A Little Christmas “heads-up!”

(NOTE: This is a guest post by proxoy. Dianne Ascroft lives in Ireland, but this is her newest published story, reviewed by Jackie Houchin)

(Dianne Ascroft’s Cozy Mystery Short Story is part of the Deadly Traditions: A Cozy Mystery Christmas Anthology,  by Justine Maxwell  (Author), Gayle Leeson  (Author), 8 more  See the other stories and authors at the end of this review.)

Mistletoe and Murder revisits the small Canadian town of Fenwater, where Ascroft’s series protagonist, Lois lives – wooed there from the big city by her friend Marge, after her husband of many years died.  Lois is settling in quite well, meeting friends and neighbors, especially in the town Marketplace, where various crafters sell their ware. She now has a “sweetheart” as well.

But this story is mainly from the point-of-view of vivacious, Marge, plump and pretty, (and now also single).  At the town’s Christmas party, Marge can’t seem to avoid the hanging mistletoe, and the hard-to-get-rid-of ex-boyfriend, Mike, as he continues to grab her up in squishy bear hugs and slobbery smooches at every opportunity. She runs to her friend Lois (and Bruce) for help, but Mike follows her! Even with the appearance of a woman who just recently broke off with Mike, Marge can’t avoid the man.  It’s only after he’s gotten another spiked egg-nog and acts drunk… and then falls down dead, that she is free.  But oh, what a horrible solution!

Over the next few days, Marge frantically tries to find who slipped Mike that (—) that was the key to his death. Lois helps as she can, but mostly just supports her friend. It’s during a Christmas hayride a few nights later that the case comes to a head – Marge’s head – and the solution appears.

Dianne Ascroft’s stories are gentle and fun – cozies as they are described. It may be easier to discover the mystery before the end, but you never know. She might just give the story a tweak. I enjoyed Mistletoe and Murder, and if it is a sample of the others, I know you will enjoy them all.

The whole list:

Larceny and Gingerbread Lattes – Justine Maxwell

Killing the Carol – Sam Cheever

O Deadly Night – Estelle Richards

Silent Snickerdoodle – Ellie Ballard

Santa Claus Is Not Coming To Town – Sage So

Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas – Gayle Leeson

A Pickle in a Pear Tree – Erin Scoggins

Mrs Claus Saves Christmas – Wendy H. Jones

A Christmas Dinner to Die For – Sheena Macleod

Christmas Card and Feathered – Mollie Cox Bryan

A Little Christmas Villainy – Melicity Pope

Mistletoe and Murder – Dianne Ascroft

Bringing Books Back

by Linda O. Johnston

I’ve been wriing for a while, as those of you who know me, or know of me, are aware. I’ve so far had 57 traditional books published, with more to come—including one more next month.

Fun? Oh, yes! But some of those older ones had stopped being available, or at least mostly so.

However, my first mystery series is now available as ebooks, and my second is on the way as ebooks and audio! The first of those mystery series is my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries, and the second is my Pet Rescue Mysteries. Those Pet Rescue Mysteries available again now as ebooks and audio are BEAGLEMANIA, THE MORE THE TERRIER, AND HOUNDS ABOUND. There are two more in the series, and they’ll be on their way soon.

And I do have some of my earliest time travel romances available as ebooks as well.

If you’re a writer, have you also been in that situation? What do you do if you’re traditionally published and your first ones are getting old? They can remain available at online sites such as Amazon, but it’s a shame just to ignore them, right?

So what do you do? If they’re already available as ebooks, just continuing to promote them to readers might be enough.  And audio can be fun.

What if there are more formats to come in the future? I’m not a techie person so I can’t suggest what they might be, but do you have any thoughts about it?

Or, if they’re in a series, why not write some more books to that series to get more readers interested in the first ones? Of course they need to be available, but if they’re out there as ebooks why not?

We put a lot of effort into our books. We put parts of ourselves in them. It’s fun to have them available and have readers read them.

So it’s a good thing to find ways to keep them available!



                                                              (a remarkable year)

by Rosemary Lord

Just as I was thinking, “Aah, I can relax, just focus on my writing. I’ve got things covered…” Then everything goes topsy-turvy – again. Why is that?

I’ve been working on a book on the history of the 1905-founded Woman’s Club of Hollywood. I’m thoroughly enjoying diving back into research – one of my favorite things! It’s fun, pulling out the documents and newspaper clippings of the Club history, therefore early Hollywood history. Local Hollywood papers in the 1920s were full of Club news! I love recreating those early 1900 scenes.

Maybe I should just stop there. Because, next, I started on the more recent history story. I gathered the copious notes, Court Reports and endless pages I’ve written about the last ten years of thievery, skullduggery, break-ins, bankruptcy and lawsuits. However, this rendered me emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed, as I relived the stress, the 18-hour days, the threats, physical attacks, the police protection, the ugly shenanigans I endured. My goodness – how did I get through that? That was quite depressing. So, I’ve put that book aside for now. I’ll get back to that later…

Much better is my work on a new Lottie Topaz novel. A wonderful adventure. I’m busy plotting – or rather, following Lee Goldberg’s idea and writing a simple movie script of the story as a basic map. It’s very helpful. I’ll add the fun color my imagination creates later.

I’ve also started a sort of ‘memoir; about my early days in the British movie industry, based on all the diaries and scrapbooks gleaned from my Christmas visit to England. My apartment is littered with these stacks of post-it covered papers and files.

So, I’m loving my writing life once again. And the Woman’s Club was humming along nicely with new volunteers and only part-time attention required from me.

But then the L.A. Building and Safety Inspectors decided to complete their inspection of our Historic buildings, explaining their report was delayed due to Covid-19 shutdown backlog. The original report was from May 2011. It only took them 11 years to catch up! The Hollywood School for Girls schoolhouse was built in 1903, so we knew we had a long list of repairs, upgrades and restoration. We’re doing as much as we can without funding for the expensive, specialized work on our historic landmark buildings.  

But the stringent Building and Safety regulators were not satisfied with our progress, issuing a new To Do list, with a fourteen-day deadline! And a fine for the violations! (Such as missing 1903 building permits!) They added $64,000 worth of termite and pest-control tenting and remedying! Hmmm.

Although the Inspector I met was very sympathetic and gave me a time extension to complete. Phew!  So now all we have to do is raise about $200,000 to pay for this…

Then the Fire Department joined in. We’re always very careful with brush clearance. In the 1990s, a carelessly tossed cigarette from the apartments next door caused a fire that destroyed four of our small 1915 wooden classroom-cottages. So, we’re really cautious! We shook the trees to remove any dried-out dead bits. One of our younger members climbed some of the trees to remove dead branches. With the help of our local police, all the dead brush was safely removed. We thought.

Aha! We missed a bit! The Fire Department noticed that some of the palm trees – over 100-years old and over 4-storeys tall – had a few more dead branches. More fines! I’m now trying to find someone who can shimmy up those palm trees and thwack off the offending branches. The professional tree trimmers charge thousands – which we don’t have. I thought I might even stop by the Fire Station that cited us: they have tall ladders and are not afraid of heights…

But, I’ve been through worse with this Club. And I shall persevere. People will come in to help, I know. As one door closes, another always opens. I’ll canvas the Hollywood community for donations. This, too, shall pass.

So, all this stopped my writing flow and dragged me back into another world.

Then, last week – just as I was getting back into writing mode – much of the World was shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I was surprised at how emotional I was. I know she was 96 years old – but we thought she would go on forever. She was always in my life.  It’s like losing your favorite grandmother.

 Queen Elizabeth truly devoted her life to the service of Britain and the Commonwealth. Growing up in England, I accepted that girls – women – could do anything they wanted. Even become Queen! Elizabeth was not born in line for the throne. She had an ‘ordinary’ (if privileged!) childhood and served in the Army during World War II.  People all over the world loved and admired her grace, her sensible approach to life, her love of animals – and her sense of humor. Although, even the Queen had her bad times, her “annus horribilis,” dealing with wayward offspring and grandkids.

But, as one door closes… Britain now has a new King: Charles III. People have been buoyed at the way he is dealing with these early days in his new position as King, knowing that he has had a long ‘apprenticeship’ and will follow in his mother’s footsteps in service to the people. And so, my sadness was soon replaced by hope and pride, watching the new King step into those big shoes! A new door opened – a fresh start.

Excuse my ramblings, as I, too, open a new door in my life. Instead of allowing these ‘challenges’ from the Woman’s Club to destroy me, I’m re-focusing once more on my writers’ life.

And with this view through a different door, I’m really looking forward to an “Annus Mirabilis.” A wonderful Year ahead!

(Rosemary’s delightful blog was posted by Gayle Bartos-Pool.)

A New Book Release Party!

Release party for Miko Johnston’s

A Petal in the Wind Book IV: Lala Smetana

Sunday Sep 11 2022 5:00pm – 6:00pm

Kingfisher Bookstore, 16 Front Street NW, Coupeville WA


We are thrilled to announce the long-awaited continuation of Miko Johnston’s Petal in the Wind saga. A founding member of Whidbey Island’s Writers in Residence, Johnston’s historical novels beautifully capture the heartbreaks and triumphs of a young Jewish woman coming of age in early 20th century Europe.

Please join us for an exclusive free event as we celebrate the release of Johnston’s newest novel on Sunday, September 11th at 5 pm in the Kingfisher Bookstore’s lower level. Champagne and small bites will be provided by our neighbor, Front Street Grill.

While this is a free event, tickets are required. Please secure your place by calling the Kingfisher Bookstore at  360.678.8463 or by emailing hello@kingfisherbookstore.com.

Petal in the Wind Book IV: Lala Smetana

As the Great War rages, Lala dreams of someday having it all — marriage, motherhood, and a career. She reunites with Josef Smetana, the man she loves, and they marry. Amidst a world-wide pandemic and political discord rippling through Europe in the aftermath of war, Lala and Josef encounter undercurrents of mistrust and bigotry that sprout like noxious weeds. Lala notes a disquieting change of attitude in Josef as well; he no longer supports her desire to work.

The Smetanas move to Prague and start a family. When an opportunity arises for Lala’s final dream to come true, she plots to keep her secret from Josef, until she learns he’s kept a far more dangerous secret from her. With her family’s fate hinging on her success, together they must navigate a new resurgence of an old hate that threatens to shatter their lives.

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