Dialoguing with Political Dynamo, Mayor Danby

I’m so very pleased to have Mayor Seraphina Danby from Wharton County visit today.  Also fondly known as Nana D, this dynamic woman is a force to be reckoned with.  Not only is she an important elected official and adored grandmother, she’s an ace dessert-maker and has won for biggest pumpkin at several fall festivals.  Once a notable clarinet player, she presently provides lessons for the woodwind instrument.  But perhaps her most laudable [and undisclosed] act: she sews blankets and hats for local shelters.

Two weeks ago, we had her grandson, amateur sleuth Kellan Ayrwick, drop by.  Equally fascinating on both personal and professional levels, this lively lady has a lot of goals—and we have no doubt she’ll accomplish all.

Without further delay, let’s learn what makes this grand-lady tick!

♦  ♦

Tell us how and why you came to be mayor.  Did you always have political ambitions?

Years ago, Wharton County was the strongest one in the whole state of Pennsylvania. We were model citizens who took care of one another and looked out for the land. As soon as the country started growing, and entertainment became more important than hard work, I saw my beloved homeland heading in the wrong direction. In the last twenty-five years, society has become too dependent on technology, industry, money, and greed. The wrong politicians were elected to run Wharton County and Braxton in particular. When that Stanton creep took over, I knew things were gonna get nasty. I let it go for a number of years, but then Kellan returned home. I realized there were still good people in the world who wanted to fix the problems, not just get richer. Kellan showed me that we could change, and when it came time to re-elect a new mayor, I threw my hat in the ring.

Kudos to you!  And what are your plans as mayor?

If you’d attended my inauguration, young lady, you wouldn’t ask me that question. My speech is public record, but if I must repeat myself here, I suppose I shall. To start with, all the red tape is being dismantled. It took months for my friend to sell her house last year because the county kept charging her for every little change that had been made on the home in the last few years. I’m not saying citizens shouldn’t pay their fair share, but the process has got to be more effective. People should spend time with their families and friends, not filling out forms and attending meetings to listen to complaints about the temperature of the library.

That said, I’m planning on reducing individual taxes, increasing tourism to offset such a loss, bring back family values, ensure our leaders are out in the community and not behind closed doors. And free ice cream in Wellington Park on Sundays. Since you’re not from these parts, I’ll share with you what that means. Long ago, before the calorie counters and sugar police got involved, we used to have ice cream parties with all the kids from the county. We held monthly polls to pick the flavors. Local businesses provided the money to pay for the event. Farmers who lived in Wharton County supplied the ice cream, from cows raised on local pastures. Parents brought their kids to play in the park together, not on those tablets and phones. We learned to support one another, and we need to do that again. If you can’t have dairy, we’ll provide almond milk. If you are diabetic, we’ll provide something else. We want everyone there, and rather than stop it, we look to fix it.

That’s quite commendable.  I wish you wholehearted luck with that.  Please share what you like—and don’t like—about Wharton County. 

I don’t like that the rich just keeping getting richer and the poor just keep getting poorer. Folks like Marcus Stanton and Hiram Grey sit back and stuff their wallets while honest families like the Roarkes can hardly make ends meet. I ousted Stanton. Grey is on my list next.

I love the sense of community that still exists deep within our souls. People talk to another. They drop by their local parish with a pie for the priest. They visit the hospital to share blankets and toys. We’re a small town, but we’ve got a big heart.

It does sound idyllic.  Tell us, Mayor, what makes you you?

I do what I say I’m gonna do. I say what needs to be said. You might think I’m a little too direct. You might think I ask for too much. You might think I can be a tad judgmental. But I’d give you the shirt off my back if you truly needed it. I don’t feel the need to sugarcoat anything. Whether it’s my granddaughter Emma or Father Elijah, I’ll treat you the same. People need not be afraid of the truth. They need to develop a thicker skin and stop all this nonsense of simply complaining about how things used to be, yet never lift a finger to fix it. Action speaks louder than words sometimes. It’s my job as mayor to set a good example and lead Wharton County back to its glory days, but with a modern touch.

If you had a chance to do something differently, what would that be?

I’d probably spend more time with my husband before he had that heart attack. We were doing too much on the farm, and I should’ve recognized the impact it was having on him. I miss that man every day of my life, but we’ll be together in the future again. I’m living way past a hundred, so he’s just gonna have to wait a bit longer. Consider it revenge for him making me wait so long for him to finish remodeling our bedroom years ago.

…Some might describe you as feisty or sarcastic.  How do you view yourself?

I tell it like it is. Kellan is a good grandson. Don’t tell the others, but he’s my favorite. He’s got an ego at times, and it’s my job to knock him down a peg or two. Call me what you like, but it all comes down to passion. If I believe in something strongly, I’ll support it with every fiber of my being. When you say something with love, and you demonstrate you are committed to doing the right thing, you can accomplish anything you want. When that princess, Cecilia Castigliano, tried to intimidate me, I wouldn’t back down. She might be a foot taller than me and as gaunt as a devil in fancy Prada heels, but no one beats Nana D. I’m also seventy-five years old. I’ve seen war and famine. I’ve watched people die and go through the worst pain of their lives. When you’ve walked the walk, you can talk the talk, honey.

Of that, I have no doubt.  Where does “Nana D” come from?

My daughter Violet and I have on thing in common, and only one thing. Neither of us WPnanaintAlikes to think about aging. When my first grandkid was born, I didn’t want to be called Grandma. We couldn’t come up with an appropriate name until Hampton, that’s my oldest, visited the farm and followed the goats around. Somehow, he started calling me nanny. Eventually, it became Nanny Danny because he couldn’t pronounce the letter B properly. It became Nana D, and for the sake of consistency, I insisted everyone call me by that name, even my grandchildren’s friends.

As you’ve mentioned, you’re particularly fond of your “favorite” grandson, Kellan Ayrwick—and that he’s an amateur sleuth, among other things.  We had him here two weeks ago, but we’d love you to share your thoughts.  Tell us about him, won’t you please?

Kellan is my pride and joy. He spent a lot of time at the farm when he was younger. All my grandchildren did, but Kellan loved to visit the most. His two older siblings are a bit hoity toity for my taste. Gabriel and Eleanor visited a lot too, but they hung around Violet more. For some reason, Kellan just fit in best with Michael and me. It broke my heart when he chose to attend graduate school in Los Angeles, and I knew in my gut that he’d be gone for a long time. I tried to accept it, but when he lost Francesca in that car accident, I went out to Los Angeles for a few weeks to help him figure out how to move forward. We bonded again on that trip, and ever since then, he’s been the one who needs me the most. Or maybe I need him the most. Wait, don’t print that … I don’t want him to think I got all sappy and sentimental.

Kellan is a true gentleman. He’s intelligent and funny. He knows how to cook, clean, and raise a child. He’s generous and friendly. He volunteers and helps those who aren’t as fortunate as he is. He keeps himself in good shape and always lends a hand to those who need help. He learned that all from my late husband. That’s 95% of the time. Somehow, he’s got a little bit of his father, Wesley, in him for that other 5%. Wesley is a pompous ass, pardon my French. While Kellan isn’t as crusty as his father, he can be a little too sarcastic and egotistical. It’s my job to stop him from crossing a line. I used to worry who would keep doing that when I wasn’t around, but the sheriff, April Montague, and Kellan’s boss, Myriam Castle, seem to know how to keep my grandson in line. A man needs a good woman to show him the boundaries. I’m confident the three of us will ensure he doesn’t step in the wrong direction in the future.

I’m sure you will. Speaking of women, what are your thoughts about Kellan’s marriage and his ex-wife’s exploits?  A bit, hmm, shady perhaps?

You got some whisky? I’m gonna need a drink to get through that conversation, honey. Since you look like a nice lady and seem to be of the friendly sort, I’ll keep my language in check. Francesca Castigliano is a hussy. She claims to love Kellan, and I’ve seen her be a good mother to Emma, so I can’t quite accept she’s irredeemable. But there was always something funny about that family. I knew it from the beginning, and I even told Kellan not to marry her so quickly. The boy didn’t listen to me. If they’d involved me in the whole Las Vargas and Castigliano showdown, things would’ve happened differently. At this point, I’m glad the trollop is back in Los Angeles and hopefully on her way to prison.

Oh my.  …Do you approve of his exciting sleuthing endeavors?  And, if so, might you like to be more involved?

I wholeheartedly approve of them. In fact, in most cases, I insisted he get involved. I pushed him to solve the first case when those grades changed and the baseball scout showed up. I demanded he look into Gwennie’s untimely death. I even set him up to deal with the flower show murder. The problem is … he’s doing too much. Kellan should be investigating crimes as his full-time job, but he needs to earn a living, so I understand why he’s still teaching and directing films. I would love to get more involved, and I have done so in my official role as the mayor. It’s my job to clear the hurdles and red tape when the sheriff tries to put her foot down and stop Kellan from investigating. I suspect I will get more involved in the next one. Did you hear the premonition that psychic lady made?

Do we believe it?  <wink>  Lastly, Mayor—Nana D—what are your views on family?  What do you hope for the Ayrwicks?

Violet needs to retire, so she and Wesley can travel the world together. Those two were meant to spend their future together. All my children have full and exciting lives. It’s time they just lived them and let me deal with the youngest generation. Above all, though, I want everyone to be happy. Eleanor seems to have met a nice, young man finally. She’ll probably screw that up soon. Hampton moved back home. I hear he’s already got himself into trouble with his father-in-law. Penelope and I never saw eye to eye. We had a disagreement years ago about her moving to New York, and I’m not sure she’s ever forgiven me. Gabriel, well, what can I say about Gabriel. I gave him the cottage, didn’t I? He might become my new buddy now that Kellan is so busy solving murders. I hope Gabrield and Sam stay together. It’s been a tough road for that boy, but I’m glad he finally told us the truth about his secret relationships. Long-distance ain’t easy. As for Kellan, well, I know he wants to give Emma a sibling, so I guess I hope he meets the right woman soon enough. Based on what I’ve started to see blossoming between him and the sheriff, it wouldn’t’ surprise me if … no … never mind. I shouldn’t say such foolish things out loud. Are we done yet? I need to get to a meeting to knock some sense into the town councilmen. Might need to slap someone’s bottom silly to get my point across, honey. Swift and fierce, that’s the only way to success.

Yes, we’re done.  You, Mayor Danby are indeed a force to be reckoned with.  Thanks so much for dropping by.  I wish you all the best in your political endeavors; I have no doubt you’ll do well and will accomplish much.  …And if you have any more banana flan, please feel free to drop it by!

♦  ♦

And for those of you interested in learning more about Kellan, her grandson—the accomplished amateur sleuth—please visit:

https://thisismytruthnow.com

WPnanaint1ABC

A Mayoral Conversation & Nana D’s Stupendous Banana Flan

Happy Saturday.  Not long ago we had a visit from Wharton County super sleuth Kellan Ayrwick.  As you may recall, he’s also a Braxton professor and single father.  A man of high standards and a staunch law conformist, he believes people should be held accountable for their actions.  That’s quite commendable.

Also commendable is the role Mayor Seraphina Danby—also known as Nana D—plays.  This important elected official wholeheartedly believes in setting a good example and leading Wharton County back to its glory days, but with a modern touch.

Please join us Wednesday, October 23rd when Nana D expounds upon her aims as mayor, notions on family, and perspectives re Kellan and sleuthing. WPkeyingredientDOTcom

Given Kellan’s love of desserts (and mine), on the way to a civic event, that lovely lady decided to drop off one of her favorites: banana flan.  How cool (nummy) is that?

Excuse me while I grab a fork and plate, and dash—hey guys, step aside, that slice is mine!!!

 

WPnanaA

An Interview with Braxton’s Brightest Sleuth

Ta-da!  He’s he-ere.  I’m thrilled to have Kellan Ayrwick from Wharton County visit today. In addition to serving as a part-time sleuth and single father, he’s a brilliant Braxton College professor who has also worked in TV.  He’s solved some exciting mysteries in a quaint and quiet part of Pennsylvania, Wharton County, where mob members, mystifying murders, and daunting ghosts are but a few of the challenges he’s encountered.

Without further ado . . . let’s get to know this dynamic sleuth that wee bit better.

Kellan Michael Ayrwick is such a distinguished name.  Would you please share the origins with us?

Absolutely. Thanks for asking. My first name is a bit unusual. I’m the middle child of five siblings. My parents wanted unique, older names for their children. I’ve been told they wanted it to start with that hard “c” or “k” sound, and they like repeated consonants, especially after a trip to Spain; hence, the double l. Just like in most Scottish and Irish families, children’s middle names come from their parents or grandparents. My older brother Hampton got my father’s name as his middle name, so when they chose mine, they went with Grandpa’s. He was Nana D’s husband, Michael Danby.

Ayrwick is a little more of a family story. My relatives originated in the town of Ayr in Scotland. They were candlemakers and, so, when the overseer and tax collector had to enumerate for our town, he’d listed it as Ayr, Wicks. Somehow, it was translated into Ayrwick on the official records when my ancestors immigrated to the United States.

Tell us what it’s like to be a professor, single father, and amateur sleuth.  Which role is the most challenging?  Why?

Being a single father is the most challenging. When I lived in Los Angeles, I relied on my in-laws, who often had their own ways of parenting. Trying to balance their styles with mine, without offending them anytime I’d suggest a different path, was not easy. I thought it’d get better when we moved back to Pennsylvania. Now, I have my parents and Nana D trying to tell me how to raise my daughter. They mean well, and I wouldn’t be able to survive without their help, but poor Emma is already turning into a mini Nana D. The world only needs one of them, right?

I obtained my PhD, but didn’t stay in academia in Los Angeles. I worked in Hollywood and learned all about the film industry. When I moved back to Pennsylvania and took the job as professor to help my dad out, I thought it was temporary. The opportunity to build a new film program at the school was too enticing, so now I’m back in academia full-time. I enjoy being able to work with young adults and new minds who love the entertainment business as much as I do, but I miss the challenge of solving complex puzzles.

I think that’s why I find being an amateur sleuth the most fun. Except for those few times where the killer almost succeeded in knocking me off too. I have high standards. Being able to hold people accountable for their actions is important to me. I obey the laws and dislike when others treat them carelessly.

If you could have pursued any profession, which would it have been?

I think I might have chosen the right one. Research is my expertise. I read people easily, and I know what questions to ask to find the right answers. Sometimes it takes a little longer than I’d like, and at others I am blindsided. But, ultimately, my instincts have been spot-on. If I went with a profession purely for fun and pleasure, I think I should’ve been a baker. I’d weigh three times as much and probably die sooner because I couldn’t stop eating all the time. But there’s a downside to every job, I suppose.

Did you do well in school?  What did you excel at?  What did you like most?

Do I really need to admit the truth here? I was a good student. I did well, but I was also the president of my fraternity and often got into a bit of trouble. I am great at anything that involves thinking and analyzing. I’m unusually smart when it comes to mechanical things, too. I can take almost anything apart and put it back together again. On the flip side, I wasn’t very strong in business classes and foreign languages. I don’t like to travel by plane, so it’s limited the places I can go. I never did have the ability to grasp grammar in other countries.

Who do you look up to?  Why?

Grandpop Michael, my mother’s father. He’s my idol. I love my father, but he focused more on my older brother. Grandpop Michael took me under his wing when I was a teenager, teaching me everything I know today. He was an honest man who understood people. He didn’t believe in acting tough, lying, or being ornery. There wasn’t a soul who disliked my grandpop, and that’s what I aim for every day of my life.

Which has proven your trickiest, most perplexing mystery (thus far)?

This ghost who’s been haunting my house. I can’t tell if (s)he’s real or fake. I never believed in that paranormal side of life, but after my experience in the spooky corn maze, my entire mindset has changed. I can solve a problem when I can talk to a person, ask questions, and get at the core of the situation. When I can’t actually connect with something tangible, I’m at a loss. Hopefully, I’ll solve it soon, as I really want to move into the new house without worrying about a ghost trying to kill me. Did you see the message (s)he left on the basement door?  WPghostgreenspace1DOTme

I did indeed—spoo-ookingly scary!   … Tell us, please, what do you like most about Wharton County?

It’s got the best of everything. Four seasons, even if I dislike the cold. Mountains, valleys, farms, rivers, lakes, forests, and an urban center. It’s only a few hundred square miles, and it’s relatively close to bigger cities like Philadelphia and Buffalo. Then again, you can hide out and never be found for years too. It’s the type of place to raise your children among family and friends who support one another. Up until recently, they had relatively few murders. I’m not sure what happened in the last six months since I returned. Maybe the ghost has been more active than we knew about.

There was quite a bit of hoopla surrounding Francesca’s death—including mobster ties.  Would you share a little about that?

It’s barely been three months. I think we’re all still recovering from that explosive reveal. I’m grateful that Emma has taken the news so well. It’s not every day that your mother comes back from the dead. If I had known my wife was part of a mob family, I might have thought twice before asking her to marry me. I always knew those Castiglianos were trouble, but I couldn’t have predicted this outcome. We lost a family member in that mob war last summer. It doesn’t matter who did what, death is never easy. After it happened, I spent days with my daughter, ensuring she recovered from being kidnapped by that crazed villain. It’s only now that I see shades of my daughter returning back to her innocent youth.

What has been the most precious or special moment in your life?

Definitely the day Emma was born. After her, I think reconnecting with my family after a decade’s absence. We kept in touch and visited once a year, but it never felt the same. It’s taken a few months, but I now feel like we’re ready to trust one another again. It’s not like anything major happened to separate us … just that family is incredibly important. Sometimes you don’t realize something until you almost lose it.

What’s your greatest achievement?

If we’re speaking outside of family events, I think accomplishing so much in such a short-time period. I’ve worked in Hollywood, become a professor who specializes in film studies, joined the team to convert Braxton from a college to a university, and solved seven murders. I couldn’t choose between any of those, but being able to balance all of it together and raise my daughter, now that’s something to be proud of. I never put that all together until just now. Thank you for making me see it was such an achievement.

Do you have any regrets—about anything?

Grandpop Michael always told me not to regret the things I’ve done. Every action has consequences, and if you change even the slightest, the ripple effect is beyond anyone’s understanding. That said, if I could change a few things about the past, I’d probably try to stop Gabriel from leaving Braxton years ago. Too much happened to our family that changed the landscape of our future. I’m glad to have him back, but we lost more than five years of being brothers. That’s a lot of time, especially when we were once so close.

What floats your boat?

Are we talking literally or figuratively? I don’t own a boat, so I’m assuming you mean figuratively. That’s easy. Desserts. I will do anything for dessert. I can’t help it. I have uncontrollable cravings, and since it’s not caused any problems with my health, I will continue to devour any and all desserts. I have noticed my workouts need to happen more frequently, and I am occasionally defying the limits of gravity with my clothing. If for any reason my health or the size of my pants were to change, I’d cut back. I love having a racing horse for a metabolism. Until that time things change, my boat floats to desserts. Got anything new for me to try?

<LOL>  I’ll let you know later.  Last question, Kellan: who is your favorite detective?  Why?

If I don’t say April or Connor, am I in trouble? Please let the record show, they are my favorites. If you torture me to say another name, I’d admit to loving Sherlock Holmes. He’s arrogant but clever. People sometimes think I’m a little too sarcastic, but it’s different when you hear me speak. I’m witty and funny and light about it … I’m never mean-spirited, and I often laugh at myself. A few people have written opinions about me (I won’t name names) that I seem banal or pretentious. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just tend to be a little humorous rather than so serious all the time.

Awesome.  Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and share. 

For those of you not familiar with Kellan’s sleuthing, I highly recommend you check out:

♦  Academic Curveball  ♦  Broken Heart Attack  ♦  Flower Power Trip  ♦  Mistaken Identity Crisis  ♦  Haunted House Ghost

WPjay2

Curious to learn more?  Please visit these two awesome sites: https://jamesjcudney.com and https://thisismytruthnow.com.

WPJaysblog1Use

By the by, Kellan’s charming grandmother and go-getting mayor, Nana D, will be here on the 23rd of this month! 

Head’s Up

October 9th is riding in like a frenetic witch on a motorized broom—and it’s proving to be positively spoo-ooky in Wharton County, Pennsylvania.

That day, I’m quite pleased, if not tickled pink, to feature one of my favorite amateur sleuths: Kellan Michael Ayrwick.  In addition to detecting part-time, he’s an accomplished Braxton College professor who has worked extensively in TV—surely you’ve seen the popular show Dark Reality?  Most importantly perhaps, Kellan is the loving single father of Emma, a clever and most charming girl of six going on sixteen, as he likes to teasingly state.

Please drop by for an enlightening and entertaining interview … discover fascinating family facts and learn which “case”, to date, has proven the most challenging for our budding sleuth.

WPJayClipartWikiDOTcom

Thank You to Jay

I want to extend my most appreciative thanks to Jay (James J. Cudney IV) for the wonderful review of Forever Poi.

https://thisismytruthnow.com/2019/09/21/book-review-forever-poi-by-tyler-colins/

Fellow blogger and writer Jay is a force to be reckoned with.  He’s everything I’d like to be as a blogger and writer: proficient, focused, supportive … a consummate professional.  If you’ve not yet checked out his fantastic blog (as I continually say, I’m totally envious) and fabulous books, like the Braxton Campus mystery series, please do!

https://jamesjcudney.com/

Jay2A

♦ ♦ ♦

Book Review: Forever Poi by Tyler Colins

by James J. Cudney IV

130225-130836

Forever Poi by Tyler Colins
Forever Poi, the 4th book in the Triple Threat Mysteries series by Tyler Colins, was published in July 2019. I’ve previously read the first three and was psyched to devour the latest one this month. Three smart and sassy female detectives run the Triple Threat Investigations agency in Hawaii, but the series started out in Connecticut and moved its way westward. What an exotic and thrilling location to set a murder mystery series… Ms. Colins has imbued the characters and setting with something exciting, vibrant, and unique. I’ve seen tremendous growth over the course of the four books, and the private detectives are learning on the job as quickly as they possibly can.

Today, I’m focusing on Forever Poi, where the ladies discover two bodies who’d been killed in an art gallery fire. The police bring Triple Threat in for assistance, quickly determining the inferno was intentionally set and the victims were definitely murdered. Unfortunately, JJ and her cousins had recently met at least one of the two lost souls, which makes the investigation all that much more difficult. The hunt for the killer or killers has the ladies traipsing all over the continental US, with a particularly memorable stop in Chicago.

Ms. Colins’ story contains a large number of complex characters, all with hilarious and interesting names. One if even called Crispy, and yes, that’s a connection with the fire. The three detectives are methodical in the search for all the clues and hidden secrets about the two men who owned the gallery and the seemingly disconnected woman Lolita who died in the blaze. We also learn about a death that occurred before the book started, but it might not be connected. Kudos to the author for layering in the details for readers to try to solve the crime themselves.

A few fun things to note, as these are the points that always make Ms. Colins’ books stand out: (a) the catch phrase ‘Hey-ho,’ (b) finding out the true meaning of ‘Forever Poi,’ which isn’t what you think, (c) someone else besides me says ‘Toodles,’ and (d) that totally unexpected scene when Cash (Richie J) returns to visit JJ. At first, I was freaked out, then I realized what was going on, but afterward, it started heating up again. I won’t spoil the surprise for those who’ve read previous books, but it’s an amusing one. The series is edgy but not over-the-top. Appropriate uses of ‘F Off’ and references to ‘Nudie Art’ make the characters and plot seem quite real.

When the key suspect in the crimes is presumed dead midway into the story, you’re left with a ‘now what’ll happen?’ moment. Then, the ladies find themselves trapped with the potential for a bomb to explode. It got pretty close in the end… but they always get their killer, don’t they? This was a great entry in the series, and I’m excited by the news at the end about the next book in 2020. It’ll be on my reading list. I hope it’s on yours too.

Grace & Gratitude

This past Sunday, James J Cudney IV (Jay) reviewed Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie, the second in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency mystery series.

As writers/bloggers, there are times when we wonder whether we should continue writing; it can prove a thankless (sale-less) profession, one gratifying only to ourselves.  So when someone writes a wonderful review of your book, the feeling is amaz-zing.  Yes, indeedy-do, it is all worth it.

I’ve been a follower of Jay’s for over a year now.  He’s a prolific and gifted blogger, author, and reviewer, and . . . I’ll state this again (and again) . . . a kind and encouraging person.

WPhulareview3

Please visit his awesome site to see what he’s up to.  You may also be interested in reading his entertaining Braxton Campus mystery series or other fiction works.

https://thisismytruthnow.com/

Thanks again Jay!

WPhulareview4

Book Review: Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie by Tyler Colins

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 23, 2019

Can you Hula Like Hilo Hattie? by Tyler Colins

Last year, I read the first book, The Connecticut Corpse Caper, in the Triple Threat Mystery series by Tyler Colins. Her second book, Can You Hula Luke Hilo Hattie?, is even better. Colins is one talented author who can weave a complex plot and help readers fully visualize a setting.

In this caper, our three heroines have formed a private eye agency in Hawaii. They’d solved the murders in the first book as regular citizens, so why not make it a full-time job? It was too much work in California or Connecticut to get their licenses, so Hawaii became the new home. Great idea! Fun backdrop. Hilarious characters. First, they need to bring home a runaway, hooked-on-ice teen. Second, they need to prove a man’s wife is cheating. Unfortunately, it isn’t your typical case, and when the wife turns up dead, the mystery is gonna be way more complex than our heroines thought.

Colins has created a bevy of intense and charming characters. I love ‘Cash’ who seems like a very cool dreamboat. Each time I got to know a new character, they end up getting killed off! Maybe it won’t happen this time…. but like in her first book, the body count keeps rising. It’s a fun way to keep readers on our toes. My favorite aspect of the author’s writing style is her descriptions, whether of people or settings. It’s way more than you’d normally see in a book, but it fits very well. I have a beautifully clear picture of who’s talking or moving about the book. I find myself drawn to the action, too, but it’s a very complex plot to keep focused on.

I also see strength in transitions between scenes. It’s rarely over-simplified or brash. It ends in the right place, and I roll into the next scene without worrying what happened in between. I also find the dialog to be rather strong… quick puns, not wordy, direct but full of imagery and thought. I can’t wait to see what third adventure the ladies find themselves embroiled in… no matter what the plot is, I’m sure it will create loads of fun and memories. Great job, Ms. Colins!

 

Review & Interview: James J. Cudney and Academic Curveball

Academic Curveball: A Braxton Campus Mystery is the first cozy from James J. Cudney IV (Jay) . . . a big winding curve from suspenseful family dramas Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure.  While Glass and Father lean toward the poignant and WPJayUseAenthralling, and occasionally dark, Academic successfully captures the feel of a cozy— with subtle humor and the requisite amateur sleuth, quaint settings, curious characters, clues and red herrings.

Jay’s graphic descriptions of Wharton County and Braxton pull us into various locales; we can clearly envision the picturesque campus and dwellings, feel the chilly November air dance across our skin, and experience the ouch-y smack upon accidentally hitting our head on a wooden bedroom beam.  This author has a gift for creating vivid images.

Thirty-something protagonist/narrator Kellan Ayrwick returns to Pennsylvania from California for his crusty father’s retirement from Braxton College.  Leaving his five-year-old daughter Emma with in-laws, he demonstrates the care and concerns of a loving single parent.  It’s easy to like calm and affable Kellan and want to follow his “inadvertent adventures” when a murder occurs.  When his boss requests he remain and cover the dastardly deed for their TV show, he soon discovers that anyone—family and friends included—is a viable suspect.

Before we know it, we’re eagerly ambling along the sleuthing trail with Kellan, attempting to figure out “whodunit” . . . and hoping the one person who didn’t “dunit” is Nana, his wonderfully [hysterically] eccentric grandmother.  This woman is a dynamo, reminiscent of Stephanie Plum’s Grandma Mazur.  (I could see this quirky gal carrying her own cozy series.)

The book leaves a few openings and storyline possibilities for future Braxton mysteries, which we know are [happily] coming.  I’m looking forward to pursuing Kellan’s next “case”.

   Rating: save save save save save

Intrigued by our author’s prolific blogging and writing projects, I felt compelled to conduct a mini—most interesting—interview.

What served as the inspiration for Academic Curveball?

I love cozy mysteries and book series. I’ve been reading them for ~25 years now and find myself always looking for the latest edition or drama in recurring characters’ lives. I think it’s because I am an only child that I love seeing the continuous bond within families and friends in small towns. I’ve always wanted to be a professor, but I waited too long to go to graduate school. I don’t have the energy or time to go back for advanced degrees now, so I wanted a way to feel like I was back on campus. When I combined all of this together, I thought… maybe that should be my new book series! The first plot evolved out of another dream where I pictured the killer and his/her reason for committing murder, then I built an entire story around it.

Did you envision yourself as Kellan during the writing of Academic Curveball—i.e. are you the protagonist putting the pieces of a puzzle together or are you the creator/author providing twists and turns for your main character? 

It’s a combination of both. There are tons of things about Kellan that are 100% me, both in how I speak, my level of sarcasm, and how I analyze situations. I’m not nosy by nature, so I had to push those elements. Someone could say “I think X is so angry with Y, they’ll kill her.” I’d ignore it and not want to get involved in someone else’s drama. Kellan is different. He’d have 100 questions and never stop trying to guess what could happen. Since I draft an outline with scenes described chapter by chapter before I begin writing, I’m definitely creating the twists/turns, but Kellan’s voice surprises me. Sometimes he says things which make me as the author realize I have to alter a scene because he’s smarter than me.

Do characters/characterization come naturally (instinctively) as you write, or do you spend time developing and crafting them?

Both. Each character has 3 or 4 traits (physical and personality) before I write a scene. When they begin to act in the scene, their individual personalities also emerge, then I go back and update prior chapters so it’s consistent. Minor characters never have a look and feel during the outline stage unless I see them as long-term. After the first draft, I read slowly and keep a list of all things I’ve said about a character, then I apply a ratio-formula depending on their number of scenes or future longevity. I want everyone to have enough traits that readers get a good picture but have room to fill in the blanks, too.

Some authors simply go with the flow; their fingers fly furiously across a keyboard.   What’s your writing style?  Do you let the story and characters tell the tale or do you give considerable thought to scenes/scenarios and how they’ll play out?

After writing a one-page summary of the plot and characters, then I write a ~25 page overview outline. It has details about the murders, the suspects, and the cliffhangers. I also have a chapter by chapter and scene by scene bullet list of what needs to happen. Sometimes it only lists one character and then I decide who (s)he interacts with in the scene in order to build the drama or cover the cozy aspects of the town’s life. In this book, I deleted two chapters by merging their content in with others, then I also added six scenes to help with transitions between chapters. It becomes a puzzle trying to figure out what order to make things happen to keep up the mystery.

On a non-professional note, what inspires you, James J. Cudney?

Outside of reading and writing, I love genealogy, cooking, and history. I am an expert in nothing, nor a jack-of-all-trades. I know a lot about a bunch of things, but I still sometimes need the basics to round out what I am interested in. Inspiration usually comes in the form of seeing a beautiful picture, thinking about where I am and where I want to be… generally analyzing people, places, and things. I am very much in trapped my head and often forget to be a social person. Autumn is my favorite season, so I’m thrilled to enter it these days… I hope it sticks around for a few months.

For those unfamiliar with Jay, he’s an amazing—inexhaustible (!)—author and blogger residing in NYC.  The short link for Academic Curveball on Amazon is http://mybook.to/ACurveball while Goodreads’ link is https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41564460-academic-curveballWPJayUseB

The new book Broken Heart Attack will be available December 2018 and is also on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/series/242493-braxton-campus-mysteries (but the cover won’t be added for approximately four weeks).  Last but by no means least, his stand-alone novels, the aforementioned Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can also be purchased on Amazon.

Jay’s what I (and many bloggers/authors) aspire to be.  He’s also a kind and encouraging individual who selflessly offers constructive advice and [much] appreciated support.

Visit his blog (https://thisismytruthnow.com) to find—among other things—reviews and read-a-thons, and the introspective 365 Daily Challenge: “365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.”

 

 

Thank You, Jay!

I’d like to once again thank author (Watching Glass Shatter, Father Figure) and blogger James J. Cudney—Jay—for the review of The Connecticut Corpse Caper.  The first in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, it was originally written as a stand-alone cozy.  But the gals—JJ, Rey, and Linda—decided they wanted P.I. careers (in Hawaii, no less) and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Please check out This is My Truth Now, his awesome blog.  You’ll find insightful posts, book reviews, personal adventures and bucket lists, among other things.  And if you’re looking for some good reads, I wholeheartedly suggest Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure.  You won’t be disappointed.

As stated in my FB post, he’s personable and sweet, and incredibly approachable.  I’m very thankful our paths crossed.

https://thisismytruthnow.com/2018/06/16/book-review-the-connecticut-corpse-caper-by-tyler-colins/#like-29614

trioshotforblog

Who Doesn’t Lieb, uh, Love an Unexpected Surprise!?

I was just nominated By James J. Cudney IV (Jay) for the Liebster Award.  I’m a little stunned, but happily so.  I’ll have to confess that I’ve never tagged anyone or done this before, but there’s a first time for everything.  Hopefully, I’ll follow the rules correctly (feel free to send a comment/email if I’ve erred in any way or omitted something).

By the by, if you’re not familiar with Jay’s awesome blog, here’s a little background.  He’s an author/blogger living in NYC, with a great debut novel entitled Watching Glass Shatter.  I’ve had the opportunity to follow most of his “365 Daily Challenge”—daily posts revolving around a key word of the day.  He’s shared much over the last few months—happy times, sad events, insights and knowledge—and I’m glad for having received the opportunity to be a follower.  liebster2

Please check out his website and This is My Truth Now blog at:

https://jamesjcudney.com

https://thisismytruthnow.com

Now, let’s take a gander at the rules and the must-dos, shall we?

The Rules:

Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.   

Provide 11 facts about yourself.    

Answer the 11 question the person asked you.    

Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know).   

Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions.    

11 Facts About Me

  1. I’m Canadian, but prefer to write American.  <LOL>
  2. And speaking of American, becoming one has been a dream since the age of 5 (that, my friends, has been a long, long time, and I’ve never ever had a change of heart).
  3. I was one of a few teachers of Simplified English in the aviation world (back when).
  4. Hawaii and the concept of “aloha” are also close to my heart (hence, the setting for my Triple Threat Investigation Agency books).
  5. Favorite things?  The color blue (cyan, to be exact).  Pizza (funghi’s the best).  Red wine (South African and Australian).  Red-velvet cake (nummmmmmmmmmmmmm and screw the calories).  Walking for miles (and miles).  Writing and editing (with no timelines/deadlines).  Perry Mason (from the beginning days to the end).
  6. I adore animals and honor my medicine / animal totems.
  7. Though I often write and say “keep the faith”, I do struggle with it now and again.  (I readily admit that I can be a [maddening] whiner—just ask the Big Guy.  But that’s a secret between you and me and Him.)
  8. I’ve evolved into a sugar junkie over the last year (always enjoyed sweets, but it’s gotten a bit out of hand, er, mouth, er . . . ).
  9. I’m terrible with budgeting and suck at math.  On the flip side, I’m not bad with spending money (check the negative bank account) and do pretty well with anything creative, save for knitting or crocheting.  <LOL>
  10. Being on the ocean is something I adore (though I can’t swim to save my life; fortunately, I can do a mean dog-paddle).
  11. I’ve recently discovered the world of K-Pop.  (Who’d have guessed it would be so good!?  Not this ol’ gal.)

 Questions to You

  1. Which body part would you exchange if you could?
  • My brain/head – like my car, it needs some realignment/tuning (or is that tune-uping?).
  1. What do you like least about blogging?
  • Having to stay on top of all the marketing/promotion and technical/artistic components; that’s a full-time job in itself!
  1. If you could inhabit someone else’s body for a day, who would it be?
  • Today: a world leader or someone in the monarchy—to see what the world of politics and responsibility, or wealth and responsibility entail. If I had to pick someone specific, it would be either President Trump or Queen Elizabeth.
  • Yesteryear: Shakespeare.
  1. If you could have someone else’s personality and intelligence, who would it be?
  • Ayn Rand.
  1. Where are you taking me to dinner tomorrow night? Or if that’s not gonna work for you, what gift are you sending in lieu of canceling last minute on me? Seems appropriate.
  • I’d be taking you for a grand home-cooked meal, but time being what it is, I’d have to give you . . . a dozen calla lilies, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and a box of dark-chocolate Godiva truffles.  Am I forgiven?
  1. Have you ever tried to count the licks to get to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop?
  • Hate Tootsie Roll Pops (sorry).
  1. Did I share too much above? If yes, which item. If not, you’re my new best friend.
  • Not at all; there’s nothing wrong with sharing.  In fact, it’s a very “healthy” thing to do.
  1. If you could hide in someone’s pocket for a day just to see what they really do when you’re not around, who would it be?
  • That would have to be in the pocket of my favorite character: Rey (from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency). In the real world: I’m a trusting soul, so I wouldn’t have to “see” what anyone’s up to.
  1. If you have an entire cake to yourself, and you know for certain that no one else will eat it nor see you eat it, would you still cut it up and serve it on a plate? Or would you dig in with a shovel? (Assume nothing bad happens to your body as a result of consuming said cake)
  • If it’s red-velvet cake, I’d dig in like a bulldozer!
  1. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “bite me”? Good or bad, let it rip.
  • How hard?  <LOL> 
  1. Have you met Liebster? If Yes, please describe. If No, please contribute $25 to the charity of your choice in order to successfully have completed this easy and fun quiz. Failure to do so results in an automatic replication of 10 more quizzes a day from me to you as a loving gesture of support.
  • Love it.  I promise—a $25 donation will go to an animal charity this week (in fact, I’ll up it to $35)! 

Nominees

https://yeahanotherblogger.com

https://valeriesmusings.com

http://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com.au

https://insomniagirl.net

https://ireadwhatyouwrite.wordpress.com

http://storeybookreviews.com

https://booksandopinions.com

https://cozyupwithkathy.blogspot.com

https://www.myrandommusings.co.uk

http://lisaksbookthoughts.blogspot.com

http://bloggernicole.com

Questions to You

  1. If you could go back in time and be present at one major world event, what would that be?
  2. Will you share one of your secrets for success?
  3. What food (dessert, entrée, appetizer) best describes you?
  4. What’s your best “me time” endeavor/pleasure?
  5. If you were a color, which one would you be and why?
  6. Who most influenced you in terms of your writing/blogging career?
  7. If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
  8. What’s your current pet peeve?
  9. If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
  10. Do you have a personal proverb, maxim, or motto?
  11. If you could go anywhere in the world or universe, where would that be?

And that, my friends, is that.   . . . Happy Easter everyone!

The Catharsis of Writing

cathartic =psychotherapeutic = emotional = healthful = releasing artistic creation

We all need to purge now and again—be it cleaning out closets, flushing out bottled emotions, or clearing negativities.  It can be done mentally, emotionally, and physically—through writing and posting, as examples.  Purging is a good thing; it eliminates excess and the unneeded.

I’m borrowing from James J. Cudney IV’s This is my Truth Now blog**.  The 365 Day Challenge involves daily posts dedicated to specific words.  (Hope you don’t mind, Jay.)

download (5)

The idea came about courtesy of my Wattpad weekly installment “novel” Odd Woman Out.  Left in a storage box for two decades, I yanked it out during a let’s-get-rid-of-crap spring-cleaning blitz.  Back then, I’d believed it was my pièce de résistance.  <LOL>  But as I started to read it, I saw some merit in it and thus, the weekly Wattpad installments came into being.

WPblog2book

Where does “cathartic” come in?  The events/scenes are more non-fiction than fiction.  A lot of things really did happen—to myself or individuals close to me.  The emotions and feelings, thoughts and reflections of Alex (the main character) have provoked chuckles and cringes, and “whoaaaaaa” and “ohhhhhh” moments.

“Whoa” because it prompts the [wincing] question: did I [he/she] really do that?  “Oh” because it triggers the [energizing] revelation: wow, I actually once thought that way?

The proofing/editing process is a bit unique this round: I’m only reviewing maybe six pages at a time, breaking long chapters into several small ones.  Every reading/edit is eye- and soul-opening.  So yes, writing/posting can indeed prove very cathartic.

You don’t have to make it public if it’s too intense or personal and you’re not comfortable sharing.  (Maybe that’s why Odd Woman Out remained in a box for years?)  But you know, sharing does enable you to purge—which, I humbly admit, is very freeing (and exhilarating).

Catharsis: letting go.

. . . Damn it feels really good.

WPblog4joy

 ** This is My Truth Now reveals“365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.  I will post a characteristic about myself and reflect on it in a blog post for the next 365 days: a full year of discovery into directing the course of my future.”   Visit Jay’s blog at:  https://thisismytruthnow.com

WPblog1Jay