Hillary writes cozy mysteries about smart, persistent women looking for the truth. She lives in Oregon with her family and many pets. She loves to bake, make pottery, and drink coffee.
Sleigh Bells Wing by Hillary Avis The Chapman clan’s preparing for a cozy Christmas, their last one at the old family farm before they finally put it on the market. But Ruth’s holiday cheer is history when she finds the potential buyer has been killed in cold blood. Will the New Year bring new hope to Honeytree—or a new victim?
What quirky Christmas tradition does your character do every year?
Ruth and her family have a yearly tradition of stringing popcorn garlands to decorate their Christmas tree. After the holiday, they hang the garlands in the apple orchard to feed the birds.
Speaking as your character, what is your (their) favourite thing about Christmas?
Ruth: “I love the excuse to round up my relatives for a ham-stravaganza of a potluck dinner. Nobody has to do too much work, and everybody gets to have too much fun.”
If you had to describe your character in three words, what would those three words be?
Bossy, big-hearted, and brave.
Your story is set in a small rural town. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
I was born in a tiny town where everyone knew everyone, and you could walk from one side of town to the other in about fifteen minutes. It was a great place to grow up, and I wanted to capture that sense of close-knit community in my cozy mystery series. Like my real hometown, the fictional town of Honeytree, Oregon, is a place where there’s always someone to loan you the right tool for the job, give you a ride home, or sleuth out who’s been stealing apples off your tree.
How does this story connect with your other books or series?
Sleigh Bells Wing is a prequel to my Clucks & Clues Cozy Mystery series. This story’s a peek at life in Honeytree before the main sleuth moves to town to start her chicken farm. It features several characters who make regular appearances in the rest of the books!
John writes mostly short stories that fall within the mystery or suspense genre. His books can be found on Kindle and in the Kindle Unlimited program. You can check out his stories and find out more on the links below.
A wordfrom John; I have always disliked books that doddle on and on with long descriptive passages, having little to do with moving the story forward. You won’t find that in my books, I’m more in tune with the late great detective/mystery novelist Robert Parker’s style of writing, where the story is told through fast and witty dialog. Another aspect of my writing is to incorporate a number of twists and turns along the way, so as to keep you guessing until the end of the story. If you figure out whodunnit before the end of the book, then I haven’t done my job. If these are the type of mystery, suspense, or thriller books you find pleasure in reading then I think you will enjoy reading my stories.
What is your favorite holiday/season (fall, Halloween, winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s)? Christmas is without a doubt my favorite holiday and time of the year. I’m a spiritual person, so Christmas and the birth of Jesus holds a special place in my heart. But even if I wasn’t a believer, I’d still find the Christmas season and the spirit of love and goodwill it brings to all who embrace it a very special time of the year. A time of forgiveness, a time for reflection, a time of love, a time for sharing, a time for giving, and a feeling of goodwill towards all our fellow brothers and sisters.
Is there a special way you celebrate the holidays? I like to celebrate it with my family and friends. I enjoy giving gifts, more than receiving them, and I love to go Christmas caroling door to door, even though I’m not a particularly good singer. I’m also not ashamed to admit that my wife and I love watching all the (sometimes hokey) movies presented on The Hallmark Channel during the Christmas season.
Do you write holiday or seasonal books? If so, please give an example I’ve written one holiday book, A Very Furry Christmas: Holiday Cat Tales, and that was done under special circumstances. I’d published a couple of books of mystery and suspense fiction stories prior to writing A Very Furry Christmas, which were well received by a slowly growing audience.
A good friend and colleague who read my first few books said, “I love your stories, but why can’t you write something with a happy ending?” I laughed. “The stories were about people behaving badly. People behaving badly don’t normally see happy endings. There are consequences to their actions and those consequences aren’t usually positive ones.” She understood what I meant, but the seed of her discontent was planted in my head. That’s what made me decide to write more positive and inspiring stories. It all started with A Very Furry Christmas which is a book filled with stories about the mutual love and relationships shared between humans and their feline friends. The stories are heartfelt, and all have happy and inspiring endings. I’m proud to say that it’s become one of my best-selling books to date.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? I’d be lying if I said I did. I always enjoyed reading and I remember dabbling in fiction and poetry writing during my years in college, but I never took writing seriously until later in life. Once I’d gotten my career in Cartography, and later Geographic Information Systems (computer mapping) out of my system, I finally began writing fictional short stories and taking the idea of writing more seriously. It also helped that Amazon Kindle and their publishing arm, Kindle Direct Publishing came into being, making it easier for aspiring writers like me to find an audience.
What comes first, the plot or characters? For me it is the plot first, then the characters. I like to plan out the beginning, middle, and ending of the plot before I even begin writing a single word. I base the characters and their strengths and weaknesses around the needs of the plot.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? The late great detective/mystery novelist Robert Parker was a great influence on my style of writing. I was always fascinated by his ability to tell his stories using fast and witty dialog while avoiding long descriptive paragraphs and disruptive flashbacks. The reader was never bored and always in the moment while reading one of his books. His stories flowed smoothly from start to finish. That’s what I try to achieve in my writing. I also admire the writing styles of short story writers like Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, and Ray Bradbury for their ability to incorporate unexpected twists and turns, and surprise endings into their works… something I try to emulate in my writing.
If you could only have one season, what would it be? Although it’s not something we get to enjoy down here in Florida, Autumn has always been my favorite season. I still have vivid memories of walking to my first day of elementary school on a cool Canadian Autumn morning. I remember my Mom making me wear my jacket to stay warm, and I recall the feeling that summer was on its way out and old man winter was on the horizon. The excitement of a new school year and seeing my friends again was only matched by the feeling that Christmas was right around the corner. Ah! Yes, I still remember the promise of Autumn.
How did you come up with the title? There are two things I do when I’m trying the come up with a title for my next book. First, I try to choose a word that best describes the theme of my novel or stories, and then I incorporate it into the title. Next, I do a search through Amazon’s website to make sure that the title I chose is unique and has never been used before. I know! It’s really that simple, and that complicated! LOL!
Thank you John for taking the time to share a bit of your writing live with us! Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season.
“I am a scientist, a science writer, and editor. Lately, I’ve been conducting a personal scientific study. Now, I know this is controversial in these contentious times, but here is the irrefutable fact: I write better with chocolate.” Follow MP on her Facebook page!
Ho, Ho, Homicide! by MP Smith
Waiting for their baby to be born, Anne and Jack take a holiday getaway to northern Minnesota. The romantic Christmas holiday is everything they’d hoped it would be until they realize they’re snowed in with a killer. This locked-room mystery is filled with glowing good wishes for the holiday, but also the dread of wondering, “Who’s next?”
What was your favourite or most memorable gift you got as a child?
I was about 7 or 8 years old when I received my older brother’s used bike for Christmas. My parents had repainted it black and put sparkly tassels on the ends of the handlebars. It was beautiful, my Black Beauty. My mom made a cowgirl outfit for me just like Dale Evans wore on the Roy Rogers show. I loved that bike and put many miles on it. We rode like the wind, my Black Beauty and me!
What would be a great gift for your character?
Anything old or historic—an antique piece of furniture, a vintage piece of fabric or lace, an old copy of a favorite book.
Speaking as your character, what is your (their) favourite thing about Christmas?
Enjoying a Christmas Eve tamale dinner at best friends Barb and Pete Garcia’s house. Every December, friends, and family gather to make the Mexican delicacies filled with savory pork, chicken, or cheese and chilies, even pineapple. They’re shared with everyone who helped make them, but most are saved for the huge Christmas Eve feast.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
What fun to imagine! Saoirse Ronan would make the perfect Anne. Anne’s a dedicated teacher, crazy about her husband Jack, and definitely has a nose for trouble. Dark and moody Jack—you know, the Heathcliff type—would best be played by Robert Pattinson from the Twilight movies.
What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
No contest, my favorite Christmas movie is also my favorite movie of all time—It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed. This movie can always lift my spirits and remind me how blessed I am with my beautiful family and wonderful friends.
Paige Sleuth is a pseudonym for mystery author Marla Bradeen. She plots murder during the day and fights for mattress space with her two rescue cats at night. When not attending to her cats’ demands, she writes.
Christmas in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth
Kat Harper’s Christmas reunion with her long-lost mother turns out to be nothing like she envisioned. Maybelle Harper has no qualms about flirting with Kat’s boyfriend, she’s more interested in seeing old friends than her daughter, and, worse yet, she hates cats. But Kat might have to put her disappointment aside when bigger problems arise—unwelcome gifts have been showing up on her doorstep, and she has no idea who has added her to his Christmas list.
What was your favorite or most memorable gift you got as a child?
A cat! She was the best gift ever, hands down, and was the start of my lifelong love of all things feline.
Your story is set in Cherry Hills, Washington. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
Cherry Hills is a fictional town because I wanted some leeway with the people and places. Making up a town gave me that flexibility. And I located it in Washington State because it’s an area I’m familiar with and the whole state is lovely.
Can you share an enticing (50 words or less) snippet that isn’t in the blurb?
“There’s no shipping label on it, just your name, Kat.”
Creeping closer, Kat saw he was right. ‘K. Harper’ was scrawled across the top, but both her address and a return address were conspicuously absent.
Her skin tingled. Whoever had left this had to have been inside her building.
What’s your favorite Christmas movie?
While You Were Sleeping. It’s cute and funny, and who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock?
How does this story connect with your other books or series? Christmas in Cherry Hills is book 12 in my Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series. It’s the first time my main character, Kat, meets her mother as an adult. Kat grew up in foster care and ended up losing touch with her mother for reasons revealed in book 4. Their first face-to-face encounter since they reconnected is not everything either one of them dreamed it would be, but they both grow from the experience and by the end, they understand each other a little bit better. I hope it resonates with readers who might have some complicated family relationships of their own.
Cara writes contemporary romance with a dollop of humor and a pinch of spice. Her books are available in all the major outlets and her paperbacks are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She recently released her new book, Red Velvet. Carla has this to say about the new book… “If you’re looking for a fun fall romance you can read while curled up by the fire, sipping a warm beverage, Red Velvet is for you.”
What is your favorite holiday/season (fall, Halloween, winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s)?
Without question, my favorite season is fall. I live in Wisconsin, and our fall weather is perfect – sunny and cool, but without any snow. It’s the ideal weather for activities like apple picking, football games, baking, going for long walks, and drinking coffee on chilly mornings.
Is there a special way you celebrate the holidays?
In the fall, I love cooking and baking with seasonal produce, and I get outside as much as I can. My husband and I also try to fit in a trip to the Door County Peninsula (where Red Velvet is set) because the area is known for its amazing fall foliage. Now that my kids are grown, I don’t put up any Halloween decorations, but our house is known for giving out full-size candy bars!
Do you write holiday or seasonal books? If so, please give an example
Yes – all three of my Blackwood Cellars books have a seasonal theme. Blue Hawaiian is the ideal beach read because it takes place during the summer at a destination wedding in Maui. Red Velvet is set in October at a lakeside resort in the woods. White Wedding revolves around a Christmas wedding in California Wine Country.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes! I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old, when I wrote my first story, about three witches who argue over the best way to fly around on Halloween night (riding broomsticks vs. riding vacuum cleaners). As a teenager, I wrote a lot of science fiction and fantasy, but I always had a soft spot for romance, especially Gothic romances set in moors and manor houses (hence the name for my publishing company, Moon Manor Press).
Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.
My favorite characters are from an epic fantasy I wrote way back in 2008, originally entitled The Mask of the Empress. Princess Delfina and Emperor Darclor were star-crossed lovers who went from fierce antagonists to passionate lovers over the course of a saga that spanned nine years. In particular, I loved writing about Delfina, because she wasn’t just royalty, but also a talented painter, who trained for years in the royal workshop before she was forced into an arranged marriage with Darclor. Given that the story is much too long (I think the first draft clocked in at around 800 pages!), it will never see the light of day, but I still love these characters.
Do you have any new books/series planned?
The Blackwood Cellars Series wraps up in November with White Wedding. So, in 2022, I’m hoping to start a new series set in the world of archaeology. Before I had children, I worked as an archaeologist and was fortunate enough to spend time on digs and restoration projects in Spain, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, and Turkey. Although I never had any adventures worthy of Indiana Jones, I had a lot of great experiences, including a couple of steamy flings (which would make for great stories!).
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Doing research is one of my favorite parts of writing a book. I usually do some barebones research ahead of time—just to make sure my plot is feasible—and then I write the first draft. Before starting the second draft, I do a deep dive into tourism websites, as well as sites like Pinterest, Google Maps, Zillow, and YouTube. If I need to learn more about a subject, I’ll get books out of the library and write to tourist organizations for brochures. For this book, I was fortunate enough to squeeze in two trips to Door County, Wisconsin, where the story is set, and I had my husband drive me all over the peninsula to take photos!
Do you have a day job as well?
Yes. I work in a spice emporium in my hometown. It’s a fun job, because I love to cook, and I get to spend a lot of time talking to customers about recipes and suggesting spices. I also take home a large quantity of spices so that I can experiment with them.
But before I start with Wendy, I need to give a BIG thank you to everyone who has supported our book. The release was out of this world and we made it to a “Best Selling” rating. Don’t stop. We still need your reviews and don’t forget the anthology is only available until January, so don’t miss out.
“Wendy Meadows is a USA Today best-selling author whose meticulously crafted stories showcase witty women sleuths and engaging plots.“
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Wendy Meadows
Carol finds herself at the center of a crime she did not commit in a town she is a stranger to. She must work with the Scrooge-incarnate Chief of Police, Brogan Peterson, to find out who killed William, a store owner, before anyone else is targeted. Carol is a tough woman, but could her own need for mystery put what is precious to her in the firing line?
Ok, let’s talk to Wendy…
What was your favourite or most memorable gift you got as a child?
A white sled with American stars and stripes. My parents have a picture of my finding it Christmas morning with a huge grin on my face, and tears in my eyes.
Your story is set in Tinsel Pine, Connecticut. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
I wanted to create an inviting, small town with the theme of Christmas year-round. Many moons ago, I lived in North Pole, Alaska. It was so fun to see the tinsel and lights up even during the hot days of summer.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it? I can envision Goldie Hawn and her daughter, Kate Hudson, playing the main characters.
What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
A Christmas Story. I’ve been known to use the “don’t poke your eye out” when my two sons were younger, LOL.
How does this story connect with your other books or series? It’s the prequel to Tinsel Pine Cozies, I’m currently working on the rest of the books.