cozy

Author Profile: Sherry Harris

 

 

Sherry Harris, the author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, was a proud Air Force wife, picking up everything and relocating every three or four years – each time orders for an assignment to a new base came down. While we can joke about the horror of having to find new hairdressers and decent grocery stores with every change, the toughest part of being part of a military family was moving her daughter from school to school, and giving up her own face-to-face friendships at each re-posting.

 

From our perspective as Sherry Harris readers, there is a definite upside to all that moving. It’s difficult to start or maintain a career with frequent transfers, so Harris turned her love of tag sales (called garage or yard sales in some parts of the country) into a writing career. She answered an ad in a local newspaper for a short story contest, kept writing until it turned into a novel length piece, and later, was encouraged to look for an agent.

 

The quality of her writing ability was proven when “Tagged for Death,” the first in the series, was nominated for an Agatha Award in the Best First Novel category.

 

Sherry Harris’ favorite writing spot is in her office. Her desk faces the window and when she looks out at the trees, she can pretend she lives in the middle of nowhere. When asked whether her writing process is closer to plotter or pantser, she admitted to being more of a pantser, working toward becoming a plotter. Either way, the results are great!

 

Harris has revealed in her book bios that she is a “born bargain hunter,” and has created a fully fleshed out character in the series based on her own expertise and love for the activity. Sarah Winston makes her living organizing tag sales for her customers and Harris includes tips for successful tag sales in the books. I personally have used them in my own garage sales.

 

Harris has followed the writing advice of a favorite thriller writer/instructor (James W. Hall) who feels that people want to learn something and if they do, the books just might keep selling. She attributes the success of cozies in general, to the fact that whether about knitting or cooking or tag sales, cozies contain a mystery along with a lot of information about a specific topic. Fans of that topic will come back for more in book after book.

 

Sherry Harris’ Sarah Winston character is successful in part because Winston is completely relatable. Her emotional struggles to make her own way as a newly single woman are realistic, and her scenes detailing military life ring true. Harris’ storylines peel back the layers of Winston’s battle with feelings about her ex in each book, while delivering great mysteries. The ensemble supporting characters develop as Winston’s association with them grows naturally. I particularly like the nuanced relationships between Sarah and the men in her life, which ebb and flow as Sarah sorts through the consequences of living as an independent woman.

 

When not working on the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, Sherry Harris blogs with the Wicked Cozies, a New England focused writing group, all talented, published authors. Read their posts at www.wickedcozyauthors.com. Harris is also the current Vice President of the international writing organization, Sisters in Crime, a group that fosters the development of women writers.

 

Sherry Harris Fun fact: Her favorite foods are pizza and popcorn.  🙂

 

 

Read the review of "Tagged for Death" here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the review of "The Longest Yard Sale" here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the review of "A Good Day to Buy" here.

 

 

 

 

 

After reading “A Good Day to Buy,” I counted the months until “I Know What You Bid Last Summer” (book #5) was published and was not disappointed. It’s a terrific entry in the series and is not to be missed. Look for the lasagna subplot, a fun counterbalance to the serious action.

 

Please visit https://sherryharrisauthor.com for information about Harris, her upcoming appearances, and more in the series.

 

 

“Circle of Influence” and “No Way Home” by Annette Dashofy

 

Circle of Influence and No Way Home by Annette Dashofy

 

“Circle of Influence” and "No Way Home" by Annette Dashofy, star Zoe Chambers as an EMT, who occasionally doubles as a coroner's assistant when she can stand the smells in the autopsy room.

 

In "Circle of Influence," a routine call to check on a car on the side of the road turns into a murder investigation. The only trouble is the dead guy is her best friend's husband, well-liked and respected in town, and he is sitting in the front seat of a city council guy’s car – a guy hated by almost everyone. Why is her friend dead and why is he sitting in that particular car? 
 

The dead guy's mother works for the police department and is arrested for borrowing a computer from the storeroom. Arrested? Why would the city council bully would do such a thing? What is on that computer? Life gets dangerous, the body count rises, and so does the list of suspects. In the “Circle of Influence” effectively layered storyline, there are secrets galore and we don't know whom to believe. Trust is tough to come by.
 

Dashofy gives us a picture of small-town country living in Pennsylvania. Vance Township is so small that everyone knows where you were and the neighbors ask you about it before you unlock your front door. Vance doesn't even have a coffee shop. The philosophy is that coffee can be brewed at home or at the office- no need to waste money when cash is tight.
 

The core characters in “Circle of Influence” are nicely developed and we really care about what happens to each. Any one of them could be your next-door neighbor, the guy at the grocery store, the cop you see on the street, the maybe boyfriend that gives you pause – in a good way. Zoe Chambers herself, is a flesh and blood gal with a love of country life and horses. Even though not making a big salary as an EMT, Zoe is able to keep a horse of her own by boarding horses for other people. She has a support system, steps on a few toes while investigating, has an eye for detail, aims to improve at her job, and is loyal to her friends.
 

Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers is a great character for a series, so I picked up Agatha nominated “No Way Home,” book #5.

 

Circle of Influence and No Way Home by Annette Dashofy

Zoe Chambers is out for a ride on her own horse, when a horse from her boarding stable gallops toward her without its owner. You guessed it – the owner is dead. Was it an accident or something else, because the crime scene details don’t add up and the autopsy reveals an unexpected twist.

 

A tricky plot takes Zoe and her sometime best friend to New Mexico in search of more than one truth. Tensions are high as we discover that drug use is on the rise in this southwestern fictional Pennsylvania community set 30 miles from Pittsburgh. Drug paraphernalia at the crime scenes gives the story a grim authenticity.
 

Zoe’s love interest in the series returns, but love is not the central focus of “No Way Home.” Murder, drugs, and mayhem definitely are.
 

Dashofy’s central characters are engaging in "Circle of Influence" and "No Way Home," the plot lines topical, and happily, more books are in the works. “Uneasy Prey,” book #6, is out now.
 

Please visit www.annettedashofy.com to find out more about this award winning and Agatha nominated author.
 

 

The Agatha Awards for 2017 Books

 

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The winners for the Agatha Awards for 2017 Books (named for Agatha Christie) have been announced. The awards were bestowed upon mystery and crime writers at the annual Malice Domestic conference in late April, 2018. The nominated books were first published in the United States by a living author between January 1 and December 31, 2017.
 

The Agatha Awards recognize the "traditional mystery," meaning that there is no graphic sex and no excessive violence in the writing. Thrillers or hard-boiled detectives cannot be found here, but instead, picture Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot at work.
 

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners (indicated in red).  🙂

 

Best Contemporary Novel 
“Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery” by Allison Brook
“A Cajun Christmas Killing: A Cajun Country Mystery” by Ellen Byron
“No Way Home: A Zoe Chambers Mystery” by Annette Dashofy
“Take Out” by Margaret Maron
“Glass Houses: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel” by Louise Penny

 

Best Historical Novel 
“In Farleigh Field” by Rhys Bowen
“Murder in an English Village: A Beryl and Edwina Mystery” by Jessica Ellicott
“Called to Justice: A Quaker Midwife Mystery” by Edith Maxwell
“The Paris Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery” by Susan Elia MacNeal
“Dangerous to Know: A Lillian Frost and Edith Head Novel” by Renee Patrick

 

Best First Novel 
“Adrift: A Mer Cavallo Mystery” by Micki Browning
“The Plot is Murder: Mystery Bookshop” by V.M. Burns
“Hollywood Homicide: A Detective by Day Mystery” by Kellye Garrett
“Daughters of Bad Men” by Laura Oles
“Protocol: A Maggie O'Malley Mystery” by Kathleen Valenti

 

Best Nonfiction 
“From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon” by Mattias Boström
“The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books” by Martin Edwards
“American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land” by Monica Hesse
“Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction” by Jess Lourey  

“Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier” by Tatiana de Rosnay
 

Best Short Story 
“Double Deck the Halls” by Gretchen Archer
“Whose Wine is it Anyway” by Barb Goffman in 50 Shades of Cabernet
“The Night They Burned Miss Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (May/June 2017)
“The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn” by Gigi Pandian
“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Seat

 

Best Children’s/Young Adult 
“City of Angels” by Kristi Belcamino
“Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead” by Cindy Callaghan
“The World’s Greatest Detective” by Caroline Carlson
“Audacity Jones Steals the Show” by Kirby Larson
“The Harlem Charade” by Natasha Tarpley


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Happy Reading!

 

Top Eleven Reviews – 2017

 

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Tons of great books, soooo many talented authors, and oodles of dedicated booklovers, all combined to make 2017 a great year of reading entertainment. Whether discovering a new author, or returning to a tried and true favorite, the NBR community interest was over 30% greater than the previous most popular year.

 

Although not included in the 'Top Eleven Reviews – 2017' book list, the 2017 author profiles (Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, Barbara Ross, Lynn C. Willis) were extremely popular and we’ll have more during 2018. Click on their names – links to books included.

 

Why Top Eleven? There is a debut magazine in the list, very well received by the NBR audience.  🙂

 

Listed in alphabetical order by author (except for the magazine and the ‘Killer Thrillers’), click on the links to read the reviews for the first time, or to enjoy them again.

 

“Black Cat Mystery Magazine” debut issue short mystery fiction   https://bit.ly/2yrYX5F

 

“Killer Thrillers for the Beach”  (seven thriller authors, ten titles)     https://bit.ly/2hNTJJX

 

“Cat About Town” by Cate Conte    https://bit.ly/2ilMj0K

 

“Grilled for Murder” by Maddie Day   https://bit.ly/2oKW36H

 

“The 7th Canon” by Robert Dugoni    https://bit.ly/2hCYpT0

 

“I like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” by Ann Garvin   https://bit.ly/2uhL8V5

 

“A Good Day to Buy” by Sherry Harris   https://bit.ly/2gNFTYb

 

“Dry Bones” by Craig Johnson    https://bit.ly/2kVtKgu

 

“What She Knew” by Gilly Macmillan    https://bit.ly/2jcgbvS

 

“Custom Baked Murder” by Liz Mugavero    https://bit.ly/2lqSf8C

 

“Relic” by Fiona Quinn   https://bit.ly/2q7m1yH

 

Many thanks everyone! May 2018 bring you lots of love and laughter, along with some thumpin’ great new reads.  🙂

 

“A Good Day to Buy” by Sherry Harris

 

Book Cover - A Good Day to Buy

 Sarah Winston is back in “A Good Day to Buy,” and she is working with a couple that wants to downsize their belongings before moving to Florida. The wife is difficult to deal with and wants to hold onto everything, even the plastic storage tubs. The husband wants to get rid of it all and move on. The day of the sale arrives, Sarah turns on the music to create a happy buying mood for the customers, and disaster strikes.
 

 

A scream is heard from behind the sheet that Sarah has hung to separate the sale items from those staying in the garage. The husband is dead and the wife is barely clinging to life. Did Sarah see anything? Not really. Maybe. It might have been someone she knows.

 

As if the garage sale death of this pleasant senior citizen veteran isn’t baffling enough, Sarah’s long lost brother, Luke, pops up out of nowhere. Why here? Why now? What’s he been doing all these years and is he really an investigative reporter? He’s hiding a LOT, but why? Can she trust him?

 

“A Good Day to Buy” is the fourth book in the entertaining Sarah Winston Garage Sale Series. There is a solid group of core characters, most notably her hunky ex-husband, CJ; her landlady/pal Stella Wild; two police officers, Pellner and Awesome; the DiNapolis, owners of a local restaurant; and Seth, the sometime boyfriend. They always add layers of intrigue to the basic storyline, with CJ still confused as to why Sarah divorced him, and Stella more knowledgeable about what happens in her house than she lets on.

 

CJ wants more than Sarah may be willing to give. Will her doubts keep them apart? The relationship between Sarah and CJ continues to have its ups and downs, progressing naturally with real-life authenticity, as Sarah tries to regain her equilibrium. Seth, a good catch, hovers, ready to re-enter Sarah’s life if she changes her mind. (A reminder never to get involved with someone that maintains a connection with his/her –ex.)

 

Harris has kept the series absorbing and topical, with nods to the serious issues of life in and after military service, divorce and reconciliation, and of course, the murders. The tag/garage sales are guaranteed to tie the plots and subplots together in clever ways. I’ve conducted garage sales as I moved around the country and trust me, Sherry Harris’ are way more fun! Aside from the bodies, that is. 😉

 

The mystery of the murder in “A Good Day to Buy,” the serious story behind Luke’s reappearance, the funny scenes that lighten the drama, the wonderful cast of characters, and Sarah’s always superb internal dialogue, will keep you turning the pages and have you coming back for book #5.  “I Know What You Bid Last Summer” comes out in February, 2018.   🙂

 

Read the review of "The Longest Yard Sale" here.

Read the review of "Tagged for Death" here.

 

Please visit sherryharrisauthor.com/ for more information about Agatha nominated Ms. Harris, her appearances, book signings, and new projects on the horizon.

 

 

 

Author Profile: Liz Mugavero

 

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Liz Mugavero is the author of the Agatha-nominated Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food Mysteries, a delightful series set in fictional Frog Ledge, Connecticut. She serves on the Sisters in Crime New England board and is a member of Sisters in Crime National, Mystery Writers of America, and the Cat Writers’ Association. Her brand new series, The Cat Café Mysteries, set in New England, features Maddie James and a frisky rescue cat, JJ. Liz writes the new series under the name Cate Conte.

 

I met Liz for the first time in 2012 at Writers’ Police Academy, an annual event where mystery writers experience hands-on, how-to scenarios as demonstrated by members of law enforcement.

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At that time, her first book, soon to be Agatha nominated, “Kneading to Die,” had not yet been published, but as soon as it was, I was a fan for life. Who can resist an author that comes up with a plot line involving kibble on the body?

 

Liz Mugavero has a Master’s degree in Writing (she wrote a novel for her Thesis) and works by day in Marketing and Corporate Communications. But, early mornings, before heading to the office, she can be found devising and solving the next murder (on the page, folks) at home. Mugavero is always accompanied by at least one of her pets while she creates the sleuthing women. Depending on her mood, she works either at a desk or settles onto the bed with a laptop and a cat. Rumor has it that she attends a yearly retreat with other authors, where they collectively dream up murder and mayhem for their books. Ah…to listen in on those sessions. 😉

 

Mugavero’s heart is firmly in New England. Born in Massachusetts, now living in Connecticut, and having a deep love of Maine, the affection for the area, no matter the weather or the season, comes through the pages in descriptions of the scenery and quirky, small town characters.

 

Mugavero is a member of the Wicked Cozys, a New England based writing group whose wonderful work I have reviewed at Nightstand Book Reviews on many occasions. Each of the six women has a successful cozy series and they share writing duties on their website, posting articles about the writing life (and their own series) every week. Catch them at www.wickedcozyauthors.com. In a recent post, Mugavero spoke about the differences between the two women protagonists in her two series.

 

Stan (short for Kristan) Connor, from the Pawsitively Organic series, and Maddie James, from the Cat Café Mysteries, are dissimilar in several ways. Stan’s relationship with her family is always a challenge, her slow growing pet food business is a work-in-progress, and her love life is embodied in a hunk with a big, sloppy (lovable) dog. Maddie, on the other hand, has a warm, supportive, close knit family, owns a successful juice bar in California, and has two great guys who happen to catch her eye. Often. But, Mugavero/Conte writes both lead characters as gals we would like to have as friends in real-life.

 

It’s obvious from reading Liz Mugavero’s work that she truly, deeply, loves animals. Long before penning the books, that love translated into an involvement in animal rescue.

 

Liz revealed: “I had two cats when my mother found a litter of kittens on the side of the road one day. We rescued them and I called a bunch of shelters thinking they would be delighted to take them, but none of them could because it was kitten season and there were so many – what I know now is all too common a story. So, I placed two and kept the other two (Pumpkin and Gypsy) and after that I decided to go volunteer so I could see what it was really like to be an animal rescuer and understand their challenges.”

 

Meet two of Mugavero’s happy rescues:

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Junkyard Johnny (JJ) the inspiration for the JJ in “Cat About Town.” In the book, he seems to lead Maddie James in all the right directions to help solve the crimes.

 

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Tuffy, the inspiration for Stan Connor’s cat, Nutty, in the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. Nutty always has a comment to make, sometimes with an imperious look, sometimes with a flicking tail.

 

Each book in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries includes recipes for pet food, and some of them look good enough for people to eat. There are pet food gurus behind the tasty treats, and in keeping with Mugavero’s goal to have pets eat healthier and live healthier, the recipes call for simple ingredients.

Here’s one from Mugavero’s site:

(Recipe adapted from “My Baking Heart,” originally from “The Dog Ate It”)

Apple and Cheddar Pupcakes
Ingredients

1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Traditional Rolled Oats
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Applesauce
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Honey
2 Eggs
1 Apple – peeled, cored and minced
1 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese

 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the applesauce, water, oil, honey and eggs, then stir in the apple and cheese. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just barely blended.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling almost full (you may have a couple spoonsful of batter left over). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the tins for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Really. Don’t you want to bake them for yourself?  😉

 

The http://lizmugavero.com/wp/for-the-animals/ section of Liz’s website includes links for pet shelters and organizations in several states around the country, along with more of the healthy pet food recipes.


Mugavero’s animals snack on their healthy kitty/puppy treats, but she has her own faves. In addition to potato chips, she noshes on sushi as often as she can. Favorite flavor? Spicy tuna rolls!

 

I discovered that Liz also writes short stories (published internationally) and magazine articles. She mentioned that she is now finishing the second ‘Maddie James’ book and then will work on book #7 in the ‘Kristan Connor’ series. More fun to come for the readers!  🙂  With the engaging leads, colorful supporting characters, and clever plotting throughout the two series, we look forward to everything Liz and ‘Cate’ write.

 


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To learn more about Kristan Connor and the book that started it all (with kibble on the body) read the review of “Kneading to Die” here.

 

 

 

 

 


Book Cover - Custom Baked Murder

 

 

 

Read the review of “Custom Baked Murder,” the fifth book in the series, here.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Cover - Cat About Town - Cate Conte

 

 

Read the review of “Cat About Town,” the first book in the new series, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title #6 in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, “Purring Around the Christmas Tree,” will be published late September, 2017. I am so looking forward to it!

 

First Photo of Liz Mugavero by Meg Manion Photography

Photo of Edith Maxwell and Liz Mugavero by Patti Phillips.

 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for more information about the talented author, Liz Mugavero/Cate Conte.

 

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“Cat About Town” by Cate Conte

 

Book Cover - Cat About Town - Cate Conte

“Cat About Town,” by Cate Conte, is the first book in an engaging new series, Cat Café Mysteries.
 

Maddie James attends her grandmother Mancini’s funeral on the Massachusetts island community of Daybreak Harbor, and learns that her grandfather needs her help to save his house. A devious local developer will do anything to obtain ownership of the Mancini homestead that just happens to sit on prime waterfront property. Until he winds up dead. Under a table at the annual Food Stroll. Discovered by a green eyed, orange cat that Maddie has been attempting to befriend since she first saw him peeking from behind a headstone at the cemetery.
 

Did Maddie's grandfather kill the developer? He certainly had motive. He and Maddie both did. Can she keep the police from arresting the two of them? The only way to prove their innocence may be for Maddie to find the real killer among the many suspects in “Cat About Town.” Can the elusive cat help?
 

The townsfolk are an assortment of wonderfully colorful characters. In a clever piece of plotting, Conte has a Shakespeare quoting Leopard Man, a Tai Chi instructor, the donut lady, the roof guy with a mysterious money source, and more, all contributing clues to the riddle of who killed the developer.
 

Maddie’s almost love life lights up when she chats with old/new friends about the case: the high school boyfriend who has aged quite nicely and the new fish shack owner who makes her heart flutter. Should she be having these feelings if she is going to leave town?
 

An interesting, real-world subplot is woven into the story of “Cat About Town.” The locals fall on both sides of selling grandpa's property. The proposed project will bring jobs and more tourists to the town; so-called progress will destroy the town’s charm. Maddie James wants to help her grandfather, but while investigating the murder, the tightly layered story reveals both sides of the issue. Vacationers love the charm of old neighborhoods and big houses, but want the same amenities available as they had in the big city. It’s all about choices and zoning laws and lots of money to be made – if you know the right people.
 

“Cat About Town,” while a neatly drawn mystery on its own, also reveals that Cate Conte really knows her cats. JJ has the scars of a street cat and the moves of a cat suspicious of people until they prove themselves worthy. The tentative paw forward, scomping down shrimp even though fed a few minutes before, and lots of other spot-on details, make JJ an endearing star in the ensemble cast that will appear in the series. It will be fun to see how Conte uses JJ’s feline sleuthing talents to uncover future clues (and bodies). And, a cat that squeaks? Adorable!
 

A cat on a leash? Corruption in the Chamber of Commerce? Romantic entanglements? Me, oh, my, the plot does thicken in “Cat About Town,” and keeps us purring from first page to last. Maddie James is a savvy new heroine, capable of out-thinking the bad guys, but with a special softness for friends, family, and rescue animals. I can't wait to read the next book. Can we pre-order yet?  🙂
 

Cate Conte is known to most of you as Liz Mugavero, the author of the Agatha nominated Pawsatively Organic Mysteries.   🙂
 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for more information about this talented writer and her two series.