My protagonist, Darla Pettistone, is a savvy businesswoman, even though Pettistone’s Fine Books (the bookshop she inherited from her late Great-Aunt Dee) is her first attempt at entrepreneurship. And so she communicates and stays organized like many of us do these days, electronically.

Reminder message on Outlook…Start time: 8:00 a.m.. Subject: Shopping list.
Kitty Kibble for Hamlet!!!

Darla inherited Hamlet, her great-aunt’s black cat, as a package deal with the bookstore. Since Darla is not a cat person, Hamlet tolerates her simply because she’s the one who pours his kitty kibble twice a day. Thus, it’s vital that she doesn’t run out of this particular food group! Luckily, her Brooklyn neighborhood has a small grocery not far from her store so that she can run this errand before she opens the place at 10 a.m.

Subject: Dickens First Edition

Good morning, Darla. I am pleased to advise that the negotiations with our London client regarding the Dickens first edition are almost concluded. I anticipate a four-figure purchase price, which should give us an acceptable profit margin on our investment. I hope to know more soon. James.

Postscript. You may be aware of the somewhat significant time difference between the United States and Great Britain. Since our client’s schedule forced me to arise well before my usual time, I will require a nap of approximately one hour’s duration before I arrive for my shift. Thus, you may expect me at 3 p.m. rather than 2 p.m. today. JJ

Darla checks her email first thing once she arrives at work. Professor James T. James is Darla’s store manager. A retired English instructor at the university level, he has never used a contraction in Darla’s presence. Much as with Hamlet, she inherited James along with the bookstore. James ran the place for her great-aunt for ten years and was doubtful that Darla was up to the task of filling his retail shoes. She convinced him otherwise, however, and they are now a formidable bookselling team.

James’ specialty is rare books. Darla knows that in these days of uncertainty for brick-and-mortar bookstores, the revenue stream he generates truly helps keep the place going. And so she indulges his occasional overbearing manner. James and Hamlet pretend publicly to dislike each other; however, they are similar personality types, and Darla has secretly witnessed the pair hanging out together.

Pettistonebooks (Pettistone’s Fine Books): Hey @ghost-high fans, 2 days until the @valeriebaylor autographing! Only 1st 500 in line will be admitted!

Darla has scored a coup, because YA author Valerie Baylor, who writes the hugely popular “Ghost High” series, will be autographing her latest release at Pettistone’s Fine Books. Each morning, Darla has her part-time employee, Lizzie, send out Tweets to keep the hype going. She’s also considering letting Hamlet tweet, except she’s afraid he’ll simply post snarky cat comments about her.

Lunch 2day @ deli? Need 2 finalize details for VB.

Darla often uses text messaging to keep in touch with her pal Jake, even thought the 50-ish retired ex-cop lives downstairs in Darla’s garden-level apartment (Darla has the upstairs unit). The women do lunch at the local deli, where their favorite meal is the mile-high turkey Reuben. The past few lunches have been strategy sessions for the upcoming Valerie Baylor event. Jake is handling security. With an anticipated 500 screaming teens and Hamlet in the mix, they don’t want anything to go wrong!

Subject: Care Package

Hi Mom—got the frozen tamales and salsa. THANKS! You don’t know how much I miss decent Tex-Mex up here. I promise, I’ll write you a real letter soon. Give Dad a hug from me. Love, Darla. PS. And yes, Hamlet is still a pain.

Darla often ends the day doing email, too, but usually it’s her personal correspondence. And she definitely misses her family back in Texas, where she’s from. But she’s a firm believer in shaking up one’s life every so often, and so she doesn’t regret the move from Dallas to Brooklyn to take on Hamlet and life in a bookstore. Because living with an ornery feline is anything but boring!

Ali Brandon is the pseudonym for Diane A.S. Stuckart, who is the critically acclaimed author of historical romance and short fiction, as well as the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. The first in Ali’s new Black Cat Bookshop mystery series, DOUBLE BOOKED FOR DEATH, will be on the shelves December 2011. A Texas girl like her protagonist, Darla, Ali now lives in South Florida with her husband and a menagerie which includes two orange tabby boys, Butch and Sundance. For news about Diane a.k.a. Ali, visit

** Ali has generously offered to give away one signed copy of DOUBLE BOOKED FOR DEATH. To enter, you must leave a valid e-mail address in the comment box with your comment. One entry per person and this is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address. Contest ends on December 18th at 6pm EST. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator and will be notified by e-mail and has 2 days to respond. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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