Your Next Mystery Read – Barbara Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection Box Set Books 1-3

I was recently sent Barbara Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3, and found it a joy to read. This book set includes the first three stories in the Jamie Quinn series. I also had a chat with the author to find out a little more about the inspiration and behind the scenes creation of the books.

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Death by Didgeridoo (Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award)

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

The Case of the Killer Divorce
Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect. When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

Peril in the Park
There’s big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can’t figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

A preview of the next Jamie Quinn Mystery, Engaged in Danger, can be found at the end of the book. Engaged in Danger won first place in the Amateur Detective category of the Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition.

The Jamie Quinn series was in fact first inspired by a didgeridoo that Barbara Venkataraman had purchased to help with her sleep apnea (a condition also experienced by her character Jamie). She says “always one to embrace outlandish remedies, I had read that playing the didgeridoo improved the symptoms of sleep apnea, so I tried. And failed. It was so hard that one day I hyperventilated and dropped the didgeridoo, cracking a glass table. It occurred to me that a didgeridoo could be a lethal weapon, so I started asking questions–who would get killed? A music teacher. Who could have done it? Lots of people. Who will get falsely accused? A disabled student. Who will come to his rescue? His cousin, Jamie Quinn, a reluctant family lawyer. And off we went…”

Barbara Venkataraman herself is also an attorney and mediator, specializing in family law and debt collection, and she describes Jamie as her alter ego. She considers both herself and Jamie as “reluctant family lawyers, home-bodies who are loyal to our family and friends with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a snarky side”. However, she also adds that Jamie is “younger, more neurotic, and keeps finding herself embroiled in murder mysteries”.

Unlike Jamie, Barbara is also the author of an award-winning series and has always known she wanted to be a writer. She says, “ever since I wrote a poem about ducks in second grade and my teacher liked it so much she enlarged it and hung it on the wall, I was hooked.” She also talks about her love of words, both writing and read them, saying “I can spend a long time choosing one word, weighing my options and the feeling I want to convey”.

For all you aspiring authors out there, Barbara also describes what her process is like when writing a Jamie Quinn novel. “It’s a very loose process that looks like organized chaos from the outside. I come up with a synopsis and a very loose summary. I usually know the beginning and the end going in, but the middle is fluid and changes as I go. I research the topics I need for the story and paste it to the bottom of the document, so I can refer to it as I go. I write short chapters and send them to my reader girls as I finish them. None of my characters are ever shot so I have to come up with creative murder methods. I have researched so many ways to kill people that I think the FBI will come knocking soon!”

That the victims in the Jamie Quinn books do die more creatively is something I enjoyed about the books. It gave the mystery a little more fun and creativity and was a change from CSI’s common diagnosis of “gunshot wound to the head/chest”.

Jamie Quinn as a protagonist is also ideal for a cozy mystery with a point of difference because she differs from the usual cookie cutter cupcake baker as a family attorney. As an attorney, her involvement in a mystery also makes more sense than the ‘stick your nose in, smarter than the police, baker’ type character. In that vein, I also appreciate how Jamie involves people like private investigator Duke and doesn’t seem to feel the need to confront a killer alone in a dangerous situation.

I found these books to be a great light read and will definitely explore the rest of the series in the future.

You can check out the series on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Krystal xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Linkouts may include affiliates

Bevan Stephen talks Death and the Detective

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Bevan Stephen is an aspiring new author, having recently released his first book Death and the Detective. The prequel to a series centering around Detective Jennifer Kane, this book gives readers a taster for the series to come.

When asked about his new book, this is what he had to say:

What inspired the character of Jennifer Kane?

“Her initial concept was always there, I think – a little voice in the back of my mind, that loved to giggle at inappropriate humor and respond with a resounding “Hell yeah!” when watching a particularly awesome movie action scene. But what really drew that voice out and developed it was my complete disdain for TV crime shows.

Back when I was in my late teens/very early twenties, I used to watch a lot of them. Numb3rs, The Mentalist, NCIS, CSI, all their different permutations and the other letters of the alphabet I missed. I remember watching all of these and getting bored of seeing the same characters time and time again. The nerd, the serious one with gang activity in their past, the smartass who talks too much, the firm team leader with a heart of gold on the inside. You know the ones. They’re in every TV crime drama you pick.

They were all the same character, but I could deal with that. There were two things that I got tired of – how same-ish they all were was one, but what I hated the most was how in control they all were. We’re human beings: 99% percent of the time, we aren’t cool and collected and in perfect control: we’re juggling work and family and responsibilities and friends and everything else you can imagine. I saw these personalities on screen, with perfectly combed hair, pearly white teeth and everything figured out in life – and I disliked them.

That’s a big part of what inspired Jennifer Kane – that idea that even the best of us barely have things in control. We can’t relate to the woman with a million dollars in her bank account and a new dress every Sunday – but you bet we can see the woman struggling to support a job, hobbies, friends and family, and feel something for them.

Other than that though, I just loved the basic character of Kane. She was fun in my head and she proved to be just as fun on paper.”

What made you choose to write from a female perspective as a male?

“It was something about the challenge of doing it right. I saw a lot of examples of female characters written by male authors who evidently didn’t know how to write girls, and I thought to myself “I can do better than these paid professionals” and so I set out to prove it.

The way I see it, the best female characters are written by ignoring the gender part. I’ve always believed that people are people – a bunch of individuals with goals, dreams, fears, aspirations, and that everything else (to a certain extent) can be switched out with minimal fuss. Yes, there are unique things between individual genders, ages, and other groupings that that collective can relate to. But those important, character defining concepts are things that should always stay the same, in my eyes.

For a somewhat crude, but succinct analogy: Men and women can both be brave in the face of absolute terror. Men and women can’t both relate to taking their bra off at the end of a long days work.”

Kane gives a lot of detective advice. How did you come up with that advice?

“I know I got some of the mechanical stuff from those TV crime shows I so lovingly mentioned in the first question. Kane’s method of checking the path the murder weapon took when it entered the body to see if the attacker was right handed, for instance, I remember seeing in an episode of NCIS. It was during an autopsy scene where I saw it, and I remember thinking “Huh. Neat.”

Other than that, it’s a lot of thinking things through and a lot of search engine use. I ended up visiting a few fan sites online and picking up general advice for investigating. But some of it – like Kane’s lesson to Matt about not excluding other options/theories – it was a perfect character arc for Matt and I twisted the story a little to help work with that. I think it turned out great.

Slightly related, the search engine use did get a little weird at points, full disclosure there. Yes, I’m searching for information on butterfly knives and which parts of the throat would be lethal if stabbed. No, I am not planning on putting this into practice in real life. Remember, parents – if little Timmy is suddenly fascinated with the medical effects of hydrochloric acid on the human body, don’t worry – he might just be doing book research. Hopefully.”

Death and the Detective is a prequel. Can you give us a hint what will be in the next book?

“I plan to make the actual series longer, better, and hopefully in a shorter time frame if I’m lucky. ‘Death and the Detective Book 0.5’ was a scant ~25k words, and it took me 3 years to make. That’s not great stats for the amount of time it took. However, a lot of that is chalked up to me giving up on it at one point.

Since then, I can confidently say that my work ethic and general dedication to writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better. I’ve learned a lot more, wrote some more stories that taught me a lot about story-craft, and changed my entire process. For instance – the first draft of Death and the Detective was 25k words and took over a year. To compare, I recently finished up a first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy series I’ve had my heart on for a while. This one was 74k words and it took me under four months. Three times the length for a third of the time. I was pretty pleased with that.

The proper Death and the Detective series are planned to be full size novels, and be of a much higher quality than its introduction. As for any juicy details about the first book in the series… I can reveal with absolute joy that we’re getting a look into the personal lives and dramas of Kane and Matt. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can tell you this – it’s going to be a fun ride, with some unfortunately familiar faces on the way.”

Have you ever had writers block? If so, how do you deal with it?

“Unfortunately, yes. There was a point in the drafting and editing slog of the book where I was doing my day job, coming home, and spending all my spare time on the book. I didn’t read, I didn’t listen to music, or watch movies – any time I had must be spent on the book. I was

incredibly productive, I thought I was doing just fine – until I hit the wall so hard that it left me paralyzed. The well of creativity was empty, and I hadn’t seen it coming. I shut down on writing for about a month. It was a dark time.

Over that month I was agonizing about my lack of progress – “I’m not writing or editing, I’m so unproductive, I’ll never make it as an author” spun around my head a lot. I’ll be honest – it was hell. I thought I’d gone too far and that the well would be empty forever.

I didn’t realize the well could refill, and it wasn’t until the end of that month that I realized it – after I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (it goes without saying that I’m talking about the show, not the live action movie). That show was emotional, powerful, and beautiful – and when it was over I just had to sit there and process the raw emotion it left in is wake. I felt inspired. And the next morning, I got out of bed and finished editing the fourth draft of the book. I was back.

Here’s my PSA to all artists out there, writers, drawers, musicians, what have you – we can’t create in a vacuum. You can’t just work on your art all day without break and expect it to be fine – you MUST consume art to refill your well. There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two off to watch a good movie or read a book – it’s highly encouraged. You’re the creator of these worlds you make – but the creator can’t work if they’re starving. Feed the creator, and things will be just fine.”

Death and the Detective is available on Amazon.

Krystal xx

 

 

 

*Please note any links may be affiliates.

Librarian’s Corner

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This is a list of the books discussed on my late morning radio show. The list will be updated each week with the new books discussed. Please note this list only includes books talked about on Librarian’s Corner and not on my previous radio show.

20/07/18
– Goodbye Cruller World – Ginger Bolton
– Murder in the Med – Peter Mayle
– #FashionVictim – Amina Akhtar

27/07/18
– Samhain Secrets – Jennifer David Hesse
– Mardi Gras Murder – Ellen Byron
– To Catch A Witch – Heather Blake

03/08/18
– Witch Myth Series – Alexandria Clarke

10/08/18
– Shattered at Sea – Cheryl Hollon
– A Killing By The Sea – Kathleen Bridge

17/08/18
– Kerry Greenwood Author Feature

24/08/18
– Chardonnayed to Rest – J.C. Eaton

31/08/18
– Pecan Pies And Dead Guys – Angie Fox

14/09/18
– Fromage à Trois – Victoria Brownlee

21/09/18
– In Peppermint Peril – Joy Avon

12/10/18
– Jamie Quinn Mysteries – Barbara  Venkataraman

 

 

Book Of The Month – Southern Spirits (Angie Fox)

When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she’s saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick—she gains the ability to see spirits. It leads to an offer she can’t refuse from the town’s bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with.

Ellis Wydell is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee’s finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless—and destructive. He hires Verity put an end to the disturbances. But soon Verity learns there’s more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms. 

There’s a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn’t above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her?

For memory, I got this as a free book on my kindle. It was was good, I brought more in the series to read and wasn’t disappointed by these either.

Angie Fox offers an excellent protagonist with Verity Long, someone who has strength as well as humour. Her accidental ghostly sidekick Frankie, also offers a new way of seeing the spirit world I haven’t seen in any other book before, by showing a luminescent view of the world, which is based on what the dominant ghost sees. Frankie also creates a nice character contrast to Verity.

Ellis Wydell and his brother Beau then also add both a romantic and small town component that makes Verity’s life rather interesting.

And if her life wasn’t interesting enough she also has a pet skunk.

A great read and I look forward to the next in the series.

Krystal xx

Book Of The Month – Mind Your Own Beeswax (Hannah Reed)

This particular book of the month is not so much being featured because I loved it, but because I didn’t.

Hannah Reed has come up with a fantastic concept with this small time store owner and bee keeper solving mysteries. It has the potential to be comedic as well as unique and interesting. But it falls flat. In the first book Story Fischer is understandably focused on trying to save her bees and makes some stupid decisions in the pursuit of justice. Her penchant for stupid decisions and not speaking up when she should is not so understandable in the second one.

I grew very tired of hearing how she slipped and tripped because she wore flip flips everywhere (including while tending to bees) and how she reached into her lives without proper protective equipment.

I was also unimpressed with how the author handled phobia. In this novel Story’s cousin Carrie-Anne offers to look after a dog then dumps it on Story with no regard for Story’s fear of dogs. The author then makes it seem like Story looking after this dog cures her fear. Talk about unlikely. Story also behaves with similar disregard to her sister’s fear of bees.

The mother and the sister also need a swift kick for their behavior.

So what does this story have going for it? It has a quirky element, some interesting character dynamics and the potential to be a brilliant mystery series. But at this point in the series this is being stifled by characters not learning from their mistakes.

Krystal xx

Book Of The Month: Library Lovers Mysteries

When I think of the word silhouette, I think of that shadowing figure lurking in the mystery novels such as Sherlock Holmes. Although a little less shadowy than Sherlock Holmes, today’s post is the revival of Book Of The Month, starting with Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers Mysteries. This series is perhaps slightly less well known than her Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, but equally as charming.

fddb2fe9-539c-42bc-b546-76966ab16a3b_1-5f17b7532a339289a9534e6bb03180b4Library Director Lindsay Norris, is no cliché shabby librarian with glasses. She is more like a success business woman, trying to keep their small local library (Briar Creek Public Library) up with the times and is joined by a cast of entertaining characters that might her life more colourful, easier and harder in turn.

Briar Creek Public Library features her friend Beth who is the best and most costumed children’s librarian you will ever come across. Ms Cole however is a typical crusty old woman who make’s Lindsay’s life more challenging.

Outside the library there is of course the love interest Sully, who is naturally also just a lovely guy and his sister and her husband who run an excellent sounding restaurant. They are also joined by Lindsay’s landlady are her nephew, who add to the list of people that shape Lindsay’s Briar Creek family.

The series is a perfect cozy mystery without being in a eatery like many of them are. The characters are also engaging and entertaining. Several of the characters are also involved in a book club which reads a different book in each novel. The book includes a book club guide for each novel they read for any readers who may wish to also read these clubs in their book club.

The first in the series is Books Can Be Deceiving. The description is as follows…

Lindsey is getting into her groove as the director of the Briar Creek Public Library when a New York editor visits town, creating quite a buzz. Lindsey’s friend Beth wants to sell the editor her children’s book, but Beth’s boyfriend, a famous author, gets in the way. When they go to confront him, he’s found murdered-and Beth is the prime suspect. Lindsey has to act fast before they throw the book at the wrong person.

This book is a good start to the series, with Lindsay, Beth and Sully shining in particular as characters. The series then goes on to deepen these characters and their relationships, keeping the reader engaged in their lives.

Krystal xx

Silence in NYC: An Infrequent Event

Silence is a moment of stillness or quiet. In New York that is fairly hard to come by and treasured when it does. Here are some moments of silence in the city that really does never sleep.

Silence is a quiet frozen stillness, like on this pond in Central Park.

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Silence is a respectful pause of reflection, like here at the 9/11 Memorial.

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Silence is when you finally get out of the crowds and no one is around, like this little corner behind a wall by Fox.

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Silence for a moment is golden, silence for a lifetime is bleak.

Krystal xx