A long snippet

In A CUT ABOVE, Karnie agrees to meet Donna Amick’s brother, Duncan, at a bar to try to learn who might have killed Donna. The bar’s on the rough side, though, so her brother, Chuck insists on going with her. But he gets sick and asks his friend, Matt, to go in his place:

Matt was doing her a favor.  Actually, he was doing Chuck a favor, but she’d let that ride.  When he pulled up in his truck and she ran out to climb in, she gave him an apologetic look.  “I’m sorry you got stuck doing this.  I could have called Duncan and rescheduled our meeting.

Matt shook his head.  “No problem.  I’m happy to do this for you.”

She bit her lip.  For Chuck, she wanted to say, but Matt was here, and they were headed to The Alehouse Bar.  She’d keep quiet about that.  “Chuck said I owed him a supper for meeting Duncan with me.  Same goes for you, and as many beers as you want.  On me.”

He shook his head.  “I’m going home to kids and have to get up early in the morning.  Only two beers for me on a week night.”

“You’re a cheap date.”

“Is this a date then?  Our first one.  I’ll mark it on my calendar, so I can remember our first date anniversary.”

Her stomach clenched.  She stared at him.  “You’re kidding, right?  I was kidding.” 

“Here I thought you were starting to take a shine to me.”

“I am.  We could be great friends.”

He put a hand to his heart.  “The words no man wants to hear.”  Then he glanced at her and started laughing.  “Relax.  Don’t panic yet, but you’re awfully easy to tease.”

No wonder he and Chuck were such good friends.  Too much alike.  She relaxed and took a deep breath.  “Not funny.  I’ve never worried about things getting awkward between us because Chuck said you have so many girls chasing you, you have to beat them away.”

“Hardly. I don’t have time for chasing skirts.  The farm and the kids keep me busy.”

“But your parents took the kids last weekend.”

“So you think I spent time with a girl?  That’s why you were so surprised I came to the Sunday dinner.”  He shook his head.  “I had some friends over for pizza and we played cards.  I don’t get to do that much anymore.”

She fiddled with the hem of her T-shirt.  She’d misjudged him.  She felt a little ashamed of herself at how fast she’d decided he was shacking up.

He grinned at her.  “You know, even back in my high school days, I wasn’t quite the slimeball you thought I was.”

She grimaced at the term.  “Sorry, I shouldn’t have called you that.”

“We didn’t know each other.  Girls did follow me everywhere, but that didn’t mean I slept with every single one of them.”

But she’d bet he slept with a few. 

He could read her thoughts by the look on her face and chuckled.  “No more than your brother Chuck.  He was no innocent back then either.”

True, and she knew he was a good man.  Matt was, too.  “I’ll amend my opinions about you.”

He laughed.  “Then they must be going up because I don’t think they could get too much lower.”

She waved that away.  “It doesn’t really matter what I think about you anyway.”

“But it does.”  His voice was sincere.  “We’re friends now, and you’re going to invite me and my kids over for supper sometimes.  I don’t want to mess that up.”

“You’re really motivated by food.”

“No arguments there.”  They reached the bar and he pulled into a parking space.  “You ready?  Chuck said this Duncan was a real winner.”

She nodded, and they started to the Alehouse.  When they walked through the door, loud music made them both wince.  The place had the typical, funky old bar smell.  The lighting was dim, and they waited to let their eyes adjust before moving further inside.  A guy at the bar turned to raise his glass at her.  She waved.  A friend of Chuck’s.  Karnie spotted Duncan at a booth and they wove their way past filled tables to join him. 

Duncan sneered when Matt slid across from him.  “She had to bring a nursemaid to meet me?”

Matt leveled a look at him.  “You might let a woman come alone to a bar like this, but I wouldn’t.  Did Donna meet you here?”

The sneer vanished.  “I always picked her up.  We came together.”

“My point.”

The waitress came, and Matt ordered a beer.  Karnie asked, “Do you have wine?”  She’d never gotten used to the taste of hops or the bitterness of beer.

“One white wine.  One red.  Which do you want?”

“White.”  She’d take her chances.  Bad wine was better than good beer.

Duncan shook his head.  “I can’t see you and Donna working together.  She had a problem with people who were too uppity.”

Karnie raised an eyebrow.  “Not every person who likes wine is a snob, but Donna and I wouldn’t have gotten along anyway.  She was too pushy.  Sort of like you.”

“You didn’t like her.”

“Not a bit.”

The waitress brought their drinks.  “Are you eating or just visiting?”

“I’m paying,” Karnie said before Matt could.  “For all three of us.  I’ll take a burger and fries.”

After the guys ordered and the waitress left, Duncan studied Karnie.  “You’re used to being in charge, aren’t you?”

She wasn’t going to disagree.  Instead, she asked, “How did you and Donna get along?”

After he took a hit of his beer, he said, “We were brother and sister.  We argued sometimes but always had each other’s back.  She was three years older than me and was always telling me what to do.  Talked me into taking a few jobs I hated until I stopped listening to her.  Now I’m doing okay, running a few different businesses.  Said once the shop got going, she’d make me part of it.”

“Did you want to be part of it?”

Their food arrived, and Duncan waited until the waitress left again to answer.  “There were things I could do to help her, but I knew my sister.  There’s no way I’d drop what I was doing to work with her unless she legally signed part ownership over to me.  Either that, or I’d do a lot of work, she’d get bent out of shape about something, and she’d fire me.  She was like that.”

Karnie and Matt exchanged glances.  “She did that to Worth,” Matt said.

“The kid should have known better.  He had to live with her, for heaven’s sake.  He knew she could be a witch.”

Duncan had no delusions about her.  Karnie gave him credit for that.  “Would she have promised the shop to P.J. if she didn’t mean to give it to him?”

Duncan put down his burger with a snort.  “P.J. was on his way out, wasn’t he?  Donna wasn’t too happy when she found out he’d ordered a watch worth a few thousand for himself with her credit card.”

“She told you that?” Matt asked.

Duncan wiped his mouth with his napkin.  “She said he was starting to be more of a bother than he was worth.”

“Did she love her husband before he died?”  It wouldn’t help decide who’d killed her, but Karnie was curious.

Duncan took a long sip of beer, his brows furrowed in thought, before saying, “I’m not sure she ever loved anyone.  Not our parents.  Can’t blame her.  Not me.”

“Why not your parents?”

“Mom clerks at a small dollar store, smokes all the time, lives for Bingo.  Dad works as little as he can.  They kept a roof over our heads and didn’t pound on us, but that’s about it.  Donna hated being poor.”

Karnie nodded.  That explained a lot.  It didn’t excuse how badly Donna treated people, but it helped her understand Donna more. 

Cooking Shows

When I don’t want to concentrate or think too hard, when I’m ready to relax, I like to watch a cooking show. No plot. No character arc. No sound track. Enough information to hold my attention and entertain me. And that’s enough. HH is hooked on The Great British Baking Show, but we’ve watched them all. Then he liked Somebody Feed Phil, and we watched all of those, too. We sprinted through the Prime series My Greatest Dishes, but he’s only so-so on my weekend regulars of The Pioneer Woman, The Kitchen, and Delicious Miss Brown. I get a kick out of Midnight Diner, but it’s not really a cooking show. It focuses on the customers who come in late at night to eat and tells a different one of their stories each episode. I think it’s clever. HH gets tired of the subtitles.

My new mystery series is more like Midnight Diner. Karnie, who works in her family’s butcher shop, interacts with the customers who are mostly regulars. Her dad and brother carve and cut the meat. Karnie works the display case, and each week, when her dad lists the weekend specials, she makes recipe cards for each of them. She also records a cooking show once a week..

Karnie’s customers appreciate the fact that she not only sells them quality meat but takes the time to answer any of their questions about what to do with it. That’s what A Cut Above, their butcher shop, is known for–great customer service. And that’s why Donna Amick wants to steal Karnie away to work at her new butcher shop on the north side of Crossroads, Indiana. Besides, Donna’s desperate. She’s so moody and demanding, she’s fired every person she’ hired to manage the meat counter. Her shop’s only been open a short time, and she’s already made lots of enemies. But that’s no reason to leave Donna’s body propped against the back door of their shop with a meat cleaver embedded in the back of her head.

Finding Donna’s body is inconvenient, but Detective Carmichael doesn’t really think anyone from A Cut Above killed her. He does suspect Sam Lessman, though, the young trainee who worked in their shop before leaving to become a fulltime butcher Karnie, her dad and mom, and her brother Chuck all argue that Sam would never hurt anyone, but Karnie decides to dig deeper to make sure Sam isn’t blamed for something he didn’t do. From that time on, her Mondays are filled by visiting people involved with Donna’s shop… And with Matt Roeback, Chuck’s friend from high school, who supplies the grass-fed, black Angus meat they sell. Two years older than Karnie, he’s been divorced for six years now, raising his son and daughter on his own. As Chuck’s longtime friend, he takes it upon himself to tag along with her when she goes to question anyone. He’s determined Karnie shouldn’t interview people on her own, that it’s not safe. Even though she makes it clear she’d rather he left her alone, he makes it clear that he’ll show up whether she wants him there or not.

I only have a few more chapters before I finish the first draft of A Cut Above, and it’s been a fun book to write. I didn’t expect to get so attached to the shop’s customers, but they showed up often enough, they became real to me. I’m hoping to pass the manuscript to my critique partners soon, and then I can get serious about polishing my 7th Jazzi book. By now, I should be more objective when I read the feedback I got on it. And once I finish a slew of editing, I’ll be able to start work on another new book.

Wednesday’s Shameless Plug

My fourth Jazzi Zanders cozy mystery is available for pre-order now and is due out March 17, two days after the Ides of March, so you don’t have to beware:)  https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/39309

It’s also available from NetGalley for review right now.  And you can win two POD copies of it on a Goodreads giveaway if you enter fast enough. https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/302087-the-body-in-the-apartment

In this story, Ansel and Jazzi are helping his brother, Radley, move into his first apartment in the same building where his work supervisor lives.  Radley and Donovan are friends who often get together on Saturday nights to play poker.  While they’re loading more of Radley’s things into their van to take to his apartment, Ansel’s oldest brother, Bain, comes to tell Radley he has to come back to Wisconsin to work on their family’s dairy farm.  Tempers flare, and Bain goes to the apartment with them to continue arguing with Radley.  When Donovan supports Radley’s decision to stay, Bain blows up at him before storming out of the building.  A short time later, Donovan returns to his own apartment, and then a gun shot is heard.  When Ansel and Jazzi run to the second floor, they watch Donovan stagger into the hallway, blood saturating his shirt.  Bain is the main suspect in the shooting, and as before, Jazzi joins detective Gaff to try to prove Bain’s innocence.

TheBodyInTheApartment_ COVER



Cover Reveal

Lyrical Press has released the cover for my second Jazzi Zanders mystery.  It’s due out April 23, 2019, but I’m always excited to see what kind of a cover they’ve created for me.  And this time, I loved it that they featured Cocoa, the chocolate Lab, in a similar pose as George, Ansel’s pug, in book one.  Only in this book, Cocoa’s digging up a fairly fresh corpse(:  That puts a real downer on the fixer-upper project Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel are working on.  Here’s the cover.  I hope you love it as much as I do.


High summer in River Bluffs, Indiana, is always sweltering and sweet. But the heat is really on when a decidedly dead body turns up in the neighborhood.

When established house flippers Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod donate a week’s worth of remodeling work to Jazzi’s sister Olivia, they’re expecting nothing more than back-breaking roofing work and cold beers at the end of each long, hot day. With Jazzi’s live-in boyfriend and partner Ansel on the team, it promises to be a quick break before starting their next big project—until Leo, an elderly neighbor of Olivia’s, unexpectedly goes missing . . .

When the friendly senior’s dog tugs Jazzi and the guys toward the wetlands beyond Olivia’s neighborhood, they stumble across a decomposing corpse—and a lot of questions. With Jazzi’s pal Detective Gaff along to investigate, Jazzi finds her hands full of a whole new mystery instead of the usual hammer and nails. And this time it will take some sophisticated sleuthing to track down the culprit of the deadly crime—before the killer turns on her next . . .


I hope all of you have lots of good things to read, can sneak in a little writing, and enjoy a merry Christmas and happy holidays!