07 May 2022
21 April 2022
Damn, woman!! Abigail Keam is the new Goddess of the Cozy Mystery. A bit of well-earned, well-deserved hyperbole. I just finished the 7th Book, Death By Haunting, in the #AJosiahReynoldsMystery series and I swear, I'm still in a state of tense.
17 April 2022
**I received an Advanced Reading Copy for review.**
The latest in A Josiah Reynolds Mystery is undoubtedly the best of the series. But then I say that with every book, and quite frankly, I mean it too. These books get more and more intricate, the plotting gets more and more involved, and Josiah keeps me endlessly intrigued with her life as an amateur sleuth.
In Death by Poison, Josiah has entered her American Paint horse, Morning Glory, in a parade to celebrate Kentucky’s Horse Capital of the World title. But just as she’s gotten the rambunctious pony hitched up and in the queue, infamous local horse whisperer, Velvet Maddox gives her a very grave pronouncement. “I see death around this horse.” What to do. It’s either pull the horse out of the line up or ignore all the hard work Josiah and boyfriend, Hunter Wickliffe, have put into the outing.
Josiah decides, this time, Velvet is wrong and nudges the pony along. Which is when it all goes to hell and then something drops down just in time for the horse and cart to run over it. When Jo sees a leg protruding from beneath the cart—a human leg—the realization of Velvet’s assessment being right on the money comes too late.When the realization that it’s the bane of Josiah’s existence, it’s a matter of self-preservation that sets her on the path to finding out who killed the victim.
These characters are so real, so vivid, that they should be walking about in front of me. My own private movie and I sit with popcorn, reading until I’ve finished. The pacing is right on, keeping me drawn in but never slow enough to lose my attention. Twists and turns are a fact of the game but sometimes can be contrived. Not in the hands of a skilled author like Abigail Keam. Things happen organically, naturally, and the red herrings are plentiful and just as possible. When I say I couldn’t put this down, it’s not hyperbole. I had to know. I had to know what was coming next and how the hell she was going to piece this together. And when she finally did, the ending was very satisfying and I felt as if I’d been put through the ringer.
Another five star reading from an amazing and talented author. A definite must read, as is the rest of the series.
Death by Poison by Abigail Keam is $4.99 for the ebook and $15.00 for the paperback. Set to be released on Monday, April 18, Preorder your copy today. You won’t be sorry.
17 February 2022
This piece was originally written for the Flash of Valentine's Day fiction group and published on their website.
Your best friend just set you up on a blind date. You just know this is an exercise in futility. And then you see the one man you've always wanted to get to know. What do you do?
Marlene stepped out of the shower, wrapping the towel around her long chestnut curls, and using the other to dry herself off. She stepped into the bedroom, trying to think what the hell she was going to wear…and stopped in front of her full length mirror. She managed to drop the towel to the floor without making some kind of remark about the woman in the reflection. She wanted to. Mirrors were not her friends. And this one surely wasn’t.
She stared at the overly curvy woman and wondered what kind of fool would want to date her. Forty pounds overweight, what the hell was she thinking? Breasts that were saggy at best, and even that was being kind. No decent guy was going to find her attractive. Probably a good thing that Natalie hadn’t given her the guy’s number or she’d be doing a quick phone call to cancel this blind date.
Marlie tilted her head, first one way and then the other. Well. Maybe she might be able to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. Sow’s ear, she thought with a huff. How appropriate for the pig in the mirror. Okay, guys loved big boobs. Maybe she could wear the dark purple dress that would show off the cleavage. Yeah, the shirred sides accentuated her curves even more. She didn’t look quite so fat when she wore it. The amethyst necklace and matching earrings would give her a bit of a sparkle too. She didn’t look so bad when she wore that. Maybe pile her hair on top of her head and let the curls cascade down over her shoulders.
It can work. I can at least be presentable. Hopefully, he’s a good conversationalist. Because he’s damn sure not getting a beauty queen.
She went to her makeup first, a flattering base that put some color in her face. A lovely shade of blush that put the roses in her cheeks. Blessed with long, thick eyelashes, she added just the lightest hint of plum to her lids and then went to town with the mascara. Her lips were a bit thin to worry about lipstick but, she could add a shimmer thanks to the gloss that she had purchased. She used her fingers to shake the curls loose and then a pair of tortoise shell combs to pile the hair just as she wanted. Marlie stepped back to look at that hateful image again and decided, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. She started to feel a little confidence building.
By the time she’d added the shaping underwear and her strapless bra, she was in the dress and zipping it up the side. She smiled at herself, her reflection smiling back. There was just enough emphasis on the cleavage and her eyes were smoky and sultry. Maybe… Maybe…
She drove to the restaurant, one minute petrified that this was a stupid idea. The next minute telling herself that she had nothing to lose. One night, at least, where she wasn’t going to be alone. She wasn’t going to sit with another Lean Cuisine and watching NCIS reruns. And in between, trying to decide what they’d talk about. She could sound like she knew something. Not just a brainless Administrative Assistant. This is stupid. I should just go home. I want to go home.
Valet parking? Oh God, it was that kind of restaurant. Did she have enough money in the checking account to cover her dinner? The valet helped her out of the car, and for the briefest moment, he almost seemed to be checking her out. But then, he jumped in her car to park it and she was immediately forgotten. She went inside to the host’s station.
She suddenly realized that she had no idea whose name was on the reservation. That panic rose up again.
“Miss? Is your name Marlene Wallace?”
Marlie glanced up. “How did you know that?”
The host held out a card with her name on it, the time of the reservation, and Lily’s name. She’d put the reservation under her own name.
“Come with me, Ms. Wallace. I’ll take you to your table.”
Lily Harry was her best friend. And worried about Marlie constantly. It was rather nice but she could take care of herself. And yet, Lily worried about her being alone. Lily had been the one to set up this blind date. Nothing like a pity date, she told herself. Lily’s heart was in the right place.
Marlie carried her clutch under her arm, pressed close to her side by her elbow. She followed the host, every step digging into her self-confidence a little more. She was a few steps from the table when she saw him. Oh shit, it had to be him. He isn’t interested in me. He won’t even look at me. Damn, Lily. Why him?
Him was the attorney in the office. Him was David Manning, a tall and well-built man with golden blond hair and the deepest chocolate brown eyes she’d ever seen. He looked like Robert Redford in Sneakers, but a bit younger. She had been smitten with him since she’d come to work in that office. But he never looked at her. Never gave her the time of day. And always seemed to have a hot model on his arm. Lily fixed her up with him? That was cold and cruel.
David looked up at her as she got even closer and for a moment, he stared at her. Forgetting his manners. He opened his mouth to say something and she knew it. She just knew it. He was trying to find some way to let her down easy and make his exit. The rock dropped in her stomach and she stood with the clutch her hand, trying not to burst into tears.
“Marlie? Please sit.”
He was standing next to her, holding the chair for her. She met his gaze and nodded, sitting down. He scooted her to the table and came back to his seat.
“Let me guess,” she started. “You were hoping for Jackie in reception. She is a former Miss Kentucky.”
He poured a glass of sparkling wine and held it out to her. “I’m not sure which one of us has been insulted here. You for not realizing how beautiful you are…or me, thinking I’m that superficial.”
The shock had to be showing on her face. He…he… He thinks I’m beautiful?
“I’m sorry. I didn’t…mean it that way. I just…” Marlie took a sip of the wine. Chilled and absolutely delicious. “I didn’t think you were the blind date type.”
“I’m not really,” he answered, sipping his own glass. “I hope you like chardonnay.”
For the first time since she’d sat down, she smiled. A genuine smile. And felt something…go away. “I do,” she answered. “This is wonderful.”
“I don’t know much,” he explained, “but I do know good wine. This is a small local vintner. I usually buy several bottles when I can. I like to support local businesses.”
“Yeah. A bit.”
“I’m kinda glad that Lily booked this place. It’s my favorite. They have great Italian here. Fresh made pasta and the sauces are pure heaven.”
“I love seafood alfredo,” she answered.
The surprise on his face was hilarious. Like he’d been expecting her to say something else. It suddenly dawned on her that he was just as nervous as she was. There was a light sheen of perspiration on his face and his fingers moved restlessly on the tablecloth. Why are you nervous?
“It’s my favorite dish here.” He winked at her, a teasing gesture. “Have you been spying on me?” When she started to bluster at that, he put a hand out to touch hers. “Hey, I was just teasing. Are you okay?”
Marlie lifted the glass to her lips again and was surprised that it was empty. She’d drunk that entire thing without paying attention. She stared at it stupidly but he was already refilling it. For a moment, she had a sense it was a really dumb idea and moved to put the glass back down. Only to have it to her lips again, taking another small sip. And feeling suddenly very bold.
“No. I’m scared.”
She shook her head. “I don’t belong here. I’m not your type, David. I’m not young and thin and pretty. I burp my wine, I eat too much, and… and….”
She was surprised to find out that he was still holding her hand.
“And what, Marlie?”
“When Lily set this up, did she tell you it was me?”
“No,” he answered. The smile was lighting up his eyes into warm chocolate pools. “She just told me it was going to be someone I’d been wanting to be with for a long while.”
Surprise turned to shock.
“Wait…you wanted to be with me?”
David chuckled again, his cheeks turning a light shade of pink. “She never told you? God, you’re all I talked about. Feels like you’re all I ever talk about…when I’m not talking about the legal aspects of the company.”
David raised his glass in a toast to her, then sipped. “For what? Having a saucy mouth? I love that about you. It’s one of the things that made me want to get to know you. I figured a woman with a saucy mouth was going to be a real woman with spirit.”
“But I’m…I’m…damn it, I’m fat. Why would you be interested in a fat woman?”
“First off, you’re not fat. You have more curves and they are delicious. If I want to make love to a bag of sticks, I’ll go date one.”
“But what about all those models?”
David blushed again. “They asked me out. I was arm candy. Besides, all they talked about was themselves. And their careers. They didn’t give a damn about me.”
The stone in the pit of her stomach was gone. It sounded like he was lonely too. Marlie turned her hand in his so that she could thread her fingers in his. “I do.”
It was his turn to be surprised. “You do? Really?”
She giggled. “I do. I give a damn about you. And movies. And manga. And anime.”
“I love anime. And manga. And movies.” He raised her hand to his lips, raising up just enough to kiss that hand. “I really did want to go out with you. I think you’re sexy and funny. I just didn’t know how to talk to you. What to say.”
“I wanted to talk to you too. But I just figured I wasn’t your type. That you’d never be interested in me.”
She smiled, a real smile. Feeling sexier than she’d ever felt before. Knowing that he thought she was made it all worthwhile.
“I think we need to give Lily a special present. To thank her for this evening.”
They raised their glasses in salute to their friend. And to each other.
11 June 2021
I love fanfiction. Love it, y' hear? Love it. Especially when it gets good and steamy. I love steamy fanfic. When you can read all about your current infatuation "in action". Especially when you can imagine that it's you that s/he is getting it on with.
But writing it seems to be a different matter among many authors. I know of quite a few that refuse to release their characters to fanfic. Even going so far as to threaten legal action if they catch it happening. And I know of many other authors that don't mind as long as you stick to their canon. But I think they forget that there were some very famous authors who wrote and still write fanfiction. James Joyce wrote Ulysses, a fan fiction piece taken from the stories in The Illiad. Neil Gaiman wrote his Norse Mythology, as an unapologetic retelling of the Norse myths of Thor, Odin, and Loki. And let's not forget The Stan, aka Stan Lee who created his own fanfic in the form of his comics about the Norse Gods.
Do a Google search on famous authors who wrote fan fiction. You'll get a long list.
I love reading fanfiction. But I also love writing it. Go on An Archive of Their Own and look for Lady Thomas Sharpe. I love writing Loki fanfiction -- based on the mythology and the Marvel character -- as well as Tom Hiddleston fan fic. And I write some serious NSFW (Not Safe For Work) stuff, too.
If you ask me, I don't discourage it. No, you're not writing your own, but.... It will give you great practice in plotting, character development, and writing in the original landscape will teach you how to make your own. It takes work to write fanfic. To be faithful to the characters and the author's intent. Or the movie's intent. Once you learn the tricks of the fanfic trade, you'll be able to go in and make your own stories, your own characters. Once you learn how the originals plotted and then, you'll know what to do with your own worlds and genres.
Always a good thing. Find someone or some world that you feel passionate about and get to writing. Learn by doing. And then come back and give me a link in the comments. I promise, I'll be glad to read. I can't wait.
Write on, Fellow Authors
26 April 2021
From the Coffeyhouse!
And so begins the journey of a blank page to a finished product. Care to join me? Then, let's take the first step. Although, technically, I already have.
I decided to write a sequel to the Her Super Spy trilogy (by Jess Austen, one of my pen names--and that's another post entirely--and you can find them here. First book is still $.99). I wanted to pick up with the other couple in the stories--Alex and Robbie. Had a great idea of the plots for another trilogy. Found my couple again, found the villains. Even included a bit of Kentucky lore. I even found a working title for the books.
And hit the proverbial wall.
Everyone's heard the term "writer's block" but you have to be a writer to truly understand the term. It's more than just having a problem writing. It's a crippling "I suck!", self-loathing term. We all go through it. I rather suspect that's George R. R. Martin's problem with his Song of Fire and Ice series. But, that too, is another blog. Suffice it to say that, my writer's block is usually a case of a story going the wrong way. Instead of letting it flow organically, I have a bad tendency to try to force my will on them. And the characters and the story will eventually fight back in the form of...nothing coming.
Which was the case here. I had a great opening chapter too; Robbie and Alex get to making the beast with two backs on the dining room table. It just wasn't working. I gutted the chapter half a dozen times. I went through that "I suck" syndrome. I even blamed the story. And then, in one of my usual 3 AM run to the toilet to pee moments, I realized what the problem was.
Why is it always me in the bathroom getting the fixes or the plots or the characters? Yeah, another blog entry.
The problem was that Alex and Robbie, while being lovely people, were peripheral characters in the first trilogy and I had no ties to them at all. And no curiosity about their lives after the events of the storylines. I was trying to force something. And as Al Stewart once posited in song, "If it doesn't come naturally, leave it." So I did.
It's still a working title of Her G Man, but I found a different couple, a different way to approach the plot, and it's flowing. As "Crash Davis"* once said, "...respect the streak. Because they don't happen very often." Well, in writing, they can and do, but his point was well made. When the stars align, yoyu don't question, you just do.
So, here I go. And do.
21 April 2021
From the Coffeyhouse!
Not meaning to whine, but I have come to the conclusion that as an independent writer, there are just not enough hours in the day. Okay, maybe I'm whining just a little bit. But there just aren't. Let me explain.
Let's start with the number of hours in a week -- 168. Multiply 24 x 7 = 168 hours. Now, the break down.
I'm not at a point yet that I can just sit at home and write all day. One day, I pray. But not yet. So, I have an 8 hour a day, 40 hour a week day job. It pays the bills. That's 40 hours out of my schedule to pay those bills. Add another 56 hours a week to hit the pillow and do this little silly thing we call sleep. I'm a pretty fast eater, so maybe 2 hours a day to cook and eat food. 3 squares a day. There's another 14 hours out of the schedule.
Which leaves me a grand total of 58 hours a week to write, promote my own books while reading other books so I can review for others, and having some semblance of a life. Because, after all, I have family and friends to spend time with. I can't be chained to a desk -- oh yeah, I have to use the "powder room" in there, as well as shower because I get rather stinky if I don't.
And just to make this truly crazy, I write under three different pen names. My own name (Jesse V Coffey), Jess Austen, and Siobhan. I dropped the last name on that one. They keep confusing me with another Siobhan MacKenzie, who lives in the UK and has only one book to her name. Gets entertaining.
Not enough time to do what I truly love. Yeah, I guess I'm whining. But, for someone reading and trying to get into the writing game, you need to know what you're getting into. Especially if you make that grand and glorious decision to jump into the Independent Writer/Author gig. You are your publisher and marketer. The rewards are amazing. But so is the work load.
So, join me while I go through my journey. Time I started to put this out there. Wish me luck.
09 March 2021
Welcome to Kentucky -- we enjoy our horses and a good glass of bourbon. But not when it's the instrument of someone's death. That puts a crimp on the enjoyment. She said, tongue in cheek and with a sense of sardonic wit.
At least I hope that passed for "sardonic wit".
But Death by Bourbon is the fourth book in the A Josiah Reynolds Mystery series by author Abigail Keam. Another great read by the author and another diamond in the series. I'm serious--I can't put these down. Once I start reading, I have to keep on reading until I have read the last word of the story.
The extremely handsome Addison DeWitt has a glass of bourbon and immediately lapses into seizures, ultimately dying. But was it an accident or was it murder? Addison's "girlfriend" is sure it's murder. Josiah thinks so too. But proving it is harder than she imagined it could be. Because no one believes her. Added to that, her daughter Asa has left the country. Her friend Franklin has left for an extended cruise. And her lover Jake is back but distant to her.
The explosive ending rocks everyone's world; most especially Josiah's.
Once again, red herrings a-plenty. Plot twists abound. One of the great things I like about Keam's cozy mysteries is that they play out from the heroine's point of view and she's not always right. But she gets there. So we have a flawed character who is human but not an idiot. As I've said before, even in the depths of depression, Josiah Reynolds is a fighter and a feisty lady. A strong woman.
Her family and friends are flawed, but so real. So is her daughter Asa. We get to see a lot of the woman Asa is and learn more about her as a person. Asa is complicated, a little on the scary side, but very protective of her people, most especially, her mother. I wouldn't mind seeing her spun off into her own series, to be honest.
Death by Bourbon is one of those books that stays with you. And makes you hunger for the next. Made me want to go on to book 5. Of course, reading an excerpt of the next book is a damn fine inducement too. And I intend to.
Another 5 out of 5 stars. Well done, Ms. Keam!
27 February 2021
Ever been so deep into a series that it's all you think about it? I have. Books, television, movies. My latest obsession seems to be Abigail Keam's "The Josiah Reynolds Mysteries". I can't put them down and until I read the last word on the last book, I won't be able to read anything else. After devouring the first two books in the series, I put down the Bridgerton novel I'd intended to read and moved on to book three, Death By Bridle.
I certainly was not disappointed. If anything, I'm even more obsessed.
Josiah is still recovering from the injuries that she sustained in book one, Death By Honeybee and had begun healing from in book two, Death By Drowning. But now she has another mystery fall into her lap -- the death of an acquaintance, possibly witnessed by Lincoln Todd, the teen son of her lawyer, Shaneika. But that's just the tip of Josiah's personal iceberg. More evidence has popped up in the murder/death of Richard Pigeon (from Honeybee). The detective that almost killed her in book one is back and might just get released on technicalities. And the man she's fallen in love with has disappeared to parts unknown. It's enough to destroy her entire world. Again.
Abigail Keam adds so much of the history of the state that it's like reading a gossip column of the who's who of Kentucky. The salacious stuff, the juicy tidbits of someone's past that probably should have stayed buried. But can't be, because those details will help her solve the crime. Plot twists galore that kept me on the edge of my seat. I love those books that I can't read fast enough because I have to know what's going to happen next, but I can't read slow enough so that I can savor every little detail that comes. This is one of those books. You'll hear the term "pacing" a lot. The pace of this one is perfect. Again. As usual. This lady writes as if she was there and makes me feel like I'm there too.
No wimpy wussy characters in these stories. Josiah is definitely a handful but even in her depths of depression and pain, the real Josiah bubbles to the surface and stands up to the adversity. We see the vulnerable but we also see the stubborn. An amazing woman. The circle of friends that she's gathered are just as diverse as they can be, all of them into other things, different skill sets and talents. And they complement our leading lady quite nicely.
I'll get to Bridgerton eventually. But for right now, I have to ride this horse as far as it goes, as fast as it can run.
And I'm giving Death By Bridle another 5 out of 5 stars -- great plot, great pacing, great characters. If you're not reading them and you're a fan of historical cozies, cozies in general, and just flat out wonderful writing, then you're missing out on something special.
23 February 2021
I think after the second book, I am seriously in love with this series.
Abigail Keam has given us another book in The Josiah Reynolds Mysteries series and this one packs one hell of a punch. Death by Honeybee was tense as it introduced a strong willed woman with a chip on her shoulder (thanks to her now deceased ex-husband, and his widow and child) and someone trying to frame her for murder. Honeybee ended with one hell of a literal cliffhanger and the promise of more intrigue coming.
Well, the promise is delivered in the second book, Death By Drowning. The story begins with the aftermath of Honeybee and a badly wounded, physically wrecked Josiah Reynolds. Having to recover from a near fatal attack, it's not an easy thing. And the pain that goes with the recovery leaves an emotional morass that Josiah is not sure she'll recover from, or if she even wants to recover from. The woman has hit rock bottom, but Gods love her, she's still sassy.
A visitor from Kentucky makes her way down to see Josiah, to ask a favor. Her nephew has died and while the authorities think it was an accidental drowning, Irene Meckler and her sister think it's a bit more sinister than that. And, to make life really complicated, the man who tried to kill her and was responsible for putting Josiah in the hospital to begin with might still be alive.
The wonderful thing about murder cozies is that, unlike procedurals, these books invest in the characters and their interactions with each other. Meeting Shaneika and Matt, friends and Josiah's lawyers, as well as Matt's lover, Franklin, and Jake Dosh, the physician's assistant/physical therapist/bodyguard that Josiah's daughter hired to take care of her mother, and you have a full list of wonderful characters to help Josiah and keep her feet on the ground in her healing. and those interactions are delightful. But they never stray from the story or get lost in places they don't belong. Keam's characters are alive and real. People I would love to be friends with.
The story is well paced filled with twists and turns and danger. And very well nuanced. I so seldom find books that take my by the hand and hold on to me until I'm done. This was one of those books. I felt Josiah's pain, her dependence on the medication that's slowly taking her down a bad road but I understood her reasoning for wanting to be that dependent. The new investigation serves as a reason for her to get up and get out and she goes at it with vigor. I had to put it down to sleep or eat or do the day job and every moment I wasn't reading, I was trying to figure out the next step. Or wonder what was happening to Josiah now. There was never a moment that I felt things were going too slowly or too quickly.
I love strong female characters but there is a vulnerability to Josiah in this book. She's still not taking crap from anyone, and she may be physically weak but she's certainly not mentally weak. I love her as much as I love Mona Moon, another of Keam's series. I love how the men are equally strong without doing the mansplaining or condescension that Alpha men can do. Their interference is minimal and for the right reasons. They interact with each other as well as they interact with Josiah in trying to keep her safe and get her healthy.
The investigation comes with complications and twists too. Just when you think the investigation is coming to a head, it twists into another direction and what you thought you knew is nothing. The kind of plot that keeps you guessing but really does follow a logical progression.
Death by Drowning has only whet my appetite for more and thankfully, there are more books to get now and not have to wait for another to come out. Although, I'm waiting for the new Mona Moon. *wink*. At least I can get my Josiah Reynolds fix satisfied in the meantime. And a new book in that series coming on April 12th, I have time to catch up and be ready. I can't wait.
I'm giving Abigail Keam's Death By Drowning 5 out of 5 stars for great characters, constantly moving and tense plot, and a superb heroine. A "gotta have" read here.