Book Showcase: IF I HAD A HAMMER by Teresa Trent

If I Had a Hammer

by Teresa Trent

May 1-26, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


If I Had a Hammer by Teresa Trent

A new job, a brutal murder, and Camelot has ended.

In 1963, Dot Morgan’s life was changed forever. She witnessed the assassination of John F Kennedy through the lens of her boxy Kodak Instamatic camera, bringing traumatic aftereffects of the brutality that happened as they stood on the parade route in Dallas.

She starts her first real secretarial job with a boss who has no sympathy for her trauma. When Dot’s only work friend has a mysterious accident at a demolition site, she digs around on her own only to find very little love between two brothers and no one hammering out justice to find a murderer.

The suspects are all around Dot and as she tries to sift through their motives, her cousin Ellie is going through PTSD on her own, losing interest in work, and her fiancé all the while quoting some of JFK’s finest speeches.

With so much change in her world, can Dot still tell the difference between good and evil?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 230
ISBN: 9781685123017 (Paperback)
ASIN: B0BWPJFY5T (Kindle edition)
Series: The Swinging Sixties Mystery Series, Book 2 | Each is a stand-alone

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Ellie screamed, making the driver jump. “Right here! Stop here,” Ellie said as she passed bills from the back seat to the front.

I looked up over a light brown building with straight white letters reading Texas School Book Depository. Above it was an ad for Hertz Rent-a-Car with a clock attached to it. It was straight up noon. The crowd was thickening as people found places to stand in a grassy area next to the street. It was almost as if the original landscaper had known this historic day would take place and designed the gradual slope along the road. According to the newspaper, Kennedy’s motorcade would arrive soon, and I felt the excitement building as we prepared to join the crowd. I pulled my arms through my sweater.

Ellie extended a hand to help me out of the yellow Checker cab. “Are you ready?”

“Oh yes. Let’s go over there.” I pointed to one of the few open spots next to the curb. “Hurry, before someone else gets it. I just hope we can hold the spot. There are some pretty big guys who might want to stand in front of us.”

Ellie smirked. “You know what I always say. ‘Knee them in the crotch and they sing a new song.'”

“Seriously, Ellie. I’m not attacking some poor man just so I can stand in front.”

“You’re right. I was trying to sound sophisticated Maybe not here but remember that. It may come in handy someday.”

I had decided to wear a new pair of black heels and felt them wobbling. We crossed the street and grabbed our spot just in time, causing another viewer to crowd in next to us. The smell of cigarette smoke circled us as people fiddled with cameras and readjusted black-rimmed glasses.

“Jack Kennedy is so handsome.” Ellie placed her hand over her heart, popping it on her chest like a heartbeat. “Too bad he’s already taken.”

“Stop.” I laughed. “I believe you’re already taken as well. Didn’t I hear something about you and Al getting married next June?”

Ellie gave a sweet smile as her eyes drifted upward. “I can’t believe that either. June. That’s just a little more than six months away.”

“Well, you deserve the happiness coming your way.” I patted my cousin’s shoulder. Ellie was in her thirties, practically spinsterhood in 1963. Finding Al, the electrician, had been the best thing for her. Love and marriage. It filled me with warmth. We were all living the American dream just like the characters in our favorite movies at the Rialto theater. The lyrics of “Young at Heart” drifted through my mind.

I sang a few lines from the song.

Ellie linked her arm with mine as she watched the street. A few cars drove by, but none that looked like a presidential motorcade. The breeze drifted across my exposed knees. A longer skirt would have shielded my knees, but I would endure the shivers for the sake of fashion.

“Ellie, did you see that picture of Jackie in the paper? She’s gorgeous. I saw her tour of the White House on TV. She’s so classy and looks beautiful in everything she wears.”

“Except she talks funny,” Ellie said, her Texas drawl turning “talks” into “tawks.”

“That’s because she’s from the East. She can’t help it. I’ll bet she thinks Texans talk funny. I’m sure they hear a lot of Texas twang coming from LBJ and Ladybird.”

“But that’s just music to anyone’s ears,” Ellie said. “Be serious.”

I glanced up and down the parade route. “Ben said he was going to be here. Maybe he’s farther down the street.” I pulled out my new Kodak Instamatic and hooked the leather strap around my neck. I raised the camera up to my eyes. “I hope I can get a clear picture of Jackie and John.”

“Listen to you. You talk like you know them,” Ellie laughed. “Jackie and John.”

“Well, in a way, I feel like I do. They’re America’s perfect family. I love them all. Jackie, John, Caroline, John-John.”

Ellie sighed and then drew in an excited breath with her hands clenched in front of her. “This is so exciting.” People continued to crowd up to the curb. A tall man in a brown plaid sport coat, holding binoculars up to his black boxy glasses, elbowed me to move over. I could feel tension in the air that comes when people anticipate witnessing something spectacular.

Just then, a line of shiny black cars came into view, ambling down the street in our direction. The breeze turned into a slight wind. I leaned forward and squinted, trying to identify who was in each vehicle. I felt my heart race as I recognized John and Jackie Kennedy sitting in the back seat as the car was surrounded by men on motorcycles. She was stunning in a pink wool suit and matching hat. I felt special knowing Jackie and I had worn the same color on this memorable day. She, of course, looked so much better. John had a healthy tan and a wide smile on his face.

I raised my camera and willed the man in the brown plaid coat not to step in front of me. This was a moment I was sure we would always remember. I hoped I could wind the film cartridge fast enough to take several pictures. Maybe they would want to use them in the Camden Courier? I wanted a good one of John, and another of Jackie. Just like real people, I thought but really, they looked like royalty, sitting in the open top limousine with policemen on motorcycles riding silently alongside—sort of a mobile palace guard. When the hood of the limousine was directly in front of me, I brought the Instamatic up and clicked to take a picture. I rolled the film to the next frame, took another, and repeated the process. Suddenly, I heard a popping sound somewhere behind me. I rolled the film lever with my thumb, now an automatic action, then turned toward the sound, only to see people scrambling and running to higher ground. The sound I heard wasn’t a pop. It was a gunshot. I looked back toward the motorcade and stood in horror as a man crawled over the back of the open convertible and the thing that caught my attention was the splotches of red invading Jackie’s beautiful pink suit. John Kennedy no longer sat smiling in front of me but was down in the seat on Jackie’s lap.


Excerpt from If I Had a Hammer by Teresa Trent.
Copyright 2023 by Teresa Trent.
Reproduced with permission from Teresa Trent.
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Teresa Trent

Teresa Trent is the author of over 15 books. She started writing cozy mysteries with the Pecan Bayou and Piney Woods Mystery Series. She sets her stories in different geographical areas of Texas and The Swinging Sixties historical series is set just north of Dallas, starting in 1962. You might think with so many books set in the Lone Star state, she was born there, but no. She has lived all over the world, thanks to her father’s career in the army. After living in Texas for twenty-five years, she’s finally put down roots.

Teresa is a hybrid author, self-publishing early in her career, which led her to traditional publishing with Level Best Books and Camel Press. She is the author of several short stories that have appeared in a host of anthologies. Teresa publishes the blog and podcast, Books to the Ceiling at where she loves to read the book excerpts of other writers and share in the writing community.

Teresa is a member of Sisters in Crime and lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and son.

Catch Up With Teresa:
Books to the Ceiling Podcast
BookBub – @TeresaTrent
Instagram – @teresatrent_cozymys
Twitter – @ttrent_cozymys
Facebook – @teresatrentmysterywriter

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: Kerry Peresta – THE TORCHING

Greetings, my bookish peeps. Have you ever given thought to the power of words? Words can make us sad or glad. Words can unite or divide us. Words can incite or excite us. As Margaret Atwood said, “A word after a word after a word is power.” As a lifelong reader, I’m utterly fascinated by words and the fact that most authors may use the same words but combine them in such a manner that they’ve created something wholly new and entertaining. I’m pleased to welcome back Kerry Peresta, author of The Torching. Ms. Peresta will be sharing with us what she has learned during her journey as a wordsmith. Thank you, Ms. Peresta, for taking the time to join us today, I’m looking forward to learning more about your career as a writer.

The Books are Finished, But the Excavation Continues
by Kerry Peresta

I’m blessed, after fourteen years of hard work and persistence, to finally blurt out the words ‘I’m a novelist’, when someone asks me what I do. There was a time, due to insecurity or a false sense of humility, when I could barely say these words.

I’ve been amazed to discover that much of the job of writing (oh yes, definitely an hours-a-day job if one is serious about it!) concerns inner dialogue. Wrestling with lack of confidence. Honing an ability to resist plummeting into the pit of despair when a three-star review occurs. Learning to rip off the cloak of offense when an editor critiques with nary a word of praise.

I’ve been a writer for thirteen years but didn’t break into a decent contract and hand-held into writing a series until 2019. I’d written magazine articles, blog posts, a humor column, advertising copy, blah, blah…everything but books. I certainly wasn’t afraid to attack the process of writing a book…I’d written my first novel in 2010 and it released in 2013. However…it was such a train wreck that I wrung my hands and backed away from the process. I’d jumped the gun. My manuscript was nowhere near ready for publication, so I decided to consider the whole thing a learning experience. Actually, the journey of becoming a novelist is just that…a learning experience. I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible, and grown as a human as well as a writer! Many of the skills a novelist learns bleed over into life. For instance:

1. Enhanced Communication Skills

How many of us stutter and stammer and dig our toes into the ground when we meet a new person? Do you, like me, experience an instant urge to run in the other direction, lest the new person discovers how freaking unstable and weird we are? Well. I’ve found that working on a novel enhances my communication skills like crazy. The dialogue between my characters definitely works out some of the kinks in my psyche that I didn’t discover until I put the words down on the page! Sometimes I have to lift my hands from the keyboard, put them in my lap, and stare at what I’ve dialogued between characters. I spend a few minutes internalizing what just happened. Often, it’s a searing look at my own issues and insecurities. The excavation process of my soul occurs, revealing long-buried data in need of dusting off and examination. Perhaps tossing aside. This process has both solidified and emboldened me as a human.

2. Increased Agility of Mind

The words! The words!

I’m such a lover of words. Writing a novel forces me to leave the thesaurus open and discover new, more delicious words each time I sit down at my desk. I become so bored with writing ‘she smiled’ or ‘he grinned’ or ‘he furrowed his brow’, etc. There are only so many ways to depict these things, but I’m forever searching. Also, many times there is one lovely, perfect, word to replace the four or five useless ones I’ve written. With each book, I strive to keep the reader from becoming bored with repetitive, unnecessary words. My protagonist in the Olivia Callahan Suspense series sustained injuries from an assault that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. She lost her memory and most of her past life. With each book, I must reiterate to a new reader a bit of backstory so they understand the trajectory of the story and why. I’ve come up with many creative and concise ways to implicate what’s happened to her, which has been a thoughtful, nail-biting, experience. Again, I do not want to commit the cardinal sin of boring a reader! The end result of all this mind-bending, wordplay is that my brain is as healthy as a horse.

3. Disaster Avoidance

I’m a suspense author. If pigeonholed further, psychological suspense, because I love the arc of a character and how they evolve under the direst of circumstances. What has this process reaped in me? A clearer and more sober view of how my actions and thoughts dictate an end result. With others, or with myself. An author cannot help but put themselves in the place of their protagonist. We experience the danger and gasps of shock along with them, and our hasty, pecking, fingers pound out the tension, frustration, and despair with heart-wrenching clarity. All this desperate desire to put realism and authenticity on the page results in a taut look at ourselves. At least it does in me. What if I had truly been in that situation? How would I have responded? Would I have made different choices?

(Goodness. I hope so! My characters make terrible choices.)

The list of life lessons as a novelist is endless and ongoing. I’m grateful and humbled by what my characters have taught me, and that my readers respond with such emotion to them. The absolute best feeling as an author is when my hands take over my brain instead of the other way around. That’s when I know I’m on to something. The words almost write themselves, and I think…maybe I am a novelist, after all. ♦

The Torching

by Kerry Peresta

May 8 – June 2, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


The Torching by Kerry Peresta

Mysterious fires. A haunting past. A secret file.

Three years ago, Olivia Callahan endured an assault that resulted in a devastating brain injury. She survived, but she couldn’t remember anything about her life or who she was. Now, she’s determined to build a bridge between the past she lost and the life she must reclaim.

When Olivia crosses paths with PI Tom Stark, she is drawn to the investigative field, and becomes his intern. She finds a heavily redacted, forty-five-year-old file locked in his desk drawer that mentions her mother as a young woman. Why had her mentor hidden the file from her, and why had he never mentioned a case involving her mother?

As Olivia moves forward with her fledgling career, a string of mysterious fires moves through the community, puzzling the Baltimore Arson Investigative Unit. One of the fires strikes Olivia’s beloved farmhouse in rural Maryland. Now, in addition to uncovering the secrets bound within the redacted file, she becomes convinced that the fires happening around the area are disturbing calling cards…and they’re meant for her.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery or Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 323
ISBN: 9781685123239 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781685123246 (eBook)
ASIN: B0BX8GZDXN (Kindle edition)
Series: The Olivia Callahan Suspense series, 3 | Each is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N eBook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

The Torching Trailer:

Author Bio:

Kerry Peresta

Kerry Peresta is the author of the Olivia Callahan Suspense series. The Torching, book three, was released in March 2023, and books four and five in 2024 and 2025. Her standalone suspense thriller, Back Before Dawn, releases in May 2023. Additional writing credits include a popular newspaper and e-zine humor column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011); the short story “The Day the Migraine Died,” published in Rock, Roll, and Ruin: A Triangle Sisters in Crime Anthology, articles published in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Kerry is the mother of four adult children, and spent thirty years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, copywriter, and editor. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her working out, riding her bike or kayaking, enjoying the beaches of Hilton Head Island, or cuddling her two cats, Agnes and Felix. She and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island in 2015.

Catch Up With Kerry Peresta:
BookBub – @kerryperesta
Instagram – @kerryperesta
Twitter – @kerryperesta
Facebook – @klperesta

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: Marlie Parker Wasserman – PATH OF PERIL

Good day, book people. I never realized how dedicated some of us are to fiction or nonfiction reading. I personally enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction. However, I’ve noticed that I’ve become quite partial to fictional stories about real people. Skilled authors craft stories featuring historical figures and events in a fictionalized story. Please help me welcome Marlie Parker Wasserman, author of one such fictionalized story about a historical figure, Path of Peril. Ms. Wasserman is joining us today and discussing using Teddy Roosevelt as a character in her book. Grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and let’s learn a bit more about Ms. Wasserman’s Teddy Roosevelt and Path of Peril. Thank you, Ms. Wasserman, for stopping by and sharing with us today.

Teddy Roosevelt, Yes, and Women Too
by Marlie Parker Wasserman

When I learned that the very first trip abroad by a sitting president was Teddy Roosevelt’s trip to the Panama Canal in 1906, I knew I had my topic. A fascinating president, a country most readers knew little about, and the prospect of imagined murder and mayhem—what more could I ask for? After a few months of research, I realized I had a major problem to solve before I could start to write. All the historic characters I spun my plot around were men.

The list of men went on and on. I would write about President Roosevelt, rushing from one site along the Canal to another, ignoring dangers. An unknown historic character, TR’s mild-mannered assistant secretary, would keep track of the official schedule and observe rampant inequalities. Three courageous secret service agents would protect the President from assassins.

In contrast, my previous novel told the story of a woman, the first woman executed in the electric chair, and most of my readers were women. Frankly, for marketing purposes, I needed women. But I also knew that women were hidden in the history of the Canal. Fortunately, in the last decade, historians have begun to unearth their tales. Digging deeper, I found what I needed.

My finished book starts off with men but quickly moves to the stories of women. The best known is Edith Roosevelt, TR’s second wife. Newspaper accounts report that she accompanied him on the trip to Panama, wearing the long white gown and white bonnet favored by wealthy women visiting the tropics. In the picture below, we see her standing on the back of a train, wearing a veil.

Sepia-toned photograph of old train, with several people in light-colored, early 20th-century clothing standing on the rear platform of the train.

I decided to imagine Edith’s thoughts during the four-day trip, as she sensed increasing dangers for her husband. She would be keenly aware that only five years before, the previous president, McKinley, had been assassinated. Edith had a counterpart on the trip. Maria Amador was Panama’s First Lady. The two sat together at dinners and crossed paths at receptions. What did Maria think about lovely, proper Edith? Did Maria know about assassins lurking in her country?

These first ladies were two of thousands of women who traveled to Panama. Many younger women came from Barbados and Jamaica to fill jobs as maids, cooks, fruit peddlers, and laundresses. Nurses and teachers came from the States. In the picture below, we see a group of newly trained teachers.

Black and white photograph of several young woman, wearing light-colored, early 20th-century clothing, sitting on a lawn with an old-fashioned school house in the background.

What we might call middle-class women accompanied their husbands—the engineers and officials responsible for digging the Canal. In addition, a small number of women were sex workers, either in well-appointed or squalid establishments. I enjoyed creating women in each of these categories, making sure that they drove some of the action.

The tale of the first presidential trip abroad does indeed center around men, but women stood all around that center, sustaining it and critiquing it. ♦

Path of Peril

by Marlie Parker Wasserman

February 27 – March 24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Path of Peril by Marlie Parker Wasserman

Would the assassins plotting to kill Theodore Roosevelt on his visit to the Panama Canal succeed?

Until this trip, no president while in office had ever traveled abroad. White House secretary Maurice Latta, thrilled to accompany the President, could not anticipate the adventures and dangers ahead. Latta befriends watchful secret service agents, ambitious journalists, and anxious First Lady Edith Roosevelt on their hot and humid trip, where he observes a country teeming with inequalities and abounding in opportunities. Along the way he learns about his own strengths—what he never imagined he could do, and what he discovers he can’t do.

Theodore Roosevelt did visit Panama in 1906, accompanied by White House staffer Maurice Latta. Interweaving the stories of real-life characters with fictional ones, Path of Peril imagines what the newspapers feared to report and what historians never discovered about Roosevelt’s risky trip.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 17, 2023
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781685122409 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781685122416 (eBook)
ASIN: B0BSXWCQ1F (Kindle edition)
Series: This is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N eBook | | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

Praise for Path of Peril:

“Nothing better than settling down with a good, crisp, detail-rich assassination thriller. Someone is after Theodore Roosevelt, and author Marlie Wasserman tightens the screws, ratchets the tension, and twists the plot again and again. Read it.”

William Martin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Lincoln Letter and December ’41


“A feast of characters, scenery, and history, Wasserman sets the table for a tremendous read. Path of Peril is a privileged walk with TR, his wife, his staff, and dozens of characters struggling to create one of the “greatest engineering feats of the century.”

Chris Keefer, author of No Comfort for the Undertaker, a Carrie Lisbon Mystery


Path of Peril is enjoyable and engaging and places the reader at the center of a fast, explosive, and intriguing plot—making this new book one that should not be missed.”

Mel Ayton, author of Plotting to Kill the President


“Wasserman’s Path of Peril gives readers an exciting leap back in time… Buy this book—you’ll love it!”

Michael Conniff, historian of Panama

Author Bio:

Marlie Parker Wasserman

Marlie Parker Wasserman continues to write historical crime fiction. Her first book, The Murderess Must Die, was published in 2021. After spending many years in New Jersey, she now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society.

Catch Up With Marlie Parker Wasserman:
Instagram – @marliepwasserman
Twitter – @MarlieWasserman

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Guest Post: Justin M. Kiska – FACT & FICTION

Fact & Fiction

by Justin M. Kiska

February 13 – March 10, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Greetings, book people. I hope all of you are doing well and getting some reading in. I’ve got to admit, I’m a very curious reader. I wonder why that setting, why that specific time, how did the author choose those names, and more. The biggest question that seems to pop into my head is what pushed this person to write? Today’s guest may not answer all of the questions I have, but he does answer the big one about becoming a writer. Please help me welcome Justin Kiska, author of Fact & Fiction. Thank you, Mr. Kiska, for taking time away from your obviously busy schedule to join us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

How In The World Did I Become A Mystery Writer?
by Justin Kiska

I’ve been asked that question a lot. In fact, I’ve asked myself that question because I would have never thought I’d have one mystery on bookstore shelves, let alone three with another three on the way! So, let’s back up a bit.

Technically, I’ve been writing mysteries for almost twenty years. As a theatre producer in my daily life, I have been producing interactive murder mystery events since 2005. These have always been funny mysteries with over-the-top characters. And while the characters in these mysteries were always developed with thorough backstories to give the actors something to work with, they were all just outlines. I never wrote a full mystery from beginning to end with all of the details like you have in a novel. In total, I have over fifty different interactive mysteries like this in my Marquee Mysteries Series.

Several years ago, one of the mysteries spoofed famous mystery writers. It was a lot of fun. As props, the actors each had mock-ups of their character’s latest book. When creating props, I always put a lot of detail into them, so the mock-ups had full synopsizes of the books on the back covers. As the actors were reading the blurbs, they were all saying how they’d really like to read those books if they were real.

The question then became, why not try writing an actual novel?

That’s what I did. For the next couple of years, I worked on what became Now & Then, the first book in my Parker City Mysteries Series from Level Best Books. I’d had the idea for it rattling around in my head for a while, but again, writing full mysteries wasn’t something I did. Once it was finished and a publisher was going to publish it, I was thrilled. I didn’t expect them to come back and offer me a three-book deal! But I’m glad they did because I’ve had so much fun writing the first three books in the series. And this past summer, they extended my contract and asked for another three. So, there are still a lot of mysteries to be solved in Parker City over the next few years. And there’s even a chance some of the characters I created in my interactive mysteries may show up from time-to-time bringing everything full circle.

For now, I’m off to devise another clever way to kill someone . . . for my mysteries! ♦


Fact & Fiction by Justin M. Kiska

Parker City, Autumn 1984…

As the leaves begin to change colors and the weather starts turning cooler in the historic city in the heart of Western Maryland, Parker City Police Detectives Ben Winters and Tommy Mason are called to Saint Paul’s where the recently installed Father Roland Taylor, who has become very popular in the community, has been found dead in his office at the church. By all appearances, it seems to be a tragic case of a break-in gone wrong.

Only twenty-four hours later, the detectives find themselves at the home of the city’s well-known morning radio show DJ, Morning Mike Moran, who also seems to have been the victim of a robbery gone wrong. Coincidence?

Neither Ben nor Tommy believe in coincidences. But at first glance, it seems to be just that. Until they find that the victims shared a common interest and begin an investigation that leads them to uncover a secret Parker City has been hiding for over one hundred and twenty years.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedural
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 2023
Number of Pages: 330
ASIN: ‎ B0BT373DNG (Kindle edition)
Series: Parker City Mysteries, Book 3 | Each is a Stand Alone
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon

Author Bio:

Justin M. Kiska

When not sitting in his library devising new and clever ways to kill people (for his mysteries), Justin can usually be found at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, outside of Washington, DC, where he is one of the owners and producers. In addition to writing the Parker City Mysteries Series – which includes, NOW & THEN, VICE & VIRTUE, and FACT & FICTION – he is also the mastermind behind Marquee Mysteries, a series of interactive mystery events he has been writing and producing for over fifteen years. Justin and his wife, Jessica, live along Lake Linganore outside of Frederick, Maryland.

Catch Up With Our Author:
BookBub – @JMKiska
Instagram – @JMKiska
Twitter – @JustinKiska
Facebook – @JMKiska

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Guest Post: Lynn Chandler Willis – WHAT THE MONKEY SAW

Good day, my bookish peeps. I don’t make resolutions per se at the beginning of each year, but I hope to make each year a year filled with new-to-me reads rather than re-reading. Of course, this doesn’t happen because I love re-reading my favorite authors and series. Nonetheless, the hope persists that maybe next year will be the year. I’m pleased to welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, author of What the Monkey Saw to the blog today. Ms. Willis will be sharing her thoughts on giving up on our dreams. Thank you, Ms. Willis, for taking the time to join us today and share your thoughts. The blog is now all yours.

Giving Up the Dream
by Lynn Chandler Willis

Once upon a time, I had this dream. Fantasy. Whatever you want to call it. But with every dream comes realization. And that dream’s time has come. It’s time. I’ve “played” at it too long. With all this “new year, new beginnings” crap, I figured it was the right time. I just don’t have it in me anymore.

I’m giving up the dream.

I vowed, pledged, and resolved this week to let it go and be done with it. To stop obsessing about what others will think. So I failed. It wasn’t the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But I didn’t really fail…I just discovered something about myself I had no idea existed. I don’t like to be cold. And how am I going to climb Mt. Everest if the mere thought of shivering makes me, well, shiver?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by all things cold. March of the Penguins is one of my favorite movies. And let’s not forget Fargo. I’m mesmerized at seeing someone’s breath float up around them like smoke from a chimney. 40 below…my blood’s pumping. 60 below…I’m giddy. The vast whiteness of ice and snow can, well, take my breath away.

Then I became interested in climbing…mountains. A good hike, on a level trail, is about all I can muster but I like to think I’m in training for the biggie. The grand dame herself…Everest.

When the interest first overtook me, I read everything I could get my hands on about that mountain. I watched the short-lived show on the Discovery channel, which led to more reading and the discovery some bad things happen on that mountain. I read everything I could about Nepal and Tibet and base zones and base camps. I even have a book on training to climb the mega mountain. I’d have to learn to breathe better through my nose. And there’s that whole altitude adjustment thing. And my sister offered no encouragement by saying cruel things like “You’re scared to death of heights. How are you going to climb Mt. Everest being scared of heights?” She obviously didn’t understand the dream. Or my fear. It wasn’t that I was scared of the actual height, or even scared of possibly falling. It was the landing after the fall that scared me.

Photo of Mount Everest - large snow covered mountainsDidn’t matter. I was going to climb Everest. Or at least hang out at Base Camp #1 for a few days. I even had a picture of the mountain pinned to my board at my desk with Franklin Coveyish words of encouragement about following your dream and reaching for the stars.

The dream started dissolving, or slowly slipping away when I suffered through the flu. The last time I had the flu, I was hit with that dreaded flu symptom…violent chills. The kind where all the socks and sweatshirts in the world aren’t going to cure. The kind where you know if you could just get out of bed and turn the heat up a notch and grab another blanket, you’ll be fine, but you can’t muster the courage to climb out from under the mound of blankets you’re already under because you’re soooooo coooooooold!

Yeah. I discovered I don’t really like being cold. Not that cold anyway. So I’m giving up the dream of climbing Everest. Or hanging out at Base Camp #1. I thought I’d be sad, giving up a dream and all. I’m not. I’m nice and warm. ♦

What the Monkey Saw

by Lynn Chandler Willis

January 30 – February 24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


What the Monkey Saw by Lynn Chandler Willis

When F.B.I. agent Emily Gayle’s partner is brutally murdered, Emily forsakes her career at the bureau and returns home to the North Carolina mountains to care for her disabled father. Guilt ridden over leaving her partner alone to die, Emily takes a job as an end-of-life caregiver.

Deep in Appalachia, Jude Courtland is desperate for a fast buck to pay for his grandmother’s chemotherapy. Together with his brother Crispin and cousin, Devo, the trio takes to hijacking insulin delivery vans and selling the stolen drugs on the black market. When Emily is assigned to cancer patient Hazel Courtland, the line separating right and wrong begins to blur.

As the hijackings escalate and turn violent, Emily’s intuition hones in on startling evidence she can no longer ignore.

Struggling with the truth, Emily is torn between her conscience and her loyalty to a dying woman. With her own life in jeopardy, Emily’s forced to take a side. Right or wrong, the consequences are deadly.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime/Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 2023
Number of Pages: 240
ISBN: 978-1-68512-220-1 (ASIN: B0BMCSK8KG)
Series: The Death Doula Series, Book 1
Book Links: Amazon

Praise for What the Monkey Saw:

A stunning portrait of small-town southern crime where characters walk a moral tightrope and risk everything to do what they believe is right. Emily Gayle, who watches people die for a living, is caught up in a drug theft ring and if she’s not careful, death will come for her. With breakneck pacing, you’ll want to devour What the Monkey Saw in one sitting, but don’t—this is one you’ll want to savor. Highly recommended series debut for fans of S.A Cosby, Joe Landsdale, and James Lee Burke.”

James L’Etoile, Award-winning author of Black Label, Dead Drop, and the Detective Penley series

This tale, ripe and deep with the Appalachian experience, makes us feel sorry for the bad guys and better understand how some people make ends meet to get by. The struggle of living is real. The crime is ugly in some ways and needed in others. Combine all this with Emily Gayle’s deep-seeded struggle to overcome her trauma and reluctance to use her investigative prowess and you have a solid, multi-layered, intriguing mystery that still warms your heart, even amidst the hardness of Appalachian living.”

C. Hope Clark, award-winning author of The Edisto Island Mysteries, The Carolina Slade Mysteries, and The Craven County Mysteries

As in the best crime fiction, Lynn Chandler Willis’s What the Monkey Saw is about far more than the crimes committed, in this case, the hijacking of insulin deliveries in Appalachia. Through the plot of a heist novel, Willis demonstrates how some people respond to the twin pressures of poverty and illness by breaking the law, and she accomplishes this without either glamorizing the crimes or condescending to her characters. Ultimately, What the Monkey Saw stands out as an exploration of death and dying, and how we react to both: the avoidance, the denial of loss, and the acceptance and grief that wash over us like mountain rain, either drowning us or bringing the promise of brighter days just over the next ridge.”

Christopher Swann, 2022 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective/Mystery), Author of Never Go Home, A Fire in the Night, and Never Turn Back

“From the very first pages you’ll sense that this is something truly special not only a suspenseful story, but one that represents the triumph of the human spirit to survive hardship and confront the inevitable end. A must read!”

Lawrence Kelter, International bestselling author of the Stephanie Chalice Mystery Series

Author Bio:

Lynn Chandler Willis

Lynn Chandler Willis is a best-selling, multi-award-winning author who has worked in the corporate world, the television news industry, and had a thirteen-year run as the owner and publisher of a small-town newspaper. She lives in the heart of North Carolina on a mini-farm surrounded by chickens, turkeys, ducks, nine grandkids, a sassy little calico named Jingles, and Finn, a brown border collie known to be the best dog in the world. Seriously.

Catch Up With Lynn Chandler Willis:
BookBub – @lynn361
Instagram – @lynnchandlerwillis_author
Twitter – @LynnCWillis
Facebook –

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Hello, book people. I am fascinated by genealogy, especially other people’s genealogical discoveries. One of my favorite television shows is Finding Your Roots on PBS with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. (and no, it’s not because he’s a fellow West Virginian…although that’s a plus). It’s intriguing to me to learn about family histories, whether known or unknown. I’m pleased to welcome the author of historical fiction, R.J. Koreto. Mr. Koreto’s most recent release is The Greenleaf Murders. As with some authors, Mr. Koreto focuses not only on historical fiction but his books are usually set in New York. Today he explains just his genealogy influences his books. Thank you, Mr. Koreto, for joining us today. I can’t wait to learn more about the basis for your writing and will now turn the blog over to you.

Why My Books Are Set in Old New York
by R.J. Koreto


In 1896, my great-great-grandmother Julia Lowey, a trained midwife from Hungary, delivered her grandson—Robert Feldman—in her Bronx apartment.

A century before, in 1799, Alexander Hamilton and his friend Archibald Gracie met in Gracie Mansion to found a paper that would support their Federalist ideals—the N.Y. Post. In 1942, the mansion became the official residence of the mayor of New York. It needed upgrades, and one of the electrical workers brought in was Robert Feldman. Meanwhile, his wife Ellen took care of her three children and in the afternoon, she read Hamilton’s paper, the New York Post.

The N.Y. Post by then was owned by Dorothy Schiff, a daughter of one of the richest families in the country. Her grandfather, Jacob Schiff, was a German-Jewish immigrant who made a fortune on Wall Street. He was the first banker to see that Japan was a rising world power and floated it major loans, which enabled Japan to beat the dying Russian Empire. Schiff despised Russia for its anti-Semitism and was glad to see it defeated. For those loans, the Japanese emperor personally presented Schiff with the Order of the Rising Sun, the first Westerner so honored.

Schiff gave huge sums to charity, including Zionist causes. One ardent Zionist was George Gutfarb, sister of Ellen Feldman, and brother-in-law of Robert Feldman. At age 16—when World War I was underway—he hitchhiked from New York City to Canada. Lying about his age and nationality, he enlisted in a Canadian regiment destined for the Middle East, believing that the key to a Jewish homeland was freeing the area from the Ottoman Empire. He saw action, but to the day he died in an upstate nursing home, he never spoke a word about the war to anyone.

Meanwhile, Robert and Ellen Feldman had two sons and a daughter. The daughter was named Vivienne, from the French “lively,” because her Hebrew name was Chaiya, “life.” She obtained a BS and MA from City College and was appointed a teacher by the Board of Education. The board had been established by Mayor Strong, who had run the city when her father had been born.

She accepted a job at Andrew Jackson High School. (Its famous students over the years include the girl group Shangri-Las and rappers 50 Cent and LL Cool J.) In 1959 she married Paul Koreto, whose father, Abraham Koreto, had fled the pogroms in Russia that Jacob Schiff had fought against.

Abraham worked in the garment district. He joined a union and owned a copy of the Communist Manifesto in Yiddish. He married and they had one child, Paul Koreto—a common anglicization of Pinchas. Paul entered the burgeoning advertising industry in the “Mad Men” era. Paul and Vivienne’s firstborn, Richard Joshua Koreto, was born in 1962, and then in 1965 came a daughter, Abigail, named for Abraham Koreto, who died shortly before she was born. The family soon moved to the Upper East Side, just a few blocks away from Gracie Mansion, birthplace of the New York Post. When John Lindsey ran for a second term as Mayor of New York, Vivienne found herself at the same polling station at the same time as Lindsey himself. She pushed Richard forward. “Shake the mayor’s hand,” she said. Lindsey, at 6’4″, didn’t see Richard, but his wife did: “John—this young man wants to meet you.” He leaned down and gravely shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” he said.

Ellen Feldman lived into her 90s. She and Robert are buried together, in New York City, in a Hungarian-Jewish cemetery. Their plots are near that most famous Hungarian Jew, Erik Weisz, better known by his stage name: Harry Houdini.

Richard Koreto, Paul and Vivienne’s son, married, had two daughters, and wrote three novels that look back at a city his ancestors knew so well. ♦

The Greenleaf Murders

by R.J. Koreto

January 23 – February 17, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto

Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York’s finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen’s 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who’s lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust.

Wren’s job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client’s niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets.

Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 264
ISBN: 9781685122089 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781685122096 (eBook)
ISBN: 9798212330848 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B0BKMWRJ86 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0BV97BWDR (Audible Audiobook)
Series: Historic Homes Mysteries, #1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes and Noble | | Downpour Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads | Level Best Books

Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:

“A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages.”

Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives


“If you love houses and puzzles – which I do – you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto’s new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion’s heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur.”

Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series


The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight.”

L.A. Chandlar, national best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series


“One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written The Greenleaf Murders. Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended.”

Brendan DuBois, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author

Author Bio:

R.J. Koreto

R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Catch Up With R.J. Koreto:
BookBub – @rkoreto1
Instagram – @rjkoreto
Twitter – @RJKoreto
Facebook – @RJKoreto

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Guest Post: Jodé Millman – THE MIDNIGHT CALL

Happy Tuesday, my bookish peeps, and welcome to October. Do you audio (listen to audiobooks, that is)? I recently developed the habit of listening to audiobooks, especially during road trips. As an audiobook listener, I haven’t given much attention to things such as whether or not the author has the rights to the audiobook or not. However, publishing and rights can be very convoluted so it is definitely a good idea to know what you as an author own and don’t own for your writings. As a reader, I definitely want authors to receive their fair share for their hard work. I’m honored to welcome back, Jodé Millman, author of The Midnight Call to the blog today. Ms. Millman will be discussing audiobooks with us, especially from the perspective of the author. I’m sure this information will be helpful for all of you authors and aspiring authors out there. Thank you, Ms. Millman, for taking the time to join us today. I look forward to learning your thoughts on audiobooks. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Listen Up: Do you own the rights to your Audiobook?
by Jodé Millman

As writers, we can’t help being excited about hearing our characters’ voices come alive on digital audiobooks. And audiobooks are enjoying a wave of popularity, which has only surged since the pandemic. According to the Audio Publishers Association, in 2021 the market grew by 25% to a $1.6B industry, following a trend of double-digit growth during the last ten years.

In 2021, nearly 74,000 audiobooks were published, representing a 6% growth over 2020, and now audiobook sales represent 9% of the total U.S. book sales. Of course, the 2022/23 picture will be different, given readers continued thirst for audio entertainment. And just so you know who’s listening, 54% of frequent listeners are under the age of 45, and new listenership and audiobook memberships have increased four-fold.

This good news means that digital audiobooks are creating a new revenue stream for writers. The great news is that the second-most popular genre is Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, after Sci-Fi/Fantasy, with Romance and Fiction taking a close third place.

Now that the optimistic industry trends have been covered, this article will examine whether authors own the rights to their audiobooks. The answer may surprise you.

Published Book versus Audiobook

First, let’s examine the difference between a “published book” and an “audiobook” which extends beyond their respective mediums – print versus digital recording. Be forewarned that understanding the concepts of “published books” and “audiobooks” is a bit like trying to get a handle on The Cat in the Hat‘s Thing One and Thing Two. The main premise is that “published books” and “audiobooks” are two separate legal and creative entities. Thing One (Published Books) is the original, underlying manuscript, which is owned by the author of the work and is protected under the Copyright Law. Thing Two (Audiobook) is considered a “derivative work” because it is a sound recording based upon a preexisting work – the manuscript. To create a sound recording, the publisher must first obtain the right to use the “published book” from the author, which will be covered later in the article.

Under the Copyright Law, a sound recording of the book must be captured in a medium from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated to others such as a digital track, disk, tape or other format. To clarify, a sound recording is a “fixed” recorded performance of a preexisting work, such as the Hamilton soundtrack derived from the Broadway production/book of Hamilton or the performance of Davinia Porter reading Diana Gabaldon’s Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone.

Performance + Production = Audiobook

Typically, the sound recording of composed of two parts – the performance captured in the recording and the parties who captured and processed those sounds to create the final performance. Under the Copyright statute, an author owns the underlying material, however, the publisher who produces the audiobook owns the sound recording, which includes both the performance (voice recording) and the production (capturing and engineering the sound), which also carry separate copyrights. Other than the right to royalties negotiated for the use of the novel, the author generally has no legal entitlement to the audiobook.

Similarly, the voice-over artist may claim copyright ownership of their performance on the recording, unless they were employed by the publisher to narrate the audiobook. When someone is a “work for hire,” they possess no independent claim to the audiobook simply because they performed the narration. Think of the voiceover artist as being a backup singer for the Rolling Stones. Merry Clayton is best known as Mick Jagger’s amazing duet partner on “Gimme Shelter.” She was compensated for singing during the recording session but receives no subsequent royalties whenever the song is played or the record is sold. She was merely an “artist for hire.”

License to Thrill

As mentioned above, in order for a publisher or audiobook producer to produce an audiobook, they must first obtain permission from the book’s author, the original copyright holder, to use or record the book. This grant of permission is included in a publishing agreement as known as a “subsidiary right.” The Author’s Guild Model Contract suggests that the audiobook royalties be equally shared between the publisher and author – 50/50. However, publishers argue that they bear the cost of producing, marketing and distributing the audiobook, which could be substantial. When negotiating your publishing deal, be aware of this valuable subsidiary right as it may mean substantial revenue in this rapidly changing digital environment.

Under the Copyright Law, an author’s entitlement to assign or license a book for use by another party is among the many rights protected under the law. Briefly, “assigning” the rights to the book means that an author is transferring or divesting all of the rights to the work. A great analogy is selling a car; the car is something that will never be returned. In contrast, “licensing” the book means that an author is allowing the use of their manuscript under limited circumstances. It’s like leasing the car–it will be returned at the end of the term. Licenses can be exclusive (one producer) or non-exclusive (multiple producers), but generally, licenses are exclusive.

As in my situation, my original publisher included the right to produce an audiobook of my debut novel, The Midnight Call, in my publishing agreement. They were entitled to the exclusive license to produce the audiobook for a period of two years after the publication of the book. If they failed to produce the audiobook within that time, the rights reverted to me, and I was free to either produce the book myself or license/assign it to another party. The audiobook was released in May 2020, which was nine months after the publication date of the trade paperback, and my publisher and I shared the royalties from the project. When my contract with them ended, I received my audiobook rights from them, and now I am the audiobook publisher with my own account on ACX and I receive all of the royalties from the copies sold.

It is also the responsibility of the producer to create an end product, which meets the quality standards acceptable to Audible, iTunes, or any other distributor.’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) will not release any audiobooks that fail to meet those standards, and during the pandemic, the review time expanded from ten to more than thirty business days after submission for review.

In June 2022, Spotify acquired Findaway, an audiobook publishing and distribution platform, as part of the streaming app’s plans to expand into audiobooks. This offers independent authors and small presses another resource for entering the digital audio sphere and reaching Spotify’s 162 million monthly listeners using an à la carte approach, rather than a subscription model.

Producing your own Audiobook

If an author has retained the right to produce the audiobook or is self-published, then the landscape is quite different. The author producing their own audiobook would be responsible for: bearing the cost of engineering, finding the talent, drafting and executing a talent “work for hire” agreement, and bearing the costs of the talent, marketing and distributing the product. It is akin to self-publishing in the audio realm. is a great industry resource and maintains a directory of audiobook talent and publishers. Additional resources to assist the creation of an audiobook can also be found through the Audio Publishers Association at,,, and


The downloadable audiobook market is booming, creating new revenue streams and challenges for authors. When negotiating a publishing contract, don’t undervalue the potential of the subsidiary right of audiobooks. Be sure to negotiate your fair share of royalties in this category as well as all other technological methods for the delivery of your manuscript to readers. And if you elect to enter the Wild West of audiobook production, there’s plenty of sound advice available. ♦

The Midnight Call

by Jodé Millman

October 3 – November 18th, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


The Midnight Call by Jodé Millman

Who would ever suspect that their mentor, teacher, and friend was a cold-blooded killer? Jessie Martin didn’t—at least not until she answers the midnight call.

Late one August night, Jessie’s lifelong mentor and friend–and presently a popular, charismatic, and handsome high school teacher–Terrence Butterfield calls. He utters a startling admission: he’s killed someone. He pleads for Jessie’s help, so out of loyalty she rushes to his aid completely unaware that she’s risking her relationship, her career, and her life–and that of her unborn child–to help Terrence.

Does Jessie’s presence at Terrence’s home implicate her in the gruesome murder of the teenage boy found in the basement? Why does Terrence betray Jessie when he has a chance to exonerate her of all charges? Has he been a monster in disguise for all these years?

To reclaim her life and prove her innocence, Jessie must untangle the web of lies and reveal the shocking truths behind the homicide. The quest turns out to be the fight of her life: to preserve everything and everyone she holds dear.

Praise for The Midnight Call:


“A Must-Read”

USA Today Network

“The tricky legal maneuvering intrigues…Millman writes with verve.”

Publishers Weekly

“If you like courtroom battles, this legal thriller fits the bill!”

Chanticleer Reviews, Four Star Review. The Midnight Call won First Place in the 2014 CIBAs in the CLUE Awards

“An intriguing courtroom thriller.”

Top Shelf Magazine

“Friendship, insanity, the drama of a courtroom, with a touch of romance rounding out the narrative, will have readers struggling to answer the question: What happens after you answer that terrifying midnight call?”

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 400
Series: Queen City Crimes, Book 1
ASIN: B0BGQK7DY2 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B088YJ7X43 (Audible audiobook)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook

Author Bio:

Jodé Millman

Jodé Millman is the acclaimed author of Hooker Avenue and The Midnight Call, which won the Independent Press, American Fiction, and Independent Publisher Bronze IPPY Awards for Legal Thriller. She’s an attorney, a reviewer for, the host/producer of The Backstage with the Bardavon podcast, and creator of The Writer’s Law. Jodé lives with her family in the Hudson Valley, where she is at work on the next installment of her “Queen City Crimes” series —novels inspired by true crimes in the region she calls home.

Discover more about Jodé, her work, and sign up for her newsletter at:
BookBub – @JodeMillmanAuthor
Instagram – @jodewrites
Twitter – @worldseats
Facebook – @JodeSusanMillmanAuthor

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Guest Post: Mally Becker – THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE

Hello, my fellow book lovers. I don’t know about you, but I’m loving the cooler weather. I enjoy curling up on my favorite reading chair with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book (or two). Of course, I curl up on my favorite reading chair every season, but Fall and Winter just seem different. My reading tastes also seem to change with the weather, as I gravitate more towards historical fiction at this time of the year. If you’re always on the lookout for something new in the historical fiction arena, then you’re going to love today’s guest author visit. Please help me welcome back Mally Becker, author of The Counterfeit Wife. Ms. Becker will be providing us with an introduction to her latest book. Thank you, Ms. Becker, for coming back to visit, I’m eager to learn more about your latest book. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Guest Post graphic featuring a stack of books above the words GUEST POST in a scripted font

I’m excited and honored to be featured here today!

My name is Mally Becker, and I’m the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow and The Counterfeit Wife, which is out now wherever books are sold.

The Turncoat’s Widow introduces General Washington’s two most reluctant spies, young widow Becca Parcell and former British POW Daniel Alloway. Pressed into Washington’s service, this unlikely duo uncover a plot that threatens the new nation.

Combining mystery, a touch of romance, and history, The Counterfeit Wife opens months later as Becca and Daniel accept a new assignment from George Washington. Masquerading as newlyweds, they head to Philadelphia to uncover a ring of counterfeiters who are upending the wartime economy.

There, Becca comes face-to-face with a half-remembered woman from her childhood, which forces her to question everything she thought she knew about her past. When that woman becomes a suspect in the murder of one of the counterfeiting suspects, Becca and Daniel find themselves speeding to discover the real villain before he can kill again.

I can hear you asking why on earth Becca and Daniel needed to masquerade as a married couple.

It would have been quite a challenge for an unmarried couple to find “alone time” in the 18th century, a historian assured me. Society banned meetings between unmarried men and women without a chaperone.

Yet Becca and Daniel are amateur sleuths, in their 18th-century way. Without an ability to speak in private, how could they share their impression of suspects or evaluate the information one or the other uncovers?

A fake marriage seemed to me to be their only option. Martha Washington thinks it might work so long as they maintain all the proprieties, as she puts it in my story. General Washington is not as certain but approves the ruse, nonetheless.

When you read my books, The Counterfeit Wife or The Turncoat’s Widow, I hope that they entertain you. But I also hope that you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, attending a society party at City Tavern, breaking into an 18th-century printer’s shop, or chatting with the wealthiest women in Philadelphia.

And I hope above all else that you feel a connection to my female characters especially. Customs may change; clothing certainly does. But I think the things that make us human and our emotions are a constant throughout time.

I especially strove to bring to life women like Becca who chart their own course. Because there have always been women who cheerfully ignore society’s restrictions: women spies; women business owners; female poets; even women who led 18th-century riots.

I included a few of those historical women in The Counterfeit Wife, including Benjamin Franklin’s adult daughter, Sally, and the wife of Pennsylvania’s governor, Esther Reed. She wrote that American women were “born for liberty” and led a group of women who knocked on every door in the city to raise money for the all-but-broke Continental Army.

As a friend of the Washingtons, Becca is invited to tag along on one of the group’s fundraising trips with Sally Franklin Bache, Benjamin Franklin’s adult daughter who was, in fact, an important member of the Ladies Association. The dramatic meeting between Becca and a woman who lives there sets in motion an important part of my book’s plot.

You can learn more about me and my books at I hope to see you there! ♦

The Counterfeit Wife

by Mally Becker

September 19 – October 14, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


THE COUNTERFEIT WIFE by Mally Becker book cover, yellow background with photo of the back of a white female, wearing a burgundy long-sleeve 17th century gown

Philadelphia, June 1780. George Washington’s two least likely spies return, masquerading as husband and wife as they search for traitors in Philadelphia.

Months have passed since young widow Becca Parcell and former printer Daniel Alloway foiled a plot that threatened the new nation. But independence is still a distant dream, and General Washington can’t afford more unrest, not with food prices rising daily and the value of money falling just as fast.

At the General’s request, Becca and Daniel travel to Philadelphia to track down traitors who are flooding the city with counterfeit money. Searching for clues, Becca befriends the wealthiest women in town, the members of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, while Daniel seeks information from the city’s printers.

But their straightforward mission quickly grows personal and deadly as a half-remembered woman from Becca’s childhood is arrested for murdering one of the suspected counterfeiters.

With time running out – and their faux marriage breaking apart – Becca and Daniel find themselves searching for a hate-driven villain who’s ready to kill again.

Praise for The Counterfeit Wife:

The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker has it all — adventure, romance and deceit … [w]ith smooth-as-ice prose and pitch-perfect dialogue.”

Tina deBellegarde, Agatha- and Derringer-nominated author of the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series

The Counterfeit Wife is a not-to-be-missed adventure that gives new meaning to rebel and loyalist, spy and spouse.”

Lori Robbins, award-winning author of the On Pointe and Masterclass Mystery series

“As the young country struggles for independence, so does Becca, and she will have you turning pages well into the night … I highly recommended The Counterfeit Wife and I’m already anxious for the third of the series.”

Eileen Harrison Sanchez, award-winning author of Freedom Lessons—A Novel

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9781685121587
Series: A Revolutionary War Mystery
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:


Mally Becker author photo, headshot of white female with short, brown curly hair, and tortoise shell eyeglassesMally Becker combines her love of history and crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. She is the Agatha Award-nominated author of The Turncoat’s Widow, which Kirkus Reviews called, “A compelling tale… with charming main characters.” Her first novel was also named a Silver Falchion finalist and a CIBA “Mystery & Mayhem” finalist.

A member of the board of MWA-NY, Mally was an attorney until becoming a full-time writer and an instructor at The Writers Circle Workshops. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society. Mally and her husband live in New Jersey, where they raised their wonderful son and spend as much time as they can hiking and kayaking.

Catch Up With Mally Becker:
BookBub – @mallybecker
Instagram – @mallybeckerwrites
Twitter – @mally_becker
Facebook – @mallybeckerauthor

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Guest Post: C.L. Tolbert – SANCTUARY

Good day, book people. I’ve recently noticed that I’m perfectly willing to suspend my belief and rational thought (to a certain extent) when reading fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, or even romance stories. However, when I’m reading mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and even romantic suspense, I want the stories and characters to be wholly realistic and the action to be credible. If the story is too far outside of my brain’s comfort zone, I have a hard time enjoying the story. I know, strange reading quirk, but there you have it. Today, I’m pleased to welcome C.L. Tolbert, author of Sanctuary, part of the Thornton Mystery series, back to the blog. Ms. Tolbert will discuss the importance of “keeping it real” or realistic fiction. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to share, follow along with the tour to learn more about this book and its author, and don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of Sanctuary for your fall reading. Thank you, Ms. Tolbert, for your visit, the blog is now all yours.

Keeping It Real
by C.L. Tolbert

I’ve always preferred realistic fiction. I like to emerge myself in the setting and the characters’ lives, and for me, that means the story must be credible. The reader must believe that what unfolds in the story could actually happen. Even though it was non-fiction, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which may be the best true crime story ever written, is an icon and a guide for what I’d like to achieve in a story.

But are mysteries realistic fiction? The short answer is, they don’t have to be. Mysteries can be fictional or nonfictional, and may even include supernatural topics, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.

When I was five years old, my favorite TV show was Perry Mason, with Raymond Burr. My parents didn’t allow me to see it, which made it even more tantalizing, but my aunt did when she babysat my brother and me. I was impressed with Mason’s smooth approach, his brilliance in the courtroom, and the fact that, even though he usually represented the underdog or the disadvantaged, he always won.

But even though I enjoyed the intricate plot lines on the show, I knew, even at age five, that courtroom confessions, which Mason often relied on to win, seemed unlikely. I didn’t know the name for this anomaly when I was five, but it was my first confrontation with “deus ex machina,” a plot device where an unsolvable problem in a storyline is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence, such as the sudden confession. Even then, I wanted the facts and structure of the story to be realistic, not contrived.

Perry Mason also had a couple of sidekicks, one of which was Paul Draper, his intrepid private investigator. Paul didn’t hesitate to rough up witnesses so that they would ‘spill the beans.’ After a few years of watching Drake misbehave, I developed a strong distrust of private investigators until, as an attorney, I had to hire one for a case. My investigator was a retired police officer, and a stalwart follower of proper procedures. He’d never have roughed up a witness, nor would the majority of investigators.

When I was eight, my brother inherited the Hardy Boys books from a cousin and I read all thirty-two books one summer. I was surprised that the Hardy Boys would often find themselves breaking into houses and buildings to solve crimes, and, later on, as a thirteen-year-old, I appreciated that Agatha Christie was more careful with procedure. Poirot and Miss Marple weren’t the sort to trespass.

After retiring from the practice of law, I started working on a short story that featured Emma Thornton, a young, single-mother-attorney, as the protagonist. I entered the story in the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest, and, several months later, was very surprised to discover that I had won. This win gave me the confidence I needed to turn the short story into a full novel.

I knew I had a good story to tell. After teaching school for ten years, and practicing law for another thirty-five, I had plenty of war stories. But I was worried about how to keep my writing realistic and still capture the readers’ attention and interest. My protagonist, Emma Thornton, as an attorney and law professor, would spend the majority of her day bogged down in work that is boring, redundant, and even mundane. Lawyers spend more time researching and writing than anything else. They ask the same question to different people over and over in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. This sort of reality would put readers to sleep quickly.

Lawyers are also bound to follow the rules of ethics or risk disbarment. So, neither Emma nor any person who worked on cases with her could ever threaten a witness, as Perry Mason’s Paul Drake, or become involved in Hardy Boys-like trespass. How could I turn Emma’s routine-filled and occasionally dull life into an exciting book, and still maintain a modicum of (hopefully edgy) realism?

One truth about trial lawyers is that they love a fight, and Emma is no exception. They also love arguing, and asking carefully wrought questions designed to expose the theory of their case. They also love trial. The courtroom is their temple. So, in each of the books in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma spends the majority of her time preparing for trial, analyzing evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing autopsy reports, and sometimes arguing with the DA. A couple of the books have courtroom hearings. Emma works for a law school where she directs the Homeless Clinic, and has no money for her own investigations. She, and sometimes her students, do the leg work on her cases.

To keep the story interesting, I gave Emma a personality quirk – specifically, an impulse control problem – and an insatiable curiosity. She also carries, to the extreme, the responsibility of zealously representing her clients, all of which suffer from various societal injustices. Emma’s impulse control problem is subtle, and although she’s aware of it, she never addresses the issue. But the reader may notice that Emma can’t resist pushing her apartment door open when it’s been left ajar by someone other than herself, or climbing up the stairs to spy on an intruder. Emma’s exploits often backfire, and she ends up in trouble at least once or twice a book. Impulse control issues would be a problem for any attorney, but that’s especially true when an attorney is conducting his or her own investigations, as Emma.

The term ‘realistic fiction’ sounds like an oxymoron. But it’s nothing more than the creation of imaginary characters and situations that depict the world and society as they are. Plots highlight social or personal problems that mirror contemporary life. The books in my Thornton Mystery Series, Out From Silence, The Redemption, and Sanctuary, are murder mysteries that take a look at societal injustices and family dysfunction, but in a way that takes the reader on a journey. The books are offered as entertainment, but, hopefully, the reader will learn something along the way.


by C.L. Tolbert

September 12 – October 8, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


SANCTUARY by C.L. Tolbert book cover

A Thornton Mystery

In Sanctuary, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.

The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.

Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.

Praise for Sanctuary:

“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”

Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 2022
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 9781685121464 (paperback)
ASIN: B0B5YFSL54 (Kindle edition)
Series: The Thornton Mystery Series, Book 3
Book Links: Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author C.L. Tolbert

After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. Out From Silence was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, The Redemption, was published in February of 2021, and Sanctuary, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.

Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career, she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.

C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With C.L. Tolbert:
Instagram – @cltolbertwrites
Twitter – @cltolbertwrites
Facebook – @cltolbertwriter

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: James L’Etoile – DEAD DROP

Good day, book people and welcome to July. Like many of you, I’m somewhat obsessed with books, hey book diva here. I wonder about the crafting of each story, why this particular setting, why this number of characters, how do authors keep track of all of the characters, how did the author come up with character names and occupations, etc. I don’t sit and ponder these in-depth while reading, but these questions do pop up. Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking about the hows and whys. I’m pleased to welcome James L’Etoile, author of Dead Drop, back to the blog. Mr. L’Etoile will be discussing the all-important “whys” of his characters with us today. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and add Dead Drop to your summer TBR list. Thank you, Mr. L’Etoile, for your return visit, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Thanks for inviting me to come and guest post with you again here on The Book Diva’s Reads. I’m really excited about the release of Dead Drop in a little more than a week. It’s the first in a new series, so I could do one thing I enjoy most, creating new characters to play with.

Every author’s writing process is unique and uniquely their own. It takes a little time and practice to find the methods and routines that work best for you. After five novels (and two more out on submission), I’m settling into my process—the one that works for me, now.

As part of that process, I spend a considerable amount of time developing the characters who’ll inhabit my pages long before I type the first words. Some authors depend on archetype labels to define their characters. Definitions like the Mentor, the Hero, the Villain, and the Ally, for example. While these may identify their roles in the story, I find the labels don’t help me establish character. Characteristics perhaps, but not a deeper dive into character.

For me, it’s about the “why.” Why do the characters act and respond the way they do? What does my character want, and how far will they be willing to go to get it?

In Dead Drop, our two main characters are opposites of one another. Detective Nathan Parker and a desert scavenger, Billie Carson, are about as far apart as you would imagine. Until circumstances bring them together to solve a series of murders and fight for their own survival.

In the opening chapters, Billie is out “scrapping” trying to eek a living from the recycled goods and discarded junk along the highway. Right away, we learn there’s more to Billie than she admits. She blames herself for harm done to others. So, what does Billie want? Why has she adopted this off-the-grid lifestyle? And what has she done in the past?

Billie has secrets. Secrets worth killing for. She’s motivated by a sense of justice, a search for redemption from a deadly past, and a need to conceal her old life.

Nathan Parker is a cop who struggles with his sense of justice after a coyote bringing migrants over the border murders his partner. Nathan doesn’t blame the undocumented. There are darker forces using people who are trying to find a better life as a commodity in a deadly game.

He’s never given up his search for the man responsible for his partner’s death. Motivated by a sense of survivor’s guilt, a longing for justice, revenge, and yet he’s drawn to those who need him in a need to protect others.

When Nathan and Billie come together over a series of recent deaths, their “whys,”—their motivations—collide. The investigation of the murders of undocumented men lures them over the border. Parker finds his path shifts from his partner’s death and must rely on the very people he once pursued to save his life and a band of undocumented migrants crossing the border. He lives less in the past and looks to the future. Nathan searches for justice for the living.

Billie must put aside years of hiding and sacrifice to help Nathan. She’s tougher and more resilient than people give her credit for. She knows more about the murder of Nathan’s partner but has kept that concealed for years. Revealing it now threatens her relationship with Nathan, but withholding it may put more people in danger, including her.

The “whys” of Dead Drop drive the actions and decisions of Nathan and Billie over the course of the book. They reveal more about their character. I find it helpful to map out these characters before I dive into the plot of the novel. With a better understanding of Nathan and Billie, I know how they will react and exactly how far they will go to get what they are searching for.

Writing a novel means you’ll be living with these characters for months. That relationship works much more smoothly if you take the time and get to know them before you write. ♦

Dead Drop

by James L’Etoile

June 27 – July 22, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Dead Drop by James L'Etoile


Hundreds go missing each year making the dangerous crossing over the border. What if you were one of them?

While investigating the deaths of undocumented migrants in the Arizona desert, Detective Nathan Parker finds a connection to the unsolved murder of his partner on a human smuggling run. The new evidence lures Parker over the border in search of the truth, only to trap him in a strange and dangerous land. If he’s to survive, Parker must place his life in the hands of the very people he once pursued.

Border violence, border politics, and who is caught in between. The forces behind it might surprise you.

Praise for Dead Drop:

“James L’Etoile’s DEAD DROP hooked me from the opening sentences to the very last page. A truly twisted plot, gifted storytelling, and dead-on characterization combine to make this tense, timely, and heart-breaking thriller a truly memorable read. I loved it!”
~ Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER and THE WICKED SISTER

“An incredible story that grabs you by the throat and tosses you across the room. L’Etoile is a gem.”
~ J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of HER DARK LIES

James L’Etoile is such a talented and terrific storyteller! His real-life experience in the criminal justice system gives his compelling, high-stakes thrillers an authenticity that only a savvy insider can provide. You’ll be turning the pages as fast as you can!
~ Hank Phillippi Ryan USA Today Bestselling Author of HER PERFECT LIFE

A suspenseful and utterly gripping novel that doesn’t shy away from the terror of drug cartels and border violence, James L’Etoile’s DEAD DROP is a well-researched, expertly written police procedural with twists that will leave you breathless. This one is not to be missed.
~ Jennifer Hillier, bestselling author of LITTLE SECRETS and THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK

“Borders are blurred, lines are crossed. Nathan Parker navigates an intensely personal case, uncontrolled emotions threatening his good judgment. Brilliant prose, crisp pacing, and well-developed characters make L’Etoile a must-read for every thriller enthusiast. An unforgettable story.”
~ K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 19, 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9781685121143
ISBN: 9781685121150 (eBook)
ASIN: B09WVWZ4BG (Kindle edition)
Series: The Detective Nathan Parker Series, Book 1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Amazon Kindle | B&N Nook Book | Kobo eBook

Author Bio:

James L'Etoile

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include Black Label, At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River. Look for Dead Drop in the summer of 2022.

You can find out more at:
BookBub – @crimewriter
Instagram – @authorjamesletoile
Twitter – @jamesletoile
Facebook – @AuthorJamesLetoile

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This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for James L’Etoile. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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