Discussion With Author Susan Bernhardt on her books PARADISE CAN BE MURDER and A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY

Discussion With Author Susan Bernhardt on her books PARADISE CAN BE MURDER and A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY

I’ve hosted literally hundreds of author chats when I worked at some online sites in the past. Many readers and want-to-be writers attended these chats to ask published authors about their books, how they get inspired to write, how they promote their books, and quite a few other questions.

Jerri Cachero, host of the Facebook group, Cozy Mystery Corner, invited author Susan Bernhardt to be the first author in Jerri’s new cozy author chat series. The group had a great time discussing Susan’s latest two mysteries, PARADISE CAN BE MURDER and A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY. The discussion lasted 1.5 hours and I’m thrilled to be able to share excerpts of the event.

I hope by reading Susan’s group discussion readers and writers can learn a little about Susan and how and why she’s a writer. Don’t forget to visit Susan on her Facebook page. She loves hearing from all her fans.

To see my reviews of all of Susan’s books please visit Susan’s page on my blog.

Q – It’s always interesting to learn what our favorite authors do when they’re not writing! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

SB – I have many interests. I work in stained glass and especially enjoy the design aspect of my projects. I’m into photography and gardening. I have a beautiful four year grandson that I love being around. I love to travel. My husband and I came back from Eastern Europe a few months ago. I love going to art museums, to the theatre, doing the treadmill in the winter while watching Drop Dead Diva…lol.

Q – How did you create the characters of Kay Driscoll and Irina Curtius? They are both very different and complex in their own way. Are they based on actual people?

SB – Kay Driscoll is actually based on me and her family is based on mine. You always hear, write what you know. Many of the people in the stories are loosely based on people I know. I write using real life experiences. In Murder by Fireworks when Kay almost loses her life in a kayaking accident, I almost drowned in a kayak accident the year I was writing the book. I told my friend, the woman who saved my life, I didn’t know how to thank her. She said write me into a book and I did.

Saying the above, Irina isn’t anyone that I personally know. But she has the same ethnic background as I do. She is a retired ballet dancer who teaches young children in her studio. I am a fan of ballet. I also love NYC. I wrote the book on my interests, what I love, and made the story into an exciting and thrilling mystery. It takes place in Manhattan, but Irina’s world is in a cozy community on the Upper West Side.

Q – Let’s start with Kay Driscoll first. What a force of nature! Certainly not shy and retiring! How did you come up with the idea of sending Kay, Phil and company on a cruise in Paradise Can Be Murder? Probably a good idea since Phil is behind in “romantic gestures” points!

SB – You’re right!! Phil is definitely behind in his romantic gestures. 🙂 I thought it would be fun, for Kay, Phil, and friends to get away from Sudbury Falls and go on a vacation together. I researched this book on a number of cruises. I spoke with the ship’s officers, medical personal, and other crew. Also I experimented with some of the shenanigans that Kay did on-board to make sure they were real.

Q – In Paradise Can Be Murder, there is a sad occurrence in Sudbury Falls. Was it a real life event that inspired you to write about it in the book?

SB – Besides a murder mystery on a cruise ship, Paradise Can Be Murder deals with racism and intolerance. There is racism in America and I thought it important to address this. What I included in the book was not from a real life event that I’ve experienced or read about, but I’m sure similar occurrences happens often. The topics, I believe in this book are important and dealt with well, especially the part by a twelve year old Janey. She has become a beloved character in the later Kay Driscoll mysteries.

Q – Okay, let’s talk about Irina Curtius in A Manhattan Murder Mystery which is set, in the Spring, in New York City. Irina is a very different character than Kay however, they share the same kindness and curiosity about life and sleuthing. How did you create the character?

SB – I wrote about a character that I would find interesting who lives in Manhattan. Irina is kind, good hearted, smart, ambitious, a great sleuth, and a friend to many. She’s someone who loves life and makes the most of it. When writing a book, I “live” my character, much like an actor playing a part, who “becomes” their character. I enjoyed being Irina…lol..the year that it took to complete the book.

Q – Why did you decide to set the book in New York City? Is it a favorite city?

SB – I do like NYC. It’s an exciting and vibrant city with much beauty. I once wrote an article about where my favorite places to write would be. I mentioned looking out of my second floor palazzo window onto the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy with a glass of Prosecco beside my desk pounding away on my keyboard. Among the places I wrote about was NYC, working in an upstairs Upper West Side Brownstone where I could practically touch the tree outside of my window. And in between paragraphs, I’d watch the activity on the street below with the only things on my mind being my novel and trying to decide which neighborhood eatery I would try that evening: Indian, Thai or Italian. I did a lot of research when writing A Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Q – I loved the fact that there is a “mystery inside of a mystery” in your Manhattan Murder Mystery. It shows the complexity of Irina and also her strength. Can we hope we’ll be reading more about Irina in the future?

SB – Thank you. I live complexity in my characters and in my stories. For me, the more complex the better. I’m currently writing the fifth Kay Driscoll mystery. When that is completed, I will begin Manhattan 2. 🙂

Q – Back to a few personal questions – What types of books do you enjoy reading? Have you ever considered writing in other genres?

SB – I was recently asked if I would consider writing in another genre. My response was “No”. However, I did write a science fiction/fantasy middle grade short story for an ezine that I always intended to make into a full sized novel. I never attempted the project because I couldn’t come up with a feasible way to promote it.

I do enjoy some science fiction and fantasy, but what I usually read are mysteries, both cozy and regular mysteries. Some of my favorite authors are: Sue Grafton, Dorothy Gilman, Donna Leon, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Arturo Perez-Reverte, M.C. Beaton (her earlier mysteries) and many others.

Q – What’s your favorite thing about being an author? Least favorite?

SB – It’s great fun for me to write mysteries. I have said this before and readers say they can see that I have a lot of fun writing. I try to give my readers a thrill, some excitement, but my stories also have a lot of humor in them. Often times I’m laughing as I write different scenarios my unique characters are in.

It’s hard to promote books, especially if you are a relatively unknown author. Most people who read my books enjoy them. I’m always posting reviews, what readers are saying about my books to try and attract additional readers.
Q – Anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like to share with Corner members?

SB – Every book that I write takes over a year to complete. I do a lot of research for each book. None of my books are cookie cutter books. I don’t follow a template or a formula. Each is unique, and I think exciting and fun.

 

paradise can be murdermanhattan-murder

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Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Who would leave their dog locked in a car during 90 degree weather during the summer in California? Rich and famous ex reality star, Marla Kingston would. Does she even care about her poor canine? No, why should she when her husband, Kelton Kingston, is rich and famous and does whatever he wants. So of course she feels she can do whatever she likes too even if that means locking a dog in a car. But Odelia Grey and her husband Greg Stevens love dogs and when they saw the poor pooch in the steaming car barking and trying to get out Greg could do only one thing, break the car’s window and save the animal.

Marla was not happy when she saw what happened to her car and since there was a crowd of people videotaping the whole thing she was even angrier and humiliated. When she told her husband, Kelton, about the event he went out of his way to make things miserable for Odelia and Greg.

Kelton discovered that Odelia worked for the law firm, Templin & Tobin, that represents him and demanded that Odelia be fired from her job. Since Kingston is a huge client the law firm put Odelia on leave, with pay, until they decided what to do about the situation.

But things started to get crazy.  A man who was helping Greg break Kingston’s car window was murdered. A few days later when the man decided to talk to Greg about something he was shot and killed in front of Greg’s store. Then other people around the peripheral circle of the Kingstons had some odd things happening to them. Since Odelia believes that there’s no such thing as a coincidence she and Greg start to do some investigating on their own and discover that Odelia might have a bigger problem on her hands than just losing her job.

It’s a good thing so many people have their phones ready to videotape everything that happens during the day and with the help of a video blogger Odelia finds out what’s really going on with the Kingstons.

“Too Big to Die” is the latest in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Odelia Grey mystery series. Yes, I’ve read all of the books. Odelia is a plus sized woman of a certain age who is not afraid to eat when she’s hungry. I like that in a woman. She’s also smart, well loved, and has a positive look on life.

All the mysteries in this series are fast paced and have intelligent plot lines. But I have to say this book is the best one in the series. Odelia goes through lots of different things, both good and bad, and fans will be rooting for her.

Author Sue Ann Jaffarian writes a few different series and yes, I’ve read them too. In fact, a true fan will notice characters from one series making guest appearances in another series. I kind of like that.

The author is a wonderful writer with a great imagination and her books will please all murder/mystery lovers. The murders aren’t dark and gruesome so no need to try to cover your eyes expecting to see the worst. Her books are funny, witty, and written with a good sense of humor.

Do yourself a favor and pick up any book in any of this author’s series and prepare to have a good time.

To read more reviews of books by this author please see Sue Anne’s page on my blog.
too big to die

Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated by Tom Starita

Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated by Tom Starita

Lucas James is not a nice man but somehow and for some reason, everyone likes him. Everyone wants to be his friend and woman adore him. This has been his life since he was a child so why change things now that he’s in his 30’s? Might as well keep on going on.

His dream is to become a “Rock Star.” He dreams of playing his guitar and singing his very own songs to his adoring fans, getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having the masses bow down to him, not mention the money. Not too shabby a dream except for the fact that Lucas James hasn’t gotten too far in his rock and roll career.  

He and his band have better things to do like having their Friday night parties that go on all weekend non stop. It’s hard to be a rock singer when you’re busy drinking and taking drugs during the time you should be playing gigs at bars and getting your fan base going.

Things are a little iffy for Lucas James right now. His fiancee, Jackie, has left him, giving him back his ring and leaving him their apartment and its rent. Small problem – Lucas James does not have a job. Jackie, was supporting him for years waiting for him to make it big as a rock and roll legend which of course never happened.

Now all he has to do is find a job. Because everything usually goes his way he eventually does find one as a stock clerk in a store. He basically abandons his apartment and finds one he could afford just by sweet talking a couple of older, well, let’s just say, old women. Both of whom could be described as odd.

So now Lucas James is working at “That Store”, stealing items from it every single day, disliking his manager, “Victor the Dictator,” and trying to stay away from fellow stockroom worker, Ralph, who seems to have some kind of crush on him. So what if Lucas James takes advantage of people like when he borrows money from Ralph so he can throw his grandmother’s ashes into sea. The thing is Lucas James’ grandmother didn’t die, he just needed the money for the rent on his new place.

Lucas James is still living his life the way he did when he was a child taking advantage of everyone he meets but one day he’s going to have grow up and move into his adult life, become responsible, and figure out just why he acts the way he does. Not something he ordinarily likes to think about.

“Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” by Tom Starita is really a pretty terrific novel. I wasn’t expecting that. The first page drew me in quickly with Mr. Starita’s casual, conversational writing style. The sign of a good storyteller to me and I always like a good story.

Lucas James is not an easy character to admire, at least I feel that way. He’s conceited, uses people then throws them away when he gets what he wants from them. That is one of the reasons why I enjoyed this story. I actually got angry at a fictional character. The author made me care about how Lucas James treated his acquaintances especially Ralph. But the good thing is that the characters who Lucas James abuses are not as dumb as he or the readers first believe them to be.

Author Tom Starita originally hails from Staten Island, New York. Staten Island is a kissing cousin to my Brooklyn roots and his writing is pure New York. Crisp, a tad sarcastic, pretty funny, and a little tough. I’ll forgive the author for moving to Stratford, Connecticut. Connecticut? For real Tom? Oh well.

“Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” is a fast read, easy to get into, and very enjoyable.

I plan to live by Lucas James’ words, “Put the fire out when the cheese is on the table.” Read the book, it’ll make sense.

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Champagne Cream & Murder-An Oceanside Cozy Mystery – Book 14 by Susan Gillard

Champagne Cream & Murder-An Oceanside Cozy Mystery – Book 14 by Susan Gillard

Happy New to all and to celebrate Heather Shepherd and her friends are invited to a New Year’s Eve Party at the Key West Town Hall. Police Chief Chet, Heather’s husband Ryan’s boss, wants all his detectives to attend so they can mingle with the town. Heather and her best friend, Amy Givens, will be supplying some of the treats namely their new Champagne Cream donut. The best way to celebrate the New Year is with some champagne even if it’s in name only. These treats are rated PG so everyone can enjoy them.

Chief Chet did tell Heather that a very important resident of the town, B.W. Shellingworth, will be there with his wife, Meg, son Ben, and Ben’s girlfriend Kelly. Ben is very allergic to nuts so Heather was very careful to watch all the ingredients she put into her donuts.

But as the clock struck midnight Kelly kissed Ben and he fell down not being able to breath. Kelly ran to get her purse where she had his medication but it was too late and Ben died. How could this have happened? There were no nuts in the food. Upon investigating, traces of nuts were found on the lipstick that Kelly had specially made for herself. Did Kelly want to kill Ben for some reason and thought the best way to do it was to hide traces of nuts on her lipstick? Ben’s father, B. W. Shellingworth thinks that’s exactly what happened and insists that Kelly be arrested for murder.

All this does not feel right to Heather so she and Amy do their own investigation to find out what really happened. They find quite a few suspects of their own including Ben’s old girlfriend who wanted Ben back and a business rival of C. W.’s. Heather also thinks that Kelly just might be the murderer since no one was able to get a hold of Kelly’s lipstick tube except for Kelly but more investigating will have to be done.

“Champagne Cream & Murder” is the 14th installment in author Susan Gillard’s cute Oceanside Cozy series. There’s a nice little twist in this story that helps Heather solve the crime.

Like all the rest of Ms. Gillard’s books this novel, like Heather’s donuts, are rated PG so everyone can enjoy it. The whole series is fast paced and filled with fun, plenty of love and lots of donuts. Always a good choice to read to celebrate any holiday or a day of relaxation.

 

To read all my reviews of Susan Gillard’s books please see Susan’s page on my blog.

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I Hated Teachers, I Hated School

I Hated Teachers, I Hated School
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I hated school, specifically junior high and high school. I hated it. I hated the teachers. I hated they way they always looked down at me because I was not book smart, and very overweight, and wore eyeglasses. Yes, some had told me that like Mrs. Lowenstein my 5th grade teacher.

I was never good at taking tests, I still can’t. I freeze up when I have to do something within a time limit. I hated the tests that never proved how smart a student was or wasn’t. I hated the way my teachers attacked me because my mother was president of the PTA, Mrs. Kalina especially.

I remember all the reasons why I hated my teachers like my 8th grade algebra teacher who, during the first week of class told us that if we didn’t understand something to let him know. Like an idiot I believed him and raised my hand telling him that I didn’t understand. He asked what didn’t I understand, and I told him I didn’t understand any of it. He got angry at me and asked, “Where the hell have you been this week? You’re a real wise guy.” That was it for me. Even though he eventually learned that I was very weak in math and not a “wise guy” like he initially thought I was, I never asked him another question. At the end of every class he’d say, “Sharon, do you understand?” and I always said yes even though I didn’t. He offered to help me after school but I refused because he lost my trust that very first week.

I have a list of teachers who I hated and who disappointed me. I even remember the reasons for my hatred. It’s a long list. And I was one of those “good kid.” I sat with my hands crossed, never saying a word while a teacher was speaking, never talking with other kids. I was quiet and shy and the teachers hated me for this. And I was a fool. I wish I was different. I wish I had the nerve to yell at them at tell them exactly how I felt. But I was a fool. I still am I guess but I speak my mind a lot more now. When people attack me these days at least it’s for a reason I understand. I might not agree with the attack but I understand it.

I hated school, I despised the teachers but when I got into college I started to change my mind a little. In college I was taught how to think and not just memorize a bunch of crap because I had to pass some stupid test. I learned to like education in college and got along well with my professors. Heck, I pulled a B in the first and only math class I took in “higher education.”

Maybe if I was allowed to “think” and not be in a state of fear because of my teachers I would have done better in junior high and high school. I really don’t want to hear excuses from teachers about too many students in a classroom, and how some students are rowdy and hard to control, or anything else like that. You became a teacher with open eyes, you knew what was in store for you. For teachers to take out their anger, disappointment or whatever they feel about their job on the student is just wrong and possibly criminal.

I hated school, I hated the teachers but I loved learning how to think for myself. I like to learn now, at my own pace without some power hungry woman glaring down at me because I wasn’t good at “book learning” or some other stupid reason they had to dislike me. Too bad I wasn’t taught how to think at the age of five.

I’ve been out of school for decades and maybe things have changed but I doubt it but I could be wrong. Here I am at the age of 65 still mulling over the crap I went through in school. I should have forgotten this stuff 20 or 30 years ago but I haven’t. Too bad that the people who my parents entrusted to educate me did nothing more than to instill a hatred so strong that I feel it to this very day.

Paradise Can Be Murder: A Kay Driscoll Mystery (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #4) by Susan Bernhardt

Paradise Can Be Murder: A Kay Driscoll Mystery (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #4) by Susan Bernhardt

Kay Driscoll  has been told by her friends and family that she has lots of surprises coming her way in the near future she just doesn’t know what they will be. Surprises are fun, right? But right now she is concentrating on a cruise she will be taking with her husband, Phil. They are off for a romantic vacation cruising the Caribbean. The fact that Kay’s best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre and Deirdre’s husband Mike will be cruising with them won’t stop the romance that Kay hopes for.

A huge bon voyage party was planned but all the joy of it was gone when their friends, Neelam and Dinesh’s, Gupta’s New Delhi store, was vandalized. Vandals spray-painted the words “We don’t want your kind here. We don’t need your kurry. This is America.” Both Kay and Phil were horrified at how their little town of Sudbury Falls had people like that living there.

Even though Kay felt terrible about leaving their friends in a crisis she and hubby Phil went off on their cruise with Elizabeth, Deirdre, and Mike. The ship was beautiful featuring lots of delicious foods and plenty of fun things to do during their ten days aboard. But what Kay seemed to like best was looking at the other travelers. One couple really got her interest. They ate at their own table and were always arguing. The husband, George, constantly criticized his wife, Sybil, which humiliated her and brought her to tears.

Kay, Elizabeth, and Deirdre spoke to Sybil one day and she said that George used to be part of the CIA but was transferred to another state and now she wasn’t really sure what he did. The friends felt bad for Sybil and tried to talk with her whenever they could.

But when one of the couple was found dead by the pool and it looked like the murder was done by the spouse ,Kay knew that something fishy was going on with the ship.

Kay is an old hand at helping to solve murders so she and her friends, against husband Phil’s advice, decided to find out if the spouse was the real murderer and if not then who did it and why the murder happened.

“Paradise Can Be Murder” is the fourth in the Kay Driscoll Mystery Series by Susan Bernhardt. I’ve read all of Ms. Bernhardt’s books and each one is better than the previous and that is especially true in this case.

With each new novel the author seems to become more confident in her writing abilities adding a lot of page-turning tension in her writing style. There’s one terrific scene where Kay gets herself in some deep trouble and had to get out of it before things took a deadly turn. Of course all mysteries have the protagonist getting into life-threatening situations but Ms. Bernhardt did a spectacular job of making sure readers held their breaths waiting to see how would Kay untangled herself.

And there are lots of surprises in store for Kay, some are great, some not so great, but all are fun.

Every book in the Kay Driscoll series are fun, filled with lots of food talk, and lots of love. The novels can be read by anyone and each can be read by itself even though I do suggest starting with the first in the series.

Take a ten-day cruise with Kay and her friends and see what ship-board life is like on the open seas.

Read all my reviews of Susan Bernhard’s books by going to Susan’s page on my blog.

paradise can be murder

 

In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40 by Susan McBride

In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40 by Susan McBride

I’ve been reading Susan McBride’s books for quite a while and always enjoyed her writing style. She writes with lots of humor and her murder/mystery novels are top notch.

Last week I saw that my library had “In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40” as an e book and I was compelled to borrow it. My good friend, who spent years fighting a blood cancer, multiple myeloma, which turned into Breast Cancer, had passed a day or so before I found the book.

Susan McBride and I are “friends” on Facebook and we’ve been following each other for a few years. She never hides anything from her friends and fans so I knew she had discovered her Breast Cancer about 12 years ago but when my friend passed from it earlier this month and I found Susan’s book I knew I had to read it.

No cancer is easy to deal with and Ms. McBride was incredibly forthcoming telling readers everything she had to deal with. The lumpectomy she went through, then when more cancer cells were found she had to undergo yet another operation. I won’t even begin about her radiation treatments which caused her skin to burn, bubble, turn some weird color, and cause her massive pain.

And while doing all this she was getting ready to marry her now husband, Ed, who is a little younger than her, maybe 12 years younger. (Go Susan!) Ed was her main support during all of this along with Ms. McBride’s mother and Ed’s mother.

More than anything, Susan and Ed wanted to have a baby but Susan was in her 40’s and sometimes it’s tough to become pregnant when you’re heading into your middle years. Then there was the cancer and her treatments that she had to consider.

The author did become pregnant but soon miscarried. Eventually she and Ed had a beautiful little girl, Emily Alice. Susan shows lots of pictures of this sweet child on her Facebook page and Emily really is a cutie.

“In The Pink” is maybe 120 pages long and can easily be read in one day. It’s something that all women should read. Susan was very lucky with her cancer even though it was not easy to fight, cancer is never easy to fight. Unfortunately, I know too many women who fought Breast Cancer and lost: my aunt, my two cousins, and friends. I also have friends who have won the battle … kind of. One woman I know has been in remission for a few years.

I wish I knew about this book last year when my friend was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I would have bought it for her. It’s important for women to know that there is hope and that there are women who have beaten the disease and didn’t let the cancer stop them from their dreams of marriage, children, and writing their next best selling novel.

I give Susan McBride a ton of credit for writing this short book. It must have been very hard to remember and actually write about what she went through and what she’s still going through. Yes, you can beat cancer but you always have to keep an eye open because those nasty cells can come by for another visit at any time.

“In The Pink” is a positive book and not just for victims of cancer but for everyone, mostly women though, who have been told that once you hit 40 there’s more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than finding a husband; or that once you’re a little older you can’t have a baby; or that you cannot do something that you really want to do.

And while I’m talking about Susan, here’s the link to a review I wrote of her book, “Walk Into Silence.”

In the Pink