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Interview – CMash Reads
Dec 032020
 

A Murder is Forever

by Rob Bates

December 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

A Murder is Forever by Rob Bates

Max Rosen always said the diamond business isn’t about sorting the gems, it’s about sorting the people. His daughter Mimi is about to learn that some people, like some diamonds, can be seriously flawed.

After Mimi’s diamond-dealer cousin Yosef is murdered–seemingly for his $4 million pink diamond–Mimi finds herself in the middle of a massive conspiracy, where she doesn’t know who to trust, or what to believe. Now she must find out the truth about both the diamond and her cousin, before whoever killed Yosef, gets her.

“[A] sprightly debut …. Bates, who has more than 25 years as a journalist covering the diamond business, easily slips in loads of fascinating information on diamonds and Jewish culture without losing sight of the mystery plot. Readers will look forward to Mimi’s further adventures.” – Publishers Weekly

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 13th 2020
Number of Pages: 281
ISBN: 1603812229 (ISBN13: 9781603812221)
Series: The Diamond District Mystery Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Rob Bates

Rob Bates has written about the diamond industry for over 25 years. He is currently the news director of JCK, the leading publication in the jewelry industry, which just celebrated its 150th anniversary. He has won 12 editorial awards, and been quoted as an industry authority in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio. He is also a comedy writer and performer, whose work has appeared on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment, comedycentral.com, and McSweeneys He has also written for Time Out New York, New York Newsday, and Fastcompany.com. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and son.

Q&A with Rob Bates

What was the inspiration for this book?

I have written about the diamond and jewelry industry for nearly 30 years for different trade publications. I always thought there would be some great stories to tell about the industry. It’s so exotic, and different than most other industries. (For instance, most diamond deals are sealed with the word Mazal. That’s it. No contracts, no lawyers. And that’s binding.)

There are also many misconceptions about it. I wanted my book to be a true insider’s view. Many people who have walked through New York’s Diamond District have no idea what exactly what happens there. So this lifts the veil a bit.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

It’s all pretty challenging, but I consider myself lucky to get a book published in this environment.

I’ve engaged in many creative pursuits over the years, including performing sketch comedy and stand-up. They all involve a lot of rejection. When I first started looking for agents, and I experienced some turndowns, and thought, “Why am I putting myself through this again?” It worked out okay in the end. You just have to look at rejection as part of the process. One day, I’ll figure out how to do that.

The main character of my book is a laid-off journalist who also deals with rejection. I’m happy that’s in there. It’s something you don’t always see portrayed in books and media, but it’s part of life.
My day job involves writing for a trade publication. And while it’s 150 years old, and an institution, it’s faced a lot of changes and challenges, like the rest of the publishing business has. But that’s a long long story.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

I usually listen to music, just because music calms me and lifts my spirits. I probably shouldn’t, as it can distracting, but it’s a habit by now.

A deadline helps, too.

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

I try to set myself a goal for the month, so if I screw up one day (which happens), I can make it up later. But my work habits vary, put it that way. I wish I had a magic formula, except for making myself feel guilty. That works. Sometimes.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Everyone likes the character of Max, the heroine’s father, so I guess I would say him. I can’t dispute the wisdom of the crowd.

There’s a Rabbi in the book, and he was fun to write. One character is a composite of a different jargon-spouting executives I’ve spoken with over the years. But I like all the characters. Otherwise, I wouldn’t include them.

Most of the people in the book—even the flawed ones—are fundamentally good. Maybe I’m naïve, but I think that’s true of people in general.

Getting back to the diamond business, a lot of the portrayals you have seen in films, like Uncut Gems, have been unduly harsh. The bad side of the business certainly exists; there’s problems in the industry, and the book is sometimes frank about them. But I also wanted to portray the industry like I’ve experienced it: it’s not perfect, by any means, but it’s full of good and bad people, like any other business. Some of the nicest, most decent, as well as smartest, people I’ve met work in the diamond industry. It’s full of people trying to make a living, like any business.

Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?

Some of the characters in the book do things that are unconscionable (like kill people). But I try to make them all have some good or interesting qualities. If I didn’t like them, or didn’t find them worth writing about, I’d cut them from the book.

I also tried to make even the minor characters, like a security guard who plays a bit role in a few chapters, be unique or different.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

The main character (Mimi) is named after my late mother, and her father is named after my grandfather, who was a diamond dealer on 47th Street. That’s in tribute to them. The characters are not based on the actual people.

Many of the quotes in this book are actual things I’ve heard in the diamond business. I’ll let people decide which ones those are.

When I started writing this, I didn’t really know what a “cozy” mystery was. But it turned out that my book fit most of its requirements: it is light-hearted, has lots of humor, features little violence, and is built around an amateur detective. It’s not set in a small community—like most cozies are—but in New York City. But the Diamond District is definitely its own community. It’s an urban cozy. Perhaps I’ve invented a new genre.

When I first started writing this, an editor suggested I make the main character female, which was not something I would have considered on my own. Obviously, that was a little challenging at times, but I had my wife look it over to make sure I was on the right track. Every now and then, she’d write “hmmm…” on something I wrote. I got rid of everything that had “hmmmm…” on it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you! I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my book. It means so much to me.

I’m also interested in hearing readers’ feedback. If we weren’t living in COVID, I’d be happy to meet readers in person and autograph the books, not that my signature is particularly valuable.

The news is so depressing these days. If this proves a pleasant distraction for people, I’d be happy

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m just a bald guy from suburban New Jersey. When I graduated from college, I was looking for a writing job, and there was an ad for a writer for a diamond industry publication. As I mentioned, my grandfather had been a diamond dealer, and even though he died long before all this happened, I told the interviewer that I grew up in the business, and knew all about it. That was mostly B.S., but he bought it, or maybe he just pitied me. Regardless, I’m still at it 30 years later.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

The second book in this series is coming out next year. In fact, I turned in the manuscript one day before I did this interview. The second book, “Murder’s Not a Girl’s Best Friend,” focuses on some of the social issues the industry has had to deal with, so its subject matter is a little more serious than this one. But I tried to make it also fun and enjoyable.

(By the way, I’m really happy with my first two titles: “A Murder is Forever” and “Murder’s Not a Girl’s Best Friend,” as they play on the best-known slogans in the diamond business. I’m still figuring out what the third title will be. Suggestions welcome!)

There are so many stories in the diamond business. It’s an industry that touches so many different aspects of life—marketing, politics, economics, etc. I find it fascinating, and I hope that anyone reading these books will find it fascinating, too. And I hope to keep writing these books as long as the publishing gods let me.

Catch Up With Rob Bates:
RobBatesAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

 

Read an excerpt:

A MURDER IS FOREVER

By Rob Bates

CHAPTER ONE

As Mimi Rosen exited the subway and looked out on the Diamond District, she remembered the words of her therapist: “This won’t last forever.”

She sure hoped so. She had been working on Forty-Seventh Street for two months and was already pretty tired of it.

To outsiders, “The Diamond District” sounded glamorous, like a street awash in glitter. To Mimi, who had spent her life around New York, Forty-Seventh Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues was a crowded, dirty eyesore of a block. The sidewalk was covered not with glitz, but with newspaper boxes, cigarettes, stacks of garbage bags, and, of course, lots of people.

Dozens of jewelry stores lined the street, all vying for attention, with red neon signs proclaiming “we buy gold” or “50 percent off.” Their windows boasted the requisite rows of glittery rings, and Mimi would sometimes see tourists ogling them, their eyes wide. She hated how the stores crammed so many gems in each display, until they all ran together like a mess of kids’ toys. For all its feints toward elegance, Forty-Seventh Street came off as the world’s sparkliest flea market.

Mimi knew the real action in the Diamond District was hidden from pedestrians, because it took place upstairs. There, in the nondescript grey and brown buildings that stood over the stores, billions in gems were bought, sold, traded, stored, cut, appraised, lost, found, and argued over. The upstairs wholesalers comprised the heart of the U.S. gem business; if someone bought a diamond anywhere in America, it had likely passed through Forty-Seventh Street.

Mimi’s father Max had spent his entire life as part of the small tight-knit diamond dealer community. It was a business based on who you knew—and even more, who you trusted. “This business isn’t about sorting the diamonds,” Max always said. “It’s about sorting the people.” Mimi would marvel how traders would seal million-dollar deals on handshakes, without a contract or lawyer in sight.

It helped that Forty-Seventh Street was comprised mostly of family businesses, owned by people from a narrow range of ethnic groups. Most—like Mimi’s father—were Orthodox, or religious, Jews. (“We’re the only people crazy enough to be in this industry,” as Max put it.) The Street was also home to a considerable contingent of Hasidic Jews, who were even more religious and identifiable by their black top hats and long flowing overcoats. Mimi once joked that Forty-Seventh Street was so diverse, it ran the gamut from Orthodox to ultra-Orthodox.

Now Mimi, while decidedly secular, was part of it all. Working for her father’s diamond company was not something she wanted to do, not something she ever dreamed she would do. Yet, here she was.

She had little choice. She had not worked full-time since being laid off from her editing job a year ago. She was already in debt from her divorce, which had cost more than her wedding, and netted little alimony. “That’s what happens when you divorce a lawyer,” said her shrink.

Six months after she lost her job, Mimi first asked her father for money. He happily leant it to her, though he added he wasn’t exactly Rockefeller. It was after her third request—accompanied, like the others, by heartfelt vows to pay him back—that he asked her to be the bookkeeper at his company. “I know you hate borrowing from me,” he told her. “This way, it isn’t charity. Besides, it’ll be nice having you around.”

Mimi protested she could barely keep track of her own finances. Her father reminded her that she got an A in accounting in high school. Which apparently qualified her to do the books at Max Rosen Diamond Company.

“We have new software, it makes it easy,” Max said. “Your mother, may she rest in peace, did it for years.”

Mimi put him off. She had a profession, and it wasn’t her mother’s.

Mimi was a journalist. She had worked at a newspaper for nine years, and a website for five. She was addicted to the thrill of the chase, the pump of adrenaline when she uncovered a hot story or piece of previously hidden info. There is no better sound to a reporter’s ears than someone sputtering, “How did you find that out?”

“It’s the perfect job for you,” her father once said. “You’re a professional nosy person.”

She loved journalism for a deeper reason, which she rarely admitted to her cynical reporter friends: She wanted to make a difference. As a girl, she was haunted by the stories they told in religious school, how Jews were killed in concentration camps while the world turned its head. Growing up, she devoured All the President’s Men and idolized pioneering female muckrakers like Nellie Bly.

Being a journalist was the only thing Mimi ever wanted to do, the only thing she knew how to do. She longed to do it again.

Which is why, she told her therapist, she would tell her father no.

Dr. Asner said she understood, in that soft melancholy coo common to all therapists. Then she crept forward on her chair.

“Maybe you should take your father up on this. He’s really throwing you a lifeline. You keep telling me how bad the editorial job market is.” She squinted and her glasses inched up her nose. “Sometimes people adjust their dreams. Put them on hold.”

Mimi felt the blood drain from her face. In her darker moments—and she had quite a few after her layoff—she had considered leaving journalism and doing something else, though she had no idea what that would be. Mimi always believed that giving up her lifelong passion would be tantamount to surrender.

Dr. Asner must have sensed her reaction, because she quickly backtracked.

“You can continue to look for a journalism job,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe working in the Diamond District will give you something to write about. Besides,”— here, her voice gained an edge—“you need the money.” That was driven home at the end of the forty-five minutes, when Dr. Asner announced that she couldn’t see Mimi for any more sessions, since Mimi hadn’t paid her for the last three.

By that point, Mimi didn’t know whether to argue, burst into tears, or wave a white flag and admit the world had won.

It was a cold February morning as Mimi walked down Forty-Seventh Street to her father’s office, following an hour-plus commute from New Jersey that included a car, a bus, and a subway. With her piercing hazel eyes, glossy brown hair, and closely set features, Mimi was frequently told she was pretty, though she never quite believed it. She had just gotten her hair cut short to commemorate her thirty-eighth birthday, hoping for a more “mature” look. She had always been self-conscious about her height; she was five foot four and tried to walk taller. She was wearing a navy dress that she’d snagged for a good price on eBay; it was professional enough to please her father, who wanted everyone to look nice in the office, without being so nice that she was wasting one of her few good outfits. She was bundled up with multiple layers and a heavy coat—to protect against the winter chill, as well as the madness around her.

Even though it was before 9 AM, Forty-Seventh Street was, as usual, packed, and Mimi gritted her teeth as she bobbed and weaved through the endless crowd. She sidestepped the store workers grabbing a smoke, covering her mouth so she wouldn’t get cancer. She swerved around the stern-looking guard unloading the armored car, with the gun conspicuously dangling from his belt. And she dodged the “hawker” trying to lure her into a jewelry store, who every day asked if she had gold to sell, even though every day she told him no.

Finally, Mimi reached her father’s building, 460 Fifth, the most popular address on “The Street.” After a few minutes standing and tapping her foot on the security line, she handed her driver’s license to the security guard and called out, “Rosen Diamonds.”

“Miss,” growled the guard with the oversized forehead who’d seen her three days a week for the past two months, “you should get a building ID. It’ll save you time in the morning.”

“It’s okay. I won’t be working here for long,” she chirped, though she wasn’t quite sure of that.

Next stop, the elevator bank. Mimi had an irrational fear of elevators; she was always worried she would die in one. She particularly hated these elevators, which were extremely narrow and perpetually packed. She envied those for whom a subway was their sole exposure to a cramped unpleasant space.

As the car rose, one occupant asked a Hasidic dealer how he was finding things.

“All you can do is put on your shoes. The rest is up to the man upstairs.”

Only in the diamond business. Mimi’s last job was thirty blocks away, yet in a different universe.

At each floor, dealers pushed and rushed like they were escaping a fire. When the elevator reached her floor, Mimi too elbowed her way to freedom.

As she walked to her father’s office, she marveled how the building, so fancy and impressive when she was a kid, had sunk into disrepair. The carpets were frayed, the paint was peeling, and the bathroom rarely contained more than one functioning toilet. If management properly maintained the building, they’d charge Midtown Manhattan rents, which small dealers like her father couldn’t afford. The neglect suited everyone.

She spied a new handwritten sign, “No large minyans, by order of the fire department.” Mimi produced a deep sigh. She had long ago left her religious background behind. Somehow, she was now working in a building where they warn against praying in the halls. She was going backward.

Perhaps the dealer in the elevator was right. You could only put on your shoes and do your best. She grabbed her pocketbook strap, threw her head back, and was just about at her father’s office when she heard the yelling.

“I’m so tired of waiting, Yosef! It’s not fair!”

Max’s receptionist, Channah, was arguing with her boyfriend, Yosef, a small-time, perpetually unsuccessfully diamond dealer. Making it more awkward: Yosef was Mimi’s cousin.

Channah and Yosef had dated for nearly eighteen months without getting married—an eternity in Channah’s community. Still, whenever Channah complained, Mimi remembered how her ex-husband only popped the question after three years and two ultimatums.

“Give me more time,” Yosef stuttered, as he tended to do when nervous. “I want to be successful in the business.”

“When’s that going to happen? The year three thousand?”

The argument shifted to Yiddish, which Mimi didn’t understand, though they were yelling so fiercely she didn’t need to. Finally, tall, skinny Yosef stormed out of the office, his black hat and suit set off by his red face. He was walking so fast he didn’t notice his cousin Mimi standing against the wall. Given the circumstances, she didn’t stop him to say hello. She watched his back grow smaller as he stomped and grunted down the hall.

Mimi gave Channah time to cool down. After a minute checking in vain for responses to her latest freelance pitch—editors weren’t even bothering to reject her anymore—she rang the doorbell. She flashed a half-smile at the security camera stationed over the door, and Channah buzzed her in. Mimi hopped into the “man trap,” the small square space between security doors that was a standard feature of diamond offices. She let the first door slam behind her, heard the second buzz, pulled the metal handle on the inner door, and said hello to Channah, perched at her standard spot at the reception desk.

Channah had long dark curly hair, which she constantly twirled; a round, expressive face, dotted with black freckles; and a voluptuous figure that even her modest religious clothing couldn’t hide.

“Did you hear us argue?” she asked Mimi.

“No,” she sputtered. “I mean—”

Channah smiled and pointed to the video monitor on her desk. “I could see you on the camera.” Her shoulders slouched. “It was the same stupid argument we always have. Even I’m bored by it.”

“Hang in there. We’ll talk at lunch.” Mimi and Channah shared a quick hug, and Mimi walked back to the office.

She was greeted by her father’s smile and a peck on the cheek. If anything made this job worthwhile, it was that grin. Plus the money.

“How are things this morning?”

“Baruch Hashem,” Max replied. Max said “thank God” all the time, even during his wife’s sickness, when he really didn’t seem all that thankful.

Sure enough, he added, “We’re having a crisis.”

Mimi almost rolled her eyes. It was always a crisis in the office. When Mimi was young, the family joke was that business was either “terrible” or “worse than terrible.”

Lately, her dad seemed more agitated than normal. As he spoke, he puttered in a circle and his hands clutched a pack of Tums. That usually didn’t come out until noon.

“I can’t find the two-carat pear shape.” He threw his arms up and his forehead exploded into a sea of worry lines. “It’s not here, it’s not there. It’s nowhere.”

Max Rosen was dressed, as usual, in a white button-down shirt and brown wool slacks, with a jeweler’s loupe dangling on a rope from his neck. His glasses sat off-kilter on his nose, and two shocks of white hair jutted from his skull like wings. When he was excited about something, like this missing diamond, the veins in his neck popped and the bobby-pinned yarmulke seemed to flap on his head.

Mimi stifled a laugh. That was the crisis? Diamonds always got lost in the office. As kids, Mimi and her two sisters used to come in on weekends and be paid one dollar for every stone they found on the floor. “They travel,” Max would say.

It was no surprise that things went missing in that vortex of an office. Every desk was submerged under a huge stack of books, magazines, and papers. The most pressing were placed on the seat near her father’s desk, what he called his “in-chair.”

When Mimi’s mother worked there, she kept a lid on the chaos. After her death, Max hired a few bookkeepers, none of whom lasted; two years later, the job had somehow fallen to Mimi.

Eventually, Channah found the two-carat pear shape, snug in its parcel papers, right next to the bathroom keys. The only logical explanation was that Max was examining it while on the toilet.

Max sheepishly returned to his desk. Mimi loved watching her father at work. She was fascinated by how he joked with friends, took grief from clients, and kept track of five things at once. It felt exotic and forbidden, like observing an animal in its natural habitat.

For the most part, they got along, which was no small thing. Over the years, there had been tense moments as he struggled to accept that she was no longer religious. Lately, he rarely brought the topic up, and she didn’t want him to. Her split from her non-Jewish ex probably helped.

On occasion, the old strains resurfaced, in subtle ways. Max’s desk was covered with photos—mostly of Mimi’s mom and her religious sisters and their religious broods. One time when Max was at lunch, Mimi tiptoed over to glance at them, and—not incidentally—check how many were of her. It made her feel silly, yet she couldn’t help herself. She was a professional nosy person.

She got her answer: out of about twenty photos, Mimi was in three, an old family photo and two pics from her sisters’ weddings. That was less than expected. She tried not to take it personally. She had no kids and her marriage was a bust. What was there to show off?

Mimi spent most of the morning deciphering her father’s books—a task made more difficult by his aging computer system, which regularly stalled and crashed. Her father’s “new” software was actually fifteen years old.

Sometimes she wished he gave her more substantial tasks to do. While her father would never say it, he didn’t consider the diamond industry a place for women, as it had always been male-dominated—even though, ironically, it catered mostly to females. That was fine with Mimi. She didn’t want to devote her life to a rock.

At 1 PM, Channah and Mimi headed for Kosher Gourmet, their usual lunch spot. Mimi always joked, “I don’t know if it’s kosher, but it’s not gourmet.”

In the two months Mimi had worked for her father, she and Channah had become fast friends, bonding over their shared love of mystery novels, crossword puzzles, and sarcastic senses of humor.

Channah was not Mimi’s typical friend. She was twenty-three and her parents were strictly religious, even more than Mimi’s. She commuted to Forty-Seventh Street every day on a charter bus from Borough Park, a frum enclave in Brooklyn. The Diamond District was her main exposure to the wider world. She reminded Mimi of her younger, more religious self, under her parents’ thrall yet curious what else was out there.

Mimi was not Channah’s typical friend either. During their lunches, Channah quizzed her on the taste of non-Kosher food (it didn’t taste any different, Mimi told her); sex (“When the time comes,” Mimi said, “you’ll figure it out”); and popular culture (“Can you explain,” Channah once asked, “why Kim Kardashian is famous?” Mimi just said no.) Today, as usual, they talked about Yosef.

“I don’t get it.” Channah wrapped sesame noodles around her white plastic fork. “I love him. He loves me. Why not get married?”

Mimi took a sip from her Styrofoam cup filled with warm tap water. She preferred bottled water but couldn’t afford it. “Have you thought of giving Yosef an ultimatum? Tell him if he doesn’t marry you by a certain date, that’s it.”

“Yosef wouldn’t take that seriously.” Channah turned her eyes to her tray.

“Why not?”

“Cause I’ve done that already. Three times! I backed down every time.” Her fork toyed with her food. “I believe it is beshert that Yosef and I will end up together. I’ve thought so since I first met him at your father’s office, and he smiled at me. What choice do I have?” Her elbow nudged her tray across the table.

“I understand why he’s waiting. He wants to be a steady provider. That’s a good thing, right?”

Actually, Mimi found it sexist. She didn’t say that, because she found many things in Channah’s world sexist.

“He just needs to sell that pink,” Channah said, spearing a dark brown cube of chicken.

Mimi took a quick sip of water. “That pink” was an awkward subject.

One month ago, Yosef had bought a three-point-two carat pink diamond. It was the biggest purchase of his career, the kind of high-risk move that could make or break his business. Max was overjoyed. “Do you know how rare pink diamonds are?” he exclaimed. “And it’s a three-carater! Sounds like a great buy!”

That was, until Yosef proudly presented it to his uncle Max, who inspected it under his favorite lamp, muttered “very nice,” and quickly handed it back.

It was only after Yosef left that Max dismissed his nephew’s score as a strop, a dog of a diamond, the kind of unsellable item that gathered dust in a safe.

“It has so many pepper spots,” Max lamented. “The color’s not strong at all. No one will buy that thing.”

“Maybe he got it for a good price,” Mimi said.

“I’m sure whoever sold it to him said it was the bargain of the century. Anytime someone offers me a metziah, that’s a sign they can’t sell the stone. There’s a saying, ‘your metziah is my strop.’” His face sagged. “I wish he talked to me first. That stone is worthless. I don’t have the heart to tell him.”

When Channah brought up the big pink at lunch, Mimi didn’t want to dwell on the subject. “What’s happening with that?” she asked, as casually as possible.

“Didn’t you hear?” Channah jerked forward. “It got the highest grade possible on its USGR cert.”

“You’ll have to translate.” Mimi tuned out most diamond talk.

“Cert is short for certificate, meaning grading report. The USGR is the U.S. Academy for Gemological Research, the best lab in the industry.”

Mimi just stared.

“That stone’s worth four million dollars.”

That Mimi understood. “Wow.” A lot of money for a dog of a diamond.

“Four point one million, to be exact.” Channah laughed. “Don’t want to leave that point one out!”

“I thought that stone was—”

“Ugly?” Channah chuckled. “Me too! I don’t understand how it got that grade. I guess it doesn’t matter. As your father says, ‘today the paper is worth more than the diamond.’” She slurped some diet soda.

“Is Yosef going to get four million dollars?”

“Who knows? He isn’t exactly an expert in selling such a stone. Your father convinced him to post it on one of the online trading networks. Someone called him about it yesterday.”

“That’s great!”

“Hopefully. If anyone could screw this up, Yosef could.” Channah’s mouth curled downward. “I keep checking my phone to see if there’s any news.” She flipped over her iPhone, saw nothing, and flipped it back. “The way I figure, if he sells that stone, he’ll have to marry me. Unless he comes up with some new excuse. He wouldn’t do that, right? Not after all this time. Would he?”

Mimi struggled to keep herself in check. She was dying to shake Channah and scream that if Yosef wasn’t giving her what she wanted, it was time to move on. She didn’t. Yosef was her cousin. Mimi was in no position to critique someone else’s love life. She always told people hers was “on hold.” It was basically non-existent.

Plus, she remembered how, weeks before her wedding, her friends warned her that her fiancé had a wandering eye. That just strengthened her resolve to marry him, even though in retrospect, they were right. “With situations like that,” her therapist said later, “I always recommend not to say anything. Just be a supportive friend.”

Mimi waited until Channah stopped speaking. She touched her hand. “I’m sure it will work out,” she said.

***

Excerpt from A Murder is Forever by Rob Bates. Copyright 2020 by Rob Bates. Reproduced with permission from Rob Bates. All rights reserved.

 

 

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by Connie di Marco

December 1-31, 2020 Tour

Synopsis:

The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti’s life is turned upside down when she becomes a target of the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. The Reverend, a recently-arrived cult preacher, is determined to drive sin from the city, but his gospel of love and compassion doesn’t extend to those he considers an “abomination unto the Lord.” Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, has put her at the top of the Reverend’s list. While the powerful Mercury-ruled preacher woos local dignitaries, his Army of the Prophet will stop at nothing to silence not just Julia, but anyone who stands in his way.

Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who’s caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long-lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. One aunt slides deeper into psychosis while the other disappears. Is this young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia’s not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn’t merely the messenger of the gods – he was a trickster and a liar as well.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: October 9, 2020
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN: 0578752654 (ISBN13: 9780578752655)
Series: Zodiac Mystery #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Connie di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be re-released in October 2020.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

Q&A with Connie di Marco

What was the inspiration for this book?

The initial inspiration for this story was the history of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple in San Francisco. I was living in the city at the time of Jones’ fame and was horrified when news of the mass murders in the jungle and the shooting of a California Congressman and others broke.
But it was the mythology of Mercury that made this story come together. Mercury was a messenger of the gods, but he also represented much darker concepts. He ruled over crossroads, he escorted the dead on their final journey, and on top of all that, he was a liar and a trickster. Jones was a silver-tongued preacher, undoubtedly with a powerful Mercury in his chart, powerful enough to convince others to follow him and give up autonomy over their own lives. He used his ‘Mercury gifts’ to control others. My evil preacher, the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle, is just as evil but perhaps a little less mad.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Oddly enough, while writing the Zodiac series and waiting and hoping my agent would be able to sell these books, I was offered a three-book deal from Penguin to write a cozy series. It was about the last thing I ever expected. So there I was, an unpublished writer, faced with completing three books for one of the biggest publishers. Could I produce something acceptable? Hopefully, something much more than acceptable? I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I had signed a contract. Fear is a great motivator, so convincing myself that I could actually do this was probably my biggest challenge and a great learning experience.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

I need absolute focus, complete quiet, no music and best of all no interruptions. I think that’s why I’ve always written at night. The house is quiet, the phone stops ringing, there’s no place I need to go. Sometimes all of that is impossible, but I do my best to achieve it. I think we write best when we can step into our stories completely and feel like our characters are real people. After all, we live with them for such a long time while we write.

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

With my first series, the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries, I was under a contract that required submitting each finished manuscript every eight months. I had to stick to a routine. I’d write from about 9 PM to 11 or midnight, as long as my brain would work. On weekends, I’d put in anywhere from three to six hours of writing.

Now that I’m not under such a tight schedule, I have a lot more freedom. The truth of the matter is that in the process of writing a book, I’m haunted. The story nags me and takes over my brain until I reach the end of my first draft. Once that first draft is finished, I breathe a little easier. There’s still a lot of work to do, but by then I feel I have something solid to work with.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

I think Jack, Lucky’s grandfather in the Soup Lovers’ series, pops into my mind first. Jack’s a loving but eccentric elderly man, a Navy vet, who suffers from episodes of PTSD. Jack tells time by the bells and only Lucky can interpret. He calls the walls the bulkhead and the floors, the deck. Without thinking of it consciously, I created an amalgam of my dear dad and my ex-father-in-law. So, Jack’s still my favorite in that series.

In the Zodiac Mysteries, I’ve had a lot of fun creating unusual characters, like Zora, the cranky psychic, and Nikolai, the Russian past-life regression hypnotist. I love them all, but if I have to pick just one, I’d say Kuan Lee. Kuan is an old friend of Gloria, Julia’s grandmother. He lives in the first floor apartment of Gloria’s house and practices Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Julia considers him family. He’s always there to give her good advice, to help her see problems or crimes from a different perspective and Julia’s grateful for his advice. He’s a Yoda figure who can shift the paradigm of the story.

Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?

Least favorite character in Madness? Okay, I’ve got it. It’s Gudrun, the companion of the elderly ladies on Telegraph Hill. She’s a larger than life woman, surly, taciturn, who speaks with a German accent and tries to control the household. She’s been hired to look after the elderly aunts, but in reality, she’s committed to the forces of darkness. I can’t say much more about Gudrun, it would be a spoiler.
I love all my characters, especially the bad ones! I think you have to get into the head of villains as much as sleuths. And with certain exceptions, I’ve made the killer or killers sympathetic characters. The exploration of what would cause someone to take a human life is one of the more fascinating things about crime writing – whether a thriller or a culinary cozy. Even the bad guys have reasons for what they do.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

I like to use locations that I know personally, particularly locations that could be threatening or chilling at the right time of day or night. I try to imagine how they would work in a crime story. Chrissy Field, an old military installation, now updated as a beautiful park with modern facilities, would be a good place to find a body at night in the fog. In the next book in the series, the murderer attempts to use the currents under the Golden Gate Bridge to dispose of bodies. Most physical addresses in the books don’t really exist, but Julia’s apartment does. It’s real. I know because I used to live there.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I just hope my readers will be entertained and enjoy the stories. And best of all, want to come back for more.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born in Boston. I grew up there and went to school there. I majored in biology in college and worked as a lab technician until I realized I didn’t want to spend my life in a lab, so I changed my major to English lit, the quickest way to escape college. My real love was always acting. As a kid, I worked with Boston Children’s Theatre and then years later, on the west coast, returned to that professionally. I’ve always held a day job, but I’ve spent years working in TV for the most part. One day, I was on a set, chatting with one of the assistant directors about stories and films and I realized I was creatively bored. That’s when I decided to try to write a mystery – just one, that was my goal. And look what happened! Here I am, still writing.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

Next up is Book 2 in the series, All Signs Point to Murder. Because these first three books are being re-released by my new publisher, they’ll be coming out very quickly. All Signs will be released on December 1st. Book 3, Tail of the Dragon should be out about a month after that.

Then a novella, Enter a Wizard, Stage Left, will be released in e-book format. That story is set before the series actually begins and the action of the story takes place at a theater production of an Agatha Christie play and of course, there’s a murder! Then finally, Book 4, Serpent’s Doom, will be out. Book 5 is finished but needs a bit more work and I guess then I’ll start thinking about Book 6.

Catch Up With Connie di Marco:

ConniediMarco.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

“Thank God you’re there.” Gale sounded very shaky.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m at the Mystic Eye. Something very strange just happened. I heard a knock at the back door. I thought it might be you.”

“Are you alone?”

“Yes. I closed up and sent Cheryl home. When I opened the door . . . oh God, Julia. Someone left a dead cat on the doorstep.”

I cringed. “I’ll be right there.”

“I’m sorry. You don’t need to come. I wrapped it up and put it in plastic in the dumpster. It looked like its neck had been broken.”

“Don’t argue. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Less than that.”

I drove the length of California Street as fast as I could, slowing at each red light. Once I was sure no other cars were crossing I ran through several intersections. When I reached the Eye the shop was closed but the display lights were on in the front windows. I pulled down the alleyway and parked next to Gale’s car. I tapped on the door. “Gale, it’s me.” She opened the door immediately. The storeroom was dark. A stack of empty boxes and packing materials stood against the wall. Inside, the only light was a small desk lamp in the office.

Gale is tall and self-assured with a regal bearing. Tonight she was completely shaken. She hugged her arms, more from fright than from cold. “I feel bad now that I’ve called you. I was just so freaked out. I recognized the cat, it was the little gray one that hangs out behind the apartment building next door. I think it’s a stray. Everyone around here feeds it, even the restaurant people, and it’s such a friendly little thing. Some sick bastard probably gave it some food and then snapped its neck. God, I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Shouldn’t you call the cops?”

“And tell them what? I found a dead cat? Please. Like they’d listen. Even if they thought someone had killed it, what could they do?”

“It shows a pattern of harassment. Might be worth making a report.”

She sighed. “Yeah. You’re probably right. I just wasn’t thinking straight. I was so upset.” She collapsed in the chair behind her desk.

I shrugged out of my coat. “Why are you here so late?”

“We just got a huge shipment of books and supplies in. Cheryl’s been working late every night so I sent her home. I had just finished stacking the boxes in the storeroom.” Gale shivered involuntarily. “Look, let’s get out of here. Have you eaten? Why don’t we go up the block and grab some food? Actually a drink sounds even better.”

“Okay.”

“Get your coat. We can leave the cars here and walk. I’ll just get my purse.”

I headed to the front door and checked that the locks were all in place. The drapes separating the display windows from the shop were drawn for privacy. Gale left the desk lamp on in the office and walked out to the front counter. As she reached under the counter for her purse, we heard glass breaking. Then I saw a flash of flame through the doorway to the back storeroom. I screamed. The empty boxes and packing materials had caught fire in an explosive flash. The smoke alarm started to ring, filling the shop with earsplitting sound. Using my coat like a blanket, I dropped it over the center of the flaming pile. It wasn’t going to be enough, but I had to do something before the entire storeroom went up, if not the building.

***

Excerpt from The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco. Copyright 2020 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Connie di Marco. There will be two (2) winners each receiving one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on December 1, 2020 and runs through January 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Nov 112020
 

Inside Passage

Book 1 of the Corey Logan Trilogy

by Burt Weissbourd

November 1-30, 2020 Tour

Synopsis:

Inside Passage by Burt Weissbourd

Corey Logan was set up. She knows Nick Season’s terrible secret. Coming home from prison, all Corey wants is to be with her son. To get him back, she needs to make a good impression on the psychiatrist evaluating her. Dr. Abe Stein doesn’t believe she was framed — until his well-heeled mother falls for the charming state attorney general candidate, Nick Season. As the dogs of war are unleashed, Corey and her son run for their lives — taking her boat up the Pacific Northwest’s remote Inside Passage.

“A stunning, fast paced thriller that took me on an intense ride and kept me on the edge of myseat the entire way through … If you love beautifully executed thrillers that will play with your mind as well as your heart, this is the book for you.” ~ Midwest Book Review

Corey Logan Trilogy by Burt Weissbourd

Inside Passage is the first in Weissbourd’s haunting, heart-stirring Corey Logan Trilogy.

Click here to find out more about the Corey Logan Trilogy.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Blue City Press
Publication Date: October 20th 2020
Number of Pages: 290
ISBN: 1733438246 (ISBN13: 9781733438247)
Series:A Corey Logan Thriller, #1 || STAND ALONE MYSTERY
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Burt Weissbourd

Burt Weissbourd is a novelist, screenwriter and producer of feature films. He was born in 1949 and graduated cum laude from Yale University, with honors in psychology. During his student years, he volunteered at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and taught English to college students in Thailand. After he graduated, he wrote, directed, and produced educational films for Gilbert Altschul Productions. He began a finance program at the Northwestern University Graduate School of Business, but left to start his own film production company in Los Angeles. He managed that company from 1977 until 1986, producing films including Ghost Story starring Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Patricia Neal, and Raggedy Man starring Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, which The New York Times called “a movie of sweet, low-keyed charm.” In 1987, he founded an investment business, which he still runs. Burt’s novels include the thrillers Danger in Plain Sight, The Corey Logan Trilogy (Inside Passage, Teaser and Minos), and In Velvet, a thriller set in Yellowstone National Park.

Q&A with Burt Weissbourd

What was the inspiration for this book?

Writing a woman who was very capable in the wilderness, on the water, in rough neighborhoods in the city, but not very self-aware, I wanted to write about how becoming more insightful would help her realize her capacity.

She’s a fisherwoman in Alaska, strong and capable in that wild water. She comes out of prison and has to get an evaluation by a psychiatrist in order to get her son back, and that relationship is the beginning of her path to becoming more introspective.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

The biggest challenge so far has not been the writing, but in marketing the books. The Corey Logan Trilogy were originally published by a small, capable publishing company run by a bright publisher. He got me started, listened to me about what the books should look like, He encouraged many, many book readings and signings in LA, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Bozeman MT, Yellowstone General Stores, Seattle, and so on. He supported me to interview more than 50 people—well-known movie people, prominent Seattleites, bookstore owners, other writers, TV personalities, accomplished Seattle architects, newspaper writers, and so on for his channel on blog talk radio. I liked him; I still like him. There was one problem for me—he wasn’t selling enough books.

Of course, anyone who knew publishing, knew that it was always possible that even if you had a great product, your publisher might not be able to sell that type of book. So, I decided to take the next, final step. I would control the final product, and for better or worse, I would decide how to sell it. So here I am, selling my new book, Danger in Plain Sight, then recovering and republishing all four of my earlier books. It’s too early to predict the outcome, but I’m hugely happy that I’m making the decisions and that my success will not depend on someone else’s product nor a hesitant or unconvinced publisher. I couldn’t be happier about the process so far, and as they say, “let the chips fall where they may.” I’m responsible. I’ll take the blame, or I’ll lead the celebration for the outcome.
What do you absolutely need while writing?
Free time and lack of distractions.

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

I try to write every day. I prefer a character-driven approach to writing. As a producer in Hollywood developing a screenplay, I always looked for stories with strong, complex characters and a “rich stew”—that is to say a situation with conflict, emotional intensity, and the potential to evolve in unexpected ways. That is exactly how I approach the books that I write. While some authors choose to map out their plots before all else, I choose to craft complex, unexpected characters first. From there, I write sequentially, allowing my characters to take the lead.

The most surprising and most satisfying part of writing for me has been how characters take over when you’re writing really well and go down unexpected paths to unintended, often more complex, more satisfying outcomes than you anticipated.

The most rewarding part of the entire writing process for me has been learning to write, rewrite, then rewrite again until I know that I’ve written precisely what I hoped for and found exactly the emotional complexity I was reaching for. And that all begins with clear, emotionally and mentally developed characters.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My two favorite characters in Inside Passage are my protagonists, Corey and Abe. Corey is a strong woman who’s coped with painful, debilitating hardship. After serving 22 months for drug smuggling, a crime she didn’t commit, Corey Logan is finally released from a Federal Correctional Institution. All she wants now is to get her teenaged son out of foster care and make a home for the two of them in Seattle. But there’ll be a Psychiatric Evaluation first, with some shrink named Dr. Abe Stein, and assuming she gets by him, there’s the threat of Nick Season, the candidate for State Attorney General who set her up, tried to have her killed in prison, and now, more than ever, wants her out of the picture. Her problem—she can neither prove nor say what she knows, for fear of losing her son forever.

Corey is very able in the world, but she doesn’t do well with her feelings. She doesn’t talk about her inner life. In fact, she really doesn’t see insight as the first and essential step to solving problems. She’s never had a wonderful relationship with a partner. She’s not able to sort through and understand her emotional life. She’s not able to see how to make decisions that might dramatically change the reality she’s stuck in. But everything changes for her when she meets Dr. Abe Stein. The last man that Corey could ever imagine having a relationship with is Abe Stein. He’s distracted. He sideswipes cars. He sets fires in ash trays or in waste baskets, where he carelessly throws lit matches from his pipe. He’s uneasy on her boat because he can’t swim. He misjudges her at the start, not believing that she was framed. While it is Dr. Stein whose work with Corey liberates her, it is Corey who brings Abe back to life.

Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?

I don’t think I have a least favorite character in this book. Even the villains, though horrifying and unlikeable, become understandable. I strive to deepen the emotional lives of all my characters to their fullest extent, so much so that I enjoy writing all my characters, protagonists and antagonists alike.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

I’ve been a fly fisherman for many years, and I’ve been fishing up the Inside Passage. Much of those descriptions of that area are from my own experiences.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you, and I truly hope you enjoy the book.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I came to Hollywood in 1977 to produce feature films. I was 28 years old. I didn’t know anyone in the movie business, but I’d stumbled onto a timely idea — I was going to work with, and most importantly, back screenwriters. That is to say, stand behind their work — and I say this with hindsight — protect them from being rewritten, include them in the process of choosing a director, casting the picture, all of the decisions that go into making a feature film.

Early in my producing career, I had the privilege of working with author Ross Macdonald, a legend in crime fiction, on his only screenplay. Working with him, I began to see how characters could drive plot.

I left Hollywood in 1987 — the golden age was over, and I wanted to write. With hindsight, the best screenplays I’d worked on never got made. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. As a producer developing a screenplay, you learn to look for stories with strong, complex characters and a “rich stew” — that is to say a situation with conflict, emotional intensity, and the potential to evolve in unexpected ways. That is exactly how I approach the books that I write. I learned how to do that as a producer working on screenplays.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

My next book, In Velvet, a wildlife thriller set in Yellowstone National Park, will be released in February of 2021.

I’m also finishing a book, ROUGH JUSTICE, I started years ago. It’s also a thriller, with a wide canvas going from Hollywood in the 80s and 90s to Seattle, Chicago, Paris, Vancouver Island, and then Laos. When I finish this, I intend to write the sequel to my novel DANGER IN PLAIN SIGHT when main characters Cash and Callie are together.

Catch Up With Burt Weissbourd:
BurtWeissbourd.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

“Wouldn’t you like to get married in your own backyard?”

“Of course I would. You know that,” she snapped. “But I can’t.”

“Why not? Because Nick Season says you can’t. You have the right to live the life you want to live. Don’t give it up for that son of a bitch. Hell no. You don’t have to do that.” Abe leaned closer. There it was, those laser-like light blue eyes. “It won’t be easy, but together, we can figure out what to do. You and I can do this. We have to.”

“My God, what are you thinking? This isn’t like psycho-therapy.” She held his eyes. “We can’t ‘figure it out’ or ‘work on it.’ It’s not a head game. We have no evidence. Nothing. Nick’s a foolproof liar and a stone-cold killer. And he’s going to be Washington’s state attorney general.”

“And he has to be stopped.” Abe looked into their fire. “It’s not just about what you’d have to give up … think about what he’ll do if he ever finds out that you and Billy are alive. And though you might be okay for a year, or even two, eventually, he’ll start to wonder. And then to worry. It’s who he is. You’ve told me that. And then he’ll never stop checking. He’ll have me followed. Every year, he’ll run your prints, and Billy’s, through some Canadian database. And that’s just the beginning … unless we stop him.”

“And how do you propose to do that?”

Abe’s bushy brows furrowed in a “V” until they almost touched. “I understand the problem now.” They touched. Corey had never seen that. Very cool. He meant business. He turned to her, full face. “To begin, I’ll comb my hair and look this devil in his shiny black eyes.”

What? What was that? Corey was dumbstruck. Eventually, she softly mouthed, “What?” And louder, before he could answer, “Aren’t you afraid of him?”

“He’s very frightening, and I’m painfully aware of what’s at stake. And of course I see how very dangerous he is and yes, that scares me.” He scowled. “But I have other feelings that are even stronger than my fear.”

“What does that mean?”

“What I’m afraid of, what keeps me up at night, is losing you. Nick wants to kill the person I love most in the world. That makes him my archenemy, my nemesis. What I feel for Nick is inexhaustible rage.” He tapped his pipe against the log, emptying it into the sand, then he carefully set it down. When he looked up, his expression had turned fierce. Abe took both of her hands. “Nick Season be damned!”

“You’re being crazy.” She had never seen Abe like this.

“No, I’m telling you how I feel. I want to marry you Corey. I want to live with you and Billy in Seattle. I want to go to parent night at Billy’s school. I want to take you guys to dinner at Tulio and for pizza at Via Tribunali. I want to fish at your favorite spots near Bainbridge —”

“He’ll kill us all.” And Abe was really scaring her.

“I have to keep that from happening.”

“This isn’t a storybook. Nick isn’t like anyone you know. And this isn’t an insight kind of deal. Look what happened the last time you tried to help. They almost got Billy, and I had to kill someone. Look what almost happened last night. This time you and Billy and I, we could all die. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, I do. But I won’t let that happen.”

“Won’t let that happen?”

“No, I won’t.”

“How?”

“I’m working on that. “

“Working on it? How? You’re going to comb your hair? Look this devil in his shiny black eyes? What is that about?”

Abe considered her question. “It’s a way of starting.”

Corey put her head in her hands. She didn’t know what to say.

***

Excerpt from Inside Passage by Burt Weissbourd. Copyright 2020 by Burt Weissbourd. Reproduced with permission from Burt Weissbourd. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Burt Weissbourd. There will be 5 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Nov 042020
 

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde Banner

 

 

Winter Witness

by Tina deBellegarde

on Tour November 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Number of Pages: 282
ISBN: 978-1-947915-76-3
Series: Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads | Oblong Books and Music

 

Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son, Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Q&A with Tina deBellegarde

What was the inspiration for this book?

I moved to the Catskill Mountain region a few years back. And after a few weeks taking beautiful walks like my protagonist Bianca St. Denis does in Winter Witness I realized that there were so many places to stage a murder! I love murder mysteries and I love well-developed characters. In my new home in the Hudson Valley I had found a setting that I could be immersed in for long periods of time, as well as interesting neighbors itching to be developed into characters for my fictitious village of Batavia-on-Hudson.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

By far the biggest challenge has been finding a way to balance work, family obligations and my writing. Before I was contracted for Winter Witness, or had any of my short stories published, I found it hard to believe my writing deserved a space. That it was okay to take time away from other important sections of my life and to give writing it’s equal share. Publication was very validating and helped me bridge that difficulty.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

A cup of coffee and some jazz music! It’s not absolutely true…but I prefer it that way. In fact, I have specific music I associate with certain pieces of writing. For example, Winter Witness was written while listening to Cannonball Adderley’s album Somethin’ Else. Once I started those tracks, I was immersed in my village and my story, and the writing flowed. Book 2 of the Batavia-on-Hudson series, tentatively entitled Dead Man’s Leap, is being written while listening to Workin’ by the Miles Davis Quintet.

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

I try to have a writing routine. Coffee in the morning with my husband. or some reading, some exercise and then my writing. I will write for a few hours and then move on to other demands. Nowadays, those demands are mostly promotion related, but it would normally be errands and chores. I find that as long as I am writing on a regular basis, the ideas keep flowing. Sometimes I have to shelve ideas for later because they are flowing so well. That’s one of the reasons I find reading is so important. It’s when I break from my routine that ideas get stifled. The regular writing engenders more ideas and more writing.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Besides Bianca my protagonist, whom I know so well because I spend so much time with her, I’d have to say Lester Quirke. He’s a near centenarian. He’s a not-so-retired lawyer and owns the Bait and Tackle shop by the lake. He is fun. He is also wise and has so much insight, but he doesn’t take himself very seriously either. He’s the kind of friend everyone should have.

Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?

Before I decided to kill off Sister Elaine on the first page of the book, when she was scheduled to be killed later, I realized that she was the least flawed character and as a result, the least interesting. She was delightful, sweet, generous, perfect to a fault. Someone you could always count on. On the surface the most likable but the least interesting to write.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

This wasn’t meant to be the first in the series. I had sketched out about five concepts and this one was scheduled to fall around book four. But when I analyzed the situation, this story was the most clearly imagined in my mind and therefore my strongest at that time. So I decided to develop it first. I had wanted to wait because I wanted the victim to be someone we knew more intimately before the murder. I wanted the reader to feel the impact as much as possible. In the long run, I am happy about my decision, but I still have the same desires for my writing. I don’t want my victims to go without leaving an impact.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Keep on reading! I’ve got six stories planned out so far. I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I spent 17 years as a middle school foreign language teacher. Before that I was a paralegal, and before that I worked for an exporter, which necessitated trips to Paris and Morocco. I thought that was pretty wonderful at 21. (An aside to my former students: See what knowing a foreign language can do?) Most recently I worked at the Catskill Public Library which I have always said was The Best Job Ever.
I recently did my graduate studies in history… just because.

I have a son Alessandro who lives in Kyoto, Japan, just like Bianca’s son does. He has made an interesting life for himself there, and it has given me the opportunity to visit several times. What an amazing place. I’m in love with it! I still have family in Italy and try to get back as often as possible. Other than Italy and Japan, one of my favorite trips was a 750-kilometer bicycle trip across the north of Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I am working on Dead Man’s Leap, Book 2 of the Batavia-on-Hudson series. It will be released September 2021. It’s a story about renunciation, letting go and moving forward. I’ve really enjoyed the process of working out this book.

Book 3, tentatively entitled Zen Fall, will release in 2022. This book has Bianca traveling to Kyoto, Japan. I can’t wait to get back there and do the research. Pay attention to my social media for my photos. Kyoto is a beautiful city.

I’m also stealing some time to work on a collection of Japanese themed interrelated stories, as well as a novella-in-flash.

And of course, I’m on a fabulous virtual book tour now with Partners in Crime. Check out my website for the schedule of upcoming stops. And sign up for my newsletter so you can stay up to date!

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
tinadebellegarde.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Thursday, December 15

She could have been sleeping, were it not for the gaping gash in the back of her head and the bloody stone next to her limp body.

Sheriff Mike Riley stood alone on the shore of the near-frozen lake. At his feet, Sister Elaine Fisher lay face down, ice crystals forming around her body where it met the shoreline. The murmuring water of the nearby stream imparted a peacefulness at odds with the scene. In the waning winter light, he paused ankle deep in the snow illuminated by the beat of red strobe lights.

Murder seemed so extreme. The villagers would be baffled. Murder didn’t happen in sleepy Batavia-on-Hudson. An occasional stolen bicycle, some were paid off the books, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Lately, there had been a handful of amateur burglaries. Murder was another story altogether.

But there was no denying it. Elaine’s body was there before him, lifeless on a cushion of snow at the edge of the lake.

Sheriff Riley ran his chapped hands through his salt and pepper hair. A knowing person might have noticed that he used this motion to disguise a quick brush at his cheek, to eliminate the one tear that slipped through.

He feared this day, the day his lazy job would bring him face to face once again with the ugly underbelly he knew existed even in a quiet place like Batavia-on-Hudson. Mike Riley wasn’t afraid of death. He was afraid of the transformation a village like this was bound to go through after an act of murder.

He cried for Elaine; though he barely knew her. But also, he cried for the village that died with her that morning. A place where children still wandered freely. A village that didn’t lock doors, and trusted everyone, even the ones they gossiped about. Now, inevitably, the villagers would be guarded around each other, never quite sure anymore if someone could be trusted.

He thought he could already hear the locks snapping shut in cars and homes as word of the murder got out. Mothers yanking children indoors, hand-in-hand lovers escaping the once-romantic shadows of the wooded pathways, and old ladies turning into shut-ins instead of walking their dogs across the windy bluff.

Sheriff Riley steeled himself not just to confront the damaged body of the first murder victim of Batavia in over seventy years, but to confront the worried faces of mothers, the defeated faces of fathers and the vulnerable faces of the elderly.

He squatted in the slush, wincing as his bad knee rebelled, and laid his hands on Elaine’s rough canvas jacket, two-sizes too big—one of her thrift shop purchases, no doubt. As reverently as was possible in the muddy snow, Mike Riley turned over her body to examine the face of a changing village.

Sister Elaine had no one left, she had no known siblings and of course, no spouse or children. Only Agatha Miller, her childhood companion, could have been considered next of kin. How Elaine had tolerated her grumpy old friend was a mystery to everyone.

The sheriff knew that Elaine’s death would rock the community. Even a relative outsider like Mike understood that Elaine had been an anchor in Batavia. Her kindness had given the village heart, and her compassion had given it soul. No one would be prepared for this.

Mike knew from experience that preparation for death eases the grief. You start getting ready emotionally and psychologically. You make arrangements. You imagine your life without someone. But Mike also knew that when the time comes it still slaps you in the face, cold and bracing. And you realize you were only fooling yourself. Then somehow, in short order, work becomes demanding, bills need to be paid and something on the radio steals a chuckle right out of your throat. For a brief second you realize that there are moments of respite from your grief and perhaps someday those moments will expand and you may be able to experience joy once again.

But for now, Elaine’s death will be a shock. No one had prepared for her death, let alone her murder.

***

Excerpt from Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2020 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tina deBellegarde. There will be 6 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card; two (2) winners will each win one (1) physical copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (U.S. addresses only); and two (2) winners will each win one (1) eBook copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Oct 292020
 

Saving Grace by D.M. Barr Banner

 

 

Saving Grace

A Psychological Thriller

by D.M. Barr

on Tour October 12 – November 13, 2020

Synopsis:

Saving Grace by D.M. Barr

Grace Pierrepoint Rendell, the only child of an ailing billionaire, has been treated for paranoia since childhood. When she secretly quits her meds, she begins to suspect that once her father passes, her husband will murder her for her inheritance. Realizing that no one will believe the ravings of a supposed psychotic, she devises a creative way to save herself – she will write herself out of danger, authoring a novel with the heroine in exactly the same circumstances, thus subtly exposing her husband’s scheme to the world. She hires acclaimed author Lynn Andrews to help edit her literary insurance policy, but when Lynn is murdered, Grace is discovered standing over the bloody remains. The clock is ticking: can she write and publish her manuscript before she is strapped into a straitjacket, accused of homicide, or lowered six feet under?

With a cast of secondary characters whose challenges mirror Grace’s own, Saving Grace is, at it’s core, an allegory for the struggle of the marginalized to be heard and live life on their own terms.

“A psychological thriller with more than enough twists, turns, and misdirection to keep even the most jaded reader turning pages all night long.”

–Lori Robbins, author of the Silver Falchion Award-winning novel, Lesson Plan for Murder

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: October 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1684335565
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BlackRose Writing | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

D.M. Barr

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.

My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.

The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed anyone at my local diet clinic. And I haven’t run away from home in fear that my husband was planning to off me.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t wanted to…

Q&A with D.M. Barr

What was the inspiration for this book?

My husband started asking about my inheritance. My father lives in Florida and is still alive. I wondered, what if…?

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

The writing is simple compared to finding and audience and getting reviews, even from your friends.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Silence. I can’t write if there’s noise. If someone starts speaking to me while I’m in “the zone,” I just tune them out. I’ve found I can write at any hour, in any room—as long as it’s quiet.

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

When I’m in writing mode, as opposed to revision mode or marketing mode, I force myself to write 1,000 words a day. I try to write them in the morning but if I don’t finish, the rule is to finish sometime that day. It doesn’t matter if they suck (the first draft always does); I just need to get them onto the page so I know what I’m dealing with and I can revise later. Sometimes, you don’t know until the story’s completely out exactly what story you have!

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My favorite character is an ex-Hasid named Zev. He’s sarcastic and irreverent, just like me, and adds some badly needed comic relief to the book.

Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?

Not too fond of Grace’s sons, since they take her for granted, following Eliot’s lead. In fact, I’m really not too fond of Eliot either.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

The original iteration of the book had Grace and Hack’s stories running concurrently. Hack felt responsible for his parents’ death and to make it up to their memory, he was helping Kenzie set up a LBGTQ shelter in his family’s home, where he was the only one still living.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

When you read the metaphors, if you think they are a little odd, remember that Grace’s entire experience of life has been from books.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Wife, mother, member of several writing organizations in NY and the Hudson Valley. Rescuer of shelter dogs and competitive trivia player when there isn’t a pandemic around. I am a former magazine writer/editor who ran my own travel content/marketing company for years before ever daring to write fiction. As the daughter of owners of a major Manhattan travel agency, I was fortunate enough to travel the world, and have enjoyed stints as a travel writer as well as other travel-related careers. I’ve also worked in real estate and mortgage origination.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

My next book is a rom-com. I hope to be submitting it to publishers in October and hopefully, you’ll see it on the shelves in 2021.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
www.DMBarr.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

Read an excerpt:

One felony was all it took to convince Andrea Lin she was better suited to committing crime on paper than in person. As renowned mystery author Lynn Andrews, she understood conflict equaled good drama. Like her readers, she should have expected the hiccups, even relished them. What she hadn’t counted on was the accompanying agita, especially while sitting in her Bergen County kitchen, far from the action at the Bitcoin Teller Machine.

Her one job had been to place a single phone call when the money hit and tell the hacker to lift the encryption on Grace’s computer. Trouble was, her dozen calls remained unanswered until a few minutes ago, throwing their meticulous plan off schedule.

Andrea stroked the blue-gray Nebulung purring on her lap and tried to ignore the churning in her stomach. “Denver, the next time I consider helping a sibling with some crazy scheme, you have my permission to use my leg as a scratching post until I come to my senses. Agreed?”

Denver looked up, his green eyes filled with innocence, and answered with a single meow before leaping onto the table toward her plate of shortbread cookies.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” She sipped her tea, willing the sugar to sweeten the acrid taste in her mouth. The phone interrupted her meditation. No doubt a check-in from her brother, the extorter-in-chief.

“I figured you’d have called by now. Everything on track?” Joe’s strained voice conveyed his own jangled nerves. They’d agreed to be vague when communicating. In these days of Siri and Alexa, anyone could be listening.

“Finally. Took forever to get through to our friend, but she said she’d take care of ‘our project’ as soon as her meetings wrapped up. From here on out though, I’m sticking to fiction. Real-life intrigue is too stressful.”

Andrea missed Joe’s response, instead perplexed by her cats’ sudden change of behavior. Denver had tilted his head and leapt from the table; Vail and Aspen sat frozen, ears perked, staring toward the foyer. Then she heard it too, the sound of papers shuffling in the living room. She leaned forward, muscles taut, hackles raised, ready to pounce. “Joe, hold on a sec. I think someone’s in the house. I’ll call you back later.”

***

“Wait, what? Andrea??” Silence. The connection was dead.

After twenty minutes of weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic to travel one mile, Joe “Hack” Hackford pulled up outside his sister’s Ridgewood home. Adrenaline pumping on overdrive, he jumped from his car and sprinted toward the house. Door wide open—not an encouraging sign. He steeled his nerves and hastened inside. The living room looked like a hurricane’s aftermath, with furniture overturned and papers littering the carpets and floor.

“Andrea? Are you here?” He rushed into the kitchen, which lacked any signs of their celebratory dinner—no spaghetti boiling on the stove, no cake rising in the oven. Only the door to the backyard ajar and a shriek emanating from the next room, piercing the eerie silence. Hair stiffening at the back of his neck, he raced into the dining room where a redheaded woman stood frozen, staring across the room.

“Who the hell are you?” he growled.

The stranger remained wide-eyed and unresponsive. He followed her gaze to the floor, where he witnessed the unthinkable. His beloved sister lay in the corner, surrounded by a pool of blood, a kitchen knife stuck in her chest. Her eyes remained fixed on the ceiling. A trio of feline guards circled her lifeless body.

Hack’s knees turned to jelly, and he grabbed onto a chair for support, forcing back the remains of the snack he’d consumed only minutes earlier. Once the initial shock waned, he reverted his attention back to the intruder. At second glance, she did look somewhat familiar, though the woman he’d met a few weeks back—the missing heiress whose computer they’d just hacked—was brunette. Had she uncovered their con? With a bolt of fury, he reached forward and pulled the wig from her head. A thousand questions zigzagged in his brain, but only one forced its way past his lips:

“Oh my God. Grace. Oh my God. What the hell have you done?”

***

Excerpt from Saving Grace by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2020 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 12, 2020 and runs through November 15, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours