Aug 082017
 

Vangie Vale and the Murdered Macaron (The Matchbaker Mysteries Book 1)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Montana
Hummingbird Books (July 21, 2017)
Paperback: 362 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1548024437
E-Book ASIN: B073ZLKBZT

 

 

Small towns and gossip go together like flaky crust and sweet pastry cream. Between the police scanners, social media, and the senior center, it’s like a zombie apocalypse where the undead consume people’s secrets instead of living flesh.

But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar…especially the police radar.

So when her new bakery becomes linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body. Can’t have that.

Forced into the role of investigator, this new-in-town bakery owner has to become the very thing she hates–a nosy, small-town gossip–in order to clear her good name, and keep her face off the front page. But when a dating debacle brings her face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can’t ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find the who-dun-it.

 

Dollycas’s Thoughts

This series is off to a tasty start.

Evangeline (Vangie) Vail is a part time pastor and a full time baker. The issue that brought her to Montana is a little foggy yet but she is settling in nicely. Her Matchmaker Bakery is a really cute idea. She matches you to the perfect pastry and beverage not the man or the woman of your dreams. She’s an upbeat person and a good listener and she truly wants to help wherever she can. When one her pastry boxes is found at a crime scene she becomes one of the Sheriff’s top suspects.  She and the Sheriff have a very rocky relationship. They are neighbors and he just didn’t like her from the first time they met. The only place near her home that she can get cell phone service is at the corner of his property near a big bush and it just drives him crazy. He reports her trespassing to the parish and she is on thin ice already with them. He has even threatened to arrest her. Let’s just say all this trespassing and murder has not made Vangie’s life easy but she doesn’t give up. I really like her and want to get to know her much better.

The murder mystery is very well plotted out. It all comes down to a very small timeline, alibis for all of the suspects and motive. Vangie takes us down a prickly path until we finally get to the real killer. Vangie can now add sleuth to her resume. Some of the story goes a little off a cozy path, at the end of one chapter my breath was just taken away. The author quickly get us back on track in the cozy realm. It was simply a page turner that kept my attention from the beginning to the end.

I am excited about this series.  This first escape to Montana just gave us a taste of what to expect from this author and these characters. I am very happy to learn there are two more books in the series to be released soon.

**My review was of an Advance Review Copy and was informed that there were some adjustments made to the final edition.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

*There is a tragic death that appears at first to be a suicide within this story.

About The Author

Rebecca Syme writes small town romance as Becca Boyd and cozy mystery as R.L. Syme. She is a long-time foodie and loves fancy cheese. Becca calls the mountains of Montana her home and draws inspiration from the beautiful vistas and heartwarming people. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Line of Fire series of sweet romances and part of the Chick Tales series set in Somewhere, TX. You can find her on Twitter talking #fancycheese or #Chopped, and on Facebook with her fans in Becca Nation.

 

More Praise for Vangie Vale and the Murdered Macaron
by R. L. Syme

A new to me author and a book that will keep you turning the pages as fast as you can to see what happens.
~Babs Book Bistro

What I wouldn’t give to be in this story. It was fun, imaginative and full of yummy treats.
~Bibliophile Reviews

I liked the neighbourhood friendship all the characters have, they agree and of course disagree, and let me say I can’t wait to discover more characters and more delicacies from Vangie!
~Varietats

It might have been the book cover that drew me in.
But it was the story and plot that kept me and lured me all the way to the end.
~My Reading Journeys

Purchase Links 

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Tour Participants

August 1 – Blogger Nicole Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 1 – Island Confidential – INTERVIEW
August 2 – Babs Book Bistro – REVIEW
August 2 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT
August 3 – Bibliophile Reviews –  REVIEW, GUEST POST
August 3 – Varietats2010 – REVIEW
August 4 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
August 5 – Bookworm Cafe – REVIEW  
August 5 – My Funny View of Life – REVIEW
August 6 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW
August 6 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
August 7 – Sleuth Cafe – CHARACTER GUEST POST
August 7 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
August 8 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
August 8 – Teresa Trent Author Site – INTERVIEW
August 8 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
August 9 – The Power of Words – SPOTLIGHT
August 9 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW
August 10 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – REVIEW
August 10 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT
August 11 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
August 11 – Book Babble – REVIEW
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August 12 – A Chick Who Reads – REVIEW
August 13 – Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder – REVIEW
August 13 – Girl with Book Lungs – CHARACTER GUEST POST
August 14 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW
August 14 – Jane Reads – REVIEW, GUEST POST

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Jul 062017
 

Cold Hearted River: A Sean Stranahan Mystery
Mystery
6th in Series
Setting Montana/Wyoming/Michigan
Viking (July 4, 2017)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525429609
Kindle ASIN: B01N3L0Z8U

 

 

When a woman goes missing in a spring snowstorm and is found dead in a bear’s den, Sheriff Martha Ettinger reunites with her once-again lover Sean Stranahan to investigate. In a pannier of the dead woman’s horse, they find a wallet of old trout flies, the leather engraved with the initials EH. Only a few days before, Patrick Willoughby, the president of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club, had been approached by a man selling fishing gear that he claimed once belonged to Ernest Hemingway. A coincidence? Sean doesn’t think so, and he soon finds himself on the trail of a stolen trunk rumored to contain not only the famous writer’s valuable fly fishing gear but priceless pages of unpublished work.

The investigation will take Sean through extraordinary chapters in Hemingway’s life. Inspired by a true story, Cold Hearted River is a thrilling adventure, moving from Montana to Michigan, where a woman grapples with the secrets in her heart, to a cabin in Wyoming under the Froze To Death Plateau, and finally to the ruins in Havana, where an old man struggles to complete his life’s mission one true sentence at a time.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Again the author draws on history for the theme of this story.  Apparently Ernest Hemingway was quite the fisherman and had a trunk of tackle go missing when traveling West. When a wallet of fishing flies with EH engraved on it is found near a suspicious death and the president of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club is contacted about fishing gear said to belong to Hemingway Sean seems to think the events are connected. He is then hired to track down the items rumored to belong to the author. This takes him not only around the Montana/Wyoming area but all the way to Michigan and beyond. All to find the truth.

I love these characters, they are very believable and have become like dear friends. Sean and Martha have found their way back to each other which doesn’t make his former girlfriend very happy. I think the relationship may continue to be in flux as they are both very independent people, with Martha being very opinionated and strong willed while Sean seems to go with the flow.  I love their dialogue with each other. I am anxious to see their story pan out.

The book starts with a heart-wrenching telling of 2 people trapped in a storm that brings a search party out. I was captivated immediately.  I really enjoyed this story and the way Mr. McCafferty weaves Hemingway’s history right into this current day story. It takes many twists and turns as each new clue is uncovered. I do love the way this author writes, his laid back style, he is a very descriptive writer. This time I felt we were covering the same places more than once with the same details so it dragged just a little bit for me in places but enough to ever stop reading. I was totally taken by surprise at the ending. Hook, Line, and Sinker, put me in the net. The last twist, priceless. I was right there with Martha as Sean told her what happened.

A mystery, some history, drama, and romance makes this an enjoyable escape.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About The Author

Keith McCafferty is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field & Stream. He has written articles for publications as diverse as Fly Fisherman Magazine, Mother Earth News, Gray’s Sporting Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and on subjects ranging from mosquitoes to wolves to mercenaries and exorcism. Based in Montana and working on assignment around the globe–he recently spent a month in India trekking the Himalayas, fishing for golden mahseer and studying tigers–Keith has won numerous awards, including the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award. Find out more about Keith and his books on his webpage here.


Now Available

 

Thanks to the publisher I have 1 copy to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jun 072017
 


Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!

It is always a pleasure to have Leslie drop by for a visit.
I am so happy that her Food Lover’s Mystery Series have found a new home at Midnight Ink!

Escape to a Music Festival, with Leslie Budewitz,
author of Treble at the Jam Fest, #4 in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries.

Music is a big part of life here at Sanctuary Woods, the name Mr. Right long ago gave our sweet little hideaway in the northern Rockies, not far from Glacier National Park. I once studied the classical guitar, and he’s a singer-songwriter who put himself through nursing school playing and singing in bars. (Including a strip club, between acts!) From Bach to the Beatles, from Adele to Neil Young, you can hear just about any music you like at our house.

So a few years ago, when a group of locals started the Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and Workshop, http://crownguitarfest.org/ we jumped right in. For a week, the sound of music fills the valley. (By  coincidence, the Von Trapp Family Singers, a delightful quartet of young adult siblings who are the Captain and Maria’s great-grandchildren, live in our valley. They were students one year and gave an impromptu concert outside. And yes, it sparkled.) Imagine the setting, a ninety-year-old log lodge on the shores of a magnificent mountain lake, surrounded by guest cabins and horse barns, log chairs to sit in and views to die for. It’s a real place, the model for Caldwell’s Eagle Lake Guest Lodge in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries. The lodge and environs show up in several books, but are featured most prominently in the second installment, Crime Rib.

I wish I could take you there at about seven of a summer evening, when the horses parade up a hillside trail to their evening pasture. Paints and pintos, chestnuts and bays, a sorel or two, and a big Appaloosa. Even if you don’t ride, the sight and sound will make you pause with wonder.

Every day, 100 students from across the globe, including quite a few locals, gather at the lodge and in charming spots around the village to study. Classes focus on a range of guitar styles—jazz, rock, blues, classical—or a songwriting class, and guest artists drop in. Mr. Right has attended for several years, and that week is hard work and bliss.

Every evening, the teachers, many internationally renowned artists themselves, and artists in residence put on concerts for the community in a giant tent on the lodge grounds. Pat Metheny, Alex De Grassi, Lee Ritenour, John Oates, Jim Messina, Patti Larkin, the LA Guitar Quartet—I could go on, but you can hear the music, can’t you?

It’s such a treat, for students, faculty, and locals. When I lived in Seattle, I loved the multi-stage festivals at Seattle Center—Folklife in early summer, Bumbershoot over Labor Day—and adored my treks north to the Vancouver Folk Festival. The small-town version is just as much fun, sprinkled with our mountain magic dust.

And it’s an economic boon, too, something every village craves. Visitors eat, stay, and shop local. They buy jewelry and pottery, fun kitchenware, kids’ clothes and toys. They hike and sail. Some buy real estate and become part of the community.

And to my delight, many buy books, too!

But what if something went wrong? What if one of those famed guest artists wasn’t so charming? What if an up-and-comer—an emerging artist, in the modern term—had an inflated sense of her talent? What if an organizer had another agenda, or a sponsor was playing a different tune? What if an old tension burst under new pressure, and the dischord led to murder?

I’ve changed the festival, of course. Made the focus jazz, set it over Memorial Day, moved most of the concerts into the village of Jewel Bay, with its historic Playhouse and outside amphitheater. Erin is busy getting the Merc ready for summer—she’s in desperate need of a new sales clerk, and juggling all the details of running a business in a tourist community.

And because no family is always harmonious, and the course of true love never did run smooth, Erin must deal with drama in the Murphy clan and a bit of a surprise in her own romance.

But along with a passion for pasta and a talent for retail, Erin’s discovered that her business skills also make her a good investigator. So when tragedy strikes, she steps in to help protect the community and keep the music playing.

I hope you’ll make the time to enjoy a little music yourself this summer, along with a good mystery!

~Leslie

Thank you Leslie for visiting today! 

 


Treble at the Jam Fest (A Food Lovers’ Village Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Midnight Ink (June 8, 2017)
Paperback: 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738752402
E-Book ASIN: B01M1FC4OK

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident—or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

We arrive in Jewel Bay just in time for the Jazz Festival. To kick off the event a few of the musicians featured put on a mini preview concert in the event area behind Erin Murphy’s store The Merc. Tempers seem to flare between a few of the artists but Erin thinks the night went pretty well. When headliner Gerry Martin is found dead the next morning Erin finds herself smack dab in the middle of another murder investigation. She is trying to save the festival but she may end up getting herself all jammed up. Can she catch a killer before the last note is played?

All of our favorite characters return and many new ones arrive on the scene. Jewel Bay is a small town and the Merc is right in the center of all the actions. Erin’s mom is cooking up a storm in the Merc’s kitchen and she also takes a big step, Tracy helps Erin with the store and has her area full of chocolate and demand is growing, and Erin has hired Lou Mary to help at the store too. She is just training but I feel she will fit right in. Adam and Erin’s relationship is going strong. His friend Tanner has come to town with some news that could change that though. Also new in this story are the musicians and a new deputy sheriff. The cast is diverse and with those we love, those with secrets, and those that just rub everyone the wrong way. Very representative of life in a small town.

The story moves right along with many things that twist and connect leading up to the surprising reveal. The imagery created by the author’s words gives a clear picture of Jewel Bay and all its special places. The dialogue was real and flowed naturally.

I am so excited that this series is continuing. I have enjoyed every visit and can’t wait to return. I have become very invested in these characters.

If this series is new to you don’t worry. The author provides a cast list at the beginning of the book. I think after reading this one you will want to go back and read the series from the start.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About The Author
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website, http://www.LeslieBudewitz.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Purchase Links

Thanks to the author I have 1 copy to give away!
Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Click the Like Button at the top of this post for a Bonus Entry.

Leave a comment for the author for 5 Bonus Entries.

Add this book to your WANT TO READ shelf on GoodReads for 3 Bonus Entries.

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and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

Click Here For Entry Form

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 262017
 


On Flashback Fridays I will share with you the books I was not able to review
when they were first released that have been screaming at me
from my To-Be-Read bookshelf.

I can’t believe I missed my trip to Montana last year courtesy of author Keith McCafferty.
So glad I was able to catch up before the next adventure with Sean Stranahan and Martha Ettinger.

Cold Hearted River will be released in July.

Buffalo Jump Blues: A Sean Stranahan Mystery
Mystery/Western/Crime
5th in Series
Setting – Montana
Viking (June 28, 2016)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0525429593
Paperback: 336 pages (June 6, 2017)
ISBN-13: 978-0525429593
Kindle ASIN: B018RVBUHK

 

 

In the wake of Fourth of July fireworks in Montana’s Madison Valley, Hyalite County sheriff Martha Ettinger and Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather investigate a horrific scene at the Palisades cliffs, where a herd of bison have fallen to their deaths. Victims of blind panic caused by the pyrotechnics, or a ritualistic hunting practice dating back thousands of years? The person who would know is beyond asking, an Indian man found dead among the bison, his leg pierced by an arrow.

Farther up the valley, fly fisherman, painter, and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan has been hired by the beautiful Ida Evening Star, a Chippewa Cree woman who moonlights as a mermaid at the Trout Tails Bar & Grill, to find her old flame, John Running Boy. The cases seem unrelated—until Sean’s search leads him right to the brink of the buffalo jump.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Our visit to Montana starts right after the Independence Day celebration. Sheriff Martha Ettinger and Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather are called in to investigate a murder and massacre. A herd of buffalo have plummeted off the edge of a cliff and a man is found dead nearby. When they notice the man has an arrow in his leg they have to assume it wasn’t the fireworks that started the stampede.

We find Sean Stranahan taking it easy painting and finishing until he is approached to help Ida Evening Star find a man she hasn’t seen in years. While performing as a mermaid in the local tavern she noticed him watching her. Could it really have been her old boyfriend, John Running Boy? Sean agrees to help her and it isn’t long before his investigation runs right into Martha’s. They have parted ways but he is hoping they can still work together.

I have been a fan of Keith McCafferty since I read the first book in this series. I just love the way he writes. The main character, Sean Stranahan, is so genuine, laid back, calm, and easy going in almost everything he does. That is the way the author writes. He includes very graphic details of people, time and place. As with all the other books in this series I was hooked from page 1.

That is not to say the book is not full of suspense because it is. There are surprises around every turn of this complex mystery. Sean has his way of investigating and Martha has hers. Harold Little Feather helps out when they need to involve and talk to the people on the reservation. They do make a good team even though there is romantic tension now that Martha is no longer with Sean and seeing Harold. The modes of investigation are credible and the dialogue is stellar. The characters themselves and their relationships continue to evolve and remain engaging. The mystery ebbs and flows. The final twist was absolutely fantastic.

I did not know much about these “buffalo jumps” prior to reading this story. The author weaves the history of such feats into the story to give a reader like me plenty of background and understanding about the American buffalo and their dwindling numbers. The political spin and the public/private land quandary was very topical and interesting.  McCafferty takes on a serious issue in a fictional way that can create and raise awareness. I applaud him for doing this.

Mr. McCafferty is a true storyteller. I can picture a group of us all around a campfire and him telling us this story of Sean, Martha, the Native Americans, the law, and the buffalo. Escape west and enjoy. I truly did.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About The Author

Keith McCafferty is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field & Stream. He has written articles for publications as diverse as Fly Fisherman Magazine, Mother Earth News, Gray’s Sporting Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and on subjects ranging from mosquitoes to wolves to mercenaries and exorcism. Based in Montana and working on assignment around the globe–he recently spent a month in India trekking the Himalayas, fishing for golden mahseer and studying tigers–Keith has won numerous awards, including the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award. Find out more about Keith and his books on his webpage here.


And Coming July 4, 2017


Thanks to the publisher I have 1 paperback copy to give away!
Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Click the Like Button at the top of this post for a Bonus Entry.

Add this book to your WANT TO READ shelf on GoodReads for 3 Bonus Entries.

Pin this giveaway to Pinterest for 3 Bonus Entries.

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End June 9, 2017 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

Click Here For Entry Form

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Feb 042016
 

the flood girlsThe Flood Girls
Contemporary Fiction
Setting – Montana
Gallery Books (February 2, 2016)
A Division of Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1476797380
E-Book ASIN: B010MH9ZO2
goodreads-badge-add-plus

 

 

Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame—the only bar in town—refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to having a winning season. Until now.

Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul-searching, she just might make things right.

In the spirit of Empire Falls and A League of Their Own, with the caustic wit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette thrown in for good measure, Richard Fifield’s hilarious and heartwarming debut will have you laughing through tears.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Needing a little change from the mysteries I usually read I jumped at the opportunity to review this book and am I glad I did.

Growing up in a small town, my family owned and operated a tavern and we even sponsored a baseball team so I felt right at home in Quinn and The Dirty Shame. We meet Rachel who has come home to make amends to the people she wronged in her past. Yes, she’s in Alcoholics Anonymous. Since letters didn’t work she has decided to do them in person. She is not welcomed with open arms but a spot on the baseball team and meeting a boy named Jake may help her to complete this very important step.  She also attends a local AA meeting and receives support from some surprising people.

Rachel left a bit of chaos when she left town. She slept with a lot of guys, single and married. I know growing up in a tavern environment can be difficult, thankfully I had strong, loving parents guiding my way but I gave them some gray hairs too. Rachel’s life was nowhere close to mine. Her mother worked a lot and was emotionally unavailable and Rachel took an unsurprising path. She gets a second chance. The people of Quinn are a tight knit group. Will they accept Rachel’s apologies?

Richard Fifield has hit a home run with this debut. All of these characters, and there are many, are so well developed they positively leap off the pages. At first I had a little trouble keeping everyone straight but soon the vast personalities grew and it became easy. From the main characters to the bar patrons, the ladies on the baseball team, the firemen and everyone Rachel came in connect with, they were all believable characters. They are a pretty rough and tumble bunch. Their lives have not been easy and some tough times take place within the pages. The young man Rachel befriends has been struggling with his identity mostly because of his home life. His step father just can’t accept that he is gay and things take a huge and and very unexpected, at least by me, dark turn. I was afraid something was going to happen and when it did, it stopped me cold.

Fifield also knows to set the scene, the bar, the baseball fields, the trailer parks, his descriptions were fantastic.  His pacing was perfect. The dialogue was great too, whether a phrase filled with sarcasm or a heart warming talk, or anywhere in between.

I enjoy reading stories that make me feel an abundance of emotions and this story truly did that. I can’t say I laughed out loud or say it “hilarious”, but there were some funny moments. There were some uplifting moments as well. It is the heartbreaking ones that are going to stick with me. I have a picture in my head that will be in there a long time. I think this story would be an outstanding choice for a book club. I know there would be some great discussions. I wish I belonged to one because I would love to talk about this book with others.

perfect 2016

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Richard Fifield earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York. For the past twenty years he has worked as a social worker for adults with intellectual disabilities, while volunteering as a creative writing teacher in Missoula, Montana. Find out more on his webpage here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jul 102015
 

special guest blueI am so excited to Welcome Leslie her today for a visit!
The latest Food Lover’s Village Mystery, Butter Off Dead, came out on Tuesday and I gobbled it right up!

Leslie-WEB-Color

KILLING CHRISTINE
By Leslie Budewitz

Days before my first mystery, DEATH AL DENTE, came out, I walked into my favorite local art gallery to chat about the details for my book launch party. (I cannot believe that was nearly two years ago!) Christine, the co-owner, started bouncing up and down, the long red hair piled on top of her head waving precariously. “Will you kill me? Will you kill me?” Her business partner—and former husband—stood behind her and mouthed “I have ideas.” (In truth, they’re very good friends, and have one of the best divorces I know.)

I agreed, of course. How often does a victim simply volunteer? And she’s such a character—as you can tell—that I knew she’d be a lot of fun on the page.

Even dead.

CrimeRib_CV.inddThe second book in the series, CRIME RIB, was in progress and already had a victim. I slipped Christine in as a minor character so I could flesh her out in the third book,
BUTTER OFF DEAD, just out from Berkley Prime Crime.

I borrowed a handful of details from the real woman. Both live and fictional Christine are red-headed painters who work in bright acrylics, were raised in Vermont, and wear glasses of many colors. Everything else, I made up. I felt no restrictions on what I could do, helped by knowing that both she and her former husband are great readers who came up with the idea to hold my launch parties in their gallery. (The real town, alas, is bereft of a bookstore, a lack I remedied on the page.)

The real Christine’s effusive, quirky personality gave me free rein to weave her in and out of the fabric of Jewel Bay, Montana, a fictional lakeside resort community on the road to Glacier National Park clearly influenced by our own vibrant village. Although she dies early in the book, Christine remains very much a part of the story, as Erin Murphy, my main character, attempts to unravel the mystery and free her brother Nick from suspicion.

The woman on the page repeatedly surprised me. She drinks beer. She plays pool. She has a cat. She lives and paints in an old church—something I’ve always wanted to do. (Creating characters can be a blissful bit of wish fulfillment.) She has a painful past, and more than a few secrets.Butter Off Dead (final)

It was great fun to use a real person as a starting point for play. Might it have been more difficult had I known her better? I don’t think so. Another character, the beloved elderly artist Iggy, was inspired by my late mother-in-law, and it gave me great pleasure to think of her back among us. Three characters in BUTTER draw their names from local folk who bought naming rights at charity auctions; while one appears as herself, a local couple lent their name to a burly young bartender, and a supporter of a women’s shelter became a teenage boy again. (Whether that’s wish fulfillment or a nightmare, I don’t know!)

My only regret is that the real-life Christine moved back to Vermont last year and couldn’t be here to share the fun of celebrating BUTTER OFF DEAD. That only proves that made-up people are like the real thing in yet another way: on and off the page, characters are full of surprises.

~Leslie
***
About The Author
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website, http://www.LeslieBudewitz.com, on Facebook, , or on Twitter.

Butter Off Dead (final)Butter Off Dead
(Food Lovers’ Village Mystery)

3rd in Series
Cozy Mystery
Setting – Montana
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (July 7, 2015)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Ben Perini
Cover Design by Rita Frangie
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0425259566
E-Book ASIN: B00Q5DLWYY
goodreads-badge-add-plusShop Indie Bookstores

As the national bestselling Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries continue, the merchants of Jewel Bay, Montana, try to heat up chilly winter business with a new film festival. But their plans are sent reeling when a dangerous killer dims the lights on a local vendor…

In an attempt to woo tourists to Jewel Bay and cheer up the townies, Erin Murphy, manager of the specialty local foods market known as the Merc, is organizing the First Annual Food Lovers’ Film Festival, filled with classic foodie flicks and local twists on favorite movie treats. But when her partner in planning, painter Christine Vandeberg, is found dead only days before the curtain rises, Erin suspects someone is attempting to stop the films from rolling.

To make matters worse, Nick—Erin’s brother and Christine’s beau—has top billing on the suspect list. Convinced her brother is innocent and determined that the show must go on, Erin has to find who’s really to blame before Nick gets arrested or the festival gets shut down. But the closer she gets to the killer, the more likely it becomes that she’ll be the next person cut from the program…

INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES!

Dollycas’s Thoughts

In this third installment Jewel Bay is hosting another event. This time a Food Lovers’ Film Festival, showing movies like Chocolat and Ratatouille. Sounds like a lot of fun until one of the organizers ends up dead.

The author knows the key to a great mystery series is having characters that continue to grown and evolve and story-lines that put them in precarious situations. She dishes up perfection in Butter Off Dead. Erin’s brother, Nick is hiding something and it is making him look mighty guilty. Erin has to prove his innocence and find out who the heck he is protecting and that puts her right in the killer’s sights. We also meet some high school students who have volunteered to help with festival. They are also hiding something.

This story is so well written. It kept me captivated from the first page until the very last. It was filled with many clever twists that left me guessing whodunit until the final reveal. Erin ran her butt off in this story while running the Merc, running the festival,  and keeping community and family members in check, all while trying to figure out who killed her friend. She was always off doing something making the story pretty fast paced.

I know some of the residents of Jewel Bay are not pleased with all the festivals and events but I can’t wait to return to this food loving town for the next one.  I also look forward to shopping again soon at the Merc and trying more of those tasty recipes.

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 2 copies to give away!
Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US or Canadian mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Following the new Google+ Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book Fan Page
will earn you 3 Bonus Entries.

Leave a comment for Leslie for 5 Bonus Entries.

Pin this giveaway to Pinterest for 3 Bonus Entries.

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End July 24, 2015 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

Click Here For Entry Form

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jun 092015
 

CRAZY MOUNTAIN KISSCrazy Mountain Kiss: A Sean Stranahan Mystery (Sean Stranahan Mysteries)
4th in Series
Mystery
Viking (June 9, 2015)
Published by The Penguin Group
Jacket Design and Illustration by Jim Tierney
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0670014705
E-Book ASIN: B00OZ0TOVC
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In the latest addition to this acclaimed series, PI Stranahan and Sheriff Ettinger reunite to investigate a young girl’s death…

It’s April, but there’s still snow on the Montana mountains the day a member of the Madison River Liar and Fly Tiers club finds a Santa hat in the chimney of his rented cabin. With the flue clogged and desperate to make a fire, he climbs up to the roof, only to find the body of a teenage girl wedged into the chimney. When Sheriff Martha Ettinger and her team arrive to extract the body they identify the victim as Cinderella “Cindy” Huntingdon, a promising young rodeo star, missing since November.

Was Cindy murdered? Or running for her life—and if so, from whom? Cindy’s mother, Etta, hires private detective Sean Stranahan to find out. Jasper Fey, the girl’s stepfather, believes moving on is the only way to heal. But Etta’s not willing to let it go, and neither are Sean or Martha, who find clues to the death in the mysterious legends of the Crazy Mountains.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

I so look forward to my yearly trip to Montana to catch up with Sean and Martha. I have yet to be disappointed.

This 4th installment takes us to the Crazy Mountains with some crazy characters and crazy situations.  Cinderella “Cindy” Huntingdon has been found after missing for several months but sadly she is not alive and she is found in a most peculiar place, the chimney of a cabin deep in the woods. Martha has no choice but to look to Sean for help and suggests the girl’s mother hire him so they can try to get to the bottom of what happened and how Cindy ended up in that chimney. Their non-relationship has driven a bit of a wedge between them but they put the investigation first.

I have said it before but will say it again, I love the way Keith McCafferty writes. He has a gift. The characters and the settings just come alive. I felt like I was trekking though the woods right along with these characters. The stars, the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the snow, all perfectly pictured in my mind because of the author’s wonderfully descriptive words.  I truly escaped into this book.

This story is filled with characters my mother would call “odd ducks”. They have disabilities, idiosyncrasies, odd ways and temperaments and some have more than one of  these traits.   Many of them are suspects at one point or another. Sean and Martha have their hands full. Most knew each other from their rodeo days and through the course of the story we get to know them each in depth.

This is not a suspense filled edge of your seat story, although there are a few moments. Sean is a laid back guy. He lives in tipi and loves to fly-fish and hates cell phones and computers unless their use is absolutely necessary. The story unfolds much the same way, laid back. Sean asks questions, pokes around a bit, ruminates and ponders, talks things over with Martha, until all the clues start to fall into place and lead him in the right direction.

I read this book in two evenings but it was one I wanted to savor and drag it out because I was truly enjoying my time in the Montana Mountains.

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

keith mccaffertyAbout The Author

Keith McCafferty is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field & Stream. He has written articles for publications as diverse as Fly Fisherman Magazine, Mother Earth News, Gray’s Sporting Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and on subjects ranging from mosquitoes to wolves to mercenaries and exorcism. Based in Montana and working on assignment around the globe–he recently spent a month in India trekking the Himalayas, fishing for golden mahseer and studying tigers–Keith has won numerous awards, including the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award.  Find out more about Keith and his books on his webpage here.

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 2 copies to give away!
Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US or Canadian mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Following the new Google+ Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book Fan Page
will earn you 3 Bonus Entries.

Pin this giveaway to Pinterest for 3 Bonus Entries.

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End June 23, 2015 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

Click Here For Entry Form

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Nov 292014
 

loose screwLoose Screw:
Dusty Deals Mystery Series: Book 1

Cozy Mystery
Self Published
E-Book File Size: 882 KB
Print Length: 284 pages
ASIN: B004T3AXEW
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Lucy Mathews, crime reporter turned antiques dealer, avoids confrontation like a home perm. She even lets a cat shove her around.

When Lucy trips over the body of a buckskin-clad relics trader, her ex-boss asks her to cover the story. She tries to tell him no, but old habits die hard and soon she finds herself directly in the path of a killer and the exasperating, if attractive, detective in charge.

Can Lucy catch a killer or is this the last confrontation for her—period?

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Lucy Mathews is a very flawed protagonist. She not only can’t say no to anyone but she is really hard on herself and the people she surrounds herself with do not help her one bit. I am hoping she gets stronger as the series continues especially if she is going to be hunting down killers. As a side note, she adds milk to her soda, yuck!! It must be on Montana thing. I know the author lives in Wisconsin and having lived here my whole life I know it is not a Wisconsin thing.

My favorite character without a doubt was Lucy’s malamute, Kiska. He was there for Lucy throughout all the drama she found herself in the the middle of. He happy woo, woo, woo sounded just my own canine companions.

The mystery itself was very good with plenty of suspects. It could have been a little tighter but it suffers the first book in a series syndrome. The author has a lot of work in the first book. They not only have to have a mystery for the reader to follow but they also have to introduce the setting and all the characters. This author is trying to do this in about 100 less pages than a typical cozy mystery as well.  I feel we get a good grasp on Helena, Montana and the basics of the characters were introduced. I am hoping in Cut Loose, book two in the series, we have characters that continue to evolve and a mystery that is a bit deeper. Davies has laid the groundwork, now she has to follow-up and build on what she has created. Lucy needs to stand up for herself and get some decent men in her life.

still at the beach but not as tranquil3 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

 This story is available for free right now on Amazon.

About This Author

Rae Davies is the pen name of author Lori Devoti.

Lori Devoti worked for three different newspapers in two different states before deciding to stay home with her children and begin writing fiction. Lori has been a finalist for many awards including the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award and is a member of Novelists Inc., a prestigious group for professional writers. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and children as well as two dogs.

Like Lucy, Rae/Lori loves antiques, Montana and malamutes.

http://raedavies.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RaeDaviesAuthor

http://pinterest.com/raedaviesauthor/

http://twitter.com/#!/LoriDevoti

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4731525.Rae_Davies



*From my personal collection.

Jul 232014
 

cozy wednesday 2013 640Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!

Leslie Budewitz is my guest today!
Just one warning her stories will make you HUNGRY!!!!

Leslie-WEB-Color

The Last Best Place to Die

The Last Best Place. That’s the newest slogan for my home state of Montana, also dubbed the Big Sky State for our magnificent views, and the Treasure State for our gems and minerals.

What a marvelous place to set a mystery—and not just because of its beauty. For me, Montana’s big draw as a setting lies in the surprising contrasts we locals often take for granted. As my protagonist Erin Murphy says in Death Al Dente, the first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries:

“Jewel Bay is not what people expect in a Montana town. Cutting-edge art and lip-smacking restaurants instead of cow pies and shoot-outs on dirt streets. But we have our belly-up bar, and plenty of cowboys, with farms and ranches nearby. And even a real live dude ranch, giving guests from around the world a taste of the old Montana and the new.”

DEATH AL DENTE

All that makes Montana a great vacation escape—for a few days, a week or two, or all summer long. Winter, too, even if your idea of winter sports isn’t skiing or snowshoeing but curling up in front of a crackling fire with a double mug of hot cocoa.

Turns out Montana is also a pretty good place to escape the past. More than one Jewel Bay resident came here in search of a fresh start. A new job, maybe a new name. A new life in a place where people don’t ask questions.

But when murder intrudes on village life, questions pop up like morel mushrooms on the forest floor. And the sheriff’s deputies aren’t the only ones digging up dirt. Erin Murphy returned to her hometown to take over the Merc, her family’s struggling shop in the century-old sandstone building her great-grandfather built as the town’s first grocery. When people she loves are killed—or accused—she can’t help poking around. Her own past gives her ample reason to not trust the resident sheriff’s detective as much as she’d like to—but she’s working on that.

Ever the business owner, Erin uses her Spreadsheet of Suspicion to plot her questions and track the answers. And sometimes, those trusty cells and columns lead her places where others would rather she did not go.

CrimeRib_CV.inddIn Crime Rib, second in the series, the TV show Food Preneurs comes to town to film the 35th Annual Jewel Bay Summer Art and Food Festival and the annual steak grill-off. Erin’s content to help from the sidelines, freeing her to focus on the Merc, and to scout the festival vendors for new products.

When the show’s producer is killed in a hit-and-run, Festival organizers beg her to step in and help out, to give Jewel Bay a shot at national publicity. How could a local girl say no? But when the host shows her a less than camera-ready side of himself, and a contestant is attacked and killed, Erin worries that the town’s reputation as a family-friendly, food-loving, vacation village will go up in flames. And when the sheriff runs out of leads, it’s up to her to smoke out the truth.

But just as in real life, some folks would do nearly anything to keep their secrets to themselves. To make sure the past stays behind, by making the Last Best Place Erin’s final resting place.

I hope you’ll make the trip with me, on the page, to see how Erin makes her own escape—and brings justice to her corner of the Big Sky.

 

About The Author
Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Crime Rib, the second in the series, came out July 1, 2014, from Berkley Prime Crime. Her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015.

Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.

For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter.

Website: www.LeslieBudewitz.com

Find her on Facebook: LeslieBudewitz Author

CrimeRib_CV.inddCrime Rib
(Food Lovers’ Village)

2nd in Series
Cozy Mystery
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (July 1, 2014)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Design by Ben Perini
Cover Design by Rita Frangie
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0425259559
E-Book File Size: File Size: 1974 KB
ASIN: B00HDMMJH0
goodreads-badge-add-plus

 

Gourmet food market owner Erin Murphy is determined to get Jewel Bay, Montana’s, scrumptious local fare some national attention. But her scheme for culinary celebrity goes up in flames when the town’s big break is interrupted by murder . . .

Food Preneurs, one of the hottest cooking shows on TV, has decided to feature Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode, and everyone in town is preparing for their close-ups, including the crew at the Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc. Not only is Erin busy remodeling her courtyard into a relaxing dining area, she’s organizing a steak-cooking competition between three of Jewel Bay’s hottest chefs to be featured on the program.

But Erin’s plans get scorched when one of the contending cooks is found dead. With all the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to figure out who didn’t have a motive to off the saucy contestant. Now, to keep the town’s reputation from crashing and burning on national television, Erin will have to grill some suspects to smoke out the killer . . .

INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES!

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Erin is one busy lady before adding murder to the mix but that doesn’t mean she is going to stay at the Merc and miss all the action.  Having one of the hottest foodie programs, Food Preneurs, comes to town to cover the grill-off is an awesome opportunity for “The Food Lover’s Village”. Erin is not going to let one dead chef and a suspicious accident ruin a weekend of publicity for the town, but she is going to make sure it is the right kind of publicity. She is also going to track down the killer/s.

Budewitz has given us some fantastic characters to follow in this story. In addition to the murder mystery there is a little family disagreement about remodeling the courtyard and some secrets. Romance may be on the horizon for Erin with 2 eligible bachelors vying for her attention. One shopkeeper is a little cranky about all the foodie fuss. Of course there needs to be an obnoxious character and  the TV Host for Food Preneurs fills that spot  nicely.

She also gives a couple of interesting mysteries to solve. Plenty of viable suspects with motive, but who had the means and opportunity? I love the way Erin uses a spreadsheet to keep track of the clues.

Part of the pleasure of this series is the way the author describes all he food. She had my tummy growling several times. Thankfully she gives recipes because I definitely want S’more of the S’MORE SANDWICH COOKIES, and the CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CUPS and the GRILLED FLANK STEAK and everything  else that was featured in the pages of this book.

This story has a well plotted mystery, a bit of comedy, yummy food and engaging characters. To me that is recipe for a marvelous cozy mystery.

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

 

Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 2 copies to give away!

Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US or Canadian mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Leslie for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End August 6, 2014 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jan 242014
 

special guest blue

Today my Special Guest is Keith McCafferty, author of The Royal Wulff Murders, The Gray Ghost Murders, and the new Dead Man’s Fancy. When I was sent the first book for review I wasn’t sure if this non-fishing lady was gong to like it but I did. It stirred up memories of my grandfather who was an avid  fisherman. The writing also drew me right into the story.  You can read my whole review here. The next book in this series made my Best Reads of 2013. Review here. When I saw there was a new book coming in January I just had to reach out to the publisher to see if Keith would stop be for a visit. I was surprised and thrilled when he said YES!!

IMG_4391

The Writer and the Philosopher’s Stone

            A long time ago in a mountain range not far from home, I shouldered a backpack to go hunting.  At the time my family very much depended upon the year’s worth of venison an elk would provide, and my method of collecting it was to pick up a track and follow, sometimes for days, sleeping in scoops of snow where elk had slept before me, until I had meat to pack off the mountain.  On one such night a pack of wolves were persistent in their serenade, and though I knew I had nothing to fear from them, I built up my fire, as much for company as for warmth, and sat up long into the night. The next morning I found that my right eye was irritated, which I attributed to the smoke from the fire.  As the sun rose the irritation increased until the pain became unbearable.  I had to shut the eye, and then, as the pelt of snow glistened in the daylight, I had to shut the other eye as well, and thus I was rendered snow-blind on the cold breast of a mountain wilderness.

            dead man's fancyI had occasion to recall this experience last week, when a severe corneal abrasion left me similarly impaired and I spent several days sitting with my eyes closed and the blinds drawn. My wife told me to quit feeling sorry for myself and make use of the down time thinking out the plot of the novel I was working on, which is the fourth book in the Sean Stranahan series.  She might as well have asked me to solve the riddle of alchemy by creating the philosopher’s stone, and so discover the secret of turning lead into gold. For I am one of those instinctive writers who seems to be incapable of sketching out plot lines, either in my head or on paper.  The story flows from my fingers; it is not formed in the brain, at least not in a region of which I am conscious. In this regard I am of the school of writing my literary agent, Dominick Abel, calls the “muddler throughers.” I start with an idea, usually an opening scene.  I write a first sentence, the second is coaxed by hook or by crook, the third by spade or by providence, and in this manner I write the entire novel.

            It is an exercise in sequential thinking and, in my case, a form of therapy. For in so-called real life, my mind does not operate in a linear progression of thoughts or synapses.  My reading habits are a good example. I read a novel by flipping it open to a random page, read a sentence or two, skip to another page, maybe read the last paragraph, maybe then read the first, and so on until I have read every sentence, though not in any particular order.  This makes most books a disappointment.  In a technical sense I have read them. But I have no idea what they are about.

            P1030692Now one of the occupational hazards of being a novelist is that readers, and especially aspiring writers, ask you to put into words the magic formula of novel writing, to reveal to them the philosopers stone, as it were, of turning words, the building blocks of language, into story.  I knew I might be asked this very question at a reading I was scheduled to give at Bozeman, Montana’s wonderful independent bookstore, the Country Bookshelf, provided I recovered from my eye injury.  And having been on a number of author panels where I was called on to expound upon the craft, I knew I couldn’t just say, well, I muddle my way through.  So I had an answer prepared, thanks to E.L. Doctorow, who famously  compared writing to driving a car at night.  “You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

  Keith snowy Gallatin          Then I thought of the wolves and it dawned on me that my experience of going snow-blind was an equally apt metaphor for the way that I and many other writers work. The howling was the inspiration (in the case of my latest novel, Dead Man’s Fancy, it was quite literally so, for wolves were howling in the first sentence). And the process of writing a novel is to me reminiscent of the progression of snow-blindness.  Before the sun rises, you can see clearly some small distance, enough to know where to place your feet, just as at the beginning of a novel, I have a fairy clear idea of its direction over the first few chapters. But then the snow-blindness hits and the writer must work through the heart of the story in the manner in which I hiked out of the mountains that day, by squeezing open one eye for a second to see down the path 10 or 20 feet, then closing the eye and walking blindly in that direction several paces, and repeating the process, mile after mile, hoping I didn’t stumble into too many trees or over too many rocks.  Towards the end of that interminably long day, as night once more claimed the mountains, the irritation in my eyes diminished and I was able to see a little better, a little farther down the path.  So, too, it is with the novel.  As the writer nears the end, the trail is finally to be seen again and he can work more confidently in that  direction. It is the long blind slog through the middle of the book that makes one want to take an elk rifle to his forehead.

           Keith fishing headon At the bookstore reading, I told the story of going snow-blind, which the audience seemed to appreciate, and then talked a while about the more pragmatic aspects of writing, the overriding importance of character in the series novel, how plot is to pace as lyrics are to music, the fact that narrative non-fiction is driven by the declarative sentence where fiction is driven by dialogue, and so on.  All relevant, but what I failed to address, and which I had spent a great deal of time thinking about before my eye recovered (fortunately on the morning of the reading), was the alchemy, the magic that leads the snow-blind writer through the heart of the novel.  I have said that I write through my fingers and conscious thought plays little part in the process.  But what about the subconscious?

            My series protagonist, Sean Stranahan, is a fisherman, and I recall writing a passage in The Royal Wulff Murders. my first book, in which he says that he would never make a serious decision without first turning it over with a fly rod in hand.  In the second novel, The The Gray Ghost Murders. he arrives at a different conclusion.

            “For years, Sean Stranahan had told anyone who cared to ask that the reason he went fishing was to think.  On the river, Keith McCaffertythoughts didn’t pile on top of each other as they tended to when his feet were on land.  Rather, his mind became elastic, adapting itself to the creative demands of catching trout. Sean would never make an important decision in life without turning it over with a fly rod in his hand.  But lately, it seemed, he came to the river for the opposite reason.  He fished to erase the burden of thought, to immerse himself in the moment, and to find recognition in his reflection on the surface of the water — to see there the boy he had been.  For the wonder of fishing had nothing to do with the spots or the sheen of a trout’s  flanks, but its ability to pull the angler back through time until he was no longer what the world had made of him, but who he was when that world was new.

            It is my suspicion that something similar happens in the magic of writing.  The alchemy that turns the lead of words into the gold of story is nothing to be seen or conjured.  Rather than shine from the riverbed or in the conscious working of the mind, the philosopher’s stone resides deep within, with neither shape nor color, where it works to wash away the masks of personality and courtesy and cunning that are the second skins we have developed to deal with the complexities of life, so that we might rediscover what is original and true about ourselves.  I believe that our job as writers is to tap into that process and then simply to stand aside and let the story emerge on the page, without affectation or indulgence of craft.  To the extent we are able to accomplish this, so stands the measure of our novels.

            As for the rest, it is just hard sailing and long hours, preferably with two eyes open.

 ~Keith

Keith after reading this I understand why I love your writing “how plot is to pace as lyrics are to music,” that is just they way I feel about your stories. They read with an almost the ebb and flow of a melody.  I hope you will visit again soon!

 

About This Author
keith mccaffertyKeith McCafferty is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field & Stream. He has written articles for publications as diverse as Fly Fisherman Magazine, Mother Earth News, Gray’s Sporting Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and on subjects ranging from mosquitoes to wolves to mercenaries and exorcism. Based in Montana and working on assignment around the globe–he recently spent a month in India trekking the Himalayas, fishing for golden mahseer and studying tigers–Keith has won numerous awards, including the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award.  Find out more about Keith and his books on his webpage here.


dead man's fancy
Dead Man’s Fancy:
A Sean Stranahan Mystery

3rd in Series
Mystery
Viking (January 2, 2014)
Published by The Penguin Group
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0670014699
E-Book File Size: 1191 KB
ASIN: B00DMCPQXE
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Wolves howl as a riderless horse returns at sunset to the Culpepper Dude Ranch in the Madison Valley. The missing woman, Nanika Martinelli, is better known as the Fly Fishing Venus, a red-haired river guide who lures clients the way dry flies draw trout.

As Sheriff Martha Ettinger follows hoof tracks in the snow, she finds one of the men who has fallen under the temptress’s spell impaled on the antler tine of a giant bull elk, a kill that’s been claimed by a wolf pack. An accident? If not, is the killer human or animal? With painter, fly fisherman, and sometimes private detective Sean Stranahan’s help, Ettinger will follow clues that point to an animal rights group called the Clan of the Three-Clawed Wolf and to their svengali master, whose eyes blaze with pagan fire.

In their most dangerous adventure yet, Stranahan and Ettinger find themselves in the crossfire of wolf lovers, wolf haters, and a sister bent on revenge, and on the trail of an alpha male gone terribly wrong.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Another wonderful read from Keith McCafferty!

This story has so many layers and the author brings them all together with the melodic quality I have to come to expect from him.

Sean Stranahan is just an awesome character. A fly fisherman who loves nature, animals, fish and fowl. He lives most of the year in a tipi. He is a an very easy going guy, who paints and has found himself to be quite a private investigator even though he is techy challenged. He hates carrying a cell phone and when he does it is rarely on. He investigates the old fashioned way. He talks to people and then heads to a river for a bit of fishing to ponder over what they have told him. Surprisingly he can make all the pieces fall into place to solve the crime.

Sheriff Martha Ettinger is the perfect woman for Sean. If they could just realize it themselves. They work well together and see eye to eye on most subjects. One would be truly lost without the other.

The theme that drives this story it the wolf debate taking place out West. I have to stay the author tells both sides of the story very well without being political or preachy. He has created a very captivating mystery that involve parties on both sides. 

What I like best about Keith McCafferty stories is his writing style. The characters jump right off the pages. His descriptive quality not only brings the human characters to life but the setting as well. His builds a story that just ebbs and flows and then the clues start to come together and the pages fly. I had an inkling to what was really happening but with the twists I was never sure if I was on the right track.  I love books like this. 

Controversy, revenge, mystery, extremists, murder, deception, trauma, drama…this story has all that and more. 

a perfect escape

5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 1 copy of Dead Man’s Fancy
Plus a Paperback copy of The Gray Ghost Murders too!!

ALL FOR ONE WINNER!!

I will also giveaway my hardcover review copy of Dead Man’s Fancy!!

Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US or Canadian mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Keith for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End February 7, 2014 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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