welcome, Booklovers!
It's Wednesday, time for book talk. Meet this week's guest, cozy mystery writer, Amity Allen.

Good morning, Amity. What may I get you to drink?

I don’t drink coffee because I don’t like hot liquids – drinks or soups – really anything hot, but I drink a lot of diet coke.

Ally:  Then we'll pull you a coke from the fridge. While I collect our drinks, please introduce yourself to readers.

About the Author:

Amity grew up reading every mystery she could get her hands on, burning through everything by Agatha Christie in record time and wanting to be Nancy Drew when she grew up. After writing books in other genres for the past few years, she's finally come home to her true love - cozy mysteries.

Amity and her husband live in L.A. (lower Alabama) with a houseful of teenagers and a half dozen pets. Besides books, Amity's favorite things are March Madness, needlepoint, fried shrimp, and sweet tea.

Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio. "My husband and I have two sets of twins, and he has the same birthday as the girl twins. So three members of my family all have their birthday on the same day."

Email signup: http://madmimi.com/signups/388635/join
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Amity_Allen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmityAllen/
Facebook Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1453632118012687/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amity-Allen/e/B01N95LQK7/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16080362.Amity_Allen
Website: http://www.amityallen.com  
Text MYSTERY to 24587 for new release alerts from Amity Allen.


Ally: Before we get into the interview, tell us what kind of book you brought with you today.

AMITY: Poison, My Pretty is a cozy, murder mystery with paranormal elements. Definitely PG-13 with no profanity, no sex, and no graphic violence.

Ally: Do you have a typical writing process?

AMITY:  I wish I could be disciplined enough to write every day, but I write more in spurts. Deadlines really help me get things done so I set self-imposed ones for each project. Sometimes I use dictation to get through a rough draft.

Also, I put on calm, peaceful videos on my TV as “background noise” and especially while dictating I watch fireplaces, deserts, underwater scenes, forests, etc. I’m very visual so this inspires me. Netflix has a great series called “Moving Art.” I watch all of those while I write.

Ally:  What was your journey to first publication, including bumps and missteps?

AMITY:  I’ve written romance for three years under a different pen name, but my road to getting published had some bumps for sure. The first time I sent a manuscript to a publisher, I received an automated “we’ve received your book, and we’ll get back to you” response. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

After the anthology I was submitting for was released, I contacted them and told them I never heard back. Apparently my submission had gotten lost in cyberspace because they said they never received it and invited me to re-submit the book as a stand-alone title. So I did, and then after another long waiting game, I realized their acceptance letter was in my spam email box. Now I always check my spam inbox if I’m expecting an important email.

Ally: Can you walk use through your typical editing methods, from first draft through read- to-buy?

AMITY:  After several years of being with small publishers, I branched out on my own last year into self-publishing which I adore. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my work so I love working with a cover artist and choosing my team.

Each project is a little different, but for Poison My Pretty I used two different editors and a proofreader. The first editor is a tough cookie who has no problem telling me what she thinks and is great at whipping my manuscript into shape. My second editor helps me more with nuances and always has lovely ideas for how to make my words a bit prettier. And my proofreader is a genius at picking up typos and other mistakes.

For this book I also used an interior designer to format it so that the inside is as well-styled as the outside. She incorporated cute little black cats throughout the book which adds a certain charm to the series.

Ally:  What is your next writing project?

AMITY:  I’m working on the second Poppy Parker mystery right now. It’s called Gunshots, My Girl. Here’s a brief description:

When Aunt Cricket goes on vacation leaving Poppy in charge of the B&B, the situation explodes in a flash of blue police lights after a priceless vase is stolen and the new pool boy turns up dead.

On her quest to find the culprit, Poppy will have to sort through angry exes, casino kings, alligator attack victims, and arrogant personal trainers. But can she uncover a killer, recover the stolen antique, and find a new pool service all before Cricket returns?

Ally: Let's finish with a few short answer questions.
  • a. color of nail polish you have on – I almost never do my nails, but I love hot pink nail polish on my toenails. This time it’s OPI’s Kiss Me I’m Brazilian.
  • b. What comes to you first - character or plot? For me it’s “the big idea” that comes first. Then everything around it starts to fill in. So maybe that’s plot.
  • c. Last book that made you laugh – You by Caroline Kepnes.
  • d. Your pets – Dogs – Mitzi (Duck tolling retriever), Sebastian, and Delta (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels). Cats – Tabitha (Calico) and JoJo (Siamese). Pig – Petunia (500+ lbs. She’s an outside pig.)
  • e. What are your hobbies? I’m a rabid basketball mom. Think stage mom and insert basketball. Momma has #hoopdreams.
Ally: Thanks for visiting the blog. Before you go, we'd love to hear your blurb for Poison, My Pretty...



When Poppy Parker turns 21, the popular TV witch detective discovers she has supernatural powers off the set as well as on. The show gets canceled and she returns home to figure out how to harness the magic brewing inside her. 

Freaked out by these recent paranormal gifts, Poppy just wants to fit in, so when she’s asked to serve as a judge for the annual Bloomin’ Belles youth beauty competition she readily agrees. 

But when the pageant’s snooty director drops dead and Poppy’s friend is arrested, the former TV sleuth sets out to uncover the real killer, only to find…

                 the business of beauty can be deadly.

*Recipes Included* 

Amazon: http://smarturl.it/PoisonZon
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32978338-poison-my-pretty

Giveaway: ($50 Amazon GC and 3 signed print copies of
                            Poison My Pretty: http://gvwy.io/wtkms3f )

<![CDATA[New Release: Nicholas (A Historical Romance)]]>Sun, 19 Feb 2017 01:12:53 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/02/new-release-nicholas-a-historical-romance.htmlPicture
NICHOLAS (A Historical Romance)


Nicholas is a young man with no last name. He hardly ever sees his family. One day he goes by the name Laurence Fleur, another day Matthew Copperpenny or Eustace Grimpken. Nicholas’s best friends are a girl who often wears a false beard and a man who robs via the Thames. Nicholas, needless to say, does not live an ordinary life. He is a thief, reputed to be the best in London. But no one—no one—has ever broken into Westminster Palace.

one except Nicholas, of course, who’s visited every few nights for months and months in order to steal—not crown jewels, nor secrets—but stories. The crown princess spins yarns in a tower study and Nicholas sits atop the roof; he listens through the chimney flute until one night, when things go wrong and Nicholas finds himself in the palace and knowing things he should not know. Someone loathes the idea that the King of England is planning to step down for his female heir, and will go to horrendous lengths to ensure this does not occur.

The way Nicholas entered Westminster is impossible as an exit. He must exit Westminster as something…someone, else. Suddenly, Nicholas wants to do the exact opposite of the thief’s code: helping to save a princess, instead of stealing one.  

Buy Links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4PFRNN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484776341&sr=8-1&keywords=nicholas+rachael+kosinski
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nicholas-rachael-kosinski/1125503713;jsessionid=64670FB64A0EFBEA24D0A208CA0C3D09.prodny_store01-atgap01?ean=2940154165836
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicholas-Rachael-Kosinski-ebook/dp/B01N4PFRNN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485393836&sr=8-1&keywords=MuseItUp+Publishing+nicholas
Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/nicholas-8 


The first time the boy had stepped foot here, he had paused a perilously long amount of time to admire the splendor, the cathedral-like façades, the glass glittering like frozen ice. Now he simply slipped into the shadows of the palace wall and sprinted for the relief of a bowing angel. Crossing himself, the boy leapt again, soft boots finding purchase on the stone angel’s head and, with all the dexterity of an acrobat, began climbing the architecture.

 What was on his mind? The Crown Jewels? Documents of import? Secrets? Golden china, clothes?

 Unknown to the guards making their rounds, the boy climbed higher and higher, until he reached the steepled roof. Arms out in a pantomime of a tightrope walker, he laughed, a low, happy sound. He traipsed his way past the countless slim turrets topped with crosses to a tower of grand scale. This too he climbed, slipping a little in his excitement. A hiss broke from him and for a moment his right hand shot inward to his chest. Then he climbed on, more gingerly 'til he mounted the top. The crown of the tower flattened out in a plateau about five feet square, boxed in by intricate fencing. The four sides sloped downward, a squat chimney protruded. No smoke escaped, and the young man put his face to it and caught a glow at the far bottom. Turning his ear to the opening, he shut his eyes and listened.

 “If I may be so bold,” a tremulous voice wavered up to him, “my lady promised.”

 “Oh, did I?”

The voice echoed up the chimney deep and teasing, feigning confusion. Not for the first time, the boy tried to imagine what the princess looked like.

  “We shan’t tell, mistress. Please—could you do it in the voices?” asked another voice, an old woman’s.

 “It makes the nights quicken so,” the tremulous voice chimed in. “Winter nights have been brighter since you started!”


 The boy on the rooftop made a face, eyes shut to hear the reply.

 “I suppose.”

 He could hear the smile in her voice.

 A secretive cheer went up among the—servants, no, ladies-in-waiting, most like.

 The boy on the roof hoped the crown princess would start exactly where she left off; two nights ago she’d completely forgotten about the pirate set to be hanged, and one of the maids had had to remind her.

 “Níl mé léi! cried the Empress of the Emerald Isle!”

 The women applauded as the captive Irish queen, who’d been stolen by the pirate set to be hanged, threw off her forced disguise as a lowly servant and revealed herself to the Welsh king she’d been set to marry. The pirate had sent an imposter in her place, who now tried to run, but the Irish queen drew a sword from a guard’s hip and cornered her before she had a chance to flee.

About the Author:

When she was little, Rachael Kosinski wanted to be a paleontologist, an astronaut, a nature photographer, and the next Jane Goodall. Instead of being a new link between man and chimp, or discovering a planet suitable for sustained human life, or maybe even winning renowned fame by stumbling across an undiscovered dinosaur, Rachael finally decided that, if she never became a writer, she would simply die. Nearly a decade later, she now possesses a quirky knowledge of world mythology, an addiction to coffee, and a penchant for making over-expressive faces at her laptop.


email: rachaelkosinski@yahoo.com
* http://the-girl-who-draws-with-wrds.tumblr.com
* https://www.instagram.com/rekosinski/
* https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9856335.Rachael_Kosinski 

<![CDATA[Coffee Chat Interview with Mystery Author Fran Stewart]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 03:52:50 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/02/coffee-chat-interview-with-mystery-author-fran-stewart.htmlPicture
Happy Wednesday, Booklovers!

Are you ready for a little ghostly murder? Join me in welcoming mystery writer Fran Stewart, who brought her latest book, A Wee Homicide in the Hotel.

What do you prefer to drink, Fran?

FRAN: The only time I drink coffee (decaf) is in a restaurant so I can warm my hands on the cup. Otherwise, I like hot tea or hot chocolate (even in the summertime)

Ally: A spot of tea it is. Meanwhile, please introduce yourself to readers.


Fran Stewart is the author of the ScotShop Mysteries, including A Wee Dose of Death and A Wee Murder in My Shop, and the Biscuit McKee Mysteries (seven books so far), as well as a standalone mystery A Slaying Song Tonight and the non-fiction From the Tip of My Pen: a workbook for writers. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Atlanta Writers Club, and the National League of American Pen Women, and lives simply in a quiet house beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, with various rescued cats. She reads, knits, gardens, volunteers in her grandchildren’s school library, and manages quite happily without a television set.

Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bio: "I’m addicted to Sudoku, and the harder they are, the better I like them."

Visit her online at http://franstewart.com 
http://facebook.com/FranStewartAuthor    or  email: franstewartauthor@gmail.com


Ally: What kind of books do you write?

FRAN:  Traditional mysteries. Definitely PG-13 with no overt anything!

Ally: Discuss your writing process, your schedule, and goals.

FRAN:  You can tell I’m balanced between my left brain and my right brain. I love spreadsheets and use them in multiple ways, not just for finances, but for to-do lists, gas mileage, book club selections, book character lists, and daily writing goals.

I generally start my writing early each morning. I have my manuscript on the left side of my screen and my spreadsheet on the right. It tells me how many days I have left until my deadline, how many words I’ve written so far, how many words left until I meet the word-count goal for the entire book, how many words I need to write each day in order to meet my deadline.

After I’ve written a bunch of words, I plug the word count into my spreadsheet, and it tells me how I’ve done. If I haven’t met the goal, I just keep writing. If I pass it, I can either choose to keep going (which is almost always my choice, especially if I’m on a roll, or stop for the day and do something else (which I choose if the writing seems to be lagging).

I have another section of the spreadsheet where I list the chapters as I write them, along with a short reminder of what’s in the chapter. If the chapter line is highlighted in green, it means I’ve actually written it. If the row is gray, that means this is a chapter I’m considering or simply haven’t written yet. Sometimes I skip those gray rows and go back and write them later, depending on how my brain is working that day. There have been times when I’ve written the last chapter (green) before I’ve written the first (gray), although I don’t recommend that as a usual way to write a book.

Ally:  Do you have a writer's cave? Describe where and under what conditions you do most of your writing.

FRAN:  I have a wonderful office off the den, but I hardly ever use it. I prefer to write at my dining room table where I can watch birds fluttering around the multiple feeders in my front yard, and keep an eye out for the two cats who found that I’d feed them (sucker lives here!) if they peered in through the front window. I never have music playing or anything electronic plugged in (except for my laptop). I haven’t had a TV for 24 years, and silence is by far the best inspiration for me. That said, I am also quite capable of blocking out all conversations around me and writing in a noisy coffee shop. When story ideas pop up, I try always to listen, even if it’s just to jot down the general gist of what I’ve thought of, no matter where I am.

Ally:  Do you prefer to read standalones or series? Which do you prefer to write?

FRAN:  I prefer to read series, definitely. Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache, Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Claire Ferguson, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody are all people who intrigue me, as I have watched them and their friends and families grow through the years. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that I love to write series. Years ago, when I finished my first published book, ORANGE AS MARMALADE, several of the characters stood up and said, “I have more to say for myself. You’d better get busy writing it down.” So I did.

Ally:  Does your real life show up in your writing? In what ways?

FRAN:  Definitely, although I certainly hope it’s not too obvious. There are a number of experiences that are just too good or too important not to share. In my Biscuit McKee mysteries, for instance, I created a character who was bipolar and used my experiences growing up with my sister, whose bipolar disorder had not then been diagnosed. I see it as part of my responsibility as a writer to educate gently about such issues, so I include suicide prevention, long-term effects of abuse, and other such social issues in each of my Biscuit McKee mysteries. I also give toll-free numbers and websites in a resource list at the end of each book.

In the ScotShop mysteries, I drew heavily on my experiences having seen three ghosts (the first when I was in my early twenties and the next two when I visited London in my thirties). The way in which Peggy is able to see through the otherwise substantial Dirk is a direct description of how I saw a wall in the Tower of London through the green dress of a female ghost.

Peggy’s almost juvenile anger at Dirk’s constant proximity in the second ScotShop book, A WEE DOSE OF DEATH, is based on a very low time of my life, while the almost lyrical death scene of the elderly Wallace Masters in INDIGO AS AN IRIS, my 5th Biscuit McKee mystery, nearly duplicates the gentle death of my father as I experienced it sitting beside him.

Ally: What is your next writing project and when will it be available?

FRANWHITE AS ICE, summer 2017

All seven of my Biscuit McKee mysteries so far have been set in the fictional town of Martinsville, which was founded in 1745. Everybody knows Homer Martin was the founder, but nobody knows the real story -- until the biggest ice storm of the century hits Martinsville and 20 people take refuge in Biscuit and Bob’s big old rambling house, which is heated by a woodstove. The men all stay in the kitchen playing cards, while the women head up to the crowded attic and begin going through old trunks and hatboxes, exploring dim corners, and searching through armoires. When they find a diary written by Mary Frances, whom everyone knows was the wife of Homer Martin, they uncover the biggest mystery of them all. And of course, as with any mystery, there are a few dead bodies strewn here and there.

Ally:  Let's try a few short answer questions.
  • a. Book you're currently reading:  Cronkite’s War: His World War II Letters Home by Walter Cronkite Jr. (living room book); Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth (reading nook book); The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (book club selection for this month—audio book in car) and Seeing a Large Cat by Elizabeth Peters (bedtime book) – Yes. I generally have four books going at once, and yes, I can keep them all straight in my mind.
  • b. An author (living or dead) you'd love to take to lunch: Dorothy L Sayers, although I’d have to brush up on my Latin and French first. 
  • c. Favorite quote: from Louisa May Alcott – “I am no longer afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my own ship.” (Little Women, chapter 44)
  • d. Your pets: I am owned by three cats, all rescues. Callie (strictly indoors) - tortoiseshell; Fuzzy Britches (outside, although she comes in to eat twice a day. Sleeps under my porch usually) – champagne and white tabby; BeeCeeAyTee (accent on the third syllable) – black, which is how she got her name “B for black-C-A-T” (outside, sleeps in the soft cat bed on my front porch bench)
  • e. Favorite after-five drink: Glenfiddich single malt Scotch, although I imbibe only once or twice a month, since I love the anticipation almost as much as the drink itself.

Ally: It's been terrific getting to know you. Good luck with your writing. Before you go, please tell us a little about A Wee Homicide in the Hotel... 

A Wee Homicide in the Hotel

Book Blurb from Back Cover:

The annual Highland Festival in Hamelin, Vermont, means caber tossing, sword dancing, and just a spot of murder...

Hamelin is overflowing with tourists enjoying the Scottish-themed games—and most of them are donning tartans from Peggy Winn’s ScotShop. And her fourteenth-century ghostly companion, Dirk, has been indispensable, keeping an eye out for shoplifters and matching customer’s family names to their clan plaid.

Adding to the chaos is Big Willie, a longtime champion of the games, but not everyone is happy to have him in town. So when he misses the first event of the weekend, Peggy senses something is awry. After Willie is discovered dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe-related crime, Peggy decides it’s up to her and Dirk to suss out a murderer—because another death would really blow...

Buy links :

Barnes & Noble
Books a Million  

Thanks for spending time with us. Happy reading, & come back soon!

<![CDATA[Coffee Chat Author Interview with Liese Sherwood-Fabre]]>Thu, 09 Feb 2017 03:47:16 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/02/coffee-chat-author-interview-with-liese-sherwood-fabre.htmlPicture
Welcome, booklovers!

Join me in welcoming author Liese Sherwood-Fabre. In a departure from our usual fiction discussion, Liese has brought a non-fiction collection of essays on Sherlock Holmes. Enjoy it as a terrific peek into history or a companion piece to any Sherlock story.

Good morning, Liese! How do you drink your coffee?

I start with a dark roast and add milk/cream and artificial sweetener.

Ally: While I get our mugs ready, please introduce yourself to readers.

BIO: Liese Sherwood-Fabre, PhD

Award-winning author Liese Sherwood-Fabre grew up in Dallas, Texas and knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live internationally for more than fifteen years. After returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career and has had numerous pieces appear in both print and electronically. She is currently a member of three Sherlockian societies (The Crew of the Barque Lone Star, the Napoleons of Crime, and the Studious Scarlets Society) and contributes regularly to Sherlockian newsletters across the world.

Something unusual not in your regular bio: "I collect pressed pennies. You know, the machines where you put in two quarters and a penny, select an image, and turn a crank to get an elongated penny with an image on it. I started when I would get them for a friend’s daughter and thought, “I should get these for myself as well.” My latest: from Grand Cayman Islands. It has a stingray on it. The oddest: from Buc-ee’s (a Texas-based gas stop with everything you can imagine to want to eat while on the road.)"


You can follow her upcoming releases and other events by joining her newsletter at www.liesesherwoodfabre.com. All new subscribers receive a link for a free short story.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liese.sherwoodfabre/
Twitter: @lsfabre
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Liese-Sherwood-Fabre/e/B00810INE6/
Email: mailto:liese@liesesherwoodfabre.com


Ally: Let's start by talking about the book you brought today.

LIESE: It's non-fiction. I have a book with an agent about Sherlock Holmes at age 13. In researching for that book, I realized I had a lot of information that might be interesting to other readers of Sherlock Holmes. I contacted various Sherlock Holmes societies (called scions) and offered to share these essays with them for publication in their newsletters. This has been going on now for more than two years, and I’ve made a great number of friends (not to mention membership in several of these groups). Each essay starts with some aspect of Victorian life from one of the original stories and then explores it more deeply. It’s very G/PG, suitable for all readers.

Ally:  What was your journey to publication, including bumps and missteps?

LIESE:  I started writing more than twenty years ago. Like many novice writers, I was reading a story in a magazine, and thought “I could do that.” I finished it and sent it off and was quickly rejected (and rightly so). Undetered, I continued my efforts with other works (including novels), took classes at the local community college, joined the Romance Writers of America and my local chapter, and continued to improve and submit. I was nominated for the Golden Heart in 2008, but still haven’t sold that book. I continue to write and submit—as well as indie publish—because there are too many stories in my head begging to be written.

Ally:  How did you select your main genre? What about it intrigues you and readers?

LIESE:  I’m drawn to mysteries—ever since I read my first Nancy Drew in the fourth grade. I like solving puzzles, and I view the story as a type of puzzle with the clues being pieces of the puzzle.

Ally:  What author would you like to meet? What would you say to him or her?

LIESE:  I *loved* the Harry Potter series, and would love to know how much JK Rowling knew from the beginning about the overarching plot and how much evolved as she wrote each book. I read every once in a while about something she wished she’d done differently or kept from readers (like Dumbledore’s orientation). When did she get that insight?

Ally:  How much research do you do?  When? Where?

LIESE:  You can’t write historical fiction without research. I have a number of books on Sherlock Holmes, Victorian England, and other aspects of life back then (the police, spies in India, medicine of the day). When those fail me, there’s always the Internet. While I’m writing, if it’s a quick answer (who was the prime minister that year?), I’ll stop and find the name. If it’s more extensive, I’ll make a note and continue on with my writing. There’s nothing that will eat up your writing time than searching on the Internet and winding up down a rabbit hole filled with cat videos or funny baby videos.

Ally: What is your next writing project?

LIESE:  My young Sherlock Holmes books. I have one with an agent and a sequel in draft form. In addition, I’m toying with a contemporary young adult sleuth set in west Texas—along the line of Veronica Mars (only younger). 

Ally:  Let's wind down with  a few short answer questions:
  • a. Book you're currently reading:  A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
  • b. An item on your bucket list:  Seeing the penguins in Antarctica
  • c. High heels or sneakers:  Sneakers or flats.  EVERYTHING hurts my feet these days. The more comfy, the better.
  • d. Favorite TV program:  Big Bang Theory (I’m a real Sheldon fan)
  • e. Your Pets:  At the moment, one dog—a border collie mix. He’s not even really ours. He belongs to my son, but when he moved about nine years ago, he left him with us and has yet to return to pick him up.

Ally: It's nice to talk with an author who has put all that extra research to work for them. Before you go, please give us an idea what we'd find in your collection of essays.


The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Victorian England, Volume 1

Genre: Non-Fiction, collection of articles

Step back to London, 1895.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories are full of references to everyday activities and events from Victorian times that make the twenty-first century reader run to the reference shelf. Few, for example, are intimately acquainted with the responsibilities of a country squire, the importance of gentlemen's clubs, or the intricacies of the Victorian monetary system.

These twenty-four short essays explore various aspects of life mentioned in the original tales of Sherlock Holmes, providing modern-day insight into the nineteenth century world. Originally shared with Sherlockians around the world, they are gathered here for the first time and bring deeper meaning and color to the adventures of the world’s most famous consulting detective.

Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Times-Sherlock-Holmes-Victorian/dp/0998411205

Sherwood-Fabre was a contributor to the following Sherlockian fiction anthology

Curious Incidents (More Improbable Adventures)

Welcome back to Baker Street! Holmes and Watson are here to greet you once more spinning amazing tales of murder, mayhem, and mystery with a supernatural twist. This time the great detective and his stalwart companion will venture into alternate universes, histories, and futures to solve puzzling cases of the paranormal far beyond the bounds of imagination.

An Old West town plagued by a legendary beast, a dystopian future where black snow falls on Baker Street, a cyborg Holmes engaged in a psychological game with an ancient enemy, a world-weary Holmes and Watson who must choose between vampiric immortality and oblivion, and a classic noir with dames to kill for are just a few of the strange adventures that await you in Curious Incidents.

Grab your deerstalker and hold on tight! The game is afoot!

BUY:  https://www.amazon.com/Curious-Incidents-More-Improbable-Adventures-ebook/dp/B01MUEELMA

Thanks for joining us for coffee! Come back soon.

<![CDATA[Author Interview with Patricia Preston]]>Thu, 02 Feb 2017 01:02:52 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/02/author-interview-with-patricia-preston.htmlPicture
Good Morning, booklovers!

Welcome to this week's Coffee Chat with women's fiction writer, Patricia Preston, and her romance novel, Everything His Heart Desires.

What may I offer you to drink, Patricia?

I don’t drink coffee. But I do drink sweet tea every day.

Ally: Tea it is. While I fix our drinks, please introduce yourself to readers.

Author Bio:

Patricia Preston loves writing single-title women’s fiction where love matters most. She also writes short stories and historicals. She won William Faulkner Award for Short Fiction, the Lone Star Writing Competition for Historical Romance, and Harlequin’s World’s Best Romances Short Story Competition. She’s a hybrid author who has published traditionally and independently. She’s repped by the Seymour Agency. Besides writing, she’s also worked as a librarian, medical office manager, and in a cosmetic department where she played with makeup all day. Her favorite place to hang out is her writing cave where must-haves are iced tea and epic music. She also enjoys photography, movies, and research trips to New Orleans.

Something unusual not in your regular bio: "I make the Best-Ever Pecan Pie!"

For info on new releases and contests, sign up for her newsletter

Check out her Blog  Follow her on Twitter    Facebook   Amazon Author Page


Ally:  What type of book did you bring with you today?

PP:  The genre for the Love Heals Alls series is single-title romance/women’s fiction. Heat rating is warm, kinda like cable channel movies, so I’d go with over-18.

Ally:  Every writer has their own style and writing process. How would you describe yours?

PP:  It is part pantser and plotter. I usually do a bare bones outline to start with and flesh out the characters. Once I’m writing the book, I work all day at the computer and at night, I will sketch out the next day’s scenes and dialogue in longhand. I don’t set word count goals. I think more along the lines of completing a chapter or a scene.

Ally:  Did someone or something inspire you to write? If so, what effect did it have and why?

PP:  The first person who actually encouraged me to write was my seventh grade English teacher. I never forgot that and I don’t think I would have ever been a writer had it not been for her.

Do you have a writer's cave? Describe it or tell us where you do most of your writing. Does it have to be quiet or do you write with music or white noise (tv, etc)?

PP: Yes, I do have a writing cave. It’s actually a bedroom that I converted into an office. I do all my writing at a desktop in this room. I have two computers. One for online stuff and the other for writing only. It definitely looks like a working room as I have corkboards on the walls, file cabinets and bookcases. There is a smaller room that is attached to this room and it is sorta my little den area with a recliner, more bookcases and it is where I sketch out plot lines and scenes on art paper. I always listen to music when I write. Never the TV. The only time the TV is on is when I am watching it.

Ally:  What is your favorite social media?

PPTwitter. I like it because tweets are short and easy, plus I love the memes. I go to Twitter for instant news, to find new books, recipes, etc. All you have to do is search by a hashtag like #NewRelease and all the tweets with that hashtag appears in your feed. Also you can create a list and add members, then all you have to do is go to your list to see their tweets. You can find me @pat_preston  Also I love my blog where I do a lot of different posts and have guests.

Ally: I love to hear where other writers live. Tell us about your home.

PPI live in a small town of about 15,000. I do live in an older home in the downtown area which is only a few blocks from the post office, library and downtown area and I like that. I definitely get around in my Honda. There’s no other means of transportation locally, other than a small cab service. At times I wished I lived in a larger city where there would be more things to do but then we don’t have any traffic issues. I can be at restaurant or store in less than 5 minutes. I have been in rush-hour traffic in some major cities and that would drive me nuts. 

Ally:  What is your next writing project?

PPThe next book is
Not Through Loving You, which is due to be released on June 20th by Kensington/Lyrical Press. It’s a single title romance involving a pediatrician, Dr. Aaron Kendall, who is planning to adopt an unwanted preemie when the baby’s aunt, a Nashville songwriter, shows up and complicates things for Aaron. This year I am going to write another book in this series which involves Kayla, who has been in all the other books. Plus I really hope to get to finish the second historical in my Indie series, French Quarter Brides.

Ally:  Here's a few get-to-know-you short answer questions:
  • a. Favorite tv program: Supernatural
  • b. High heels or sneakers:  Sneakers
  • c. Favorite book boyfriend:  Rhett Butler
  • d. What are your hobbies?  Photography
  • e. If you couldn't write anymore, what would you want to do? Die. lol

Ally: Thanks for visiting with us, Patricia. Before you go, please tell us more about your novel, Everything His Heart Desires...

(Rated R)

The man most likely to drive her crazy…

Growing up in Lafayette Falls, senator’s daughter Natalie Layton hid her sorrows behind a bright smile that charmed everyone in high school—except Brett Harris. Hardworking and highly motivated, Brett dismissed Natalie as a slacker. Instead, she’s become an acclaimed photographer. And when Brett, now a successful cardiologist, needs her family’s help to secure a coveted position, Natalie’s more than happy to prescribe a little payback…

Hailing from the wrong side of the tracks, Brett believed he could never win the school’s popular princess. Now he’s intrigued by the complex and compassionate woman Natalie’s become. Gaining her grandmother’s goodwill is the key to becoming chief cardiologist—and Natalie has no intention of making it easy. But as mutual mistrust gives way to pure chemistry, there’s more at stake than either ever expected—and much more to learn about matters of the heart…

Buy Links:  Amazon   Nook   Kobo  Google Play  iTunes

Thanks for stopping. Come back soon!

<![CDATA[Book Spotlight: Nights Arose by Andrea Roche]]>Sat, 28 Jan 2017 22:34:32 GMThttp://allyshields.com/7/post/2017/01/book-spotlight-nights-arose-by-andrea-roche1.htmlPicture
NIGHTS AROSE by Andrea Roche

n a time and place where women are bred to be lambs, Arose has the soul of a tigress.

It is 1693 on the isle of Jamaica, and twenty-one-year-old, Arose Du Mouchelle, is the mixed-race heir to a sprawling sugar plantation. From an old gypsy, she receives a matriarchal heirloom: the Gem of the Red Spirit. She spends years in exile, learning its secrets and mysteries, the most important of which is the ability to enter the Astral Plane. In exchange for her powers, Arose must act as the sentry between this dimension and her world, forcing back the creatures held captive there.

Morel, a voodoo Priestess, covets the Gem. Taking hostage Arose’s family and the port town, she attempts to force Arose to give up the powerful amulet. Morel’s plan is to rule over the evil creatures imprisoned in the Astral Plane, unleashing them upon the rest of humanity.

While evading Morel’s henchmen Arose collides with Captain St. James a notorious pirate, whom she has already met in a vision. Leary of him at first, he gains her trust after he aids in her escape. She is knocked unconscious and wakes to find she has been had – both he and the opal gone. However, even if she recovers the opal she’ll have a bigger decision to make: keep the opal and doom her family, or give it to Morel and let the world fall into a demonic wasteland.


She crouched on the ledge of a dune. The dying sun’s embers lit the sky just before the night arose.

     The previous hours of her day were difficult and tiresome. She wasn’t sure if her queasy stomach came from her boiling blood or the fact she hadn’t eaten since morning. The day’s close did give her some relief from the evil Voodoo and treachery, which followed her since that afternoon. Still her troubles would not simply end because the day did. In the guise of her alter ego, Evan, she could fool anyone. She had perfected a manly swagger. But, no matter how drunk she got in the pub, her troubles would remain. “He” would be on the hunt for her, ready to pounce, like a feral animal on his prey.

     Arose held a polished dagger up to the sunlight, to inspect the blade’s oily sheen. A jewel-encrusted fleur-delis adorned the pommel, glinted in the late evening sun. The same symbol of French royal heraldry decorated her family’s coat of arms.

     With a flick of her wrist, the perfectly balanced blade spun from her hand, flipped once, and pierced the sand between her feet. She retrieved the dagger and pursed her lips. Specks of sand flew from the swirling calligraphy of the monogram engraved on the shaft: NDM—Nessarose Du Mouchelle. The “N” made her shake her head. She preferred instead the name “Arose,” as her father called her, or even “Rosie” reserved for those who knew her well enough. Her youth had consisted of tussles with those who played on her name, giving her cruel nicknames like “Nessy” or “Pesty.” She’d grown to hate it.

     She traced the monogram with the tip of her finger and clucked her tongue when she saw the smudges left behind. Her breath came out as a steamy puff on the cold steel. Arose wiped off the droplets with her sleeve and checked the razor-fine edge for nicks. 

    With a gentle whoosh, she slipped the blade back into its sheath built into her thigh-high leather boot. Swollen eyes from earlier tears prickled, tempting her fingers to rub them until their yearning was happily satisfied. She would be much happier staying in her room with a cool cloth rinsed in lavender water, but the entity invading her home made it impossible.

   She had to search for the man who could help her save her family and the dragon who taught her everything. Never having met the man, seeing him only in a vision, she would know him by his aura and his scent, consisting of iron, cedar and citrus fruit and she knew his name: St. James, Captain St. James.

Youtube trailer link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXlkkOPaGjY&t=63s

BUY: Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N1G9MPC

About the Author:

Andrea is a dreamer and scribbler, whose work embraces her strong matriarchal heritage. She hopes her writing will instill in her readers the idea that a woman can find their independence while keeping homegrown values.
Still living in her childhood home, Andrea can hear the voices of her past. She has relied on them to tell her stories. “My mother always said I would find my way. I never knew what she meant until after she passed. Then her voice came loud and clear, and I used it to write this book,” she says.

As a child, Andrea was a fervent closet reader. She would take her readings and write her own versions of how the book should have ended, most times being happier with her alternate ending. In the fourth grade, her teacher assigned a book report to the class. Andrea gave her the report and included various alternate endings. Her teacher immediately enrolled her in a creative writing class. Thinking this was a punishment she asked her teacher why. Her teacher explained that if she did not like how the stories ended, she should make up her own. Andrea’s mind, now given permission to take flight, began a lifelong love of writing.

Wife of 25 years and mother of three children, she had dedicated her early life to helping her family business grow. She now works for the city of New York. Five years ago, she found herself in the hospital with an injury after a simple trip home from work went awry.  Not used to being idle, six months in a wheelchair gave her the time to write. It was there her mind was once again allowed to wander.

Starting with her vivid imagination she scrolled through pictures of her honeymoon in Jamaica, her mind went back into the past. Not her past, but the past of others who could have lived in a large mansion at the top of a hill covered in sugar cane. She stepped into a world with vivid colors and magic. Having already developed a polish to her writing abilities while gaining a B.A. degree with a dual major in Marketing and English Literature, she wrote what she saw and what she heard as if someone whispered in her

Andrea’s hard work and long hours has paid off. Upon completion of her manuscript, she described feeling the same whoosh she felt when she delivered her children into the world. She is thankful she can bring her work to her readers.

Contact the Author: