Search Sue's Blog

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

MEET MY NEXT VICTIM - a guest post by Joan Livingston

Today I have the great pleasure to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Joan Livingston, who is here to tell us more about the latest adventure of her intrepid detective, Isabel Long.  Checking the Traps, the third book in this amazing series, is due for release this coming Friday (22 March 2019).

Welcome, Joan!  Please tell us more!

My mysteries always have a victim. And it’s Isabel Long’s mission to find out what really happened to that person.

Isabel, a longtime journalist turned P.I., focuses on solving cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. In the first, Chasing the Case, a woman had disappeared 28 years earlier. In the second, Redneck’s Revenge, a junkyard owner supposedly died in a fire because he was too drunk to get out.

And in Checking the Traps, the victim is a highway worker by day and a poet by night. The official ruling was that Cary Moore jumped from a bridge known for suicides. His half-brother, Gary Beaumont, doesn’t believe it. For years, Gary has been trying to get someone to look into it, and now that Isabel has solved two cases, he turns to her for help.

It’s not as if Isabel and Gary have had a friendly relationship. After all, he and his brother, Larry, are drug-dealing bad boys who terrorized Isabel a bit in her last case.

But Isabel has a fondness for those men who take care of the roads, especially in snowy winters.

Plus, she is intrigued by the story of a poetry-writing truck driver. Cary hand-wrote his poems in composition books, and as Isabel goes through them, she sees a vast improvement. Perhaps that is the influence of the famous poet who was his neighbor. And as the case goes on, she finds the poems he wrote as gifts to people.

His poetry certainly reflects the person Cary was. Here’s an excerpt:

As I read Cary’s poems, I get an image of the self-taught poet. Or perhaps he was a natural and only needed practice to get it down. He wrote about the world around him. I smile when I read in one he calls “Close to Home” that he’s never traveled more than a hundred miles from where he lives and doesn’t feel he needs to go any farther.

Cary wrote about cutting wood, apologizing to these grand beasts, as he calls the trees on his land, but his family needs to keep warm this winter. In one poem, he finds a pair of old skates in his barn and remembers as a child, gliding on ice, if only life was still that easy.

Cary was married to a woman, Cherie, who runs a hair salon in their home. They were expecting a child when he died. He was a handy guy and a hard worker. But he’s also a bit of a boozer and drug user, so he’s got problems. And as it turns out, he was a bit naïve, especially concerning his famous neighbor.

In this scene, Isabel and her ‘Watson’ – her 93-year-old mother, Maria – visit Cherie. Isabel wants to know more about her late husband’s poetry. Cherie works on Maria’s hair while they talk.

"I think he got ideas for poems when he was drivin’ truck for the town, especially when he was plowin’ in the winter. He’d keep his eyes on the road, but his mind would wander. He started keepin’ a notebook in the cab of his truck, and on his breaks, he scribbled stuff down.” She laughs. “The other guys on the crew kidded him about it, but he didn’t care.”

"When did he write?”

"At night usually, on the weekends some. He did it at the kitchen table. He wrote on paper. He didn’t use a typewriter or computer. When he was finished with a poem, he’d write it down in one of his notebooks.”

"Did he show you his poems?”

"All the time. He read them out loud, too. They changed over the years. You’ll see. They get more serious.”

"One of the notebooks looks like it caught on fire.”

"I came home one day and saw Cary throwing it into the woodstove. I grabbed the book and put out the fire. I think he was going to burn ’em all. He wouldn’t tell me why, but he was upset about somethin’.”

"How long was that before he died?”

She holds the scissors above a strand of hair as she thinks. She turns, blinking toward me.

"It was a few weeks before. I hadn’t thought of that.”

More about Checking the Traps:

Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.

Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ – her 93-year-old mother who lives with her – is that the man wrote poetry.

The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.

As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.

More about Joan:

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.
An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure. Recently, she was named editor of the Greenfield Recorder.
After living eleven years in New Mexico, she has returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series.


Redneck’s Revenge:

Twitter: @JoanLivingston

Sunday, 27 January 2019

A GHOSTLY PUB-CRAWL - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

My guest today is a regular visitor to my blog: my dear friend and fellow-author Jennifer C Wilson.  Once again I had the pleasure of working with Jen as editor of the latest addition to her wonderful Kindred Spirits series.  Not that it needed very much editing - she's really excelled herself this time.

Welcome back, Jen!

Hi Sue, and thanks for inviting me on to your blog today.

The launch of Kindred Spirits: York is just around the corner, and once again, this all started with some very intense research ‘on location’. I’ve said so many times that for me, getting under the skin of a place is so important. You can read so much about the history of a location, but there’s nothing quite like wandering around, picking up the atmosphere and feel of it.

Having spent so much time in York as a child, I genuinely thought that, apart from a couple of specific visits to historic locations, to ‘check’ what I thought I remembered about them, there wouldn’t be much to the day. How wrong I was. Not having had a day out with my mum for a while, we decided to head down together, and make a day of it. Doing some pre-visit research, it struck me just how many of York’s ghosts liked to frequent pubs (kindred ‘spirits’ indeed!), and having never been in many of them, it seemed sensible to add one or two into our route around the various museums and buildings.

Ok, fine, my mum and I went on a pub-crawl.

And it was great! Obviously, when you’re a child, pubs don’t really feature in days out, but this time around, it was great, visiting places like The Black Swan, on the edge of the city centre, which I had decided would be a key location in the novel. To make things even, we visited The White Swan too, and that’s made its way into the book as well. There were also some more quirky locations to visit, such as The Blue Boar, reputed to be the place where Dick Turpin’s body was moved to, following his execution.

We did visit some places not serving alcohol too, in case you’re wondering – including two religious buildings which were a complete revelation to me: Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate, and St Margaret’s Chapel, in The Shambles. Both of these are so tucked away, hidden in plain sight really, and both discovered through sheer luck. I knew about the chapel in The Shambles (thanks Sue!), but finding it was another matter – it just looks like any other shopfront. But Holy Trinity, that was a fluke. We happened to see a group of people walk through an open gate, and, seeing a sign for a craft fair inside, decided to follow them. It was simply stunning, and I can highly recommend a visit. I’d never seen box pews before, and this is apparently a fantastic example of them.

See, I can do culture too!

So please, come and follow my explorations, and those I’ve sent the lovely ghosts of York on, from the 31st January, but available to pre-order now.

About the books:

In the Kindred Spirits series, we meet the ghosts of historical characters, in a range of contemporary settings. Have you ever wondered what Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have in common, what Mary, Queen of Scots is getting up to now, or what happens when the visitors leave some of the most popular attractions in the country? Well, here’s your chance!

In the fourth of the series, we’re heading to York, and a whole new community of ghosts are ready to greet us, including some visiting favourites, taking advantage of a much speedier transport system than they were ever used to…

Kindred Spirits: York
Release date: 31st January 2019
Publisher: Crooked Cat Books
Genre: Paranormal historical fiction

In the ancient city of York, something sinister is stirring...

What do a highwayman, an infamous traitor, and two hardened soldiers have in common? Centuries of friendship, a duty to the town, and a sense of mischief – until they realise that someone is trying to bring chaos to their home.

Joining forces with local Vikings, the four friends keep an eye on the situation, but then, disaster strikes.

Can peace be restored both inside and out of the city walls?

Praise for the Kindred Spirits series:

“A light-hearted, humorous, and at times tender read which you'll enjoy whether you like history or not.”

“This light-hearted, imaginative read is a new take on historical fiction but make no mistake, this is not only a fun read but an educational tool.”

“A brilliantly unique idea from a distinctive new voice in fiction.”

“A darn good read.”

Praise for Kindred Spirits: York

Another joyous ghostly romp from the pen of Jennifer C.Wilson.  The nightly ghost walks around the ancient city of York will never seem the same again after you read this - with its tales of kings and queens, saints and sinners (Dick Turpin and Guy Fawkes, anyone?), spending their afterlives among the iconic streets and sites of the town they frequented in life.  But this is no sleepy existence: unruly spirits are disrupting the lives of both the living and the dead.  With Romans, Vikings, medieval warriors and traitors to the Crown never the most natural of companions, it takes little to stir them up to wreak some light-hearted ghostly havoc - until, that is, events take a shocking turn...

With early special guest appearances from some of my own favourite Yorkists (and a less-agreeable Tudor hanger-on) visiting a city they once loved, the book offers another sparkling cast of the dearly (not-quite) departed. What’s not to like? Except thinking once again ‘I wish I’d had that idea!’Alex Marchant, author of The Order of the White Boar.

I love this series and it’s going from strength to strength. This one was great; the author has created a little gem. From Richard III taking a day trip to Harry Hotspur, Dick Turpin and Guy Fawkes protecting their city, this is probably my favourite so far. Really looking forward to seeing where the author has us visiting next.Amazon Reviewer. 

About Jennifer:

Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.

In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books, and her timeslip novella (The Last Plantagenet?) by Ocelot Press.

She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch sea view.


Saturday, 5 January 2019


The Unkindest Cut of All (a cosy murder mystery set in a theatre) was first published in 2016 by Crooked Cat Books.  Now, after a few revisions to the original text, it has been reissued under a new imprint.  Find out more by clicking here.

Ocelot Press is a new publishing venture and I'm really thrilled to be part of it.  To find out more, take a look our website.

Friday, 16 November 2018

AGRICOLA'S BANE - a guest post by Nancy Jardine

My guest today is my dear friend and fellow-writer Nancy Jardine.  Welcome back, Nancy.  It's lovely to see you here again - and I believe you have some news?

Hello Sue, and thank you for inviting me to revisit your blog!

I’m absolutely delighted that I have something brand new to share with your readers. Agricola’s Bane, the 4th book in my highly acclaimed Celtic Fervour Series was published yesterday with Ocelot Press. Both ebook and paperback are now available to buy on Amazon. The ebook launched yesterday but there will be a local (to me) paperback launch event on the 22nd November at the Garioch Heritage Centre, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. At this event, I’ll be giving a PowerPoint presentation on Roman Aberdeenshire before the Book Signing session.

Book 4 continues the tales of my Celtic Garrigill warrior clan – this time featuring Enya, one of the younger Garrigill clan members. The date at the outset of Agricola’s Bane is mid-November AD 84 and the location is Caledon territory (Aberdeenshire/ Scotland). The Late Iron Age tribal warriors who have survived a very recent battle against the Ancient Roman armies take refuge in the hills. General Agricola continues to march northwards in his quest to claim even more territory for the Roman Empire, yet discovers he is thwarted by more than the local warriors who continue to be very adept at guerrilla warfare. Going near the Roman legions means risking a stabbing death under a Roman gladius, but Enya of Garrigill and her companions must also evade the traitorous Vacomagi who have signed up for Roman coin!

Here is a little bit more from the blurb….

AD 84 Northern Roman Britain

Nith of Tarras aids Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledon warriors and the mighty Legions of Rome. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make – should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or should she head south in search of her cousin, who has most likely been taken captive by the soldiers of Agricola? 

General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island, but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.

The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue...

Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland, an engrossing pre-history era because her research depends highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings.
A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband, but life is never quiet or boring since her young grandchildren are her next-door neighbours. She regularly childminds them, those days being cherished and laughter-filled.

You can find her at these places:

Friday, 26 October 2018

FINDING JACQUES - a guest post by Angela Wren

My guest today is the lovely Angela Wren, whose latest novel Montbel (Book 3 in the Jacques Forêt Mystery Series) will be released on 13 November 2019.  Here, she tells us how she discovered her leading character.

Welcome, Angela!

As a writer, ideas occur to me all the time.  No matter where I am or what I'm doing thoughts that might be useful in stories pop into my head.  Now, I always have a small notebook in my handbag so that I can jot down anything I see or hear that prompts an idea.  As I write crime, this means that I think about murder… a lot!  Methods for murder are also often buzzing around my head, too.

With my characters, the scenario is very different.  I start with a completely blank sheet of paper and I ask myself a stack of questions.  For Jacques Forêt, I knew instantly that he would be absolutely honest and the kind of man who was set on catching the baddies no matter what.  But for some time I had no clear idea about what he looked like.  At least, not until I spent a few days in Prémery – and that's where I would like to take you and your regular readers today, Sue.

Prémery is a small town in the département of Nièvre (58), which is part of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France.  Sitting at the side of the D977, the town has an elevation of around 800 ft above sea level and is surrounded by rolling hills covered in forests.  When here, I always use the local campsite, and when the charcoal burners are at work there's a lovely smoky scent to the clear air.

It's a short walk from the campsite, around the lake and down Rues des Donloups, into town.  At the château – which is little more than the remains of a 14th-century portal attached to a main building and a tower that date from the 16th century – take the street on your right.  It gives the best view of the château, and the tourist office is in the tower.  The château may be small, but we are in distinguished company here as the bishops of Nevers used the château as a summer residence right up until the 17th century.

If you continue past the château you will come to Grande Rue, which dissects the town.  Take a left here and the first shop on your left is the butcher's and the second is the boulangerie.  I can't visit this town without calling in here.  They make absolutely gorgeous cakes.  I can thoroughly recommend the Mille Feuilles, and the Tarte au Citron (my personal favourite) is to die for.  On this particular occasion it was market day when I walked into town and as I emerged from the bakers with my tart, all carefully wrapped, the man with the rotisserie full of sizzling chickens asked me if I was looking for something for lunch.   I pointed to my cake and said I had everything I needed.

'Non, non,' he said, shaking his head.  'You can't just eat cake, too much sugar.'

It was only then I took any particular notice of him – and immediately thought, you're Jacques!  You are exactly what Jacques would look like and how he would sound.  Keeping my thoughts to myself I smiled and told him that I might come back for a chicken on another day.  I quickly made my way back to the campsite, got out my laptop and started writing a detailed description.  I also decided that, unlike the man with the rotisserie, Jacques would not be a smoker.  I gave that particular habit to his fellow character, restaurant and bar owner, Gaston.

Thank you, Angela - that was fascinating!  I really enjoyed the first two Jacques Forêt novels, so I'm really looking forward to this one!

More about Montbel:  

A clear-cut case?  

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary.  After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.  When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques' case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques' papers and shut down the investigation.  

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?  

More about Angela:

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, Angela now works as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  She has been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  Her work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout her adult life.  

She particularly enjoys the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  Her short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  She also writes comic flash-fiction and has drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of her stories are set in France, where she likes to spend as much time as possible each year.
Amazon : AngelaWren
Facebook : Angela Wren
Goodreads : Angela Wren
Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thursday, 25 October 2018

FIERCE GRACE - an interview with Jess B Moore

My blog guest today, all the way from the USA, is the lovely Jess B Moore.

Welcome, Jess.  Please tell us about your new book Fierce Grace.  What was the inspiration for this book?

            Fierce Grace came from a place of fear – of a young woman who had lived a life of pain and sworn off opening herself up to more pain.  A young man swamped with family responsibility, loyal to a fault, and with a poor view of himself as a respectable partner.  These were themes I could relate to, and felt others could as well.  Annabelle is a music teacher, which ties perfectly with my musical life, as well as the music culture in Fox River (the small North Carolina town setting of both my books).  Asher is a steel worker, motorcycle rider, and the mostly “manly” character I’ve written.  It was fun to show how he’s more than his image.  For me it’s about the characters, and I write people who I want to know, or I have know, or I could be.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

            I write when I can, between homeschooling two children, as well as helping manage their gigging band.  I’ve never had a set time or place, instead fitting in a few minutes here and there.  Now that I’m published and have specific deadlines, I have carved out more time for writing, but it’s still something that shifts day to day.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

            Names are one of my favorite parts!  I have a running list of names I like/love/loathe to choose from, but also rely on “Name Berry” (baby name website) quite a bit.  For my first book, I wanted the names to feel southern, which meant names like Magnolia and Cotton.  With my new book, though it’s set in the same small southern town, I wanted her name to be timeless and his to be more modern, and went with Annabelle and Asher. 

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

            I usually start out with the characters, and follow their story as I write.  I’ll have waypoints along the way, and a general idea of where the story is going, but for the most part it happens while I’m writing. 

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

            My favorite romance authors are Penny Reid, Susannah Nix, and Sally Thorne.  They’ve played a big part in inspiration.  I’m also a huge Maggie Stiefvater fan, and love her way with words, and her incomparable connections between her characters.  John Green as well serves to remind me that it’s okay to write nerdy smart quirky people. 

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

            I love crafting stories.  Love seeing where the characters take their stories and watching them grow.  I enjoy the process of writing.  What I don’t love, now that I’m a published author, is the “work” side of it all.  Marketing, promotion, website, social media – it’s all been an uphill learning experience for me.  After about 11 months, I finally feel as if I’m getting into my stride with it all, and continue to learn along the way.  My favorites so far are my newsletter and Instagram. 

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

            Thrilled, terrified, raw, and in awe.  It’s a roller coaster of emotions to put your work out into the world!  Reading reviews can be validating in the best of ways, or devastating, confirming all your greatest fears and doubts. 

What can we expect from you in the future?

            My third book, The Worth of a Penny, will be out in 2019.  I’ve already started the sequel to Fierce Grace as well, and hope to have it ready for the world later in 2019.  Overall I have six Fox River Romance books planned, and hope to get them all released over the next couple of years.  After that?  Unsure, but it’s likely to include romance, family, and music. 

You can find more about Jess, and her books, on these links:

The Guilt of a Sparrow:
Fierce Grace:

Thursday, 11 October 2018


The Ghostly Father was first published in 2014 by Crooked Cat Books.  Now, after a few revisions to the original text, it has been reissued under a new imprint.  Find out more by clicking here.

Ocelot Press is a new publishing venture and I'm really thrilled to be part of it.  To find out more, take a look our website.