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Thursday, March 5, 2015

What I Learned About Life from Writing Murder Mysteries by Lauren Carr

Today we are pleased to share with you a guest post from Lauren Carr, best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime mystery series.

What I Learned About Life from Writing Murder Mysteries

by Lauren Carr

The other day, I was on a radio program. During the interview, the topic of my husband came up. The lead host, a long-time fan, announced the interesting fact that my husband of twenty-five years has never read even one of my murder mysteries.

New to the show, the other host, who hadn’t had a chance to read any of my books, was shocked at this information—as many people are. After thirteen novels, all of them best-sellers, my husband has yet to read a single one.

“It’s okay,” I said with a shrug. “It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. My husband reads non-fiction and is supportive of my writing in every other way. He doesn’t have to read my books.”

I was surprised when across the table, this co-host sighed with relief. “Me, too. I don’t like reading fiction. I prefer non-fiction.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

By the end of the show, this co-host asked for an autographed copy of my latest book, Three Days to Forever and promised to read it. We’ll see. If he doesn’t, that’s okay.

I wasn’t always so laid back. Ironically, during my career of writing books where the primary goal was to kill people off, I have learned some things about life.

In a nutshell, everyone is different.

Every writer writes differently. I love mysteries and while I may have some romance in my books, don’t ask me to write a graphic love scene.

Each reader reads different things into every book. Therefore, as a mystery writer, there is no way possible to write a book that’s going to please every single reviewer and reader. Nor, is it possible to not offend someone reading something between the lines—even if that “message” was not put there intentionally.

The plotline for Three Days to Forever was inspired by numerous sources—mostly a series of news events involving terrorism and disagreement in our country about how to handle the rise of Islam and the spread of terrorism—even the debate of “Is it really an issue? Is our country really safe?”

Among the “What if’s…” I asked myself as a writer was, “What if traitors to our country, supporting Islamic terrorist groups, managed to achieve positions high up in our government—even to the point of being a trusted advisor to our president. Thus, one element of the plot in Three Days to Forever involves fictional characters in the fictional president’s administration. 

Since I don’t live under a rock, being aware of the political divide in our country, I issued Three Days to Forever with a “disclaimer” reminding readers that this book is a work of fiction. “It is not the author's commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation's government.”

In spite of the warning, I was not surprised when a few readers took Three Days to Forever to be exactly that—an attack on our current real-life President and a political message. One reader pointed to my author note saying, “tells me that deep down she probably knows better.”

Most readers took the author note as just that—a reminder that Three Days to Forever is fiction and not meant to be a political commentary.

In response to the controversy, as I did at the radio station with the host who said he didn’t like to read fiction, I shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s okay.”

These readers who read unintended messages between the lines and cast judgment on the supposed deliverer of that message have just as much right to their opinion and preferences and beliefs as I have to write a thriller involving domestic terrorism.

The last I looked, we still have the right to freedom is expression here in America … or am I wrong about that?

During the course of my writing and authorship, in speaking and corresponding with readers, reviewers, and writers from diverse backgrounds, I have learned that every single person has different likes, dislikes, beliefs in sex, politics, religions, and worldviews.

No two people are identical—even identical twins. Twins may dress and talk and walk the same—but one may like vanilla ice cream and the other may prefer rocky road. Who’s right? The one who likes rocky road or the one who loves vanilla? They are both right. It is a matter of preference—and no one preference is right or wrong. They are simply different and no amount of insulting or name calling is going to convert either one.

Studies have proven that when it comes to siblings, each child is born into a different family. Think about it. The first-born is born as an only child. The second child is born into an established family. The last child may be born into a big family. In each case, the circumstances—family dynamics—are different. Therefore, each comes away with different experiences and impressions of those experiences. How many of us know of siblings in which one remembers their childhood as something from Nightmare on Elm Street, while one or more saw their siblings saw their family as role models for The Waltons

Is it really any wonder that authors, reviewers, or readers don’t see the same book in the same manner? Are those who read “messages” between the lines that I did not intend wrong or stupid or judgmental? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Not me, I simply intended to write a thrilling mystery filled with suspense. But, as a human being and author, I respect those readers whose strong beliefs differ from mine. I only ask that they reciprocate with their respect.

After all, how else can billions of people, each one different in their own way, supposed to get along if we don’t respect each one’s differences?

So, when it comes to people, whether they be readers or reviewers or fellow human beings stuck on this same planet with me—or even my most devoted fan who still won’t read my murder mysteries—who disagree or dislike my books or what they perceive to be my worldview, I say, with a shrug of my shoulders, “That’s okay.”

That’s what writing about murder has taught me about life.

About the Author
Lauren & Gnarly
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime Mysteries. Her upcoming new series, The Thorny Rose Mysteries will be released Spring/Summer 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.  

Contact Lauren or visit her website and blogs at:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Mystery Release Roundup, March 1-3 2015

As is our custom on the first Tuesday of each month, below is a summary of this month's 35+ new mystery releases. A little something for everyone!

Let us know if there are any that we missed and we will update the list!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Mystery Releases 2/24/15

There were quite a bunch of new mystery releases today, so we wanted to try to do a quick post to gather them all in one place. 

Let us know if there are any we missed!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Survey Results: Looking Ahead

As we make plans for 2015 and beyond, we have realized that some questions can be answered only by our readers.  A few weeks ago we conducted a brief survey looking for ways to help serve you better.  We want to thank all of you that participated, and we learned so much that we will probably do this again at some point down the road!

Questions 1 & 2:  Would you be interested in a Must Read Romances or Must Read (insert genre) site? 

We have been considering the possibility of expanding the Must Read brand to cover other genres for quite a while now, but we weren't sure which direction to take first.   About two-thirds of you felt that we should branch out, and we have already launched the Must Read Romances Facebook page as well as the MRR blog.  Other suggestions that we are hoping to implement this year are a fantasy/sci-fi page and a page devoted to hardboiled mysteries and thrillers. We will keep you posted as our plans move forward, and hope that these sites will be beneficial to you.  

Question 3:  Do you use Amazon Smile?  If yes, please comment and let us know how and why.    

Roughly one-third of you said that you do make use of Amazon Smile. For those of you who don't know, Smile is a essentially a shadow site of Amazon where .5% of each purchase you make is given to the charity of your choice. While on the surface this program looks like a wonderful thing for charities and a no-brainer for consumers, we admit to having misgivings about the program.  As others have noted, we think there is a very real possibility that for some people Smile will replace part or all of their charitable giving and the net amount  donated to charity will actually be less than it was.  

Our other misgiving is more self serving: in some cases using Smile will replace purchases that were referred by an Amazon Associate like MRM (many of whom are themselves charities). The .5% donated through Smile is far less than the percentage earned by most Associates. How does this happen? If a link from MRM or another Associate brings you to Amazon for an item you decide to purchase, but you then go to your Smile account to make the purchase rather than purchasing from Amazon directly after following the link, the Associate will not get credit for the purchase.  While this does benefit the charity, part of the reason MRM exists is to help support our family and it is something we had to consider.

Fortunately, there is a solution that benefits everyone. Associates can refer customers to Smile directly, and if the customer does not use Smile they will be directed to the regular Amazon site. Going forward, whenever possible, we are going to explicitly direct people to the Smile site. If you don't use Smile this change should be completely transparent, but if you do use it our links will now land you in your Smile account rather than at Amazon.  We feel confident that this is a win for everyone.  You can continue (or begin) to support any charity you wish and we can support you by making the link to Amazon Smile seamless.  We hope that you will see this as a bonus and continue to support deserving charities if you desire.

Question 4:  Do you use Kindle Unlimited (KU)? If yes, please comment and tell us whether you are satisifed with this service.  

A very small percentage of our readers (only 6%) reported using KU, and most of the comments about the program were quite negative. As readers, we have found little value to the program because the selection is limited and many of the books that are included are also available at times for free or very inexpensively as Kindle Countdown Deals. The response of authors to the program has been decidedly mixed, and many are concerned that their earnings are being gutted.  This is disappointing to us.  We feel very strongly about supporting independent authors whenever possible, and feel that the growth of the indie and small presses has been a boon to readers and those blessed with the creative ability to keep us so well entertained!     

From a personal perspective, as Amazon Associates, our take on the program has been decidedly negative.  While authors may see their earnings squeezed when books are "borrowed" instead of bought, Associates promoting books lose out entirely when a book is borrowed and get no referral fee whatsoever.   This situation has the potential to become cyclical in that associates would become reluctant to promote books that are part of the KU program, leading to decreased exposure and promotion of independent authors.  However, since the percentage of our readers using KU is so low, we will continue to promote books enrolled in the program. We may need to revisit the issue in the future if the percentage changes.

In addition to the changes resulting from the survey and after being contacted by several interested authors, we have elected to offer inexpensive advertising on both the MRM and MRR sites.  You can learn more about advertising options here.  These ads will highlight up and coming books as well as established authors and presses.  If you are interested in becoming an MRM or MRR sponsor, please let us know.  

We would like to thank you for being so willing to share your thoughts on our offerings and to help us improve how we serve you.  We appreciate your support; we could not do what we do without YOU!   Please feel free to share any further comments or suggestions in the comments below, or contact us

Monday, February 9, 2015

Characterization - A Story's Life Blood by Blanche Day Manos

Today we are bringing you a guest post from Blanche Day Manos, co-author of the Darcy and Flora cozy mysteries. If you'd like to learn more about Darcy and Flora, you can pick up all three books in the series for .99 each for a limited time. Thanks, Blanche, for introducing us to your characters and sharing your thoughts on character development!

Characterization—A Story’s Life Blood

by Blanche Day Manos

My favorite part of writing fiction is developing the characters. I like to create an appropriate setting and have an intriguing plot line but my characters are the books themselves.

The protagonists for the Darcy and Flora series are, well, Darcy and Flora. Darcy, recently widowed, has returned to her hometown of Levi, Oklahoma to heal from her loss and decide on a new direction for her life. Flora is Darcy’s mother. Flora’s husband, Darcy’s father, died twenty years ago. She welcomes Darcy back home to the hundred-year old farmhouse that has sheltered the Tucker family for a long time.

I want readers of the books to know and like Darcy and Flora. I want them to understand and sympathize with their problems and root for them when the going gets tough. These two ladies are the life of the books.

However, Levi, Oklahoma is home to other residents. So, in come the supporting characters: Sheriff Grant Hendley who was a long ago sweetheart of Darcy’s; Grant’s deputy Jim with the abrasive personality; Jackson Conner, Levi’s lawyer and an admirer of Flora’s; Pat, Flora’s quirky friend. Other people come to life on the pages including the villains who, hopefully, won’t be recognized as the villains until near the book’s end.

And, here’s a funny thing about all three of the Darcy and Flora books: ghostly characters move through the pages of these books! I don’t mean I present these unseen people as ghosts but The Cemetery Club begins with the death of a pivotal character; without him, there would be no story but we never see him alive, only dead. In Grave Shift, searching for a young woman is the reason Darcy and Flora nearly lose their own lives. And, in Best Left Buried, long-dead people in Darcy and Flora’s family are the reason for the mystery.

When I develop characters, I get to know all about them before introducing them to the reader. I know what they look like, their ages, likes and dislikes, their goals and motivations, personality traits, and their backgrounds. Backgrounds are especially important because they are the reason the characters act as they do. Each person has a story that has led him up to the current time. It’s fun to write those backgrounds and a good chance to let my imagination soar!

My characters talk. A lot! I don’t tell the reader what they say, I let the reader hear them speaking. Here’s a really important thing: the characters do not all sound alike! Their words reflect their thoughts. No two people are the same so why should they sound the same?

From Best Left Buried: Mom fiddled with the fringe on her afghan. “I hope you understand, Pat that we can’t say too much about what Cub dug up. It was a parcel, I guess you’d say, and not a box. We’ve told Grant all about it and also Jackson Conner. We’re going to let them take care of it.”

Jethro rubbed against Pat’s leg. She reached down and scooped him onto her lap. “Well, fiddlesticks! I don’t see why you can’t tell me or at least let me see that confounded parcel or whatever it is.”

And, in The Cemetery Club: Jim Clendon squinted at me. “What’s this about finding some poor devil dead on top of the ground at the cemetery? Don’t you know that’s unlawful? You’re supposed to let ‘em stay buried.”

“Forgive me if I don’t find that amusing,” I said between clenched teeth. My head pounded like a kettledrum. Mom’s aspirin had yet to work. “And,” I added, “that is not ‘some poor devil’, that’s Ben Ventris lying out there.”

Clendon grinned and shot a stream of tobacco juice into a puddle.

Which brings me to another important part of the Darcy and Flora books. They are written first person, Darcy’s viewpoint. The reader doesn’t see or think anything that Darcy doesn’t. Personally, I think skipping from one viewpoint character to the next is confusing. And, for me, it’s a good reason to close a book without finishing it.

So there you have my ideas on characterization. I love writing and I like the people in my books. It’s rather fun to drop in at Darcy and Flora’s and have a cup of coffee at the cherry wood table. I’m always a little sad when I finish a book. It’s like taking leave of good friends. I like to think of the characters as moving on with their lives, solving more mysteries, and captivating more audiences. To me, they are real and I hope my readers feel that way too.

About the Author:

Blanche Day Manos
Why would a retired, mild-mannered kindergarten teacher suddenly turn to murder and mayhem? The transformation wasn’t sudden, actually, it was rather gradual since Blanche Day Manos has been writing for many years. And, not to worry, the wickedness takes place only within the pages of her books.

 A teacher and a writer have quite a bit in common. A teacher is a word craft. So is a writer. A teacher wants the best for her little charges and, believe me, a writer wants the best for her books. A teacher wants her children to take a path which leads them to satisfactory outcomes and although she can’t control that, she can make sure that her protagonists come through their challenges in a satisfactory way! A cozy mystery writer loves happy endings.

A native Oklahoman recently transplanted to Arkansas, Blanche Day Manos is familiar with the Sooner state. Because of that, she sets her books in rural Oklahoma. To date, her published books, written with co-author Barbara Burgess, include the Darcy and Flora cozy mystery series: The Cemetery Club, Grave Shift, and Best Left Buried. However, mysterious ideas for the next cozy are already lurking within the brain of this teacher turned writer. Whatever the next cozy is, I’m guessing it has quite a bit to do with the perils of lawlessness and will, undoubtedly include a happy ending.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Love and Murder - Together at Last by Lauren Carr

Today we are pleased to share with you a guest post from Lauren Carr, best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime mystery series.

Love and Murder - Together at Last

By Lauren Carr

I love great couples. By that, I don’t mean sexy couples who look like they were brought together by a modeling agency to sell perfume. Have you noticed that couples like that don’t usually last? I think it’s because they don’t make mirrors big enough for both partners and their egos.

I’m talking about couples who complement and play off each other. They are two halves that, when put together, make one fun whole.

Back when my husband and I were newlyweds, shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs, we were befriended by the couple who lived next door. Jack and Judy had been married close to forty years at that point and had raised three children. I loved spending time with the two of them. Their personalities played off each other so well.

A retired Navy officer, Jack was distinguished and honorable. Judy was fun and sparkly. When they were together, she would give him that adoring look that told you how much she loved him, even after forty years together. On his part, she made him laugh.

They had been together so long, that they were beyond the adolescent phase of sex and had moved into intimacy of the mind and soul. They were so into each other that they could read each other’s thoughts and finish their partner’s sentences.

That’s the type of couples that I strive to match together in my mysteries—not just sexy glamour-pusses—but two fun people that readers would like to have for friends.

In Three Days to Forever, I finally introduce readers to Mac Faraday’s daughter, Jessica. In previous books in this series, Jessica and her brother Tristan would be mentioned in passing. Both of Mac’s children have been grown and attending college.

Don’t be fooled by Jessica’s gorgeous violet eyes (inherited from her famous grandmother Robin Spencer) and spoiled rich girl surroundings. Jessica Faraday is a recent graduate from William and Mary College with a master in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience.

Readers are also reintroduced to Murphy Thornton, Joshua Thornton’s (of Lovers in Crime) son, a graduate of the Naval Academy, who is up to his ears in top secret clandestine operations with the government.

When these two offspring from top-notch detectives meet, it is destined to be a match made in a mystery author’s imagination as you can see in this excerpt from Three Days to Forever.

In this excerpt, Murphy Thornton thwarts a kidnapping attempt at a truck stop off the interstate where he has stopped on his way to Deep Creek Lake. The victim of this attempted abduction is none other than Jessica Faraday, the daughter of the man with whom Murphy’s father has disappeared.

After the rescue, Jessica Faraday steps out of the truck stop to be introduced to Murphy Thornton, who is holding her nine month old puppy, Spencer, is a blue merle Shetland sheepdog.


“Ma’am,” one of the state troopers stopped her (Jessica Faraday) when she stepped out of the manager’s office after dressing in fresh clothes from her suitcase. “I thought you might like to meet the gentleman who saved you.” He took the handle of her suitcase to wheel it out for her.

Having acquired friends who lived in a variety of places, Jessica had learned how to pack. With her clothes ruined by the blood, she made an easy change. Seemingly unaware of how the sweater and leather pants hugged every slender curve of her body, Jessica followed the trooper through the truck stop and out the front door into the snowy weather.

How she wished she hadn’t gotten evidence on her coat. Note to self—pack two winter coats next time.

Jessica stepped outside to see the most dashing smile she had ever seen. He held out his hand from where he was holding her dog. Jessica felt the blood rushing in her ears while he stared at her with blue eyes that sparkled like sapphire jewels.

The state trooper cleared his throat. “His name is Murphy Thornton. He’s an officer in the navy.”

Murphy continued to stare at her.

The senior trooper said, “And her name is Jessica Faraday.”

Blinking, Murphy stuck out his hand. “I’m Murphy Thornton.”

“I already told her that,” the trooper whispered.

Before Jessica could take Murphy’s hand, Spencer proceeded to lick his fingers and wag her whole body. He patted Spencer on the head.

“Th-thornton?” she stuttered out. She stopped to swallow. “I’m sorry, I’m still lightheaded from the chloroform.”

“I understand.” He reached around Spencer to take her hand. “Your father is Mac Faraday?”

“Y-yes,” she said through chattering teeth.

Murphy glanced around to the man with the knife who was being loaded into the back of a police car. “I don’t want to frighten you, but these guys were not your average kidnappers of opportunity. I know your father is missing. Mine is, too. My dad is Joshua Thornton.”

Jessica gazed up at him. “Our fathers are friends,” she said in barely a whisper.
He gazed into her deep violet eyes. He had to fight to keep from being pulled into the desire he felt as he gazed at her lovely face, framed by raven waves and her alabaster skin. He was dying to touch it.

He had to concentrate on the matter at hand. Here was Mac Faraday’s daughter, and whoever was chasing their fathers had gone after her.


“Why do you have my dog?” she asked him, interrupting his attempt to take his focus off her gorgeous violet eyes.

“Candi needed a bathroom break,” he replied.

“Her name is Spencer,” she said.

“I call her Candi.” He stroked the sheltie’s head while she continued to lick his jaw.

She took her dog back into her arms. “You renamed my dog?” To her surprise, Spencer struggled against her. 

“Because she reminds me of a girl I knew in high school,” he replied with a crooked grin. “She liked to kiss all the guys, too.”

With dimples in both cheeks, his smile is as sexy as his eyes. A shiver ran through her that made her feel weak in her knees.

“You must be freezing,” she heard him say. Before she knew it, his leather jacket was draped across her shoulders. She became lost in his blue eyes when he stood before her to pull the collar together in the front to block the cold wind.

“Feel better now?” He flashed that killer smile at her.

“Totally,” she murmured.

What will become of Murphy and Jessica? Will they find their fathers? Who is after Mac Faraday and Joshua Thornton? Which of these two detectives is the hit squad’s target? Why did they come after Jessica? If Murphy keeps calling Jessica’s dog Candi, will she ever learn that her name is really Spencer?

Find out the answer to these questions and more.  Get your copy of Three Days to Forever today.  

About the Author
Lauren & Gnarly
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime Mysteries. Her upcoming new series, The Thorny Rose Mysteries will be released Spring/Summer 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.  

Contact Lauren or visit her website and blogs at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Mystery Release Roundup, February 1-3, 2015

Another big first Tuesday of new mystery releases, and as is our custom on the MRM blog we are here to round them up! There are nearly 30 new ones, with something for every taste, including:

Let us know if there are any we missed and we will add them to the list!

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