Spending Time With Penelope Sutherland by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder on the Red CarpetYou’d think working with movie stars every day would be a glamorous gig. And sometimes it is, like when I get invited to a wrap party or as a plus one to a movie premiere. But most of the time my job is hard work. I’m the owner and head chef of Red Carpet Catering, and I work behind the scenes cooking on movie sets. My team is responsible for providing every meal during filming, which boils down to many more long days on my feet and dirty dishes to wash than glamorous nights out on the town.

Don’t get me wrong, my job definitely has its perks. Every day brings new challenges and a sense of adventure. It’s hard to get bored in my particular line of work, because no two days are ever the same. I never know where we’re going to end up, but I do know that I have to take my kitchen with me wherever the party goes.

Take today for example. My crew of four chefs packed up our three mobile kitchen trucks before dawn and drove to a busy downtown street corner where the day’s filming will take place. Three hundred cast, crew members, executives and extras will be expecting lunch and dinner, fresh, hot and on time, so we have a long day ahead of us. We have to prep, cook, and plate the food, serve lunch, clear everything down, clean everything up, and then repeat the entire process for the dinner rush. So we’ll be out here working for fifteen hours at least, more if the filming goes into overtime. Hopefully the movie crew will get the scene shot that they need today. Otherwise we’ll be back here again tomorrow, déjà vu all over again, except we will offer different menu choices.

I do enjoy watching the sunrise in the mornings when we begin our early days. My crew is up and working, chopping vegetables and portioning out proteins when most people still have hours left to sleep, or when some more ambitious club-goers are making their way home from a late night out. But you get used to working the long days, cooking in all types of weather and in different locations. That’s where the adventure comes in.

After lunch, I take a walk down to the corner and watch the crew roll through a scene on the sidewalk. Three cameras are pointed at my best friend and roommate, Arlena Madison and her handsome co-star, Sam Cavanaugh, as they walk slowly down the street, reciting their lines. They’ve proven to have great chemistry, both on screen and off. Sam has been spending a lot of time at our house the past couple of weeks. I hope for Arlena’s sake the relationship lasts after the cameras stop rolling. She’s fallen hard for Sam already.

Watching Arlena and Sam, I wonder if I would have time for a relationship. I’m never quite sure how Joey Baglioni, a childhood friend of mine who is now a police detective, feels about me. There was always something special about Joey…he sure has turned out well since those awkward grade school days. The fact that we’ve just reconnected while he’s investigating a murder that might involve Arlena’s famous family puts us in an awkward position. Like Sam and Arlena, I wonder if Joey and I will have anything to talk about if and when the murder of Holly Anderson is solved.

I should probably just focus on work. Heaven knows it’s hard enough to find the time to date someone when you have a regular job, much less when you have a job that barely leaves you enough time to get a few hours of sleep between shifts. But then again, a day off with Joey would really be nice…

Time to head back to the trucks. Dinner has to be ready soon.

You can read more about Penelope in Murder on the Red Carpet, the first book in the “Red Carpet Catering” mystery series, published by Lit Girl Publishing. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on April 26, and you will be entered for a chance to win a digital copy of MURDER ON THE RED CARPET. One winner will be chosen at random.

Meet the author
Shawn Reilly Simmons was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional career in New York and ShawnNew Jersey after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA in English. Over the years, Shawn has been a sales executive, book store manager, fiction editor, convention organizer, and a caterer. In 2006 she worked with the catering crew on a major motion picture that filmed in the DC area, which perfectly combined two of her great loves, movies and food. Shawn currently resides in Maryland with her husband, son and two English Bulldogs. Murder on the Red Carpet is her first novel.

If you’re a mystery fan you might know me from my work with the Malice Domestic mystery convention. I’ve been either a Board Member or a Committee Chair for the past 11 years working in Public Relations and Registrations.

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Blog Tour: A Day in the Life with Cait Morgan by Cathy Ace

THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB jpegI need a holiday. A vacation. I use both words. Being Welsh Canadian, I’m allowed.

In any case—I need a break. Fortunately, on Sunday morning Bud and I will be flying to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. YAY! We’re spending a week at an apartment about an hour from the airport, that’s being loaned to us by a colleague from Bud’s time as a homicide cop in Vancouver. I can hardly wait.

But first, I have to get through today, and it’s not going to be pleasant. I’ll explain. I’m a professor specializing in criminal psychology at the University of Vancouver, and I’ve just finished teaching an inter-sessional semester—which has all the work of a full-length semester squashed into half the time. I had a particularly tough group for the “Deviant criminal behavior: background and insights” course. Real criminals some of them. I kid you not.

I’ve never made it publicly known, but I have an eidetic memory, and I’m also very adept at reading people. I’ve used these abilities to help solve some puzzling murder cases in the past, but this semester, I’d noticed that one particular group dynamic in my class was “off” from the start—all popular, but lazy, kids working with one bright, diligent girl, who’s very much a loner. Not normal. For those of you who never went, or have chosen to forget, university is just like high school on steroids. Students categorize themselves, then don’t mix. It makes me smile sometimes—they think they’re being terribly independent in their style of dress, speech, and so forth, yet they’re all wearing “uniforms” that clearly mark them as a member of one group or another. Rebelliousness as tribal membership.

Back to today. I see plagiarism as theft. A crime. And no-one who’s as interested in justice as I am wants to see theft run rampant in their class. So I set a final report challenge that could only be be responded to in an original form, not pinched from the internet. I wondered how my target group would tackle it. I suspected they’d get their one bright member to do all the work, then copy her paper in such a way that they’d hide their theft. To be fair, given that there were eighty seven people taking the course, they could reasonably hope that I wouldn’t note any similarities. But that’s because they don’t know the real me, they just see a professor who’s there to be manipulated.

To cut a long story short, they bit. Two of them had done a pretty good job of covering their tracks, three hadn’t bothered much at all, and the poor girl who’d done all the work hadn’t written it up very well. Today they get their comeuppance.

They’ll be here any minute. They must have guessed what’s going to happen, and I dare say they’ll be developing their cover stories. But they won’t work. Not on me. The bright girl will be their weak link—I’ve already deduced that she’s been dragged into this situation against her will. I had a casual chat with her in the hall the other day and her body language was screaming at me that she wanted to tell me something, but didn’t dare. Her micro-expressions, her picked and nibbled fingers, the cold-sore she kept licking—they all spoke volumes about the stress she was under.

She was gripping her phone at the time. The screen saver behind the keypad showed a smoke-colored, long haired cat. I’ve spotted similar cat hairs on the clothing of one of the group members, and a couple of scratches on the neck of another. But the bright girl hasn’t had a single cat hair on her for weeks. I suspect the slackers are holding her cat, to make her do what they want. Cat-nappers, and thieves. Criminals.

Yes, grades matter that much, especially when parental pressure is applied, but no oversight provided. It should be an open and shut case. The bright girl will pass the course, the others will fail. I’ll make sure they return the cat. And if they want to duke it out with me in front of the departmental head, so be it. But not today. Nor next week.

Next week, I’ll be lying beside the pool at the Rocas Hermosas Resort near Punta de las Rocas, sipping something cold, with a little umbrella in it. Bud will be beside me, and we’ll be chatting about almost nothing, in the most wonderful way. At least, that’s the plan. I really hope nothing happens to spoil it—like I said, I need a break.

This is the first stop on the The Corpse with The Emerald Thumb Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. For other stops on this tour, click HERE

You can find out how Cait’s break in Mexico works out in The Corpse with The Emerald Thumb, the third Cait Morgan Mystery, published by TouchWood Editions. The first book in the series is The Corpse with the Silver Tongue. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on April 25, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB. One winner will be chosen at random. Open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Meet the author
Welsh Canadian mystery author Cathy Ace is the creator of the Cait Morgan Mysteries, which include The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, The Corpse with the Golden Nose, and The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb. Born, raised, and 2cathyeducated in Wales, Cathy enjoyed a successful career in marketing and training across Europe, before immigrating to Vancouver, Canada, where she taught on MBA and undergraduate marketing programs at various universities. Her eclectic tastes in art, music, food, and drink have been developed during her decades of extensive travel, which she continues whenever possible. Now a full-time author, Cathy’s short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies, as well as on BBC Radio 4. She and her husband are keen gardeners, who enjoy being helped out around their acreage by their green-pawed Labradors. Cathy’s website can be found at www.cathyace.com. Follow her on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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A Day in the Life of Dulcie Schwartz by Clea Simon

Grey HowlTalk about herding cats! I never thought a three-day conference could be quite so crazed. But the guests are just arriving and already everything is going wrong. I may be book smart, but suddenly, I’m in over my head: What’s with the sound system in Hall A? Why is the acting director being such a space case? And I know Stella Barnes is a rising star – but must she be such a diva? All my friends are telling me about her fling with Marco Tesla but is the hunky Professor Barnes under her spell as well? And is that the only reason all these academics come to these conferences? Mr Grey, I’m going to need all the help your feline spirit can send my way if I’m to get through this one alive.

If I can only keep everything under control, this could be my big break. Even though I’m only a grad student (fifth year), I’ve been named the department’s liaison to the conference – which means that I’ll get serious face time with all these stars, scholars from all around the world. When I finish my dissertation – I’ve got to stop saying “if” – these contacts will be invaluable. Surely, someone will want another newly minted PhD with an expertise in Gothic novels. At least, if I can keep everyone on track and at the right venue.

That’s worth my time, surely. Even if I’d much rather be working on my own thesis or, even better, at home with Esmé the cat. She’s not a kitten anymore, but she still deserves some play time, and really, I can concentrate better when I’ve got a purring kitty by my side. Maybe tonight, after the Moonlight Party, I’ll be able to do some work. Maybe Chris, my boyfriend, will be home – those strange disappearances of his are beginning to worry me. This should be easy, right? A cocktail party in one of the university’s most beautiful courtyards. It’s not like somebody could die there… could it?

You can read more about Dulcie’s adventures in Grey Howl, the seventh Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery from Severn House. The first in the series is Shades of Grey, and the books (all of which feature the feline spirit, Mr Grey) are available at bookstores and online outlets.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on April 24 and you will be entered to win a copy of one of the earlier books in the Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery series (Shades of Grey, Grey Matters, Grey Zone, Grey Expectations, True Grey, Grey Dawn). Three (3) lucky winners will be chosen at random. U.S. residents only please.

Meet the author
Clea Simon is the author of 15 mysteries in the Theda Krakow(4), Dulcie Schwartz (7), and Pru Marlowe pet noir (4) series, as well as three nonfiction books. The latter two mystery series are ongoing and include her most recent books, Grey Howl (Severn House) and Panthers Play for Keeps (Poisoned Pen Press). A former journalist and nonfiction author, she lives in Somerville, Mass., with her husband, the writer Jon Garelick, and their cat Musetta. She can be reached at www.cleasimon.com and is on Twitter.

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.


Weekly Roundup* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What a nice beginning to the weekend. I was able to do my errands without wearing a heavy coat.

This week on dru’s book musing

  • Dulcie Schwartz by Clea Simon – Dulcie Schwartz #8
  • Cait Morgan by Cathy Ace – Cait Morgan #3
  • Penelope Sutherland by Shawn Reilly Simmons – Red Carpet Catering #1
  • Cover Reveal: Deadly Asset by Wendy Tyson – Allison Campbell #2
  • Maggie MacGowen by Wendy Hornsby – Maggie MacGowen #9
  • Michael Stoddard by Suzanne Adair – Michael Stoddard #2

Last week on dru’s book musing

Recent contest winners

  • Small Town Spin by LynDee Walker – Elaine N.
  • A Biscuit, a Casket by Liz Mugavero – Cynthia W.
  • Panthers Play for Keeps by Clea Simon – Cheryl G.
  • Pleating for Mercy by Melissa Bourbon – Ronna L.
  • Madness in Miniature by Margaret Grace – Annette G.

Recently posted on dru’s book musings

At The Request Of…For Review

  • Boiled Over by Barbara Ross
  • Whack Job by Kendel Lynn
  • Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.

The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan

The Whole Cat and CaboodleThe Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan is the first book in the new “Second Chance Cat” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, April 2014

Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis.

Elvis has seen nine lives—and then some. The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll’s music and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store.

But when Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. Even Sarah’s old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance.

I love the comfortable tone in this light-hearted whodunit that flowed easily from chapter to chapter, quickly becoming a page-turner that I did not want to put down. This mystery had a few twists and turns where I thought I had it figured out until that “aha” moment when I knew exactly who the killer was and it was fun watching it all play out. The author did a great job in the presentation of this story pulling me in so that I’m rooting for Sarah and her merry band of sleuths whose age range from teens to the 70s. I like the camaraderie and the dialogue between this group and their interaction amongst the people of North Harbor. This was a wonderful read and I can’t wait for more adventures with Sarah and her friends in the next book in this delightfully charming new series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Death on Eat Street by J. J. Cook

Death on Eat StreetDeath on Eat Street by J. J. Cook is the first book in the new “Biscuit Bowl Food Truck” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, April 2014

Zoe Chase always wanted to own her own restaurant—but first, she’ll have to serve up a heaping helping of meals on wheels, with a side of mystery.

When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama.

Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away.

After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned.

This was a very enjoyable read that introduces Zoe Chase, our spunky heroine, who left her job to start out on her own with her food truck business and along the way, becomes entangle in a murder investigation when she finds a body in her truck. I loved how the author presented this story in a style that was easy to follow. The mystery was good as it quickly became a page-turner for me. Zoe is a lovable character with a heart of gold that cares for her friends and is surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters that includes Ollie, Miguel, Delia and her parents. I look forward to more adventures with Zoe and the gang in this wonderfully terrific new series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen

Bloom and DoomBloom and Doom by Beverly Allen is the first book in the new “Bridal Bouquet Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Beverly Prime Crime, April 2014

As the co-owner of The Rose in Bloom, Audrey Bloom creates magnificent flower arrangements for brides to be. Though helping to plan a wedding can be stressful, it’s nothing compared to the groom turning up dead.

A designer of eye-catching bridal bouquets—many of them based on the Victorian meanings behind each flower—Audrey Bloom is used to celebrations that end with happily ever after. In fact, every couple she’s worked with is still together, living in wedded bliss. But her perfect record is about to be broken.

Her childhood friend Jenny Whitney has reeled in the most eligible bachelor in Ramble, Virginia, and she’s hired Audrey to design the bouquet. But before Jenny can walk down the aisle clutching her blend of anemone, scabious, and pussy willow (a floral disaster in Audrey’s mind), the groom is found dead—sprinkled with bits of a bouquet. This is bad for business—not to mention for Jenny, who has become the prime suspect. So Audrey decides to do a little digging herself, hoping she won’t be the next Ramble resident pushing up daisies.

We are introduced to Audrey and Liv, cousins and co-owners of The Rose in Bloom, a florist shop in small town America. All is good until a broken engagement ends up in murder. When her friend is jailed for the murder, Audrey believing in her innocence, starts looking into who else had a stronger motive and wanted him dead. This was a good read with a comfortable tone and an easy flow. The plot was well-defined and presented plenty of suspects to choose from with plenty of red herrings to keep me turning the pages to see if I honed in on the killer when their identity was revealed. One of the things I enjoyed in reading this light whodunit was how Audrey created bouquets for her customers. This is a great read and I look forward to the next book in this wonderfully charming series.

FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a digital ARC provided through NetGalley, in the hopes I would review it.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog