Audio Spotlight & Author Interview: Murder At St. Margaret + Excerpt

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Title: Murder At St. Margaret

Author: Lynn Morrison

Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

Length: 8 hours 16 minutes

Series: Oxford Key Mysteries, Book 1

Released: Sep. 27, 2021

Publisher: Marketing Chair Press

Genre: Cozy Mystery

“Grief can change us… rewire our brains and shift the way we look at the world…”

A dead chef. A ruined gala. And the ghosts didn’t see a thing.
As Oxford’s new Head of Ceremonies, Natalie Payne’s first task is to organize St Margaret’s autumn gala. However, her plans are dashed when she finds their famed chef dead in the kitchen.
And then a centuries-old cat informs Nat she has her own magical legacy…and responsibilities. A murder in the halls is a sure sign that something has gone wrong with Oxford’s magical protections.
Now Nat has to solve the murder, find a new chef for the gala, and figure out why Oxford’s magical defenses are down. With the help of Oxford’s magical Eternals and some new friends, Nat has a chance.
But can she do it before St Margaret loses its connection to the magic of Oxford?
If you like cozy mysteries where ghosts walk the halls, paintings come to life, creatures play, and magic seems within reach, the Oxford Key Mysteries are sure to delight.

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Q&A with Author Lynn Morrison
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • I wish! Murder at St Margaret was the first cozy mystery I wrote, and at the time, my only thought was about writing a story which would hold together. I could not have imagined how many copies of the book would sell, or even begin to dream of making an audiobook. It wasn’t until the fourth book in the series came out, and I started to see a steady income, that I began to think about making audio versions.
    • Now that I am farther along in my career, I do keep the idea of audio in the back of my mind as I write. I try to cut down on the dialogue tags and introduce more motion and movements instead. But, I think some of that comes along as part of your natural progression as you get better over time.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I didn’t start thinking about producing an audio version of Murder at St Margaret until a year after it was released. By then, I had good information on what other books my readers liked. I looked up those titles on Audible and checked which narrators the authors had chosen. Pearl Hewitt’s name came up again and again. She has an incredible ability to effortlessly switch character voices as she reads, and really brings the story to life in a way only audio can. It was no surprise that listeners love her. I contacted her out of the blue via her website, and lo and behold, she said yes!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • I put together character bios for each of the main characters, and prepared a 15 minute test script pulling out different excerpts from the book. I specifically chose scenes which were dialogue-heavy so I could hear how she would differentiate between the characters. There were a few smaller characters which I didn’t include in my advance preparation. After reading the book, Pearl came up with suggestions for how their voices should sound – and I have to say that she did a brilliant job of it. She recorded the 15 minute sample and I circulated it to a few fans for feedback. Pearl took on board all their comments and then took care of everything from there. I didn’t have to do anything else until the book was ready to approve in Audible.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • I pulled from both my own experiences of living in Oxford and being a professor’s wife, along with doing a ton of background research into the colleges themselves when writing this series. Oxford is such a unique city, and the university is full of quirks and traditions which are fascinating to outsiders. I wanted to bring my readers behind the closed doors of the colleges and let them see what life is really like. I haven’t seen any ghosts in Oxford, nor have any of the paintings come to life as I’ve walked past, but my imagination was more than happy to fill in the blanks when it came to dreaming up the magical elements.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • Writers talk a lot about the importance of refilling your creative well, and I fully agree with that sentiment. I read a LOT of books each year – 150 or more on average. I need to lose myself in someone else’s story to remember why I write.
    • I also spend a long time thinking about a book idea before I sit down to start a project. I flesh it out in my mind until I am super excited to see the story come to life. I am usually thinking one or two books ahead of whatever project I’m currently doing. This helps me keep up my writing pace – each finish line marks the start of something I’m excited to tackle.
    • One of the funnest parts of being a writer (and one of the weirdest) is seeing your characters take on a life of their own as you write the story. I am a plotter. I write a synopsis and outline before I put the first word onto paper. But no matter how much I prep, there is always a moment where a character will suddenly veer in a new and interesting direction. Wherever that happens, I can only sit back in amazement and see where they lead me. It keeps me guessing, even though I’m the writer.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I wrote this series in first person, present tense because I wanted the reader to feel like they are experiencing everything at the same time as my main character is doing so in the story. When put into an audio format, this gives the story a real sense of immediacy. I think it allows the listener to sink deeper into the tale, and feel as though they are sitting in on the conversations and making each discovery along with Natalie and her friends.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • As an author, I want readers to enjoy my story in whatever format is most comfortable for them. That might be a paperback, or an ebook, or the audio version. Arguing over “which format is better” misses the point – the main focus should be on accessibility. The only person who gets a vote on the format is the reader.
    • On a personal note, my younger daughter is dyslexic, and for a long while she hated reading. She has, however, always loved listening to stories. Audiobooks were a natural fit for her.
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • We ate cake! I started a tradition of either baking or buying a cake whenever I finish a book. It gives me something to look forward to when I am elbow deep in edits, and it also reminds my family there is a reward for putting up with my book deadline stress. As I start to get close to the end, we all discuss which cake we want to eat when it comes time to celebrate.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • Don’t stress over the quality of your first draft. I am a strong believer that anything can be fixed in edits – even if that means you have to do a major rewrite. Major rewrites aren’t that bad! The key thing is to get a first draft done so you can enjoy the satisfaction that comes from writing a book. It is an incredible accomplishment – and the warm feelings you get will support you through the editing process. I would also suggest that you start networking with other writers in your genre as soon as you can. Join author groups on Facebook or Discord, or post comments and replies to authors on other social media platforms. The writing community is filled with supportive people who are happy to cheer you on or lend a hand (or be a sympathetic ear). Writing can feel lonely at times, and knowing other writers can make a big difference on dark days.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I am hard at work on the next book! I jump from one project to another, and always have at least one book in progress. At the moment I’m working on two books – one is for the Oxford Key Mysteries and the other is for my Midlife in Raven series.

Lynn Morrison lives in Oxford, England along with her husband, two daughters and two cats. Born and raised in Mississippi, her wanderlust attitude has led her to live in California, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, in addition to the UK. It’s no surprise then that she loves to travel, with a never-ending wish list of destinations to visit.

She is as passionate about reading as she is writing, and can almost always be found with a book in hand. You can find out more about her on her website LynnMorrisonWriter.com.

If you want to chat with her directly, join her Facebook group – Lynn Morrison’s Not a Book Club – where she happily talks about books, life and anything else that crosses her mind.

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Narrator Bio

Originally from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in Northeast England, audiobook narrator Pearl Hewitt currently lives with her husband and two children in Houston, Texas. Over the years she has worked as a customer service rep, a teaching assistant, and a teacher, but deep down there was always a performer wanting to get out. In 2007 her twelve-year-old son told her that he believed she was so good at reading stories out loud that she should do that as a job. That was her defining, eureka moment, and she’s never looked back. Pearl immersed herself in training and pursued a career in general voice acting but in 2012 she decided to focus her attention to narrating audiobooks in a wide range of genres. It was then that her professional career blossomed. She regularly works directly with indie authors but also narrates for a number of major publishers and has gained lots of recognition in the process including IAAIS awards, a Voice Arts Award nomination and Audiofile Magazine reviews. Pearl’s is comfortable narrating both fiction and non-fiction titles and has been very successful reading British Regency romance, cozy murder mysteries, fantasy/science fiction, children’s literature, the classics, history, biographies and more.

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Book Blitz: Tea & Talismans, by Elle Wren Burke

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Tea and Talismans

Tea & Talismans
by Elle Wren Burke
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Age: 13 – 18 years

Alara Beatty never thought her life would change so fast.

She’s only just begun to use her psychic abilities, and she’s already being met with a slew of truths and challenges. In a short span of time, she’s met her biological aunt, solved a murder, and discovered that she was given up for adoption due to a mysterious prophecy.

But that’s certainly not all that’s in store for Alara. Suddenly, her biological family members are flocking to her small town of Prickly Pear, Arizona to meet her…and evaluate her psychic strength.

As Alara begins to get used to her new situation, her cousin Todd receives a mysterious death threat…one that she knows to take seriously. Together, she and Todd must investigate the threats and try to determine who they’re coming from—before it’s far too late.

Not only must Alara learn to use her psychic abilities, she also needs to determine who she can trust. Her newfound family? And what about Rudi Rivera, her charming, handsome police officer friend who has no idea that Alara is psychic?

Author Elle Wren Burke offers this stunning sequel, “Tea & Talismans”, the second book in her cozy yet captivating paranormal mystery series.

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About the Author:

Elle Wren Burke is a paranormal cozy mystery author who writes witty, fun books with strong females as protagonists.

Elle has Master’s degrees in Geography and Business. She lives in Arizona with her husband and fur baby. She enjoys puzzles, baking, and bubble baths.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Politics Makes Strange Deadfellows + Giveaway

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Politics Makes Strange Deadfellows

Kate Matthews Mystery Series Book 2

by Jane DiLucchio

Genre: Cozy LGBTQ Mystery

 

Kate Matthews expected to face challenges when she was elected to the Santa Barbara City Council. She hadn’t counted on her sister-in-law, Michelle, being one of them.

Kate understood that Michelle was mentally ill and periodically homeless. What she didn’t understand was why Michelle turned up in Santa Barbara only to disappeared again—until the police announced that Michelle was wanted in connection with a murder.

Wading through the morass of Michelle’s life in order to find out the truth while also handling Council politics and issues proves to be more complicated than Kate could ever have anticipated. When her wife and children become entangled in the quagmire, Kate finds out just how much she is willing to do to save her family.

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politicsmakestrangedeadfellows - excerpt

Celia Tucker, California Coastal Commissioner and all-around pain in the butt, was my regular massage client Sunday afternoons. As I parked the car in the driveway of her ocean-view home, I took deep, centering breaths, knowing that Celia’s high energy level required me to be even calmer than usual during a session.
A gush of wind greeted me when I opened the unlocked front door. A gray, marble-floored entry led to a wide living room framed by windows and glass French doors overlooking the distant ocean.
I called my greetings as I set up the massage table between the couch and the fireplace. I covered the table with my usual soft, flannel sheets then topped it with an 800-thread-count linen that Celia had left out for me. She preferred the feel of her Egyptian cotton next to her bare skin.

As I spread the oil on her exposed leg, Celia screamed, “My back! My back’s burning!” She jerked herself upright on the massage table. As she sat up, the sheet fell from her shoulders. Red welts were forming on her back. “Epi. EpiPen.”
Celia’s gasp and waving arm propelled me to her purse. I dug through it and located the plastic tube. Mentally reviewing the instructions Celia had given me when I first started working with her, I popped open the top and slid the pen out of the holder. Grasping it firmly in my fist, I flipped up the safety lid and then pushed the pen against Celia’s thigh. I held it there as I counted ten long seconds. Each second was accompanied by wheezes from Celia’s constricting trachea. Her lips were swelling.
I tossed the pen aside and scanned the room for Celia’s phone while I massaged the medication into her leg. In those scant seconds, redness spread across the leg I had just oiled.
I sprinted across the room to an end table beside the couch, grabbed the phone, and punched in 9-1-1.
Despite the epinephrine, Celia’s breathing worsened. The emergency dispatcher stayed on the line as I detailed the developments. As she was describing what I might do in order to help Celia breathe, the EMTs pounded on the door.


Going Coastal

Kate Matthews Mystery Series Book 1

 

A client dying on her massage table is traumatic enough for Kate Matthews, but when the police declare that death a homicide, her life is upended as she is cast as the major suspect.


None of this is what Kate expected from her move to the peaceful, beach town of Santa Barbara, California. After a near-fatal heart attack, an early retirement from her Los Angeles law firm, and a change in careers, Kate envisioned a quiet life with her wife, Alicia, and their grown children.


Since her client, Celia Tucker, held a politically-influential position on the California Coastal Commission, the murder becomes a media event. Kate finds herself and her family sucked into the maelstrom. The former lawyer has all she can do to find the truth behind Celia’s death without adding her own name to the body count.

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politicsmakestrangedeadfellows - excerpt

Celia Tucker, California Coastal Commissioner and all-around pain in the butt, was my regular massage client Sunday afternoons. As I parked the car in the driveway of her ocean-view home, I took deep, centering breaths, knowing that Celia’s high energy level required me to be even calmer than usual during a session.
A gush of wind greeted me when I opened the unlocked front door. A gray, marble-floored entry led to a wide living room framed by windows and glass French doors overlooking the distant ocean.
I called my greetings as I set up the massage table between the couch and the fireplace. I covered the table with my usual soft, flannel sheets then topped it with an 800-thread-count linen that Celia had left out for me. She preferred the feel of her Egyptian cotton next to her bare skin.

As I spread the oil on her exposed leg, Celia screamed, “My back! My back’s burning!” She jerked herself upright on the massage table. As she sat up, the sheet fell from her shoulders. Red welts were forming on her back. “Epi. EpiPen.”
Celia’s gasp and waving arm propelled me to her purse. I dug through it and located the plastic tube. Mentally reviewing the instructions Celia had given me when I first started working with her, I popped open the top and slid the pen out of the holder. Grasping it firmly in my fist, I flipped up the safety lid and then pushed the pen against Celia’s thigh. I held it there as I counted ten long seconds. Each second was accompanied by wheezes from Celia’s constricting trachea. Her lips were swelling.
I tossed the pen aside and scanned the room for Celia’s phone while I massaged the medication into her leg. In those scant seconds, redness spread across the leg I had just oiled.
I sprinted across the room to an end table beside the couch, grabbed the phone, and punched in 9-1-1.
Despite the epinephrine, Celia’s breathing worsened. The emergency dispatcher stayed on the line as I detailed the developments. As she was describing what I might do in order to help Celia breathe, the EMTs pounded on the door.


Jane DiLucchio is a late bloomer when it comes to writing.

She spent many years as a teacher (first elementary school and later at the community college level), massage therapist, and backyard farmer before giving in to the little voices that kept sounding off in her head.

Since there’s a thin line between a psychotic and a writer (psychotics try to convince everyone that the voices they hear are real; writers write it down and tell everyone its fiction), Jane finally decided to give in to the voices rather than undergo intensive psychotherapy.

Jane and her wife are raising their two cats in a loving home in Southern California. (Actually, the cats allow Jane and Sue to live with them in return for certain personal services, but that’s another story entirely.) Jane continues to raise crops, travel, write, and spend time with her friends and family – all activities she loves.

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