BLOG TOUR – The Discombobulated Decipherers – GUEST POST & REVIEW

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4 out of 5 stars.

Good morning!  Today’s Great Escape Virtual Book Tour stop is for The Discombobulated Decipherers, the 2nd book in Julie Seedorf’s Brilliant, Minnesota Mystery series.

I’m not quite done with the book, but should finish today. I’ll post the review portion of my post a little later. But I wanted to get the guest post up and out there for you to see! Thank you to Ms. Seedorf for providing today’s guest post!

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File Oct 11, 9 56 39 AMThank you for having me today. I love connecting with my readers and letting them know a little more about me and my books.

The Discombobulated Decipherers is the second book in the Brilliant, Minnesota Series. The Brilliant Series features a fictional community in Minnesota with a neighborhood of amateur sleuths led by Jezabelle Jingle.

It is Christmas in Brilliant and Jezabelle is busy in the Brilliant Bistro. She recently bought the bistro and brought her baking talents along with her. Cozy mysteries always have good food as one of the staples of the mystery. This is the first book where I have added some recipes.

I am not a cook or a baker. I can get by and occasionally I can fool people into thinking I am good at it. Perhaps that is why my main character is a baking whiz. Through her, I can fulfill my dreams of becoming a baker extraordinaire. Adding recipes to the back of the book was my challenge. I called on my talented thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Maggie. Maggie makes cupcakes from scratch which melt in your mouth and uses her imagination to create delicious concoctions.

Maggie and I decided to try and come up with a recipe for one of the names I gave Jezabelle’s baking temptations. Unfortunately, our time together was limited and we only one day to perfect a recipe. We tried to find another time to finish what we started but after trying to coordinate our schedules over a six month period we decided instead to give you a recipe of one of our almost successes. The flavor was good but it was too moist and it didn’t rise. In light of not having any more time, I chose to put the recipe in the book and throw it out to my readers as a challenge to perfect it. The name of the recipe is Work In Progress Cupcakes.

 Recently my high school girlfriend’s mother turned 100 years old. Gladys fed a family of fourteen children. She made everything from scratch. When I interviewed her for a newspaper article she shared a recipe with me, giving me permission to put it in my new book. Lemon Love Notes is a Gladys Johanson recipe with 100 years of love.

I do like to bake cheesecakes and I have been told they are the best cheesecakes ever. I usually use Taste of Home magazine for my cheesecakes and they gave me permission to share their Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake recipe. I love this recipe and use it often. I was elated to connect with them and to be able to put my favorite recipe of theirs in my book.

My goal for my readers is for them to come away feeling better after they have read my book. I want them to laugh, to feel the depth of my characters which develop through the series, and I want to take my readers away from reality for a short time. I hope the puzzle and the mystery in the Discombobulated Decipherers do that, but I also hope Gladys recipe and the Taste of Home recipe tweak your taste buds. I also hope you accept our challenge for our Work In Progress Cupcakes. Won’t it be fun to see the many different versions my readers create? Happy reading and happy baking.

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Review

This was an interesting book. I enjoyed a lot of it. The characters are fascinating, the plot interesting and some great puzzles besides the main mystery.

When I started the book, I wasn’t all that certain I was going to like it. I didn’t really enjoy the first one in the series, but I figured it was a new book and I’d give it a fair chance. I was happily surprised by it.

I like the characters a lot, though the overuse of alliteration with their names grates a little on my nerves. But I like Jezzy, Lizzy, Hank, and the rest. Their personalities are quirky and fun. The characters are well-rounded, complex characters as well.

The plot line moved along at a decent pace. The main mystery was interesting, but the subplot was even more interesting to me. It was fascinating. The Brilliant brothers were puzzle creators and very imaginative!

All in all it was a fun book and I do recommend it! You’ll need to start with the first book in order to understand a few things, but it’s a fascinating book and I recommend you check it out!

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Thanks for joining me today! I’ll have my review up a little later if you wish to drop back by. 🙂 If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, click on the banner below. That will take you to the main tour page with a list of other participants!

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BLOG TOUR – Honey-Baked Homicide – GUEST POST

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Welcome to another day and another blog tour! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Honey-Baked Homicide, the newest book in Gayle Leeson’s Down South Cafe Mystery series!

Gail has prepared a guest post for today so that will be first followed by information about the book itself (purchase links, synopsis, etc.). Enjoy!

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What’s So Special About Honey? – Gayle Leeson

Other than knowing it tastes good, I knew very little about honey until I began researching Honey-Baked Homicide. In fact, until talking with a local beekeeper, I didn’t even realize that bees harvested honey from trees—I thought honey only came from flowers and clover.

According to Organic Facts (organicfacts.net), honey has been used worldwide for over 2.500 years. Honey typically contains iron, calcium, vitamin C, and may have other vitamins and minerals depending on the plants from which the honey is derived. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which is why Stu Landon advised Amy to put some honey on her cut finger in Silence of the Jams. Honey is also believed to boost our bodies’ immune systems because it contains nutraceuticals, which help to remove free radicals from our bodies. The Organic Facts site cautions that the benefits of honey is dependent on its quality. The type of flowers, blending process, storage, and filtration methods all affect the honey’s quality. Light colored honey is more valuable than dark, since honey darkens during storage and heating.

Be aware that as recently as October 5, 2017, it was reported by BBC News that pesticides are found in most honey samples. Traces of neonicotinoid chemicals, pesticides linked to bee death, have been found in 75% of honey samples from around the world. However, scientists say the levels found are far below the maximum permitted levels in food for humans.

Of course, if you’re concerned about pesticides but still want to reap all the benefits of honey, you might want to consider creating your own hives. There are plenty of websites and video tutorials to help you get started.

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Thank you, Gayle for educating us all a bit more on honey. I love honey – I use it instead of syrup, in my tea instead of sugar, sometimes to dip things in, etc. I’m a fan of both raw and processed (i.e. light and darker) honey. How about any of you out there reading this? Do you prefer raw honey or the more processed honey?

As promised, here is more information about the book featured in today’s post.

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Synopsis

It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Cafe has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the cafe early one morning.
As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects–and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills–and her Southern charm–to find her way out of this sticky situation…

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Thanks for joining me today on this lastest Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of participating blogs!

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BLOG TOUR – Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins – REVIEW, INTERVIEW

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4.5 out of 5 stars.

Welcome! Today I’m hosting another spot on a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Today’s tour is for Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins, the third book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson. I’m totally enamored with this series and this one doesn’t disappoint! After my review, there is an interview with the author, Erin Johnson!

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Synopsis

The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.

But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.

Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.

As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.

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Review

As I stated above, I am absolutely enamored with this series. I love the characters, the settings, the plots, everything. This latest installment didn’t disappoint.

In this installment, many of our characters experience growth and changes in their lives. This is always great to continue to see in a series. When characters start to stagnate, it can spell the end of the series, so I’m thrilled to continue to see growth among the characters.

This installment took us away from the castle and into the Mermaid world. It’s a great change in scenery and offers new locations for Imogen and her friends to utilize in their investigation.

The plot line moves along smoothly and at a steady speed. It’s not so slow that you get bored, but it’s not so fast that you can’t keep up with the changes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the changes in various relationships and the characters themselves. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t elaborate on those changes.

Overall, while there’s not that little extra pizzazz that’s needed to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a very solid 4.5 and I really enjoyed it. If you’re just starting with the series, I do suggest you start with the first book, Seashells, Spells, & Caramels as there is important back story that you will need to understand things in the second and third installments.

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Author Interview

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Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I do! I’m a Pilates instructor and have been for the last five years. I love my clients and really believe in what I’m teaching, so I do enjoy it. It’s kind of a nice compliment to writing, which can be a bit isolated and sedentary. When I teach, I’m forced to talk for hours straight and it inspires me to work out.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Sometimes, I’m in the outlining or editing phase, or just between books, and in those cases I’m not writing every day. But when it’s time to write, I generally do spend several weeks, writing daily. I usually have a word count goal—normally it’s about 3,000 words. But right now I’m on a crazy deadline to finish book 4 in the Spells & Caramels Series, and I’m doing between 4,000 and 8,000 words a day. Wish me luck—I need it! I like it quiet, though sometimes I put on music that puts me in the mood for certain scenes. For instance, book 4 is holiday themed, so I’m listening to a lot of old English Christmas carols (like “Good King Wenceslas”).


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: In order to write quickly, I tend to do a lot of outlining. During that phase, sometimes characters do take the story in an unexpected direction. In the first book, for instance, Imogen’s cooking flame, Iggy, revealed the reason for his surliness to her, and it was honestly unexpected and really moved me! Which might sound kind of funny, since I wrote it, but sometimes as an author, I get surprised, too. But after the outline, things don’t veer too off course.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: So, I actually spent a lot of time deciding how I wanted to publish. I’d always assumed I’d traditionally publish and did research along those lines, even making a list of all the agents I intended to contact. But after reading about so many rejections being typical, and feeling like I’d procrastinated acting on my dream for too long, the idea of self-publishing really appealed to me. Especially, after reading and listening to Joann Penn and Chris Fox, both really positive, inspiring people, who made me excited about being an Indie author. So, I never contacted any agents, and just jumped full in to indie publishing.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: So, I’ve modeled my writing and publishing of this series, almost exactly on the recommendations of Chris Fox, and they’ve worked great for me, though they might not for everybody. I write a draft, read through it fully making notes, then I edit it myself. Then I give it to my alpha readers (my mom and sis) and incorporate their notes. My editors are really great (Hot Tree Editing). I then give it to them, I incorporate their suggestions and send it back and they do a final pass, proofread and have volunteer beta readers who take a look at it. By that point, it’s pretty polished. All of those steps are pretty much one, immediately after the other. So no, I don’t let the book sit at all.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: When I write villains, I try to make them intelligent and with motives that are relatable. I think lines can get blurred when you’re acting with the belief that you’re doing something for someone, or some cause, you really believe in. So, I usually try to give them something they really care about, that drives them to murder. No real life inspiration for this villain, though.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d say my sister and I show in most of the things I write, just because we’re close and make each other laugh, and I borrow a lot of our inside jokes. I haven’t written any character to be a straight parallel to a person I know in real life (though some TV personalities are in there), but I’m sure real people I know are influences.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Oh my gosh, I’m stumped on this one. Can I pass? Haha!


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’m reading both, “The Bear and The Nightingale” and the first in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, right now, and am really enjoying both.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Probably the Harry Potter books. They’re beautifully written, imaginative and feel so real.


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d probably hang out with Iggy, Imogen’s cooking flame. He makes me laugh and is brutally honest, yet loving. We’d wander around the cobblestoned streets of Bijou Mer, eating baguettes and his favorite, Linden tree branches.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I do read most of my reviews, though I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m hovering, so I don’t leave comments. I’ll for sure respond if someone emails me directly with a link to or a copy of their review, but I do that privately, to thank them. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that readers love Iggy and that I’d better put him future books.

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Thank you for joining me today for the latest Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour stop! If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of tour participants!

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BLOG TOUR – Unnatural Causes – INTERVIEW

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Welcome everyone! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Dawn Eastman’s newest book, Unnatural Causes. I have an author interview for you today. I was supposed to have a review for you, but there was a small mixup in getting the book so the review will come in another week or so! I’m still planning on reviewing it because it’s set in the same area of Michigan as where I live so I’m looking forward to reading it!

The usual links for purchasing, Goodreads, and the Rafflecopter Giveaway will be located under the interview with the author.

Before I begin with the questions and answers, I want to thank Ms. Eastman for being willing to answer my questions for us today!

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Author Interview

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Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: Yes. I serve as an unpaid personal assistant to Rowdy, my bichon-shih tzu. I can’t say that I always enjoy my day job.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I try to write everyday or at least work on plot. However, life often interferes with this plan, so I stick to it more when a deadline is looming. I have a quota of around 1,000 words per day but that will adjust up or down depending on where I am in the process. I often listen to classical music while writing, but anything with words is too distracting.


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I am definitely in the plotter (or outliner) camp. The outline is loose, however, so sometimes characters do make decisions I hadn’t planned for. Also, sometimes a secondary character will start to demand more time on the page. There are certain characters that take over every scene they are in.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I took an online workshop and that teacher recommended her agent. Before that, I think I queried fifteen to twenty agents with no results. At the time I was querying, I didn’t think about quitting because I was in a great writer’s group. We are all very supportive of one another. I think at some point or another we’ve all thought about quitting, but we convince each other to keep going. Also, I know that even if I was not published, I would write. So, there’s no point in quitting – it wouldn’t last long.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: In general, it’s probably four or five revisions. I submit an edited version to my writing group and then incorporate their suggestions. Then the editors at my publisher take a look and we might go through another one or two revisions (more if needed). I would love to set the books aside for awhile, but often with the way the deadlines creep up on me (even though I have plenty of access to calendars) I don’t always get as much time as I would like.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: So far, there have been no real-life inspirations for the villains. It seems many of my villains are somewhat sympathetic. They murder out of a sense of desperation or to protect someone or something they love. I think everyone has a dark side, so I like my villains to be relatively normal people who are pushed too far.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional? 

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: It’s fictional, but certain traits or habits might show up that are inspired by people I know. The character of Seth in the Family Fortune series was loosely based on my son.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: Queen Elizabeth I has always fascinated me. She was a strong female leader at a time when women had very little power. I love to read about her (either non-fiction or historical fiction). I think others have done such a great job that I probably won’t ever jump into that pool.


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I am currently in love with Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series. I’ve also been devouring Deborah Crombie’s series. A non-mystery I listened to recently was Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory. I loved how each point of view in that book was spot on and hilarious.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I remember reading Little Women when I was young and that book first inspired me to want to be a writer. Then I discovered Agatha Christie and fell in love with mysteries. Later, the Harry Potter novels influenced my life because I have kids who love them as much as I do and a lot of our great memories as a family have to do with Harry Potter (themed birthday parties, Halloween, visiting Harry Potter world, visiting the Harry Potter studios outside of London).


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I feel like I already spend whole days with characters from my books. We usually solve murders together. But if I had to pick one, I’d say Aunt Vi from the Family Fortune series because I’m sure it would be entertaining. From the Katie LeClair books I’d pick Matt Gregor. We’d listen to Frank Sinatra and drink whisky.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I read reviews if my publisher sends them to me. I also will read reviews of bloggers on a blog tour like this one. I typically don’t respond to reviews unless the reviewer sends it to me.

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Thank you again to Ms. Eastman for being willing to answer my questions today!

UNNATURAL CAUSES

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Synopsis

Katie LeClair has finally settled down as the new doctor in Baxter, MI. After years of moving, schooling, and training, she wants nothing more than to find a place she can call home, and a small town outside of Ann Arbor seemed perfect.

Katie quickly gets to work in building a life for herself in Baxter, and beyond reviving her love life, she also finds a pair of business partners in a team of father and son family practitioners. But that idyllic dream is immediately shattered when one of her patients is found dead. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, except the death is ruled a suicide, and as evidence has it, the suicide was a result of the medication Katie had prescribed. But she doesn’t remember writing it.

When a closer investigation reveals it was murder, Katie is catapulted into an off-the-books investigation that leads her down a dark path of past secrets. But someone is willing to kill to keep part of the town’s history in the shadows, and Katie must race to find out who before it’s too late in nationally bestselling author Dawn Eastman’s riveting series debut Unnatural Causes.

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Thanks for joining me for today’s stop on a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman! To visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. That will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of participants!

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BLOG TOUR – Mr. Mottley & the Dying Fall – REVIEW & INTERVIEW

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4 out of 5 stars.

Greetings! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Mister Mottley & the Dying Fall by Ellen Seltz. I enjoyed this book quite a bit! Below my review, you will also find an interview with the author.

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Synopsis

Edmund Mottley, Specialist in Discreet Enquiries, is in a precarious position: his old flame Susan needs his help. Her new fiance is accused of murder, and she wants Mottley to clear his name.

Mottley would rather jump off a cliff than get involved, but when Susan is threatened by a shadowy crime syndicate, Mottley leaps to her aid.

Mottley and Baker, his intrepid valet, pursue the case to an island of otherworldly beauty. But the island is haunted by secrets, treachery, madness, and … something more.

Every clue crumbles under their feet, pushing Mottley’s powers of deduction — and Baker’s loyalty — to the limit. With his own life on the line, can Mottley save Susan before time runs out?

The Mottley & Baker Mysteries are classic whodunnits set in the Golden Age of 1930’s traditional detectives. If you like Miss Marple’s pastoral puzzles or Albert Campion’s rollicking adventures, you’ll fall hard for this cozy historical mystery adventure.

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Review

This was a fun book to read.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally sure about it when I picked it up. I’ve read a LOT of cozy mysteries this year and I wanted on one hand to hope that this one would be different, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, lest the book not live up to it. I need not have worried. Mr. Mottley & the Dying Fall was a great book and really fun to read.

This book reminded me a lot of an Agatha Christie novel in its styling and I liked that. Everyone had secrets they didn’t wish to tell, not just one or two people. It made the suspect field very broad and I never did figure it out until it was revealed at the end!

I like the characters. Mr. Mottley and Baker have gotten under my skin and I will definitely be reading more of the series! I highly recommend this to those who enjoy Agatha Christie’s style of writing. It was great!

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Author Interview

ELLEN 2Before I get started with the interview, I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to Ms. Seltz for being willing to answer my questions today!

  1. Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?

Yes, I’m a freelance copywriter and nonfiction ghostwriter. When I wrote my first book, I worked as a legal secretary. In the year after Mister Mottley Gets His Man came out, our family situation changed and I was able to work from home to be present for my children, which was a wonderful privilege! Sometimes I do miss the external structure of an office with scheduled start and end times. But I love the work of writing – even when it makes me crazy. Separating fiction from nonfiction uses different parts of my brain and helps keep me from burning out.


  1. Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

My goal is to write every weekday during designated time slots. For me, the most fruitful time for fiction is early in the morning, between 5:00 and 6:30 AM. I usually have several projects going at once, so my specific daily goals depend on what deadlines I have to meet – a manuscript due to my editor or beta readers, a short story for a contest, a contribution to a group promotion or anthology, and so forth. It’s easier for me to follow through on commitments to other people than ones I make privately in my head, so I network and make those commitments to keep myself on track.


  1. When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Both! I outline a story as part of the brainstorming process. I’m a huge believer in the power of story structure. Creating the outline forces me to ask myself questions about the characters, the conflict, the setting, the timeline, the pace and tension, the emotional arc, and so forth.

Then I use the outline as a set of writing prompts so I always have an assignment and never have to wonder what to write next. Sometimes when a story is flowing well, scenes will pop into my head and I just scribble them down. Those don’t happen in any kind of order, but the outline tells me where they belong in the finished structure.

My detective, Mister Mottley, is an incorrigible gadabout with a raging case of adult ADHD (which of course, had not been invented yet.) So he never does as he’s told. I always have to keep my outline flexible to accommodate his impulsive behavior or flashes of insight.

In this new book, Mister Mottley and the Dying Fall, my very steady and practical leading lady also went off the reservation a bit. I struggled mightily over the last third of the book, and finally realized the problem. I’d put her in a situation where she needed to be awesome, but I was holding her back for fear of overshadowing the main character. Finally I realized that she would not be stifled. I had to let her be amazing, and just trust that the main character could live up to her. I think it worked out fine.

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  1. How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

I am an independent author, so Incorrigible Publishing belongs to my husband and me.  I did a lot of research and consideration before making that decision, because it’s not something to undertake lightly. It was partly a business decision and partly an emotional one.

The marketplace of publishing is wide-open now, just as the film, music and theater industries have opened up and become more accessible to independent producers. Traditional publishing, like film, TV and Broadway, is an industry based on very high capital investment. It has to mitigate risk by placing a lot of gatekeepers between the talent and the audience.

The economic landscape of traditional publishing is also heavily weighted against first-time authors and against genre fiction (what used to be called “pulp” – science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thrillers, and romance). That risk-averse system prefers books with a very broad commercial appeal (the “Oprah Effect”) or highbrow literary fiction that attracts critical acclaim.

There are voracious readers in every genre, but the big publishing houses don’t spend much money on them – not in author advances, and not in marketing. As an unknown genre fiction author, it made more economic and artistic sense for me to write, finish, publish, and write some more, than to pursue a traditional contract.

I also have the emotional impact of my experience as an actress and producer. I spent 15 years working in theater, film, and TV. Most of my time and energy went into trying to get past those gatekeepers and win approval from the industry “machine.”

Then I had an opportunity to produce a couple of shows for a small theater company in New York, and it was a revelation. It was like that moment in The Matrix where the bald child is bending spoons: “Realize the truth about the Spoon…there is no Spoon.”

For the first time, I didn’t have to please anyone except the audience. The whole risk-averse giant industrial business model was just irrelevant. I liked that feeling. I liked it a lot. I no longer see the need to please six layers of people between me and the audience, if I can reach them directly. A writer, and readers – No Spoon.


  1. In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

It really depends on the book! My first book took three drafts, though now I’d probably call them revisions rather than redrafts. Dying Fall went through a complete rewrite where the structure and plot changed significantly, then a couple of further revisions before detailed editing. The book did go in “time-out” for a couple of months in that process, to make sure I was bringing fresh eyes to it.

I have a team of beta readers who know and love classic mysteries, and who are able to give honest, useful feedback. I let them read the manuscript when I can’t get it any further by myself.

After I work through beta feedback, I send the book off to a professional editor. I’ve been fortunate to find some excellent British editors who help me localize my language to UK terms (there are always some I miss), and even help with fact-checking and making sure I don’t have any glaring anachronisms.


  1. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Oooooh, I can’t answer that without spoilers! The main thing is to look at it from the villain’s point of view and keep them making active, logical choices to pursue their goal. Unraveling a puzzle mystery is one thing, but having the villain stay in conflict with the detective keeps tension going up, up, up.

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  1. Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

I have a very lame visual imagination. I can describe anything I can see, but I don’t see imaginary people or places in my head. So I often give characters the physicality of someone I know in real life, but not the personalities. Not directly. My characters’ personalities are a mix of traits I’ve known and observed in others, and ones I find in myself.


  1. If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Well, I’ve got seven Mottley books in various stages of outline, so I expect to be writing about him for quite some time. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to finish, and I’m always snatching ideas from things I read or see.
I recently read an article in Smithsonian magazine about Benjamin Franklin’s relationship with his wife, and how the death of his son seems to have driven a terrible wedge between them. He spent nearly the rest of her life abroad in France and England. She wrote him so many letters full of longing, and he would continually promise to return, but then put it off another year. That would make a great epic romance, I think.


  1. What are some great books you’ve read recently?

I picked up an anthology last month of five Hercule Poirot novels. I wanted to re-read Murder on the Orient Express in advance of the movie coming out. I went right ahead and devoured the others as well. I’m in the middle of Death on the Nile right now, and loving it even more than ever. I started reading Agatha Christie as a pre-teen, and it’s just thrilling to re-read them at different stages of life. It’s amazing how they hold up. I always see something new.

Earlier this year I really enjoyed Alan Bradley’s Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d. It was my first Flavia de Luce mystery, and it turned me into an instant fan.

I also got about two-thirds through Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, but I had to put it down because I was so attached to the characters and I could tell something horrible was about to happen. I just knew it would gut me, and I couldn’t handle it. A friend assured me it wasn’t as bad as I feared, so I’ll probably try to finish it over Christmas break. It’s a beautiful book. Her prose is hypnotic and immersive, and it hooks you hard.

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  1. What books have influenced your life the most?

Probably The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It prompted a real epiphany for me. I wrote it about it on my blog.


  1. If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day? 

I would really like the female lead, Susan, to take me shopping in London. She has exquisite taste, and she’d be the sort of friend who can tell you something looks awful without making you feel bad about yourself. She’s also filthy rich, so she can pay for it, too!


  1. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

I do read them as a business exercise. There are so many different kinds of tastes and readers, there is something for everybody. I think if a book is written to basic standards of competence and decently edited, then bad reviews usually reveal a marketing problem rather than an artistic problem. You have to make sure your covers, description, and marketing efforts are reaching the sort of readers who will enjoy what you do.

On the other hand, sometimes bad reviews can be a valuable heads-up. The first Christmas after my first book came out, I released a Christmas short story to flesh out the series. I was hard at work on Book 2, and really didn’t give the story the time and attention it deserved. It was a fine basic idea, but I just didn’t flesh it out enough and it didn’t work.

The readers told me so. It got terrible reviews, including one particularly pithy one that said “THIS SUCKED,” in all-caps. Ouch.

But they were absolutely right. I pulled it down and put it aside. This year I totally reworked it, and I’m very proud of the result. It develops an interesting part of Mottley’s backstory, and connects to some overarching themes in his development and his relationships to other characters in his world. It’s also a lot of fun.

The new version is called “Mister Mottley Pulls a Cracker,” and it’s coming out soon in a holiday-themed collection titled Happy Bloody Christmas.

Thanks for hosting me, Valerie. I always look forward to getting to know more mystery readers!  I’m happy to answer questions anytime on Facebook or by email at ellen@ellenseltz.com.

Mister Mottley and the Dying Fall is available now in ebook and in paperback. Find it at your favorite retailer via www.books2read.com/DyingFall. You can also receive a free Mottley book by joining my Reader’s Circle at www.ellenseltz.com/meet!

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