Meet Polly Holmes

Can you believe how fast the last quarter of 2020 is passing by? Halloween is over, and plans are being made for that big turkey dinner. And then, with a blink of an eye, we are decorating and planning for the Christmas holiday. Our next award winning author writes in a range of holiday mysteries.

Polly’s cozy mysteries can be found in Kindle Unlimited and at Gumnut Press Bookstore. Now lets find out more about Polly…

Why do did you write a holiday theme mystery?
Living in Australia, Halloween is not as celebrated here as much as it is in the US so I love to immerse myself in creating what could be if I lived there. I love all the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the holiday and the chance to dress up. The holiday gives me so much inspiration to create and imagine what could be.

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In my mind, there is always a little bit of magic that surrounds Christmas. You can’t beat a great Christmas story that takes you on a journey into the world of the North Pole and Santa’s workshop. A story filled with fun, love, excitement and a little bit of mischief. I love writing about Christmas in winter, the snow, a warm fire and hot chocolate. Living in Australia our Christmases are always hot and humid so to create a winter world I can dive into, complete with Santa and the Elves is such as joy.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
Writing is my night-time and weekend passion. I am a full-time Drama teacher, but not your normal 9-5 teacher. I am run the Dance and Drama Department at my school, so not only do I have to teach the students, I have loads of admin to do and productions including after school rehearsals. My average day in 7.30am to 6.30pm. As you can imagine, fitting in writing in and around that is pretty hard. Because I self-publish, I also have to try and get promotional time in there which I guess is why I don’t get a lot of sleep.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
If Pumpkin Pies & Potions were made into a movie, apart from probably fainting at the opportunity of having one of my books on the big screen, Emma Stone would play the main character of Evelyn Grayson. At 11, Evelyn’s parents were tragically killed, and she moved in with her Aunt Edie in Saltwater Cove. This is where she finds out she’s a witch and her life is set on a new path of mystery, magic and mayhem. Her world goes haywire and she finds out life as a witch is not as easy as she first thought. Emma Stone is the perfect fit, beautiful, smart and a little on the tough side.
Jason Lewis would play the main character of Tyler Broderick, Evelyn’s best friend. They have been best friends since she moved in with her aunt and while he isn’t a witch, he has mad computer skills which prove useful in solving key clues in various murders.
Emily Blunt would play Aunt Edie. Her vast acting knowledge would bring a maturity to the role without making her too old. She is a hip, young aunt that isn’t afraid to take a risk where needed.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my covers. Whether it be romance or a cozy, I have great cover designers and they provide me with the fuel to create my stories. At the start, I had no real idea what a cozy mystery was until I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s covers and brought 13 in one sale and then a writer friend said they were cozies and I had to learn what they were and how to write them.
Having been an obsessed addict of Murder, She Wrote and Nancy Drew it wasn’t hard to put pen to paper. I can see a cover and then a story begins festering in my mind and I have to just go with it. I had the cover of Pumpkin Pies & Potions designed by Victoria Cooper and she took the exact idea out of my head and created it brilliantly. I often run ideas by my sister and niece, they are great to brainstorm ideas with and they can send me on a whole new storyline with just one discussion. Problem is, once we start talking over the one idea, it soon becomes three or four books. As a writer, a great problem to have.

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What is your favorite childhood book?
It’s not so much a book as a series. I LOVE (and till do) the Sweet Valle High Series. I still have the majority of them, albeit some warn and tattered. I wasn’t a fast reader, but if I had one of Francine Pascal’s SVH books in my hand you couldn’t get me to do anything until I finished it. I received a number of groundings from my mum because I wouldn’t put my book down. I must have read the series over twenty times. They were my first introduction to teenage romance, and I was hooked. I also loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that’s why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair. While I write cozies, I also write romantic suspense and contemporary romance under P.L. Harris. I think the love of reading romance has stayed with me since I picked up my first SVH book.

Polly is also part of a great group of writers that have written the Christmas Anthology, Christmas Crackers.

now available!

Polly also writes romantic suspense as P.L. Harris!

So, there it is; we’ve officially started the holiday book season! Grab you comfy slippers, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a spot in front of the fire place-there are plenty of holiday cozies coming your way!

Victoria LK Williams

Meet Kathy Manos Penn

In my last post, I presented a number of books with a Halloween Theme and next month I will do the same for books with a Christmas Theme. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to down load a couple and start reading. But now I want you to get the know the authors behind the stories. A few of these wonderfully talented wordsmiths have written books for both holidays! Are you ready to meet our first author?

Kathy Manos Penn with Banjo

Kathy is a long-time columnist and award-winning author. Her books are in the KU (kindle unlimited) program. You can find all her books on her Amazon Author Page, connect with her on her Facebook Author Page and find out even more from her Website!

I asked each of our authors to select questions from a list to answer (you’ll find out more below) and ask all to answer this…

Why did you write a holiday theme mystery?
The Halloween book simply grew out of the fact that book one was set in September and had ended with a costume party at my main character’s cottage. That was so much fun, I wanted to continue the costume theme with the characters dressing in costume for a Fall Fete in their Cotswolds village.
I LOVE Christmas, and like my main character, I decorate our home to the hilt! Given that Leta has been a widow for 18 mos, her emotional growth and how she deals with the holidays seemed a natural next step.

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How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing cozies only since late 2019 and released Book One in my series in February 2020. For almost my entire corporate career, I was called upon to write. Funny that my fellow bankers, whom I thought brilliant at analysis and numbers, seemed to think the same about my ability to craft a complete sentence, a speech, a how-to guide, or a training course. Long before my official job was communications, I was the go-to person for writing.
As a side job, while still a banker, I began writing weekly columns for a local paper and enjoyed it so much, I also started writing a blog. When I retired, I published a book of my columns, and then my dog Banjo got in on the act. He got all fired up when I had his DNA done and we discovered he’s part Great Pyrenees.  Did you know that Louis XIV declared those majestic animals the Royal Dogs of France? Once Banjo heard that news, he demanded I take dictation and produce a small book in his voice about a year in his life.  He says Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch is NOT fiction, but we have a difficult time convincing readers of that.
It was only after I’d appeased the boy that I could think about what I might want to write.

What is the significance of the title?
Since Dickens & Christie, the dog and cat in my books, are important characters, I find myself wanting to include a pet-oriented word in each title.  Hence, the first book was Bells, Tails & Murder and this Halloween themed book is Pumpkins, Paws & Murder with a fall fête central to the plot.

What book is currently on your bedside table?
Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper. A friend recommended I read it because a cat tells the story. She wasn’t quite sure she was going to enjoy reading my books where Dickens & Christie converse with their pet parent, but after one book, she was hooked. She went in search of other books where the animals talk or at least write and found Love Saves the Day!
And on my Kindle, next up is The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas. I’m an Anglophile through and through, so you can almost always find me reading a book set in England. This one is set just before WWII.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
As an avid reader, I love writing the book club scenes included in each of my books.  The chosen book is always in some way connected to the plot and is always a book I’ve read. I enjoy mentioning books throughout my stories, though I must admit I haven’t read every single book I mention—most of them, but not all. Leta, my main character, was an English major and briefly an English teacher before moving on to corporate America, and her best friend Wendy taught high school English for thirty years. It’s only natural that they talk books.  And guess what, I too briefly taught English, and I’m forever talking books with my friends.

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Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
My friends would tell you it is, that writing has become my full-time second career and that I never really retired. I call it my passion. I find myself going into withdrawal when I don’t write every day.  Fortunately, I continue to write weekly newspaper columns, so when I’m not deep into writing the next book, I can get my fix with a column.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read!  I must read every night and now that I’m retired I stay up way too late doing that.  When I worked, I made myself turn out the bedside light by ten. Much as I say about Leta in my books, I turn into a pumpkin by that time. And so you know I’m not a complete couch potato, I work out several times a week and walk with my sister too. Times were I rode bicycles with my husband, but his health has taken that activity off the table, and I don’t much enjoy cycling by myself. You’ll notice in my books that Leta rides a bicycle.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I followed the adage to write what you know, so my pets are the inspiration for the personalities of Dickens & Christie. Banjo and Puddin’ hang out with me in my office—Banjo snoozes at my feet and Puddin’ is either demanding treats by leaping on the desk or she’s snoozing in my desk drawer. As does Dickens, Banjo loves belly rubs and is always scarfing his feline sister’s wet food. Puddin’? She’s a demanding little thing who rules the roost and thinks she “owns” both me and my husband.
Leta, my main character, is a transplanted Atlantan and is Greek. I only wish I were a transplanted Atlantan!  I doubt I’d ever have the gumption to leave friends and family behind and move to England, but I AM Greek. Leta is known among her new British friends for her Greek salad, as I am here among my Atlanta friends. You can find her salad recipe in Book One and two additional Greek recipes in Books Two and Three.
Beyond that, my bucket list trip to England in 2018 inspired the Cotswolds village setting and much of the literary plot for the first book in the series. In book two, the ladies take a trip to Dartmouth and Agatha Christie’s summer home because I’d visited both. One thing leads to another as I research ideas on the internet, and things move along from there.
Because I took yoga for years, there’s a yoga studio in Astonbury and Leta takes a class several times a week. I’ve long had it in the back of my mind to include a yoga retreat in one of my books. I only need to figure out who gets murdered and why! This idea could show up in book five. You never know.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our first “Holiday Author”! I know I have. And I’m now in the mood to start reading holiday books.

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Don’t forget, you can get my books at a discount when you buy direct from my website. And to help you start start preparing for the holidays, check out the cute designs below!

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It’s all about the Cozy Mystery

Can you believe this weekend is Labor Day weekend, where did the summer go?
This is the time when most people start to plan for their fall/winter season. Down here in the South, the winter season is crucial because it is our tourist season. And the tourist will want to visit the beaches, and in their beach-bags will be books; light beach reads. This means more books will be purchased!

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I’ve thought about my fall/winter objectives as well. I decided my books are going to be more consolidated into one generic. And the genre is COZY MYSTERIES. It’s what I love to write, what I love to read; it’s even what I love to watch on TV. So, why not stick with what I love?
Because I’m consolidating and aiming more towards cozy mysteries, my blog is going to   have one post per month dedicated strictly to cozy mysteries. I’ll be talking about the genre, some authors, the type of settings, the characters and doing a few book reviews. My regular blog posts will continue the other three weeks of the month , but I thought it might be fun to change up.

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What is a Cozy Mystery?
Think of the TV series Murder She Wrote. This is one of the best examples of a cozy mystery. The series has all the elements found in a cozy; a small quaint town, amateur sleuth, and a cast of characters the reader can get to know. Sometimes the main character is a bit nosy, or sometimes they are in the right place at the right time. But the main character always is compelled to investigate a crime (usually a murder) and put the wrong to right.

One of the first writers of cozy mysteries was Dame Agatha Christie. Her cozy mysteries that started it all was the Miss Marple series. Miss Marple was a elderly lady, wise about human nature. And she sure knew how to solve a mystery. Dame Agatha was a master at leaving false clues, red herrings, and wonderful characters that you loved. She could paint a picture with her scenes, pulling you into the mystery and then leaving you with unexpected results.

Cozy mysteries today are tamer, often glossing over the evil of the crime; becoming a bit sweeter, than the mysteries of Agatha Christie. There is usually no swearing, no gore, and any sex happens behind closed doors. Good always wins, and the mysteries are always solved. Whether it’s a series, are not, you are never left hanging, wondering what really happened.

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Sounds simple right? Now try writing one!
Next month I will start going over a few details involved when writing a cozy mystery and review a couple of books I’ve really enjoyed.
Let me know what you think cozy mysteries and share some of your favorite books!

Victoria LK Williams
Writing Cozy Mysteries with a Tropical Twist.

I DID IT!

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Your finger hovers over the button, you hesitate. Do you push it? Have you covered all the bases? Do you go for it, or do you go back and re-read one more time?

I honestly believe that every writer feels these emotions as I get ready to publish their e-book for all the world to see. Will the readers like it? Will they buy it? How they respond will they recommend it? Will they want more? These are all questions run through our mind as we hesitate. Are we really ready to publish?

Then you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and push the publish button. It’s done! Your book is now out there for all the world to see. Wait, now begins even more work; you’ve got to get that book out there for people to see. For some authors this is a far harder task than the actual writing of the book.

So here is my first stop. I’m posting on my blog information on how you can read and purchase my newest book in the Citrus Beach Mystery Series. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and please forgive me for doing a little self-promoting in this blog–I usually don’t. As always your comments are welcome, I would love to hear your feedback.

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Thank you!

Big Words, Little Words

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Writers have a job to do, and words are our tools.  Words that can create a world away from our day-to-day life, words that can teach us, words that will make us laugh or cry, words that will make us wonder.

As a writer it is not just about stringing random words together.  We have a story to tell and we need to understand our reader to insure that they enjoy what we are creating with our pen (or keyboard).  Personally, when I am reading a cozy mystery (like the ones I write), a romantic comedy or “Chick Lit” I do not want to be bombarded with scientific mumbo-jumbo while I’m trying to enjoy the author’s words.  I want the words of the story to match the mood of the book, and so do most readers.

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On the other had, there are times when details and technical terms are a necessary part of the story.  Would you believe in a medical drama that used the words boo-boo?  Of course not.  The words need to not only tell the story, but build the suspense and the back story and these details make the difference.  Research or life experiences will give the author the confidence to weave a story that will keep you interested from the opening page to the ending page.

No matter what type of book you read, the type of words will set the mood for your enjoyment.  From the mother reading  her child’s favorite book, to the adult catching some private time out in the garden with the newest block buster; the words matter.6d563d64f75ad087e4fe43e1957876c2

So big words (medical suspense) to little words (children’s books) just read….

Remember Dr. Seuss has sold millions of books all based on rhyming little words! 

It’s Not Just About Hearts & Flowers

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Valentines Day brings to mind romance: beautiful bouquets of flowers, heartfelt love letters, heart shaped boxes of chocolate candies, romantic get-a-ways…

But as a mystery writer, my mind goes in other directions.  MURDER. And what is the underlining factor in many murders-LOVE! (Oh, don’t get me wrong: I love the romance too and a box of chocolate just makes my day!)

I took three simple words and mixed them up to make 3 sub genres in the mystery category on Amazon Kindle Books and here is what I found:

Valentine Murder Mystery : 93 books are available

Valentine Murder: 321 books are available

Valentine Mystery: 300 books are available

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only writer thinking along these lines.  These books ranged from children’s mysteries to romance & cozy mysteries to outright blood thirsty murder thrillers. Personally, I tend to read and write in the cozy mystery range.

Think about it: passions are running high and something goes wrong.  Before you know it an act of violence has taken place.  OR…The night is set for romance and it’s the opportunity to carry out the plan for the perfect murder.  Will it be poison in the wine or a push off the ledge during a romantic walk?

So, now that I have planted these thoughts of mystery and murder, I wish you a normal & romantic Valentines Day!