Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival: The Recap

On August 10, 2019, Suffolk (Virginia) Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts hosted the sixth annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. As many of you know, this is my favorite bookish event of the year.

Visiting Suffolk

The Nansemond River, from my hotel room

Suffolk is the largest city in Virginia in terms of land area (430 square miles), but visiting the city is more like visiting a small town where everyone is friendly, welcoming, and eager to show visitors everything their corner of Virginia has to offer.

The history of Suffolk is fascinating and full, and much of it has been preserved for future generations. From its settlement in 1608 to its involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to its international recognition as the home of Planters Nuts, Suffolk has played an important role in the cultural history of the United States.

Visitors can tour Riddick’s Folly (which served as a headquarters for the Union Army during the Civil War), Cedar Hill Cemetery (home to one of Virginia’s Civil War trail sites), Planters Peanut Center, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, among many other attractions.

The authors who have participated in the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in past years have had the opportunity to visit Riddick’s Folly and the Cedar Hill Cemetery, as well as participate in Ghost Walks and storytelling walks.

The Festival

Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts

The festival itself is always held on a Saturday afternoon at the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, a beautifully-restored building that operated as a high school until 1990. Since its reopening in 2006, it has become widely known as a popular venue for musical and theater productions, lectures, art exhibits, and visual and performing arts classes. It is a breathtaking backdrop for the authors to participate in panel discussions, hold workshops, and most importantly, meet and mingle with readers.

This year, the festival highlighted forty mystery authors of all subgenres, from traditional to paranormal to horror and romantic suspense. The featured author was Julie Hyzy, the New York Times bestselling author of 22 mystery novels and lots of short stories. Her interview, conducted by the talented and hilarious mystery writer E.A. Aymar, was a delightful way to learn about her journey as a writer from her beginnings to her crowning achievements.

Panels and Workshops

I was on a panel called “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and the authors on the panel talked about the importance of setting and story ideas. The writers had interesting views on setting and it was great to hear about all the different ways they use setting and atmosphere in their books to heighten suspense.

Other panels included “Strong Women in Fiction and Why We Love Them” and “License to Thrill: Shivery Suspense to Keep You Turning the Pages.” Workshops included “From Novice to Novelist: How to Write a Novel,” “You Wrote Your Novel, Now What?: Publishing World Options,” and “Short Stories vs. Novels: Pathways to Publication.”

The Best Part

Me with my table-mate, the incomparable Nancy Herriman

 

With two awesome readers, Tammy and Greg Porter

 

With a perennial favorite, author Julie Moffett

 

With Festival coordinator and all-around fabulous person, Katie Kelley

 

With good friend and fantastic author Maggie King

 

My table

The art gallery spaces of the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are used to showcase the authors and their books, which are available for purchase and signing all afternoon. It’s a great place for readers to meet authors, talk with them, and take photos. These rooms are where the most enjoyable parts of the day take place.

Every year hundreds of readers come to see the writers, to reconnect with them, to chat, and to talk books. For the writers, it’s a wonderful time to see readers that we can only see once a year and to meet new readers.

For a full list of attending authors, visit https://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.

As always, Suffolk Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are due a huge debt of thanks and gratitude for hosting what many readers and writers consider to be the friendliest and most welcoming book festival of the year.

The Paparazzi

If you’re interested in reading what the Suffolk News Herald wrote about the festival, you can check out the article here.

I hope to see you there next year!

Until next time,

Amy

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Author Spotlight: Rebecca Phillips Dahlke

I just came back from the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in Suffolk, Virginia, and it was wonderful, as always. I’ll tell you all about it next Tuesday.

But today I welcome author Rebecca Phillips Dahlke to the blog to discuss her newest book, A Dead Red Gamble, the latest in her Dead Red Series. Welcome, Rebecca!

I’m eager to know more about your books.

You know how they say to write what you know? Well, I ran my dad’s crop-dusting business for two years and thought readers might find this an interesting job for a woman sleuth.

The first three books in the Dead Red Mystery series are set in the central valley of California where Lalla Bains comes home to help her dad as he recovers from a heart attack.

In Book #1 her vintage red Cadillac, a trophy from a recent divorce, is found tail-fins up in a local lake with an elderly widow strapped in the driver’s seat, leaving Lalla dangling on the hook as suspect number one and her father in the cross-hairs of a killer.

Murder solved, romance blooming, Lalla promises to stay out of trouble, but much to her father’s dismay, Lalla Bains will continue to get more involved with murder and crime in Books 2 and 3.

In Books 4, 5 and 6, the entire family decamps from California to Arizona where, as it happens, I now live and write. For those who are familiar with Bisbee, Arizona, it’s a charming little town set on a hillside, and it’s also the county seat for Cochise County.  I changed the name to Wishbone as I didn’t fancy the idea of getting tarred and feathered whenever I killed off another city official in my books.

In my latest novel, A Dead Red Gamble, Lalla Bains and cousin Pearlie are struggling to gain a foothold as licensed private investigators. I started with an interesting, and I hope original, premise when a friend who was municipal county judge at the time, ruled that city residents could not keep chickens.

So how on earth would this become a mystery you ask?  It becomes a mystery when protestors gather outside the courthouse, someone pays two local kids to release a cage full of chickens into the courthouse lobby, and a killer uses the diversion to murder the judge. The why is what makes for a good mystery.  I enjoyed writing this book and I’m happy to say my readers seem to agree.

Courthouse interior

Lalla and cousin Pearlie aren’t the jaded, world-weary gum-shoe types of Dashiell Hammett fame. Don’t get me wrong, I loved his books, but my protagonists aren’t loners, they have family they love and trust and they hold onto hope for the best in people—even when those people try to kill them.

All of my books are available on Amazon Kindle and I have a monthly newsletter with deals and steals on books by authors I love to read, as well as raffles for goodies. I even give my readers a chance to be a character in my next book with a raffle. A fun way to be a bad guy/gal in fiction!

Here’re my links:

Website: http://rpdahlke.com

Contact me: rp@rpdahlke.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/RP-Dahlke/e/B004S2NJFO/

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4714290.R_P_Dahlke

Faceboook: https://Facebook.com/rpdahlke

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/r-p-dahlke

Thanks for visiting, Rebecca! Best wishes on your new book!

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for August

The summer is flying by! In my neck of the woods, this is the best time of year for sweet corn, watermelon, peaches, and of course, tomatoes straight from the garden. I love all the fresh produce that’s available in the summertime. It makes for healthy eating this time of year. Today I’ve got three great recipes for you!

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The first one comes from reader Darlene Foster, who tells me that this is a delicious and easy dish that she often shares at barbeques and  potlucks. I can’t wait to try it. She found this Arabian Gulf recipe from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa by Habeeb Salloum.

Rice Flavored with Cardamom

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup rice, rinsed

1/4 cup raisins or chopped dates

2 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

 

Melt butter in a frying pan and sauté almonds until they begin to brown

Add rice and stir fry for another 3 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients, except parsley, and bring to a boil

Cover and cook over medium low heat for 25 minutes

Turn off heat and allow to steam for 30 minutes

Stir, place on serving platter and garnish with parsley

Serves 6

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Watermelon Ice

1/3 c. water

1/2 c. sugar

1 3-pound piece chilled watermelon

1 T. fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan, sinner water with sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Stir syrup until cold. Discard rind from watermelon and cut fruit into 1-inch chunks.

Place watermelon, syrup, and lemon juice in a blender and purée. Pour from blender into a fine sieve over a 9-inch square baking pan. Press hard on the solids, then discard remaining solids.

Cover mixture and freeze until frozen, 6-8 hours, and up to 2 days.

Just before serving, scrape watermelon with a fork to break up crystals and lighten the texture. Serves 6.

***

Zucchini and Tomato Sauté

1/2 t. olive oil

1 c. chopped onion

1 lb. zucchini, sliced about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick

1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper

2 c. cherry tomatoes

1 oz. crumbled feta cheese

2 t. chopped fresh dill

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and salt and pepper and sauté for 3 minute. Add tomatoes and sauté for 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and dill. Serves 4.

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Many thanks to Darlene for submitting her recipe this month! Please remember that I love to include recipes from readers, so just drop me a note and I’ll put your recipe(s) in a post.

Until next time,

Amy

Do No Harm Book Collection

A quick post today to let you know about a new boxed set of books that was released this week: Do No Harm, a collection of 17 medical thrillers by USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon bestselling authors. Here’s the blurb:

“Do you crave reading books with nail-biting suspense, twisted plots and great characters who get caught up in whirlwinds of crime, deception and lies?

Do you love sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering who will survive…and who won’t?

From the mountains of West Virginia, to acute care hospitals, the battlefields of the Middle East and the hallowed halls of our educational system, join us for these incredible stories of healthcare gone wrong.

If you like Robin Cook, David Baldacci and Patricia Cornwell, this collection is for you!

Do No Harm is a binge-readers dream – 17 medical thriller books in one! And you can only get this collection of books from this group of authors here!”

29 of the 30 reviews on Amazon–just in the past two days!–are 5 stars!

Find it here for just $1.99!

Until next time,

Amy

 

Reading Round-Up: July Edition

It’s going to look like I didn’t do a ton of reading in July, but that’s because I’m currently in the middle of four other books and I’ve been reading those, too. So August should be a big month.

The first book I finished since my last Reading Round-Up was Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. A friend on Twitter suggested that I read it so we could talk about the writer’s style. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

“This was a haunting book, based on true events that took place in the US in the first part of the twentieth century. It’s the story of a family of river gypsies and what happened to them as a result of the corrupt and horrifying practices of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It’s written from the point of view of two/three characters (you’ll see why I say that when you read the book), but I think that’s almost the way the story had to be told. The language is descriptive and evocative–I think this is going to be one book that stays with me.”

***

You may remember from last month that I read The Merlon Murders and that it was the first book in a two-book series. Well, I finished the second book and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it as much as the first one. The Merlon Murders II, by Victoria Benchley, is a great summer mystery. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“In this second book of The Merlon Murders, readers are treated to some exciting twists following the harrowing ending of Book One. Duncan becomes more deeply involved with the beautiful widow Menzies, he enlists the help of a Swedish expert in game theory, and he begins to form some alarming hunches about the identity of the person who killed Stuart Menzies. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery, and especially one set in Scotland.”

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I’m becoming more and more interested in eating a plant-based diet as often as possible, so I read The Mediterranean Table, which is a cookbook of easy Mediterranean recipes. The Mediterranean diet is largely plant-based, though there are recipes in the book featuring meat, poultry, and fish, too. The recipes are not only easy to follow, but they use ingredients that are widely available. The book includes a great description of the Mediterranean diet, along with the countries making up that region of the world and their individual contributions to the cuisine of the area.

***

This is a diverse collection of short stories about death. Most of the stories involve some element of whodunit, though not all of them are mysteries. The four I liked the most were by Robbie Cheadle and debut author Aly Locatelli. Cheadle’s stories are fictionalized accounts of historic events and legends and Locatelli’s story is a suspenseful read about a mysterious death. It’s an atmospheric treat that makes for a great debut.

I’m excited to get into August and finish all those books I’m working on! So many books…so little time…

Until next time,

Amy

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into August with a smile.

The story I’ve chosen for this month is one that celebrates a Canadian conservation achievement: the Nature Conservancy of Canada has managed to raise CAD $20M to purchase a rare “snow forest” in British Columbia, thereby protecting the habitats of about 40 at-risk species.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

These are the cohosts for this month: Shilpa GargDan Antion, Mary GieseSimon Falk, and Damyanti Biswas

 

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

Author Spotlight: Colleen Mooney AND Anna Celeste Burke

If you’ve been reading my posts for the last couple months, you’ll probably remember hearing about a new boxed set of mysteries that comes out today. It’s called Summer Snoops Unleashed and it’s a collection of mysteries from 14 bestselling mystery authors. Proceeds from the sale of the set go to animal rescue charities, so it’s for a good cause. I’ve pre-ordered mine, and as I write this I am eagerly awaiting its arrival on my ereader.

Today I have TWO authors from the set, Colleen Mooney and Anna Celeste Burke. Welcome, ladies!

Please tell us about the story you’ve contributed to the Summer Snoops collection.

Colleen: The title I’ve submitted for this set is Fireworks, Forensics & Felonies. It’s set in New Orleans, my home, over the Fourth of July weekend. Our amateur sleuth and her boyfriend are on his sailboat on Lake Pontchartrain to watch the fireworks display when they witness a house fire on shore, followed by an explosion on the fireworks barge. Both the house and fireworks barge are owned by a couple who are friends with the main characters.

AnnaRadical Regatta! (Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery #4) features Kim Reed and Brien Williams, two characters that first appear in the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series. They got hooked on figuring out whodunit while they were in the California desert near Palm Springs as members of the “Cat Pack.” The stories are told from Kim’s point of view.

Brien is a surfer dude with a passion for his new wife, food, surfing, and solving mysteries. He’s been hired as a security guard at the Sanctuary Resort & Spa. Kim was Jessica Huntington’s legal assistant and acquired skills doing background checks and digging into clients and suspects’ pasts. Before she turned her life around, she worked for a psycho Hollywood music producer where she became adept at recognizing dirty tricks and nasty secrets. She maintains guest records at the resort.

When they first visited Corsario Cove, it was their honeymoon destination. A dead Santa throws a hitch into their plans, they end up on the suspect list, and decide to find Santa’s killer. In Cowabunga Christmas! Kim and Brien also meet the local detective—Bernie Mitchum. As you can imagine, he’s thrilled to have Gidget and Moondoggie snooping into Santa’s murder.

In Radical Regatta!, rescuing a dog that’s swimming for its life beyond the cove draws Kim and Brien into troubled waters. As a crime wave hits Corsario Cove, they hope they can find out what’s going on before a Fourth of July Regatta turns deadly. When an infamous international thief turns up dead, it won’t be smooth sailing for anyone until these twenty-something sleuths solve the mystery behind the murder and mayhem.

Kim and Brien are the youngest, wackiest, and most impulsive of the sleuths in the five series I write. To be honest, they’re something of a tribute to my husband and me in our younger days. He wasn’t a surfer, but a rock musician. I grew up at the beach and loved the old Beach Blanket Bingo movies. I was underaged, and the police picked me up as a runaway after we eloped to Tijuana and got married. Young, wacky, impulsive, I’ll admit it now that we’ve been married almost 49 years.

Are there any specific things that tie the stories in the collection together? For example, are they all about dogs? Do the animals help solve the mysteries?

Colleen: My stories all have schnauzers in them. The main character is an avid rescuer of the breed.

Anna: All fourteen stories include a pet—mostly cats and dogs. My book has a dog plus another interesting animal character that I’ll keep secret for now. The pets play minor to major roles in solving the mysteries in each book. I hope you find all stories fun, funny, and fast perfect summer reads!

Is your story part of a series that you have released, or does it stand alone?

Colleen: This is book 7 in my series, The New Orleans Go Cup Chronicles.

Anna: Radical Regatta! can be read as standalone, but there are three books already published in the series: Cowabunga Christmas!, Gnarly New Year!, and Heinous Habits! I hope readers will check out the previous books in the series if they enjoy Radical Regatta!

I’ve put book one—Cowabunga Christmas! on sale all month as a Christmas in July 99c special. Readers who subscribe to my website  https://www.desertcitiesmystery.com can read book 2 in the series, Gnarly New Year! FREE.

Are the stories short stories, novellas, or full-length novels?

Both: The set includes a mix of novellas and novel-length cozy mysteries.

Do you have any pets at home?

Colleen: OMG yes, all the time. In addition to my schnauzers I may have one or two rescues I foster who are waiting to get adopted. I am a breed rescuer for Schnauzers! (You write what you know, right?) Anyway, about 17 years ago I found myself up to four schnauzers and realized I couldn’t adopt them all so I found a rescue group and volunteers for them. After some time, the founder had a family and I took over the group. Right now I’m up to 4 Schnauzers again!

Anna: Right now, I have one loud-mouthed, sweet and sassy, Siamese cat.

If so, what kind(s) of pets do you have and what are their names?

Clleen: Four Schnauzers. Their names are Maus – because he is small and about 6 years old; MoonPie Mooney-about 12/13 years old; Tweezer-about 6 years old; and Murphy Mooney- 14/15 years old. Tweezer and Murphy were rescues adopted by a wonderful lady who died unexpectedly, and I took them back. Tweezer is a special needs rescue in that she came to us blind, under a year old. Someone just left her out on the street to fend for herself. My rescue had a fund raiser and we replaced one eye with a lens so she had sight. Murphy is older and the lady had him several years before Tweezer. I don’t want to separate them because Tweezer keeps Murphy young! Her personality and playfulness really blossomed after she could see. They both have been an amazing addition to our family.

Anna: Coco is a Seal point Siamese with a light-colored coat and dark, chocolate brown points. He’s a very affectionate cat and loves to cuddle, but he has one of the loudest mouths I have ever heard. He’s the model for Miles, one of Georgie Shaw’s Siamese kitties in the Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series. Like Miles, named for Miles Davis, Coco’s voice carries like a trumpet blast.

Did you have pets growing up?

Colleen: My dad loved dogs and he would tell my mother he “found” one and bring it home. My earliest memory is of a big Chow his sister gave us because she couldn’t take care of it any longer. I was maybe two years old and remember him. We had Beagles, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Chihuahuas (my mother’s choice) and a couple of mutts. My first dog as an adult was a Schnauzer mix named Cricket Ann. She had the attitude of a Schnauzer and I fell in love with it.

Anna: Oh, yes! Cats, dogs, mice, tadpoles raised until they became frogs, and a rabbit named Debbie that would beg at the refrigerator. Since I’ve been married, my husband and I have owned lots of cats—sometimes 4 at a time! We also owned a Chow dog for years and an iguana. The iguana got away when two cats let him out while we were at work. When I opened the door, the iguana ran for it into the orange grove nearby.

Tell us how the authors settled on the charities that will receive the proceeds from the set.

Colleen: As a group we submitted names of rescues and shelters and voted on them. Those of us who submitted a shelter wrote up something we knew about them to share with the others.

Anna: There are three no-kill shelters that we hope to help with the money we raise from presales of Summer Snoops Unleashed. Each of these shelters also has a special interest in finding homes for senior pets and/or pets with special needs.

The box set is only 99¢, which we hope is affordable to cozy mystery readers, but we only get 35¢ in royalties. We must sell lots and lots of books to help the wonderful people who work so hard to rescue pets and take care of them until they find fur-ever homes.

The 13 other Summer Snoops Unleashed authors and I are working with three wonderful shelters this year. The Streetdog Foundation in Memphis, The Northshore Humane Society located north of New Orleans, and Home ‘Fur’ Good near Phoenix, Arizona.

Do you ever volunteer at a local animal shelter?

Colleen: I was on the Board of Directors for the Northshore Humane Society years ago when I lived on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I have since moved back to the New Orleans side of the lake.  I did fund raising for the shelter at that time when I was a lot younger.  Now, I pull schnauzers from the local shelters when they call me to take into rescue and find a suitable, fur-ever home for.  It’s hard to go to the shelter and only take one dog.

Anna: No, but most of the cats I’ve owned over the year have been “rescues.” My husband and I have taken them in to keep them from going to shelters. Sometimes these sweeties had a problem or two, but they all turned out to be wonderful cats.

If any readers are interested in donating to their local animal shelter, what items do you suggest, or is a monetary donation a better choice?

Colleen: If you are close to a shelter, they can always use newspapers and blankets. A monetary donation is what is most needed. Northshore Humane Society is a very old shelter and they are in the process of trying to build a newer, more modern facility where they can provide more veterinary services. They are a shelter that constantly improves what they can do for animals.

Anna: Shelters are always desperate for money, but they can also use volunteers and foster families to give pets a break from shelter life or take in pets when the shelter runs out of room. Links to each of the shelters we chose can be found on our website if anyone wants to know more about them: https://www.summersnoops.com.

If there’s anything else you’d like to add, please feel free!

Colleen: If you’d like to see or follow Schnauzer Rescue here we are: website: https://www.nolaschnauzer.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/NOLASchnauzerRescue/ or www.colleenmooney.com for my website and books or https://www.facebook.com/colleen.mooney.716 on Facebook! THANK YOU!

Anna: Thank you so much for letting us share the news about our Summer Snoops Unleashed box set. We hope visitors to your site will buy a copy for themselves and gift one or two to a friend or family member. At 99¢ this is a great deal for a wonderful cause and are purr-fect summer reads for cozy mystery fans. And, of course, your readers are invited to visit my website, noted above.

Readers, there’s a special pet cookbook available for FREE download as part of the Summer Snoops Unleashed collection! Just click this link to check it out!

Until next time,

Amy