The time has come…

“The time has come,” the Walrus said

To talk of many things.”

Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

The publishing world – and indeed the world in general – has undergone a lot of upheaval in 2020. Closing publishers, COVID-19, delayed book releases, the works. And now there’s one more change.

The end of Mysteristas.

You read that right. This is the last post to Mysteristas, our farewell.

Yes, it’s April 1. No, this is not a joke.

Mysteristas goes back to May 2012 – almost seven years. In that time, we’ve seen a lot of changes. Members have come and gone, some of us have gotten book deals, some of us have lost publishers, we’ve changed our formats and approaches (Twitter chats, Facebook chats, themed blog posts). But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Over the past few months we’ve struggled as life trumped blogging and our ability to give proper “care and feeding” to this blog. With heavy hearts we decided to shut things down.

This was not a decision we made lightly. Seven years is a long time. We’ve met a lot of wonderful people here – readers and other writers. We’ve forged online friendships that translated to real-world joy when we met up in person at conferences or book events. But a body can only be spread so thin and most of us have reached that point.

We hope that you will keep in touch with us via our websites or other social media (see the About page for links).

We hope to see you sometime in the future, when COVID-19 is a memory and we can get back to something resembling “normality.” Until then, we wish you the best and hope you find enjoyment not only in our books, but in the books of all the wonderful authors who’ve been our guests over the ages.

As Peg Brantley always says, “It’s all better with friends.”

Love,

The Mysteristas

Guest Post: Edith Maxwell

Liz here. On our last posting day, I’m so happy to host longtime friend Edith Maxewell, known in some circles as Maddie Day. She is celebrating the launch of her 20th (!) book with her latest. Take it away Edith!

Saved by the Belle 

Liz, thank you for inviting me back to the Mysteristas!

Today Murder at the Taffy Shop releases! I’d love to send one commenter a signed copy of the new book, and a new-to-the series commenter an audiobook of the first in the series, Murder on Cape Cod.

When I was setting up Mackenzie Almeida’s world for the first book, I thought about adding a cat. Every one of my previous four series has featured one our four family cats: Athena, Preston, Christabel, and Birdy. So I thought I’d shake it up a little this time. I made Mac allergic to mammal pets. Instead she cares for an African gray parrot named Belle.

Research was fun. I watched videos of an African gray bobbing to Pharell Williams’ song “Happy” and another one of a parrot ordering stuff from Alexa. I read a book by a woman whose parrot loved to imitate her cell phone ring – but only while she was in the shower. And a local friend let me come over and listen to her African gray, Jewel.

Belle has become a true sidekick in the series, even more in Murder at the Taffy Shop. I just had to include her shopping on Alexa. Here’s a snippet of a scene where Mac and her boyfriend Tim are hanging out in Mac’s tiny house.

“Alexa, read the shopping list,” Belle said. The blue circle on top of Alexa lit up.

Tim looked at me in surprise. “She knows how to use Alexa?”

“This is news to me.”

“The most recent five items on your shopping list are,” the surprisingly realistic mechanical voice began, “Grapes. Grapes. Tim. Hello. Grapes.”

I grinned at Tim. “I love you, but I didn’t put you on my shopping list.”

“Do you want me to read the next five items?” the black cylinder said.

“Yes, please, Alexa,” Belle answered.

“The next five items on your list are Grapes. Grapes. Belle’s a good girl. Peanuts. Snacks. Do you want me to read the next five items?”

I dissolved in laughter but managed to squeak out, “Yes, please, Alexa.”

Tim hooted.

“The last five items on your list are grapes. Milk. Salad greens. Peanuts. Hello.”

“Thank you, Alexa,” I said before Belle started dictating more grapes. “Alexa, stop.”

Belle plays a way more important sidekick role toward the end of the book. No spoilers, though!

Readers: Who has been your favorite pet? Would you ever keep a bird as a pet, or have you? Or are you a pet-free household? Also let me know if you’ve already read Murder on Cape Cod. Check back tomorrow for giveaway winners.

Book two in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, Murder at the Taffy Shop, is set in August, full season on Cape Cod. When bike shop owner Mac Almeida heads out for a walk with her friend, she finds a horrified Gin staring at an imperious summer person, dead on the sidewalk in front of Gin’s candy shop, Salty Taffy’s. When the police find the murder weapon in Gin’s garage, the Cozy Capers book group members put their heads together to clear Gin’s name and figure out who killed the woman whom almost everyone disliked. After the killer later invades Mac’s tiny house to finish her off, Belle, Mac’s African gray parrot, comes to the rescue. Murder at the TaffyShop releases March 31 in a paperback exclusive from Barnes & Noble.

*****

Maddie Day – aka Edith Maxwell – is a talented amateur chef and holds a PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University. An Agatha-nominated and bestselling author, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She pens the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries and the Country Store Mysteries.

As Edith she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-winning short crime fiction. Maddie/Edith lives with her beau north of Boston, where she’s currently working on her next mystery when she isn’t cooking up something delectable in the kitchen. She hopes you’ll visit her on her web site, sign up for her monthly newsletter, and visit her as @MaddieDayAuthor on social media. 

Guest Post: Barbara Monajem

Please welcome today’s guest poster, Barbara Monajem!

To PC or not to PC

Characters in historical mysteries and romances are often somewhat—or even a lot—ahead of their time. They think and frequently act like we do today. Much as I enjoy reading and writing such stories, I don’t think of the characters as realistic. Although there were plenty of forward-thinking people two hundred or more years ago, even they accepted many of the then current standards—standards which we find intolerable today, and rightly so. Nevertheless…that’s how it was back then.

I think this is why I decided to write a series of mysteries from the point of view of a Regency-era protagonist who is un-PC by today’s standards. I wanted to feel that she was realistic, and to write about the process through which she learns and changes and grows. Lady Rosamund Phipps is an aristocratic lady, the epitome of white privilege in a society riddled with prejudices of class, color, creed, gender, nationality, sexual preference…you name it. She can’t help but be a lady of her time and social class—and yet, she also questions many of the standards drummed into her, in particular by her mother. She is by nature soft-hearted, but apart from trying vaguely to be kind and just, she truly doesn’t know what to accept and what to discard. She has to figure it all out, bit by often painful bit.

Here’s a blurb about the first in the series, Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen, which is scheduled to be released in late April:

~~~

Lady Rosamund Phipps, daughter of an earl, has a secret. Well, more than one. Such as the fact that she’s so uninterested in sex that she married a man who promised to leave her alone and stick to his mistress. And a secret only her family knows—the mortifying compulsion to check things over and over. Society condemns people like her to asylums. But when she discovers the dead body of a footman on the stairs, everything she’s tried to hide for years may be spilled out in broad daylight.

First the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus, implicates Lady Rosamund in a series of scandalous prints. Worse, though, are the poison pen letters that indicate someone knows the shameful secret of her compulsions. She cannot do detective work on her own without appearing too odd, but nor can she ignore the desperate need to unmask both Corvus and the poison pen.

Will Corvus prove to be an ally or an enemy? Can Rosamund’s husband protect her from the poison pen? Time is running out, and both her sanity—and her life—are at stake.

~~~

But ever since writing this character, I’ve had doubts about her appeal. Will readers be able to bond with an un-PC heroine? What do you think? Does the heroine of a historical series have to adhere to present-day standards right from the start?

*****

Rumor has it that Barbara Monajem is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason.

Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so. As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.

Interview: John Bishop

Let’s get to know John Bishop, author of the Doc Brady mystery series.

How did you get started writing?

As an academic Orthopedic Surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, I was heavily involved in the teaching of medical students, residents, and fellows. Along with the academic obligations, I was expected to write articles and make presentations at medical meetings, sort of a “publish or perish” concept. As a result, I was used to performing clinical studies and writing articles for various orthopedic journals. I was in this position for about 14 years, until some of my colleagues and myself became disgruntled with the academic system and it’s challenges, left our “home,” and created the Texas Orthopedic Hospital, a mile south of our previous location. I still had a very busy practice, but without the teaching and academic responsibilities, I found myself with free time. I had played piano and organ since childhood, so I started playing music on the weekends with and R & B band, Bert Wills and the Crying Shames. That was a wonderful experience for me, until the  road travel became more than I could handle. Shortly thereafter, I began writing. I can’t say exactly where the desire came from, but it was probably a combination of factors. I had always been a voracious reader of mystery novels, and perhaps thought I should try my hand at fiction writing. But also, I had entered into a solid marriage to Joan Berry, who provided me with a loving and supportive partner, and a newfound sense of peace had come over me at that time of my life. I began writing voraciously, to excess, like all the other endeavors in my life. How do you say “obsessive compulsive”? Between 1993 and 2000 I wrote five novels Act of Murder, Act of Deception, Act of Revenge, Act of Negligence, and Act of Fate.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

The first book in The Doc Brady Mystery Series is Act of Murder. The central and recurring character, Dr. James Robert Brady, became an orthopedic surgeon to avoid being surrounded by death, but finds death is everywhere around him. On a spring day in 1994, Doc Brady witnesses his neighbor’s ten-year-old son killed by a hit-and-run driver. Was this an accident, or an act of murder? After the death, Brady enlists the help of his twenty-year-old son J.J., and his wife Mary Louise, in chasing down clues that take them deeper and deeper into a Houston he never imagined existed. In the process, they discover a macabre conspiracy stretching from the ivory towers of the largest teaching hospital in Texas, to the upper reaches of Houston’s legal community, to the shores of Galveston. Doc Brady soon learns that the old adage remains true: the love of money is the root of all evil.

Tell us about your main character.

Dr. Jim Bob Brady is a fictionalized character, an amalgam of myself and many people I’ve come to call friends over the years. In the books, he is a specialty hip and knee orthopedic surgeon, a much more glamorous job than the one this writer had in real life. Brady has an intense and physical love for his wife, Mary Louise, and an admiration for his son J.J.’s capabilities in gathering information as part of his firm which is essentially a detective agency. Brady is a brilliant, talented surgeon, with a large clientele, who is confident yet still humble. He is a genuinely nice and funny guy who happens to have a knack for solving medical mysteries. He is above all the doctor who will cure you of your blues and boredom.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

I have read a vast number of novels, and therefore it’s not easy to name only a few who have influenced me. I’ll list my most favorite 12 in alphabetical order and apologies to the ones I had to leave out:

Jeffrey Archer 

Lee Child

Harlan Coben

Michael Connelly

Robin Cook

Michael Crichton

Nelson DeMille

John Grisham

Robert B. Parker

Thomas Perry

John Sandford

Stuart Woods

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) youd include?

Dinner would consist first of Robert B. Parker. His Spenser novels are at the top of my list for a character who is brilliant and funny, and cares about the people around him, especially his paramour Susan Silverman. I met him once at a book signing in Houston, and he had that twinkle in his eye that affirmed to me that he was in fact Spenser. What a dinner partner he would make!

Next I would pick the two doctors, Robin Cook and Michael Crichton. I’ve enjoyed all their novels, and what fun it would be to discuss medicine and fiction writing over wine and dinner.

Rounding out the dinner table would be Michael Connelly, writer of gritty novels about Harry Bosch, L.A.’s greatest detective, John Grisham, writer extraordinaire of the legal thriller, and Nelson DeMille, a brilliant novelist and creator of the character John Corey, who hopefully is scripted from DeMille’s own character. I would find that out over our dinner.

*****

John Bishop M.D. practiced orthopedic surgery in Houston, Texas, for 30 years. An avid golfer and accomplished piano player, Bishop is honored to have once served as the keyboard player for the rhythm and blues band Bert Wills and the Crying Shames. His Doc Brady medical thriller series is set in the changing environment of medicine in the 1990s. Drawing on his years of experience as a practicing surgeon, Bishop entertains readers using his unique insights into the medical world with all its challenges, intricacies, and complexities, while at the same time revealing the compassion and dedication of health care professionals. Dr. Bishop and his wife, Joan, reside in the Texas Hill Country. For more information, please visit https://johnbishopauthor.com

Guest Post: Debbie De Louise

Let’s get to know Debbie De Louise!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

As a librarian, I have the opportunity to read a variety of books by different authors and have recently begun reviewing crime/mystery books for Booklist.

I’ve always enjoyed reading, but the book that ignited my reading passion as a pre-teen was the romantic suspense novel, Winter People, by Phyllis A. Whitney. It was a present for my twelfth birthday from my brother. After reading it, I had to read everything written by Whitney. I then read books by other romantic suspense authors such as Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. Later, because of my fondness for felines, I became influenced by cozy mystery authors who wrote books featuring cats such as Carole Nelson Douglas, Shirley Rousseau Murphy, and Rita Mae Brown. It’s been my pleasure meeting/connecting with these authors through the Cat Writers’ Association of which I’m a member.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

My favorite theme is “everything happens for a reason.” One of the characters in my first Cobble Cove mystery, A Stone’s Throw, says this quote in the book, and I believe it because I’ve seen it happen in my own life that when something bad happens, it ends up being for the best. Another theme I’m fond of is how the past influences the present but how one’s memories change with time. This theme is most evident in my latest psychological mystery, Sea Scope, that is a free eBook until March 23 and also perma free on Kindle Unlimited as are my other books.

What five mystery authors, alive or dead, would you like to have dinner with?

I like this question. Thinking about it, one of the people I would invite would be my friend and fellow local author, Lisa Diaz Meyer. While she’s not a mystery author per se, she writes dark fiction and would fit in well with a group of mystery authors. The other five would include the recently deceased Mary Higgins Clark whose books I very much enjoyed; Dame Agatha Christie, the queen of cozies, who is also deceased; the prolific James Patterson who I would love to convince to have me co-write a book with him; James Cudney IV, another local author and friend of mine who writes mysteries and a wonderful cozy series; and Phyllis Whitney who I mentioned in my previous question. Not only did I love her books, but she was also a Long Island author. I wrote to her many years ago and received a reply but have since, unfortunately, lost that letter. She passed away in 2008 at 104 years old and was writing into her nineties.

Would Alicia from your Cobble Cove series like you for a friend? Dish the details here.

I’m sure Alicia and I would get on well. Like myself, she’s a librarian, and she has a lot of my own traits. She’s cautious yet curious. She likes cats and has formed a relationship with Sneaky the Library Cat who has helped her find clues to many of the mysteries in her series. 

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

I’d still be work as a librarian, so I could be around books, but I might also open a bookstore. I would definitely want to be around books. Maybe, since I love cats, I would open a cat café with a bookstore that sold cat fiction and non-fiction books.

What’s next for you?

I’m hoping to write a fifth Cobble Cove mystery and already have some ideas for it. It’s taken me a while to get back to the series because I’ve been working on other projects. In December, I published a holiday short story, Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery, featuring the characters from the series that picked up after Love on the Rocks, the fourth book left off. I also have two unpublished manuscripts, a medical thriller and the first of a new cozy series. I am polishing them to submit to publishers and agents.

I’ll be taking a Sisters-in-Crime Guppies chapter editing class this March and hope that will give me some tips to help with that. I also have a poem, Window Cats, that was chosen for the Nassau County 2020 Voices in Verse anthology and a true story in Second Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats We Rescue and the Cats That Rescue Us, an anthology releasing September 15, 2020.

*****

Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public library. She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. Her novels include the four books of the Cobble Cove mystery series: A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Written in Stone, andLove on the Rocks.

Debbie has also written a standalone mystery, Reason to Die, a romantic comedy novella, When Jack Trumps Ace, and a paranormal romance, Cloudy Rainbow. Her latest novel, Sea Scope, is a psychological mystery. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and three cats.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbie.delouise.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Deblibrarian

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2750133.Debbie_De_Louise

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2bIHdaQ

All Author: https://allauthor.com/author/debbiedelouise/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debbie-de-louise

Website/Blog/Newsletter Sign-Up: https://debbiedelouise.com

Interview: Michael McAuliffe

Let’s get to know Michael McAuliffe, author of No Truth Left to Tell!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was a significant and permanent influence on me as a young reader learning about family relationships, especially how children can love and admire a parent for being principled and kind. The eclectic collection of characters in To Kill a Mockingbird has stayed with me since reading the book in school. The story morphed into something else when I reread it as an adult––more focused on race, criminal justice and southern culture. But I remember it first and foremost for its portrayal of a parent’s love for his (or her) children. Interestingly, the book makes a brief appearance in my novel.

Like many readers, I love the magical, mysterious qualities in numerous books by Gabriel García Márquez and Hermann Hesse. I learned to love getting lost in a book through reading their novels. I have both to thank for introducing a mystical quality to my early reading experiences.

Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard remains a central work that helped instill in me a wonder for travel and personal exploration.

Lastly, I enjoy books by Geraldine Brooks who writes with emotional precision and often elevates her fiction with lyrical passages that linger after the page is turned. I especially enjoyed The Secret Chord.

What made you interested in writing this particular story? 

I started my legal career as a federal civil rights prosecutor at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. At the age of 25, I found myself traveling the country investigating and prosecuting violent extremists, corrupt law enforcement officers and human traffickers. I saw a part of America up close that I had never had any exposure to growing up.

While with the Justice Department, I––working with a team of prosecutors and agents––investigated and prosecuted the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana and thirteen of his followers for committing hate crimes. As such, the cross burnings and the attempts to start a new race war depicted in my novel are events I am familiar with as a prosecutor. I met and came to know many victims of racial violence through my work at the Justice Department.

In another case around the same time, I investigated a rogue police narcotics unit in Indiana that involved allegations of officers torturing detainees and stealing their drugs and money. The target of that investigation was killed soon after we sent him a target letter communicating that he was to be charged with federal crimes. I also handled numerous other cases of police misconduct that involved contradictory and less than clear lines of right and wrong.

Those cases and others formed the genesis for the novel’s story. I have always thought the type of work undertaken by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department made for high drama and emotional reckonings. I also remember my Criminal Section colleagues as interesting, very smart, and sometimes complicated individuals. It took me thirty years to translate those events and some of the characters (more accurately, some character traits loosely lifted from people I knew) into a work of fiction.

How did you get started writing?

I have been a practicing lawyer for over thirty years. I’ve been a federal prosecutor, an elected state attorney in Florida, a company’s global general counsel, and a private practice trial lawyer. Throughout my legal career, I’ve thought of myself as a storyteller and communicator. As a result, writing and communicating have been a part of my life for decades. Three years ago, I decided to pursue writing fiction and teaching with more focus and I set some specific goals. My debut novel No Truth Left To Tell is one result. I also teach law to students as an adjunct professor at William & Mary Law School and as a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law. The debut novel is the natural extension for me of my longstanding interest in sharing meaningful stories about the law and its many life lessons.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?

I enjoy the process of creating and developing characters much the same as I like getting to know a new friend by spending time together. At some point, otherwise fictional characters take on real, separate existences from the physical page, and when that happens, it’s a wonderful and significant experience––one that’s free and universally available to all.

I least enjoy the inescapable (and necessary) judgment that accompanies the process of writing. One person’s carefully crafted event or character, likely the product of significant effort and commitment, can be rejected with the summary verdict of the author, an editor, a publisher, or even a reader. Those at times harsh judgments can leave a bruise. Of course, if the judgment is positive, my least favorite part of writing becomes my new favorite one.

*****

Michael McAuliffe is the author of No Truth Left to Tell and has been a practicing lawyer for thirty years. He was a federal prosecutor serving both as a supervisory assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Florida and a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit https://notruthlefttotell.com/