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Meet Mystery Book Blogger Dru Ann Love!
I’ve had the good fortune to get to know book blogger Dru Ann Love over the past few years. She does so much for the mystery community, that I wanted to sing her praises by featuring her on my blog. Enjoy this interview and be sure to visit her Dru’s Book Musings blog!
Diane: What drew you to becoming a book reviewer and blogger?
Dru Ann: I consider myself to be a book muser as my musings don’t have the typical start, middle and end elements of a review, but it suits me just fine. I started my blog to keep track of the books I was reading. The more I put up my short musings, it caught the attention of a few authors and my blog blossomed especially when I added the main feature, “A Day In The Life” which gives a glimpse into a character life before and after they solve a murder. I call Dru’s Book Musings a feature blog with a smattering of musings.
Diane: What do you think makes a book exceptional?
Dru Ann: It is when you lose yourself in the story being read. The characters are as real to you as the person standing next to you on a subway train. When you want to see what happens next and “goad” the author into writing a sequel, because you know there is more to the story (even if the book is a standalone). When you tell the world that they must pick up this book so they can enjoy it as well. Caveat, everyone’s taste is different, so a reader may not enjoy it as much as you did.
Diane: What book has surprised you the most and in what way?
Dru Ann: Naked In Death by J.D. Robb. I’m not a romance reader nor a futuristic reader, but this book took me to a different level, and I couldn’t get this book out of my head. It was a relationship building process and I knew when I finished the book, another visit was coming with this character, and I would get to know them better with each book published. This is one of the reasons I love series.
Diane: How many hours each day or week do you spend reading, and how do you find or make the time needed to read and review so many books?
Dru Ann: Pre-Pandemic, I probably read over 40 hours a week. I had a two-hour commute on the subway which was perfect for catching up with my stories. The weekend afforded me more hours to read. I’m an early riser so by the time my chores are done, the world wakes up and I’ve already started reading my next book. Post-Pandemic, I read less, but hopefully as the world starts to rebound, I can get my reading hours back to where it was. Now it’s a bit of a struggle. I also compartmentalized my activities so I have the time to read.
Diane: When did you discover that you loved books? Was it when you were a child, or was it later in life? Was there a particular book or event that make you realize you were a book person?
Dru Ann: My mom was an avid reader. Libraries were my friend. I got my first library card when I was four and I would take out the maximum number of books (okay they were picture books) allowed and bring them back within the week. Remember the Dick and Jane books? Yep, I read them all. The library couldn’t keep up with me. I really developed a sense of reading when I discovered Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Oh, the puzzle solving aspect is what drew me to these books and that’s why I love mysteries, especially the cozy genre. PS, I love the invention of the e-reader. Love my Kindle Paperwhite.
More about Dru Ann Love: Dru Ann Love reportedly spends her working hours at the mysterious daytime situation. Her non-working hours are spent less reclusively on her award-winning blog, Dru’s Book Musings, where the “Day in the Life,” “Get to Know You,” and “Word with the Author” segments are prominently featured. She is happy to be in “her element” within the mystery community. Dru Ann is a 2017 Mystery Writers of America Raven Award recipient and an Anthony Award finalist in 2015 and 2018. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, where she is also the reporting monitor for the Sisters in Crime National Monitoring Project. She is also a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and served on the Bouchercon Board 2017-2019. Dru Ann will be the Malice Domestic Co-Fan Guest of Honor for 2022 and Left Coast Crime Fan Guest of Honor for 2023.
Meet My New Author Friend Connie Berry!
Connie Berry and I recently met online when Connie was featured on the “Molly on Mysteries” program. We soon realized we had an interesting thing in common – we both write mysteries featuring old things, antiques for Connie and old houses for me. We thought you readers would enjoy a little conversation about our books and our love for things from yesteryear.
Diane: What’s your favorite antique you’ve ever owned?
Connie: Antiques are precious to me, not because of their monetary value but because they connect me to the past. One of my favorites pieces is a sampler, completed by a girl named Elizabeth Billinghurst on August 10, 1781. While I can’t know for sure, she may have been the Elizabeth Billinghurst who was born in Surrey, England, in 1767 and died in 1859 at the age of 92 (quite an achievement for the eighteenth century). If so, she completed this sampler when she was fourteen. The saying she chose was a popular one for young stitchers:
Virtue’s the chiefest beauty of the mind
The noblest ornament of humankind
Virtue’s our safeguard and our guiding star
That stirs up reason when our senses err
In spite of the complexity of the project, Elizabeth wasn’t all that detail-oriented. Failing to plan ahead, she was obliged to insert the final letters or word above the line. It’s one of my favorite things about this sampler. I picture her bent over her work, longing for an opportunity to stash the linen in her work basket and race outside to visit the horses or climb the apple tree in the garden.
Diane: What’s something surprising you’ve learned about antiques while performing research for your books?
Connie: In my latest book, The Shadow of Memory (release date May 2022), antiquities expert Ivor Tweedy shows Kate a tiny portrait of a human eye. This is how he describes it to Kate and her friend Vivian:
“You might assume it’s been cut down from a larger portrait, but no.” The gleam
in Ivor’s eye told me he’d been hoping one of us would ask. “This is what’s called a
Lover’s Eye—a fad in the decades around the turn of the nineteenth century. Lovers
would exchange portraits of their eyes, painted on bits of ivory no bigger than a
fingernail, like this one. Both men and women wore them, with the identity of the subject
a mystery. All part of the fun.”
I’d never heard of Lover’s Eyes, maybe because their popularity lasted only about twenty years, but they were lots of fun to research. In October I’m planning to spend a day at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where they have a number of Lover’s Eyes on display. Can’t wait!
Diane: What drew you to setting your books in England?
Connie: If you haven’t guessed, I’m an Anglophile! During college, I studied at St. Clare’s College, Oxford, and fell (hard) under the spell of the British Isles—the literature, legends, and history of those small jewel-like islands in the sea. When I started my first job, I used my lunch break to read, in order, the biographies of all the kings and queens, beginning with Boadicea, the Iceni queen who led a revolt against the Romans in 60 BC. I went on from there to read diaries and letters written by ordinary people from the 16th to the 20th century. Since the 1980s, my husband and I have traveled to the British Isles once or twice a year—until Covid. Writing a book means spending massive amounts of time in the fictional world you’ve created. Since March of 2020, spending imaginary time in Britain has been one of my consolations.
Connie: Your house-flipper series features a female carpenter who rehabs old buildings, and Getaway with Murder, your latest in the Mountain Lodge Mysteries, involves the renovation of a dilapidated lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What draws you to write about building renovation? Have you ever done it yourself?
Diane: I’ve always had a soft spot for old houses, especially Victorians and farmhouses with big wrap-around porches. They take me back to a simpler time when the pace of life was slower, and I find comfort in that. I feel a twinge in my heart when I see a house suffering from neglect, and I know it could be beautiful if just given some TLC. While I can’t give all these old structures new life in reality, it’s fun to rehab them in my books, and turn old eyesores into something people can enjoy anew. I’ve never rehabbed an entire house, but we’ve changed out flooring in the homes we’ve lived in to make them prettier and more pet-friendly. We’ve also painted the walls. I love bright, whimsical colors! I also enjoy gardening, and I’ve added outdoor color with plants, flowers, and cute yard decorations. We plan to install black and white checkerboard flooring in the kitchen of our colonial soon, which will fulfill a decades-long dream of having checkerboard floors. I love the look!
Connie: Do you have a favorite old building?
Diane: I have two favorites. The first would be the Caswell House in Austin, Texas, where my husband and I were married thirty years ago. It’s a gorgeous Victorian with a wide porch and balcony. My second favorite would be our first home in Austin, which we rented. It was a tiny two-bedroom wood-frame house, but it had hardwood floors throughout and oodles of charm. A more recent building I’ve enjoyed watching be rehabbed is the Colonial Inn in my hometown of Hillsborough, North Carolina. Only a year ago, it looked ready for the wrecking ball, but now it’s open as both an inn and restaurant. It’s lovely.
Connie: Misty Murphy, the protagonist in Getaway with Murder, is 50, definitely older than the typical cozy heroine. Why did you choose to make her that age, and are there advantages to being older?
Diane: I turned 50 a few years ago and have found being in my fifties far from the devastating foray “over the hill” we’re told it will be. It’s so freeing to have our children launched, more financial security, and fewer responsibilities for anyone other than ourselves (and our furry, four-footed housemates, of course). We’re having the time of our lives! We’ve also discovered that this phase of life is a great time to rediscover or reinvent ourselves. The independence is awesome! Though I’d love to have the energy I had when I was younger, I’d never want to lose the hard-earned knowledge and forego the experiences I’ve had. With age comes perspective, and I like knowing what is truly important and being able to focus on that.
Be sure to check out Connie and her books at Connie’s website. Find Connie at her author page on Facebook (The Kate Hamilton Mystery Series page), on Twitter at @ConnieCBerry and on Instagram at @ConnieCampbellBerry.
Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli Just Released in Audio!
Hooray! I’m so excited about this audio release! Got Audible credits? Get a copy of the book here: Audible
Join Me on The Moonshine Shack Murder Blog Tour!
I’m thrilled to be hosted or featured on so many great blogs this month!
I hope you’ll join me on my tour! You’ll learn lots about the book and the characters, as well as some fascinating things about moonshine and its storied history. You’ll even get some recipes that include moonshine. So be sure to check in each day!
THE MOONSHINE SHACK MURDER TOUR PARTICIPANTS
July 6 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 6 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST
July 7 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
July 7 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
July 8 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST
July 8 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT
July 9 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW, RECIPE
July 9 – Novels Alive – REVIEW
July 10 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
July 10 – I Read What You Write – CHARACTER GUEST POST
July 11 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 12 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
July 12 – Sneaky the Library Cat’s Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 13 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 13 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 14 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 14 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
July 15 – Ascroft, eh? – GUEST POST
July 15 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT
July 16 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
July 16 – ebook addicts – SPOTLIGHT
July 17 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
July 17 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE
July 18 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 18 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
July 19 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
July 19 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW
July 19 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT
Want a chance to win five great books, including my upcoming release The Moonshine Shack Murder? Enter the sweepstakes here: ENTER SWEEPSTAKES! The entry period ends April 30th, so enter right away!
Come on a Reading Journey!
So excited that my book Busting Out is featured on the My Reading Journeys Blog this week! Check it out here:
New Release from Vicki Batman!
New release from my author friend Vicki Batman! Get your copy today!
Hattie Cooks scrambles to exonerate her sister when all fingers point to Tracey as the murderer of her ex-husband.
Great job. What man? And murder. Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.
Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident, the same loser who was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone.
Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?
Find Vicki Batman at:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/
Find Temporarily out of Luck at:
Welcome author Amber Royer!
Today I’m thrilled to bring you this guest post by my friend and fellow author Amber Royer!
I love cozy mysteries. An amateur sleuth solving crime against all odds. A fun cast of characters. Often a fun business, or a close-knit community. Suspects, cops, sidekicks, pets, red herrings, conflicting goals . . . there’s really a lot going on in something that feels like a light, fun read. It can be a challenge to balance all of this and keep your protagonist at the center of things.
It all comes down to one concept: character agency. This is a term borrowed from psychology.
According to psychologist Albert Bandura, “Agency refers to the human capability to influence one’s functioning and the course of events by one’s actions. There are four functions through which human agency is exercised. One such function is intentionality. People form intentions that include action plans and strategies for realizing them. The second function involves temporal extension of agency through forethought. People set themselves goals and foresee likely outcomes of prospective actions to guide and motivate their efforts anticipatorily. The third agentic function is self-reactiveness. Agents are not only planners and forethinkers. They are also self-regulators. The fourth agentic function is self-reflectiveness. People are not only agents, they are self-examiners of their own functioning. Through functional self-awareness, they reflect on their personal efficacy, the soundness of their thoughts and actions, the meaning of their pursuits, and make corrective adjustments if necessary.”
What does that mean? As real-life human beings, we are happiest if our sense of agency in our lives is high. We’re making our own decisions and plans, reflecting on how things worked out and revising things, in order to design the lives we want to live. Take that away – or let us try our hardest and not feel like we’re getting anywhere – and we start getting cranky or depressed.
That’s why we want fictional characters to also have agency – especially a story’s protagonist. We’re reading to experience a piece of someone else’s life – and we don’t want that slice to make us cranky. Readers tend to lose patience with characters who let other people solve the big problems. (This is different from having a narrator character telling the story of the protagonist, such as when Watson tells us an adventure starring Sherlock Holmes. Watson was there, but he never claimed to be the star of the story.)
When I started this first Bean to Bar Mystery, I knew I wanted it to be Felicity’s story. And I knew I wanted her to be a chocolate maker. So when I designed her as a character, she needed to have the qualities that make a good sleuth – an inquisitive nature, the ability to solve puzzles and adaptability. She’s a very specific person: she’s always been about following rules and controlling situations – but she starts to flourish once she steps outside her comfort zone.
But I brought characters into her life who had solving crimes and stopping bad guys in their official job description. Arlo’s the cop investigating the case – and also Felicity’s ex-boyfriend from back in high school. And Logan is a former bodyguard with a troubled past. It would have been so easy to let Felicity take a back seat while these other characters did their jobs. But that would have made for a disappointing read. She’s the protagonist. The last thing anyone wants is to see her on the sidelines while the boys sort things out.
When you want to give an amateur sleuth believable agency, there has to be some reason she’s the one in a better position to solve the crime than the other characters. And you have to make sure she’s the one with the pieces to solve the crime before anyone else. I did this in two ways: I had the murder victim be one of Felicity’s employees, which mean it was someone she knew more about than any of the other major characters. And I had some of the clues come from people Felicity interacted with that the officials would have no reason to question. No one else would have put everything together, because no one else had reason to be in all of the places Felicity was. Her perspective allowed her to be the one to find the solution.
Character agency also means the character’s decisions shape the plot and have a lasting impact. I gave Felicity plenty of room to do that. Without the choices she makes, not only would the crime go unsolved, but other characters in the book would have maintained a different trajectory in their lives, especially her friends and potential love interests. Expect this to amplify over the course of the series.
I hope you enjoy Felicity’s first adventure, Grand Openings Can Be Murder, available February 2. Set on Galveston Island, she’s come home to start a bean to bar chocolate company – only to have her plans complicated when one of her employees is murdered at the shop’s grand opening party. With an impending hurricane, she’ll have to rush to get the clues together before everyone evacuates.