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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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.



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!


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.


  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.


  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.


  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

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


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Kale to the Queen – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Kale to the Queen is the first book in the Kensington Palace Chef Mystery series by Nell Hampton and it is absolutely delightful!

Book Cover - Kale to the Queen: A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery by Nell Hampton - a largish kitchen with windows over looking the grounds and an island full of produce, meats and a butcher's knife.

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Chef Carrie Ann Cole is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime–an assignment as the new Personal Chef to the Royal Family at Kensington Palace. But no sooner has Carrie Ann touched down across the pond and donned her apron than a dead body crops up beneath the royal kale beds.

With one assistant dead and the other soon under suspicion for his murder, Carrie Ann is scrambling to keep her kitchen up and running. Not to mention she gets off to an immediate bad start with the tempestuous Royal Chef Butterbottom, who has a bitter taste in his mouth since the prestigious position in the Royal Family’s kitchen was given to an “over-privileged, under-educated American chef.”

But the Royal Family’s appetites wait for no one, and Carrie Ann must solve the murder and still get supper on the table on time–even with the annoyingly handsome Head of Security Ian Gordon tracking her every move like an MI6 agent. Suspects abound as an American chef adds a bit of spice to the traditional royal household in the first in Nell Hampton’s charming and tasty Kensington Palace Chef Mystery series, Kale to the Queen.

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When I first saw this title offered on NetGalley, I thought it sounded interesting. Then, the other night I was going through my backlist of books for review, looking for one to start reading. I kept simply dismissing things thinking, “No, that doesn’t sound good right now” and things of that nature. When I came across this one in my list, I thought, “Eh, this did sound interesting, let’s give it a try.” I’m really glad that I did! It was absolutely delightful and fun to read! In fact, I stayed up and read half of it that night!

The cast of characters in this series is rather fascinating. We have the combination of “proper protocol” followers and those who don’t care about that rubbish (that’s their attitude, not my feelings on protocol!). We have well-rounded, complex characters that you can tell we’re just starting to get to know. We have some background on some of the characters, but you can tell we’ll be learning more about them in future books.

The descriptions of the settings are adequate. I probably could have used just a little bit more detail, but I was still able to imagine most of the rooms/places where the scenes took place.

Our plot line moves along at a steady pace. I did figure out who the villain was before he/she was exposed, but it wasn’t too long before the exposition, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery lovers, especially foodie cozy mystery lovers! It’s terrific and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out!!

*** Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC. I was not compensated for my review and all opinions and conclusions are my own. ***

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Blog Tour: Get Me to the Grave On Time – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars


I’m excited to bring you today’s post as I’m part of a Virtual Book Tour for “Get Me to the Grave on Time” by D.E. Ireland. This is the first time I’ve participated in a Virtual Book Tour which involves many blogs that spotlight/review books. If you click on the banner above, it will take you to the page where all the hosts are listed so you can visit other sites as well!

Get Me to the Grave on Time is the 3rd in the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series. I absolutely loved this book. I was hooked from the start and I’ve already asked for the first two books to be brought in through interlibrary loan to read!


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Brief Synopsis:

Although Eliza still refuses to marry Freddy Eynsford Hill, everyone around her seems headed for the altar. She and Henry Higgins have four different weddings to attend, including one for Eliza’s cousin, one for Henry’s niece, one for Freddy’s sister, and another for a Duchess in the community. But when the Duchess’s betrothed is found murdered and someone tries to shoot Eliza’s cousin, Henry and Eliza find themselves in the thick of things!

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Mayhem, mystery, and hilarity ensue when you mix four weddings, a couple of murders, and an old Indian curse together under the English sun. Get Me to the Grave on Time is just delightful!

The story line moves along quite quickly, though it’s not so fast that you get lost with what’s going on. I didn’t figure out who the villain was until just before it was revealed which I really enjoy. It makes a book seem rather lackluster when I’m able to figure out ahead of time “whodunit”.

It’s wonderful to see Eliza and Henry interacting on more of an equal’s level. I’ve always enjoyed the storyline of Pygmalion, though I can never tolerate Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of Eliza long enough to watch the whole movie. This provides more of the illustrious Eliza and Henry without the horrible voice! In this book, Eliza & Henry’s banter is engaging and pleasing. They are definitely more suited for each other than Eliza and Freddy. Freddy is simply a bore and life is far better in the story when he’s not around! Thankfully, in this new installment in the series, we meet up with the possibility of a new suitor for Eliza in Detective Ramsey. Here’s hoping Eliza will dump Freddy or vice versa and we can see if it works out for Eliza and Detective Ramsey.

The side characters that we meet in this book are also enchanting and entertaining. I really enjoyed the couple from India and Clara’s husband-to-be, the Baron. They were all very well-rounded for only being “side” characters and were a pleasure to read about.

All in all, if you like cozy mysteries, if you like Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, and/or if you like historical mysteries set in the early 1900s, you’ll like this book. It was witty, entertaining and utterly delightful! Go buy it/borrow it and read it today!

** I received a free ARC from NetGalley.  I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. **

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About the Author

D.E. Ireland is a team of award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Long time friends, they decided to collaborate on this unique series based on George Bernard Shaw’s wonderfully witty play, Pygmalion. While they admit the lovely film My Fair Lady and its soundtrack proved to be inspiring, they are careful to stick to Shaw’s vision of the beloved characters from Eliza to Higgins to Pickering and Freddy Eynsford Hill. They’ve also added a cast of new characters to flesh out their own version of events post-Pygmalion. They both have patient husbands, brilliant daughters, and share a love of good books, tea and history.





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The Pirate Queen – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Pirate Queen by Alan Gold book cover - Red haired young woman dressed as a pirate with sword and gun in the foreground - sailing ship in the background

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Grace O’Malley commanded a dozen ships and the obedience of thousands of men. Her empire stretched from Connaught on the Irish coast to the cobalt waters of Africa. Through the daring of her piracy, Grace nearly bankrupted the English treasury-and her outright defiance brought embarrassment to Elizabeth I. Yet the lives of these two amazing women were inextricably intertwined-and their eventual meeting during the most brilliant and romantic era that Europe has ever known would shock the world.

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The Pirate Queen: The story of Grace O’Malley, Irish pirate by Alan Gold is a supremely fascinating book. I picked it up after hearing the name, Grace O’Malley, on an episode of NCIS.

I’m not generally a pirate fan, but I thought that perhaps with a female pirate, it would provide the strong female characters that I prefer. The book was extremely interesting and I was riveted to it from the day I picked it up. I happened to be in school at that point, and it was a good thing it was after the semester had ended, because I couldn’t hardly put it down.

This book actually goes back and forth between Grace O’Malley and Queen Elizabeth I. It’s a fictional tale but based on real life events that caused these two powerful females’ paths to cross and intertwine. It’s fascinating to read these ladies’ stories. If you at all like pirates or 16th century British history, take a look at this one!

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One Magic Moment – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

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Medieval studies scholar Tess Alexander is thrilled for the chance to live in a medieval castle. But then a trip to the village brings her face-to-face with the owner of the local garage, who looks a great deal like the man who married her sister…800 years in the past. She’s determined to remain objective about magic and destiny, but she can’t help wondering about that mysterious, sword-wielding mechanic.

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One Magic Moment by Lynn Kurland is the 11th book in the de Piaget series and the 17th book in the de Piaget/MacLeod crossovers.

Admittedly, Ms. Kurland is one of my favorite authors, but this book even stands above the rest for me. It’s in my top five favorites by her. Our hero, John, has also become one of my top five favorite characters in her books. He’s complex, difficult, stubborn and yet underneath he’s tenderhearted and sweet.  Our heroine, Tess, does not seem as complex nor as well-rounded as John, but she’s likable.

The story line is well thought out and complex. Sometimes it will have you on the edge of your seat in excitement and other times, it’ll be as calm and relaxing as a day on the beach.  The settings seem just beautiful as well.

One of the reasons I like Ms. Kurland’s books is because while they are part of a series, they can generally be read as stand-alone books as well. She provides enough detail so that newcomers aren’t too confused and lost, but yet she doesn’t bog down the veteran readers with too much repeated history.

Join John and Tess on their adventure and hopefully you’ll love it as much as I do!