Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

The sculptures around town are masking up
By Cheryl Hollon

Wild Bill Hickock in front of The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art is setting a good example of a masked sculpture. In order to tour the museum during the pandemic, you must wear a mask in addition to having your temperature checked. It was a great visit since we hadn’t been inside since March.

Another example is the bronze newspaper boy in front of the St. Petersburg Museum of History hawking his daily newspaper. Isn’t he industrious? The newspaper he’s holding is a reminder that nothing is forever – The Evening Independent went out of business in 1986. It was famous for giving away the paper the next day if the sun didn’t shine in St. Petersburg.

I recently had a drive-by book signing of Still Knife Painting at TOMBOLO Books and wore my favorite: The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe’s epic poem, “NEVERMORE.” I love the ruby crystal as his eye.

I’ve amassed quite the collection of masks to suit my mood when I’m out and about. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Do you have a favorite mask?

While you’re here, set yourself a reminder to enter our Booklover’s Bench contest. It runs from October 1-18. We’re collecting entries for a book giveaway from our vault by one our Booklover’s Bench authors. Click here to enter after Oct. 1!

Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

September Back to School
By Maggie Toussaint

Across our country, school has varying looks this fall. Some schools are still in distance-learning mode. Some have reopened doors and welcomed students with safety provisions. Some schools offer both distance learning and classroom learning. Many blessings to all teachers, school administrators, and everyone in a support function.

Growing up, our family tradition was to get back-to-school clothes and shoes because nothing worn in May would fit come fall. Often there were hand-me-downs (I had three older sisters!) but there would almost always be something new for the first day of school. Mom might take us with her shopping, but oftentimes, we stayed home, and she brought home the goods. Either way, it felt like a wondrous miracle. Many blessings to all Moms (and Dads!).

I loved getting those blue canvas three-ring binders, the colored tabs for sections, and a thick ream of notebook paper. But the best treat of all was pens and pencils. I believe I emerged from the womb with a love for pen and paper!

Nowadays, as a retiree, I’m not involved with back-to-school activities but I take advantage of seasonal sales to stock up on my favorite ink pens. I do a lot of note-taking before, during, and after typing a book, so I am a high-volume pen user, and I’ve always loved a good sale.

This September, I’m going “back to school” with two backlist romantic suspense books that I’m preparing for reissue. both were formerly published through The Wild Rose Press. After updating and tightening these golden oldies, I have them released through KDP (for the first 90 days)I have high hopes to get these reissued in September, and my readers will be the ones that decide if they pass “the test.”

House of Lies is about what happens when a birdwatcher and a former, injured CIA agent are targeted by her father’s enemy.

Buy KIndle version of House of Lies.

No Second Chance is about a woman who rescues horses and a businessman seeking the top slot at the family firm but someone doesn’t want either of them to succeed…

Buy Kindle version of No Second Chance.

Chime in with your favorite brand/type of pen for a chance to win any ebook in my catalog.

Also, our September contest runs through Sept 18. Click on over to enter!

Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

The Whodunit Gene
By Lois Winston

A Sew Deadly CruiseI have a knack for figuring out whodunit within the first fifteen minutes of most movies, five for hour-long TV shows. I consider it my superpower. However, I never blurt out the suspected perpetrator because I don’t want to ruin the show for my husband. Although, that doesn’t keep him from pestering me with questions about the killer’s identity. If I get annoyed and finally tell him whodunit, he says I spoiled the show for him! Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. It’s the story of my life. However, after decades of marriage, I think he’s finally learning not to ask—most of the time. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I once attended a screenwriting workshop where the instructor asked us to raise our hands if we’d figured out the ending to The Sixth Sense before the dramatic conclusion of the movie. Mine was the only hand that shot up. Not only had I figure out the ending ahead of time, I’d figured it out during the first scene of the movie. Was I the only person on the planet who put two and two together, having been bombarded for weeks by the trailer of Haley Joel Osment saying, “I see dead people”? Apparently so, but all seemed way too obvious to me.

When I read or watch a mystery, even if I think I’ve figured it out, I’ll keep reading or watching, hoping the author will prove me wrong. This does happen occasionally, and those are the mysteries I absolutely love. If an author can fool me, she’s got a fan for life.

The first mystery that ever stumped me was Murder on the Orient Express. As I sat watching the movie, to my utter shock and amazement, I couldn’t figure out whodunit! Not only couldn’t I figure out whodunit, but then Dame Agatha threw me one huge curveball of an ending. I remember thinking, “Well done!”

This knack for ferreting out whodunit is a gene I believe I inherited from my grandfather. (There is a whodunit gene, right? Grandpa Ben That’s him with my flapper grandma in their wedding photo) was the captain of a major metropolitan police force back in the heyday of gangsters and organized crime. He was responsible for helping bring down some notorious felons and was one of the first officers to arrive at the restaurant where Dutch Schultz was gunned down.

Dutch didn’t die immediately. He lingered for a while in the hospital with officers stationed at his bedside in the hope that he’d not only confess who shot him but perhaps a good deal more, confession being good for the soul. Unfortunately, Dutch died without giving up any of his secrets.

I’ve often wondered if my grandfather was one of those officers stationed in the hospital room. However, there’s no one left to ask, and unlike today, back then newspaper accounts rarely mentioned the names of officers who took part in investigations.

Grandpa Ben died shortly after my sixth birthday. I often wonder what he would think of my superpower and my career. I also wonder, if I had been born a few years later, would I have decided to follow in his footsteps and gone into police work? When I was contemplating a career, that option was never even on my radar. Instead I’ve settled for making up crimes for my amateur sleuth and readers to solve.

Are there any mysteries—either books or movies—that kept you guessing to the very end? Post a comment for a chance to win a print copy of Death by Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

And don’t forget to check out A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth book in the series, now available for pre-order.  To celebrate the upcoming release of Anastasia’s newest adventure, The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Books 1-2, a 2-ebook bundle, is currently on sale through the end of the month for only .99 cents. Find Buy Links at https://www.loiswinston.com/anastasia-pollack-books-1-2.

And, while you’re here, be sure to enter our monthly book giveaway contest. One winner will select a book from our book vault. Print book winners must have US mailing address. Contest runs from September 1-18. Winner will be announced on Sept. 19 on the contest page. To enter, CLICK HERE

Let’s Talk with Diane A S Stuckart

A Sign of the Times
by Diane A.S. Stuckart

With each new novel, it gets harder and harder to come up with just the right few words. No, I’m not talking about writing the book’s opening paragraph—that all-important “hook”. I don’t even mean the novel’s final line that puts a neat bow on the 80,000 words that came before it. Rather, I’m referring to the inscription I pen to a reader when they purchase or win a signed copy of my book.

I’m not sure why, but that is something I’ve struggled with over the course of my writing career. As an author, I’m supposed to be creative. After a while, however, it’s hard to come up with something new and punchy, particularly when I’m fortunate enough to be at an event where I sell quite a few copies. Of course there’s always the default Best Wishes or Happy Reading, or even the succinct Enjoy, followed by my signature. I do like to be a bit more personal, however, and so I usually try to add a little something more to the inscription.

Most readers seem to appreciate a specific connection to them. For example, To Jane — Great meeting you at the Tons o’ Books Festival or To Bob — Congratulations on winning my Big Giant Book Raffle. And, over time, I have come up with a couple of standard phrases for each series. Enjoy Hamlet’s “tail”! for my Black Cat Bookshop mysteries is a goodie, while Enjoy your stay at Fleet House! is one I sometimes use for my Georgia B&B mysteries. But I must say I’m jealous of my writing friends who possess artistic talent and so can add a sketch or fancy flourish to their inscriptions. Best I can manage is a smiley face that, despite my best efforts, inevitably ends up lopsided and vaguely sneering.

Yes, I’ve made it something of a project to see how other authors inscribe their books. I once spent a couple of hours in Barnes and Noble looking for books with the “Signed by the Author” stickers hoping for pointers. I found that the more prominent the author, the less they tended to personalize their inscriptions. The big boys and girls mostly penned a plain old signature. But has that always been the trend? For this blog post, I did an internet search for some examples. Hat tip to the Sotheby’s site for these first few…

Unsurprisingly, Ernest Hemingway was a minimalist even when it came to signing his work. A copy of Three Stories and Ten Poems was inscribed to a friend as follows: To Frank Curtin / with all best wishes / from Ernest Hemingway / November 1, 1927 / Paris. Ernie did get a bit more personal, however, in another inscription written in a copy of The Old Man and the Sea presented to his goddaughter: For Alden / this strange book which / I had the un-believable / luck to write / E.H. Similarly, T.S. Eliot succinctly inscribed a copy of The Waste Land this way: For Viscountess Rothermere with the homage of the author. Makes me want to use the word homage like that some day!

AbeBooks also listed some cool inscriptions. This one was written on a photo, not a book, but I quite like it: To Steve from Muhammad Ali. Love is the net, where the hearts are caught like fish. But the one that most warmed my little author’s soul was found in a copy of Casino Royale. It was inscribed by Ian Fleming to his publisher: To Ralph. We have now both reduced our remainders by one copy! Ian.

If you’re a reader, do you prefer an inscription over a signature in your books? And, authors, do you have a favorite inscription you use?

And, while you’re here, be sure to enter our monthly book giveaway contest. One winner will select a book from our book vault. Print book winners must have US mailing address. Contest runs from September 1-18, 2020. Winner will be announced on Sept. 19 on the contest page. To enter, CLICK HERE.

Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

Summer Picnics
by Nancy J. Cohen

In the summers when I grew up, we used to take driving trips. My mother would pack lunches for us to picnic at rest stops along the way. It was fun when I didn’t have to prepare the food. Now I’d rather eat in an air-conditioned restaurant than outside with the bees, flies and ants. But those rest areas were often lovely with shady trees, grassy hills and woodland streams.

We traveled west to Colorado to see relatives. We went north to explore Nova Scotia and Quebec. We visited the Catskills in New York and yes, we stayed at one of those all-inclusive resorts. Or we went to state parks where we could rent boats and enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch.

I don’t remember much about the food. Did my mother make sandwiches? Was roast chicken on the menu? I wish I could recall those memories but they’re gone with the wind. We did take driving trips with our own kids but I can’t remember what we brought along in the coolers for those occasions, either. Ditto for beach excursions.

Woman on picnic pouring juice for her child

Is your memory better than mine? Do you remember picnicking in your early days or with your children? Do you even enjoy outdoor picnics?

I love it when someone else prepares the food, especially if it’s grilled chicken, burgers or hot dogs. That’s why I look forward so much to the private island beach barbecues when we go on cruises. But I’d settle for fried chicken with potato salad and cole slaw or even pre-made sandwiches if you invite me for a picnic lunch.

What would be on your menu? Do you have a favorite picnic meal?

Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

Anticipation

by Debra H. Goldstein

Three Treats Too ManyAnticipation. It’s a word that rolls easily off my tongue. For me, the concept of anticipation conjures up tingling feelings of being on pins and needles; of being so excited I can’t sleep; of holding my breath waiting for an outcome.

The waiting is what’s key. The chorus of Carly Simon’s classic hit by the same name referred to how anticipation not only made her late, but kept her waiting. Heinz Ketchup modified her song to create the classic jingle that conditioned us to understand the joy of waiting for the catsup to slowly come out of the bottle.

Today, I’m holding my breath waiting for Three Treats Too Many to officially roll out on August 25. Three Treats Too Many is the third book in the Sarah Blair mystery series, but the first one being launched completely in a virtual world.

Readers and reviewers made One Taste Too Many a Woman’s World Book of the Week the week it was published and recognized Two Bites Too Many by naming it as a 2020 Silver Falchion finalist. They talked those books up to their friends and followers and helped make it so, based upon sales numbers, Kensington quickly decided to expand the series to include at least five books. But those numbers were helped by an in-person launch and personal appearances at bookstores, conferences, and book club meetings.

I worry whether I can reach as many people to tell them that Three Treats Too Many has been released. So, as you read this, I am in a state of anticipation. I wonder if you will tell someone about Three Treats Too Many or share a Facebook post about it?

I don’t know. What I do know, is that I’m not the only author having these feelings. If you’d like a chance to win a copy, hot off the presses, of Three Treats Too Many, please leave a comment telling me how you share information about any author’s books with other people.

Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

St. Petersburg has a New Pier
By Cheryl Hollon

We have a delightful brand-new pier in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. It’s been quite a long construction phase and quite a lot of money to replace the inverted triangle that was the city’s prior icon. In fact, I loved that pier so much, I had my author picture taken in front of it.

But times change and now I need another photograph in front of the new building at the end of the pier. It’s quite different, but I love it even more. I look different now as well. I’ve got shorter, lighter hair, new glasses, but I still love a white jacket.

So as soon as things calm down with the pandemic, I’ll be out there posing with my new look in front of the new pier.

I’ve walked out to the end several times now, and my favorite time is in the early morning just after the sun has risen. The breeze is fresh and the horrible heat hasn’t begun to melt everything into a steamy swamp.

Of course, another reason to like this part of the pier is for the fishing. Not only is there a bait & tackle shop, but a coffee shop, too. This is absolute heaven.

Do you have a favorite image for your town?

AND, while you’re here, check out our fab August Contest wherein the winner may select a book from our vault! Contest runs from Aug 1-18. Print book winners must have a US address. The winner will be announced on August 19.  CLICK HERE to enter.

Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

How’d I get so lucky?
By Maggie Toussaint

Usually, people bemoan their lack of good fortune, but I am feeling very lucky about this post. You see, the 7th and final book of my Dreamwalker Mystery Series, All Done With It, launches on August 11, which is within the week this blog airs. Lucky, right?

Wow. Seven books! It’s the longest series I’ve ever written, with most of my other series ending at three books. What drove me to write seven? That’s how long I needed to fully explore this story world. Characters were still growing, and one was missing. One story arc had been resolved, but the ultimate showdown hadn’t happened until the last book.

Without giving away the ending, I was often overcome with emotion as I wrote this finale. So much happened in my personal life during the nine years I worked on this series, not to mention how my sleuth matured and accepted her true nature. How fitting that this book should release in a pandemic! Who doesn’t want to be “All done with it” (the pandemic) right now?

I also felt a sense of accomplishment for sticking with this, even when the publisher of the first three books closed its mystery line soon after book three, Doggone It, released. I’m grateful to Camel Press for picking up the series and allowing me to further explore this story world. Even so, I feel remorse about saying goodbye to characters who are real to me in every sense of the word.

The mixed feelings I have as launch for All Done With It nears is akin to those of a graduating senior. There’s a sense of triumph, the excitement about future opportunities, and the regret of leaving familiar territory. These characters will live on in these series books for you and future readers—that’s a wonderful legacy for any writer.

All Done With ItHere’s the blurb for All Done With It, which goes on sale Tuesday, August 11:

A Jane Doe jogger homicide near the swamp mystifies Dreamwalker Baxley Powell. The petite woman carried no ID, and no one recognizes her. Worse, a shadow passes from the body to a deputy, rendering him unconscious. The deputy and the corpse are dispatched to the hospital and morgue, respectively.

With summer heat and pending childbirth on her mind, Baxley’s dreamwalks into the spirit world fail to yield leads, frustrating Baxley and her deputy husband, Native American Sam Mayes. Days later, Jane Doe’s description matches a missing Mississippi woman. Turns out, her new husband is missing too. Jane’s sketchy brother-in-law and her aunt arrive, full of secrets. At Jane’s campsite, the team encounters a terrifying anomaly, nullifying Baxley’s senses. With such danger present, they must protect their unborn child. No more dreamwalks will occur until Baxley gives birth.

When her friend Bubba Paxton vanishes, Baxley sights him in a mirror, trapped between worlds with other souls.

Meanwhile, the shadow invades other hosts, demanding to see Baxley. Mayes and Baxley ignore the shadow as they rescue Bubba, untangle the Jane Doe case, and handle missing persons reports.

To free the trapped people, Baxley must outwit a powerful foe. Can she stop this super villain before he steals her soul?

Just for fun, share something in the comments that your mother always told you.

One commenter will win a print copy of Dreamed It, book 6 in this series. Winner must have US mailing address. Winner will be announced on Thursday, Aug 13.

Preorder ALL DONE WITH IT now at:

Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-done-with-it-maggie-toussaint/1137359136?ean=2940164191863

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/all-done-with-it

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/1603818324/

AND, while you’re here, check out our fab August Contest wherein the winner may select a book from our vault! Contest runs from Aug 1-18. The winner will be announced on August 19. Print book winners must have a US address. CLICK HERE to enter.

Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

In Celebration of International Friendship Day
By Lois Winston

Today is International Friendship Day, so I’ve decided to devote my post to my oldest friend and tell why she meant so much to me.

I grew up in the early years of television, but my home life was nothing like what I saw portrayed on Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver. Without going into gruesome details, suffice to say my parents never should have had children, let alone four of them.

We moved from the city to the suburbs when I was eleven. I started junior high the same day as all the other incoming seventh graders from four elementary schools. I knew no one. Friendships were long established, and no one seemed inclined to include the new girl.

Junior high schoolers can be some of the cruelest humans on earth, and I quickly found myself the target of the mean girls. Lunch period was the worst. One brave girl named Janice saw how I was being bullied and had the courage to invite me to sit with her and her friends. We quickly became good friends. Her home became my second home, and in her family, I discovered a family that was pretty much like the ones depicted on television—filled with love, not abuse.

Janice and I lost touch after high school graduation. She attended nursing school in New Jersey, and I went off to college in Pennsylvania where I met my husband and remained until 1998 when a job transfer brought me back to New Jersey. About a year later Janice and I found ourselves seated at the same lunch table when another author brought her as a guest to a writing organization I belonged to.

Our friendship picked up as if the intervening years had never occurred. We were each other’s oldest friends, and she took delight in pointing that out to everyone—whether friend, relative, or total stranger. She also took great pride in bragging to people about my books and how I’d named a character after her. She loved to read mysteries and romance and several times traveled with me to writing events because she loved being around authors. A photo of her sits on a shelf with some of my books.

Janice died a year ago last April 30th after a grueling eight-month battle with cancer. I spent much of those months taking her to doctor appointments, chemotherapy treatments, and visiting her during her many hospital stays. It was my way of giving back to her for all she had done for me decades before. She offered me friendship when I needed it most, and I’ll forever be grateful to her for that and for having the chance to rekindle our friendship over the last twenty years.

Have you ever had a friend who dramatically changed your life? Post a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of any one of my books. Find them all on my website at www.loiswinston.com.

Let’s Talk with Diane AS Stuckart

National Hot Day Day

by Diane A.S. Stuckart

Today is National Hot Dog Day, a celebration of what might be considered the USA’s original “fast food”. And unlike all the other foods that get their own holidays (yeah, you, National Artichoke Day), the intrepid wiener deserves every accolade it gets. Not just because they taste good, though that’s reason enough. It’s because this iconic sausage on a bun has permeated our culture in so many ways, and for so long.

Your grandpa didn’t shout, Ham Burger! when he wanted show enthusiasm for something really great. And your great-grandma didn’t term that show-off Ivy Leaguer at the dance a real pizza slice. Yep, the phrase “hot dog” has been around as an expression denoting hipness and coolness and recklessness since the late 19th century.

But that’s not all. If you’re a Disney fan, you might know that Mickey Mouse’s first spoken words on the silver screen (back when he was but a crudely drawn black-and-white outline) were “Hot dogs!”. And before that, hot dogs and baseball paired up in the early 1900s for what would become a permanent marriage of food and sport when the original sausage on bun first made an appearance at St. Louis Stadium.

And what other cuisine is responsible for, not one, but two memorable commercial jingles from the 1960s? In fact, I bet you’re singing one of those jingles in your head right now! If you’re old enough to remember the Oscar Mayer tune, in particular, you probably also recall that you once could get your very own Wiener Whistle sealed inside the package of hot dogs. Seriously, has any other meat product ever included a free toy?

Yep, hot dogs rule! You can get one anywhere – on a street corner, in front of a Home Depot, twenty four hours a day at 7-11, at Costco’s food court. What you top it with, however, is a whole other topic for another day. I’ll just say that my husband thinks the perfect dog consists of bun, wiener, ketchup, and hot mustard. The correct answer, however, is bun, wiener, mustard, relish, and sauerkraut. And anyone who disagrees with that is just a big old Oscar Mayer wiener!

So, what do you put on your hot dog…and will you have one today in honor of National Hot Dog Day?