A Day in the Life of Ellie Stone by James Ziskin

No Stone UnturnedNew Holland, New York
Monday, April 3, 1961

My day begins over a hard roll and coffee with my best friend in the world, Ron “Fadge” Fiorello, the proprietor of the soda shop across the street from my apartment. He’s usually late opening up the store, rolling up to the curb in his ’57 Nash Ambassador after eight thirty. Unshaven and (sometimes) unwashed, he trundles across the seat to the Styx and Stonepassenger’s side door like a walrus undulating across an ice floe, the car rocking on its struts beneath him. The driver’s door is dented shut, so he always dismounts from the right-hand side. Barely four years old, the car is a disgrace. From the day he drove it off Bob Franks’ Hudson-Nash lot on Division Street, Fadge has abused it through neglect of maintenance, willful flaunting of the laws of physics, and a demolition-derby style of driving.

After breakfast and a review of the New York papers, I head downtown to the New Holland Republic offices on Main Street to begin my nine hours of writing stories on lost cats, Knights of Columbus banquets, and the occasional murder. Today I plan on knocking my editor for a loop with the photographs and scoop I got Sunday afternoon concerning a body that turned up dead in the quarry east of town. The suave and avuncular Charlie Reese is the dear man who took a chance on a girl reporter and hired me three years ago, and I’m forever grateful to him for it.

I feel less kindly toward Artie Short, the paper’s publisher, who hates the idea of a woman in the workplace, and behind the wheel for that matter. He can’t stand the sight of me, but has to hold his nose and publish my stories anyway. Then there’s his strutting ass of a son-in-law George Walsh. Georgie Porgie, as I’ve been known to call him, considers himself the senior reporter on staff, but his best articles have all been lifted from my desk drawer. I exact my revenge in small but satisfying ways: breaking the nibs off his obsessively sharpened pencils when he leaves his desk, switching the keys on his typewriter (he’s never been able to memorize the keyboard), or simply taping a “kick me” sign to his back. Not very subtle, but a classic.

After lunch at the Wolfson’s Department Store lunch counter with my assistant, Norma Geary, I pay a visit to the widow of Edgar Tolliver, the sixty-six-year-old man discovered in the quarry the day before. Margaret Tolliver is disconsolate, crushed, doesn’t know where to look, what to do, or how she’ll manage now that the only man she’s ever loved is gone. And she has no idea who would want to bludgeon him and dump his body into the shallow water at the bottom of the pit. I wish there were something I could do to help her. This part of my job is heartrending, but, as I continuously remind myself, not as agonizing as it is for the victims’ loved ones left behind. In moments like this, I draw on my own losses, which have been considerable, and I find the strength to hold a mother’s hand or comfort a grieving wife. It has nothing to do with my job.

I return to the Republic offices at four and write a couple of short pieces for tomorrow’s edition: one on the scourge of teenagers kicking out street lamps and another on the new chairwoman of the local chapter of the March of Dimes. As I prepare to leave for the day, Norma Geary appears at my side, glances around to make sure George Walsh is nowhere in sight, then drops an old article on my desk. Having dug the story out of the archives on her own, she gives me a knowing look, arching her right eyebrow. The story details the arrest of Edgar Tolliver on a moral’s charge in 1936. Norma is a marvel.

Once home, I kick off my heels and heat up a Swanson’s turkey dinner. I pour myself a whiskey and plop down on the sofa with three days’ worth of crosswords for company. The turkey dinner burns as I finish the second puzzle (and whiskey), so I settle for a supper of olives, saltines, and an end of cheese. Then another whiskey and another until I’m awakened by the pealing telephone. The voice on the other end tells me to keep my nose out of the quarry story or I’ll be next.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 6 for the chance to win a copy of both Styx & Stone and No Stone Unturned. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes.

Meet the author
Stone Cold DeadJames Ziskin is the author of the Ellie Stone mysteries, Styx & Stone (October 2013), No Stone Unturned (June 2014), and Stone Cold Dead (May 12, 2015), all from Seventh Street Books. A linguist by training, he studied Romance languages and literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife Lakshmi and cats, Bobbie and Tinker. Visit James at: www.JamesWZiskin.com

A New Year’s Day with Kiki Lowenstein by Joanna Campbell Slan

Shotgun Wedding Bells“The last thing I want to do on New Year’s Eve is be out on the highways.” I shook my head as I poured myself another cup of peppermint tea. “Remind me the next time I get pregnant to make sure the baby comes in the spring or summer or even fall when it isn’t so icy outside.”

“You want to get pregnant again?” My daughter Anya’s denim blue eyes were as big as the tea cup in her hand. At thirteen, she’s very curious about s-e-x, so I could imagine the mental gymnastics she was entertaining.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” said my fiancé, Detective Chad Detweiler, winking at me. He had been listening from his accustomed spot, leaning against the kitchen counter with his long legs crossed at the ankle.

“First things, first. Let’s wait until I deliver this little dude, okay?” I patted my huge belly. “I’m just sayin.’ I don’t much care how we celebrate the New Year as long as we’re all snug here at home. I don’t want us out on the roads. Not if we can help it.”

Of course, if Detweiler got called into work, he’d have no choice to leave us and brave the slick roads. But my fingers were crossed that he could stay home. Our baby was due in two weeks, and I wanted my husband-to-be at my side when I delivered. Since this was a second pregnancy for me, the little rascal might decide to come early.

“What do you do to celebrate the New Year in Scotland?” Anya looked up at our nanny, Bronwyn Macavity, with curiosity. Brawny, as we call her, is a Scot, through and through. People recognize her provenance immediately because she typically wears a kilt, a white blouse, knee socks and brogues.

“All sorts of things. We have a celebration called Hogmanay that begins on December 31. For some it lasts until January 2, what with singing, dancing, and telling stories. In my neighborhood, Robbie McGillis woke us all up on the New Year, playing his bagpipes. ‘Twas a thrilling sound, you can bet. Then Mum and Da would go through the house, room to room, sprinkling every corner with holy water and carrying lit pieces of juniper to chase away bad spirits.”

“Then I vote we have a Hogmanay New Year,” said Anya. “What do you think, Erik?”

“Hogs! Many!” Her five-year-old brother nodded in agreement, as he lifted his tiny hand for a high five as his red curls bobbed in agreement.

That settled, the kids raced off to watch Frozen for the umpteenth zillion time. Thinking ahead, I asked Brawny, “What do I need to do to help you pull this off?”

“Not a thing. Aye, and it’ll be my pleasure to share this with the wee ones.”

* * * * * * * * *

We sat down to a New Year’s Eve dinner of stew. The tantalizing smell of it cooking had made my mouth water all day long. For dessert, Brawny had baked shortbread cookies.

“I helped-ed! So did Anya!” crowed Erik, happily. “They’s lemon curse, too.”

“Lemon curse” was quickly explained to be “lemon curd,” which I happily slathered onto my cookies.

Once dinner was over, we piled onto the furniture in the family room. The animals joined us, so that I had a cat in the nook of my knees, a Great Dane at my feet, and another cat in my lap. Detweiler lit a big blaze in the fireplace. At the stroke of midnight, we counted down the New Year. Brawny excused herself to go get the mulled cider she’d been cooking in the Crockpot. The scent of cloves mixed with the burning wood was delightful.

“Erik and I have a surprise for you,” said Anya. “Brawny helped, but we’ve been practicing all day.”

As Detweiler and I sipped our hot drinks, Erik and Anya stood side-by-side and sang, “Auld Lang Syne.” Their piping voices rose to the rafters. The childlike tones formed an enchanting counterpoint to a song that had served to usher in the New Year for centuries, even before Robert Burns shaped the old Scots folk anthem into a national poem.

“Aye, but do ye know what it means?” Brawny asked, after we’d applauded the children’s performance.

“It means we won’t forget the ones we’ve loved and lost,” said Anya. “Isn’t that right, Erik?”

He nodded solemnly. “Even if a hog’s many years go by.”

~ The End ~

Shotgun, Wedding, Bells is the 11th book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, published by Spot On Publishing. The first book in the series is Paper, Scissors, Death.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 6 for the chance to win a print copy of Shotgun, Wedding, Bells (U.S. residents only) or the e-book version (open to everyone). Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes.

Meet the author
National bestselling and award-winning author Joanna Campbell Slan is a real sap. She loves animals, kids, and crafts. (Not necessarily in that order.) She’s also a huge reader, who’s never without a book in her hands. You can find her walking the beach on Jupiter Island, looking for seashells. Learn more at www.JoannaSlan.com.

Author Showcase ~ Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James

Arsenic and Old Books

In Athena, Mississippi, librarian Charlie Harris is known for his good nature—and for his Maine coon cat Diesel that he walks on a leash. Charlie returned to his hometown to immerse himself in books, but taking the plunge into a recent acquisition will have him in over his head. . .

Lucinda Beckwith Long, the mayor of Athena, has donated a set of Civil War-era diaries to the archives of Athena College. The books were recently discovered among the personal effects of an ancestor of Mrs. Long’s husband. The mayor would like Charlie to preserve and to substantiate them as a part of the Long family legacy—something that could benefit her son, Beck, as he prepares to campaign for the state senate.

Beck’s biggest rival is Jasper Singletary. His Southern roots are as deep as Beck’s, and their families have been bitter enemies since the Civil War. Jasper claims the Long clan has a history of underhanded behavior at the expense of the Singletarys. He’d like to get a look at the diaries in an attempt to expose the Long family’s past sins. Meanwhile, a history professor at the college is also determined to get her hands on the books in a last-ditch bid for tenure. But their interest suddenly turns deadly. . .

Now Charlie is left with a catalog of questions. The diaries seem worth killing for, and one thing is certain: Charlie will need to be careful, because the more he reads, the closer he could be coming to his final chapter. . .

Release: January 2015
Series: Cat in the Stacks #6
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 5 for the chance to win a copy of Arsenic and Old Books. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours of giveaway ending.

About the author
Miranda James is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Cat in the Stacks” books featuring Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. Miranda currently resides in Mississippi with two cats and thousands of books.

Website | Facebook

A Day in the Life of Don Rogers by J.J. Cook

In Hot WaterOccupation: Sweet Pepper Police Chief

I know this is gonna sound like whining- and I hate whiners – but Sweet Pepper shouldn’t have gone outside our small town in the Smoky Mountains to hire a fire chief. We have plenty of talent right here. I would have chosen my best officer, John Trump, for the job. He’s a good man who has proven himself over and over again.

So now who do we have? A woman from Chicago who has never lived in this area and never been part of a volunteer fire department. She’s sassy, speaks her mind without much provocation, and is a general pain in the butt! Is that what we wanted?

I know – we hired her because Ben Carson wanted her. Then we found out she’s his granddaughter. Ben’s rich and owns most of Sweet Pepper. I know he expects things to be done the way he wants them. Being fire chief shouldn’t be part of that.

Now she thinks the town needs a fireboat! What next?

But what really bothers me is not knowing if I can trust her or not, you know? I’m the police chief. I need to be able to work with her. Right now, I can’t tell if she’s on my side or not. It scares me sometimes, thinking what she might do to our town. She has no respect for our traditions or our people or she’d never think a good man like Rep. Barney Falk could be involved in drug dealing.

I’d quit being police chief tomorrow rather than work with her, but I’m afraid Sweet Pepper needs me more than ever now with Chief Stella Griffin here. You mark my words – she’s trouble – and I know everyone will agree with me before it’s over.

You can read more about Don in In Hot Water, the third book in the “Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first two books in the series are That Old Flame of Mine and Playing With Fire.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 4 for the chance to win a copy of IN HOT WATER. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the authors
J.J. Cook writes award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Penguin, Amazon, and Simon and Schuster along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com

A Day in the Life of Samantha Kidd by Diane Vallere

Some Like it HauteThere are three things you need to know about me:

1. I have questionable judgment
2. I can’t walk away from a challenge
3. I’m not as tough as I pretend to be

If you consider these three things you’ll start to understand why I agreed to help Amanda Ries, my ex-boyfriend’s maybe-former-girlfriend, with her runway show (questionable judgment). You’ll understand why, after I was assaulted in the parking lot outside of said runway show and warned to mind my own business, I was more determined than ever to figure out what was going on (that walking-away-from-a-challenge thing). And you might even see how hard it is for me to put on a brave face while inside, I’m still torn up over my recent breakup with Nick Taylor. (Six weeks, four days, and a handful of hours, not that I’m counting.)

Nick was the one who suggested that Amanda hire me. I have over a decade of experience in the fashion industry, and Amanda was lucky to get me, breakup baggage notwithstanding. While working for her, I spent my days at Warehouse Five acting as liaison between the powers that be while juggling mundane tasks of the “we’re out of Coke Zero” variety.

And then Amanda fired me. Fired by the maybe-former girlfriend? Not. Acceptable. I should have let it go and walked away, but I didn’t. (see point #2). Instead, I finagled a date with a suitably hot photographer and attended her runway show as a patron, watching from the sidelines while one of the outfits burst into flames on the runway.

Fast forward to today. I’d like to say I spent my morning enjoying a cup of coffee before heading out to do some personal shopping for a client. But I’d be lying. In the past twenty-four hours I’ve chopped off my hair, revisited a crime scene, made out with the hot photographer, and witnessed another fire. I’ve found an unlikely ally in the local police detective, whose hands are tied in the investigation because a local arson investigator is calling the shots. And even though nobody else is asking the question, I’d like to know who attacked me, so I’m conducting my own investigation of all parties involved. Which, among others, includes Amanda, the maybe-former girlfriend.

Samantha Kidd, this is your life.

You can read more about Samantha in Some Like It Haute, the fourth book in the “Style & Error” mystery series, published by Polyester Press. The first book in the series is Designer Dirty Laundry.

DV ToteGIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 3 for the chance to win a copy of SOME LIKE IT HAUTE + a Countdown Tote bag. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
After close to two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder. Some Like It Haute, Style & Error #4, is the first of four books coming out in 2015. In addition, she writes the Mad for Mod, Material Witness, and upcoming Costume Shop cozy mysteries. Diane started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. Sign up HERE for her newsletter for contests, news, and giveaways.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Another Day in the Life of Shannon Hammer by Kate Carlisle

This Old HomicideKate Carlisle is the author of A High-End Finish (Fixer-Upper Mystery 1), which debuted at #9 on the New York Times bestsellers list. Fixer-Upper Mystery 2 is This Old Homicide, available January 27 in paperback and ebook wherever books are sold.

Lighthouse Cove, California is not made for speeding, a fact I usually appreciate. But today I’m running late, so I can’t see the charm of sleepy traffic.

Oh, sorry. Hi. I’m Shannon Hammer. I run Hammer Construction. I specialize in restoring Victorians. This morning, when I spotted an original tile behind a depressing 1940s remodel, I lost a few minutes getting doe-eyed. Hence, running late.

I zip (sedately) to my house. Emily asked me to meet the gang at her tea shop, and it sounded important. After everything she did for me, I owe her. A few months ago, a man was murdered with one of my tools in a house I was working on. The night before he died, we’d had a pretty public argument, so you can see why suspicion fell on me. But my friends rallied. Emily has the tea shop, Lizzie and her husband have a stationery store, Marigold owns a little quilt shop, and Jane is the proud owner of what will soon be the best inn in Lighthouse Cove. They all put work aside to help me find the killer. Those are friends! They’ve always said they’d do anything for me, and they certainly proved it.

dogMy dog Robbie, a Westie, is trying to get to me through the fence. I hate to disappoint him, but—

“Sorry, bud,” I say as I head on foot toward the sidewalk.

“What’s that?” My irascible neighbor Jesse says as I pass his yard.

“I was talking to my dog.”

A lifelong scuba diver, Jesse spent so much of his life in saltwater that it made him crusty. He’s also my friend Jane’s uncle, and I’ve always found him to be delightful. I hadn’t seen him around much lately. Very unusual. I don’t have time for one of his stories now, though, so I don’t ask where he’s been, I just keep walking.

I hope I don’t regret that later. . .

A sneak peek at This Old Homicide:

“Jesse?” I called again, more urgently this time. I headed for the small den off the kitchen where he liked to watch television. And that was where I found him. He was sound asleep on the couch with one arm dangling over the edge.

“Jesse!” I hurried across the room, so filled with relief that I forgot about the mess and everything else. “Thank goodness you’re here. Don’t be mad that I came into your house, but I was worried.”

There was no reaction. The man could sleep like the dead, I thought. The way he’d torn his home apart, I had to wonder if he was simply exhausted. Old people could do some weird things sometimes. I recalled my grandmother going off on all sorts of oddball tangents before she died, once tearing up a scrapbook filled with old photographs, and another time bingeing on jars of jalapeño pickles.

I studied Jesse’s face and wondered if maybe he was sick after all, because he looked pale, almost gray.

“Jesse?” I knelt down beside the couch and touched his forehead to make sure he wasn’t feverish.

On the contrary, his skin was cool. And no wonder, since the poor guy was wearing a pair of tidy white cotton boxer shorts and nothing else.

“Come on, Jesse, wake up.” I reached for the afghan draped over the back of the couch and covered him up to give him a little dignity. I lifted his arm onto the couch and tucked the edges of the blanket under him to warm him up.

“Jesse,” I said softly, shaking his shoulder lightly. “Can I get you some soup or something?”

His arm slid off the couch again. And I suddenly realized why.

You can read more about Shannon in This Old Homicide, the second book in the “Fixer-Upper” mystery series, published by Obsidian.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 2 for the chance to win a copy of THIS OLD HOMICIDE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
New York Times bestselling author Kate Carlisle is a native Californian who worked in television production KateCfor many years before turning to writing. Kate’s “Bibliophile Mystery” series features bookbinder protagonist Brooklyn Wainwright, whose rare book restoration skills invariably uncover old secrets, treachery and murder. Find excerpts, contests, book news, and more at Author Kate Carlisle and Facebook.


My Musing ~ This Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle

This Old HomicideThis Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle is the second book in the “Fixer-Upper” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, January 2015

Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story. . .

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead—of an apparent heart attack—but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.

Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn’t believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales—like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed. . .

This was a good mystery peppered with plenty of suspects and twists and turns to keep me both engaged and entertained in this fast-paced whodunit. Shannon is great protagonist (and I especially love her pink tools) that has me rooting for her as she searches for a killer. The author does a great job in presenting this well-written light drama that boasts a lovable cast of characters, a great setting with a small town atmosphere and good conversations. I look forward to more visits to Lighthouse Cove with Shannon and her friends.