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.



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

This week on dru’s book musings
Jan 26: Shannon Hammer from “This Old Homicide” by Kate Carlisle
Jan 27: Samantha Kidd from “Some Like It Haute” by Diane Vallere
Jan 28: Don Rogers from “In Hot Water” by J. J. Cook
Jan 29: Author Showcase with Miranda James
Jan 30: Kiki Lowenstein from “Shotgun, Wedding, Bells” by Joanna Campbell Slan
Jan 31: Ellie Stone from “No Stone Unturned” by James Ziskin
Feb1: Walker Boone from “Dead Man Walker” by Duffy Brown

Last week on dru’s book musings
Kate Davidson from “A Killer Retreat” by Tracy Weber
Kay Hamilton from “Viking Bay” by M.A. Lawson
Theodore Abernathy from “Murder by Gravity” by Barbara Graham
Audrey Bloom from “For Whom the Bluebell Tolls” by Beverly Allen
Raymond Donne from “Dead Red” by Tim O’Mara
Emma Whitecastle from “Ghost in the Guacamole” by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Recent contest winners
“Diners, Drive-Ins and Death” by Christine Wenger – B. Prazak
“Feta Attraction” by Susannah Hardy – D. Krug
“Big Mojo” by Jack Getze – R. Mazur
“Big Mojo” by Jack Getze – D. Carnes
“Fatal Scandal” by Marie Force – L. Goldstein
“Fatal Scandal” by Marie Force – B. Bumgardner
“Fatal Scandal” by Marie Force – K. Hutcherson
“Dying for the Past” by TJ O’Connor – K. Riva
“Lie of the Needle” by Cate Price – S. Hemsher

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook.

A Day in the Life of Emma Whitecastle by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Ghost in the GuacamoleWhen Dru Ann first asked me to write about my normal day, I had to pause and reflect on what was normal for me, Emma Whitecastle. There was my life pre-Granny and my life post-Granny. Neither of which were or are boring by a long shot.

Before the ghost of Ish Reynolds, better known as Granny Apples, came into my life, my days were filled with drama, but not the good kind. I had been married to Grant Whitecastle, the son of two Hollywood legends, and the reigning bad boy of talk show TV for years, followed by a very public and tumultuous divorce.

Then Granny happened, and a different kind of drama came into my life.

While at a séance with a friend, I was contacted by a ghost who was determined that I help her clear her name from a wrongful charge of murder. At the time, I had no idea that I had the ability to hear and speak to spirits, so I was totally thrown and scared. Then I learned that the ghost was my great-great-great grandmother. Once the connection was made, Granny pestered me until I gave in and helped her.

That was several years ago. Now Granny is an important part of my life, and an important part of our family. My mother has the ability to hear and speak with Granny, but she can’t see her like I can. With our assistance, other family members communicate with Granny on an almost daily basis.

Granny lived in the late 1800s in Julian, California, a small former gold rush town in the mountains north of San Diego. As my fiancé Phil Bowers likes to say, Granny is a real pistol. She’s nosey and obstinate and can be very demanding. She also loves TV, especially crime dramas and NFL football. Together we look into situations involving the deaths of ghosts, often stumbling into old murders and new ones. Sometimes ghosts come to us for help, as Granny did me, and sometimes the living contact me hoping to find answers.

Looking back, I’ll take Granny’s brand of drama any day over that of my former marriage.

You can read more about Emma in Ghost in the Guacamole, the 5th book in the “Ghost of Granny Apples” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Ghost a la Mode.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on January 30 for the chance to win a copy of GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

Meet the author
Sue Ann Jaffarian is the author of three critically acclaimed mystery series: The Odelia Grey series, the Ghost of Granny Apples series, and the Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries. Sue Ann also writes short stories and is a motivational speaker and full-time paralegal living in Los Angeles. Kirkus has said of Sue Ann, “Like Stuart Kaminsky, Jaffarian juggles her franchises deftly, giving each a unique voice and appeal.” Visit her at www.sueannjaffarian.com, or on Twitter or Facebook.

My Musing ~ Murder by Gravity by Barbara Graham

Murder By GravityMurder by Gravity by Barbara Graham is the sixth book in the “Quilted” mystery series. Publisher: Five Star, December 2014

Snow before Halloween shocks the residents of tiny Park County Tennessee. While dealing with a multitude of minor issues Sheriff Tony Abernathy is contacted by a charter pilot who claims his passenger jumped without a parachute into the most remote spot in the county. After riding mules into the wilderness to collect the body Tony and his deputy must travel to North Carolina in a blizzard to notify the widow. Problems multiply. Tony’s wife Theo is shocked to see a woman at the grocery store with a knife embedded in her back. Then a priceless quilt is stolen.

As the sheriff Tony hates Halloween. Even so he never expected a valuable coffin and the body inside to go missing.

I love my annual visit to Silersville, Tennessee where the citizens of this town bore unusual names that adds to the characteristics and idiosyncrasies in this small town. Where else can you experience, in a typical week, a man’s flight from an airplane; a stolen casket from a neighbor’s home; a bride’s concerns and the misappropriation of a valuable quilt? I love the comfortable tone and the easy flow of this story as the author did a great job of pulling me in with her descriptive style and engaging dialogue that made me feel like I was a part of all the action. It was fun watching Tony and his team gather all the clues that lead to the resolutions to all that happened during that snowy week in their small town. This was a very enjoyable read that was nicely done and I look forward to my next visit with Tony, Theo and their friends.

The Locker with Raymond Donne by Tim O’Mara

Dead Red“So,” I said to Alberto, “if I were to go through your book bag right now I wouldn’t find Amanda’s cell phone?”

“Nope,” the sixth grader said, confidently sliding his bag over to me with his foot. “Why’m I gonna steal her bootleg phone for anyways?” He reached into his pocket and took something out. “I got my own.”

“That,” I said, looking at his phone, “should be turned off and in your locker. If Amanda followed that rule, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

I’ve learned from too much experience over the years that kids who steal from other kids usually have a reason why they didn’t steal. And it’s almost always the same reason: “I don’t need her fill-in-the-blank.” It’s the ones who are unjustly accused—the ones who wouldn’t think of taking another kid’s stuff—who don’t have a reason; they just say they didn’t do it. End of story.

I looked down at Alberto’s book bag and knew what I’d find if I opened it. Or rather what I wouldn’t find.

“What if I wanted to check your locker?” I asked.

His eyes widened for the briefest of moments. When he got them under control, he said, “You can do that?”


“Don’t you, like, need a warrant or something for that, Mr. Donne?”

There’s that law degree from the University of TV and Couch. Everybody knows his rights. Or thinks he does.

“That’s for the police,” I said, making sure I sounded like the cop I used to be. “We teachers can pretty much do what we want.” I shook my head and pretended to think of something. “I can’t remember the last time a parent accused me of violating their kid’s constitutional rights.”

He pondered that for a few moments, as I stayed quiet. Alberto wasn’t a bad kid. He was just an eleven-year-old sixth grader who saw an opportunity and took it. Along with another kid’s property. It’s not like he woke up this morning planning on stealing another kid’s cell phone. There he was sitting in Social Studies looking over at the seat next to his, saw Amanda’s phone in her opened book bag, and got caught up in the moment. Now, he was just caught. I could tell by the look on his face that he felt pretty crappy about the whole thing and wished he could find a way to turn back the clock and undo what he’d done. My job here was to give him a way out without giving him the idea that robbery was a possible career path. But I needed his help.

“Here’s the situation, Alberto.” I made a point of looking at my watch and letting out an exaggerated deep sigh. “I’m really busy for the next couple of hours. I have to meet with two parents, fill out some suspension paperwork, and touch base with the principal. Then I have lunch duty. So…I’m not going to have time to check your locker until the beginning of seventh period.”

He blinked a few times, swallowed hard, and said, “Okay.”

“If,” I paused for effect, “Amanda’s phone somehow shows up before then—heck, maybe it’s under all that stuff in her book bag—I obviously won’t have any reason to check your locker. I’ll check in with Amanda before I pick you up from your seventh period class. How’s that sound?”

He got out of his seat and grabbed his bag off the floor. “Sounds good, Mr. D.”

“I’ll see you later, Alberto.”

“Yeah, right. Seventh period I got Math. And, uh, thanks, Mr. D.”

“For what?”

After struggling for a few seconds, he realized didn’t have an answer for that. “Just thanks.”

He left my office and hurried off to lunch. Or maybe his locker. I’m sure I’d find out in a few hours.

You can catch up with Raymond in Dead Red, the third book in the “Raymond Donne” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first book in the series is Sacrifice Fly.

New York City school teacher Raymond Donne had no idea how bad his night was going to get when he picked up the phone. Ricky Torres, his old friend from his days as a cop, needs Ray’s help, and he needs it right now in the middle of the night. Ricky picks Ray up in the taxi he has been driving since returning from serving as a Marine in Iraq, but before Ricky can tell Ray what’s going on the windows of the taxi explode under a hail of bullets killing Ricky and knocking Ray unconscious as he dives to pull Ricky out of harm’s way.

Ray would’ve done anything to help Ricky out while he was alive. Now that he’s dead, he’ll go to the same lengths to find out who did it and why. All he has to go on is that Ricky was working with Jack Knight, another ex-cop turned PI. They were investigating the disappearance of a PR giant’s daughter who had ties to the same Brooklyn streets that all three of them used to work. Is that what got Ricky killed or was he into something even more dangerous? Was there anything that Ray could’ve done for him while he was alive? Is there anything he can do for him now? Filled with the kinds of unexpected twists that make for the best crime fiction and with secrets that run far deeper than loyalties, Dead Red is the most thrilling mystery yet in Tim O’Mara’s widely acclaimed series.

Meet the author
Tim O’Mara has been teaching math and special education in the New York City public schools since 1987. O’Mara was inspired to create the character of Raymond Donne after making home visits while a schoolteacher in a disadvantaged section of the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. He lives with his family in Manhattan, where he currently teaches in a public middle school, and is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and several teacher unions.

O’Mara recently finished Smoked, a crime e-novella that will be available in early 2015 at Bookxy.com, for Stark Raving Group, “a shameless purveyor of titillating short novels at ridiculously low prices.”

Visit Tim at his website, on Twitter or on Facebook.