Tag Archives: Maria Grazia Swan

A Day in The Life of Lella York by Maria Grazia Swan

Desert MoonI pine for grey skies and coastal fog. I pine for the smell of brine and the saltiness that coats your skin after a day at the beach. What can I say? I pine for Dana Point and Orange County with the crowded freeways, the houses on stilts and the beautiful people serving you fries with your Big Mac while waiting for their big break in show business.

In retrospect it’s pretty silly. When I first arrived to Southern California from my home in Italy, I was floored by the same things I now miss. Go figure.

And how did I end up in Phoenix, Arizona, in the middle of summer? Well, that alone is the stuff that you would label ‘fiction’ if you read it in a book.

I drove through the desert. 380 miles. Alone in my Mustang. The whole trip with only one stop. All that because according to Larry Devin, Flash, my cat, was a stowaway in his Mercedes.

I know what you’re thinking. How does a domestic black cat from Southern California become a stowaway ending up in Phoenix, Arizona? My question exactly.

Okay, to be fair Larry did stop by my house on his way out of town and we did—you know–linger in the –embrace—and maybe my front door was open and so was the driver side of his Mercedes…but still.

And now that I’m sitting here, on this plushy lounge chair, a chilled Margarita next to me, observing the inviting blue water of the cool pool in the complex where Larry rented a furnished condo to die for, I’m wondering if he kidnapped my cat to get me here. No use asking Flash, she seems to have grown fond of Larry. Perhaps he slips her cat nip?

Ah, here comes Larry wearing his black Pucci swimwear whose sale tax is more than I paid for my bikini— top and bottom, mind you. I roll my eyes to the blinding blue sky above, and Larry is by me, stroking my hand, smiling tenderly. He brushes my earlobe with his lips and whispers: “I swear, I did not kidnap your cat.”


Desert Moon is the third book in the Lella York mystery series, September 2016.

When her cat hitched a ride without her, she had no choice but to tail the furry creature.

From award winning author Maria Grazia Swan comes a story of suspense, romance, and one mischievous cat. How does a domestic black cat from Southern California become a stowaway and end up in Phoenix Arizona? That’s what Lella York wants to know as she crosses the desert, pedal to the metal, to bring her cat, Flash, back home. But something about a full desert moon bewitches Lella into staying in Arizona longer than she planned and playing house with the sexy Detective Lawrence Devin who is in Arizona as a special witness for an old murder case. The desert is a land of extremes so it’s no surprise that Lella and Larry brave the heat to chase after a cold case. Throw in a hint of Russian mafia, some attractive flight attendants, and a ferret named Lucy, and Lella realizes what a dangerous place the desert can be under a full moon.

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About the author
Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, and beautiful Orange County, California, before settling in her current home of Phoenix, Arizona. Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). Her idea of a perfect evening includes stimulating conversation, rich Italian food, and a perfectly chilled Prosecco. Maria has written several novels, short stories, and articles for high profile magazines and blogs taking on life and love . . . Italian style!

All comments are welcomed.

Halloween with Mystery Characters by LynDee Walker

midnight-mysteriesHalloween ranks among favorite holidays for many a mystery reader—so we gathered some of our favorite characters from the anthology MIDNIGHT MYSTERIES around the fire pit tonight to share tales of their favorite Halloweens, past and present. Grab a mug of cocoa or cider and pull up an adirondack chair—we’ll start with our favorite talkative ghost. . .

Marmaduke Dodsworth (It Takes a Ghost/Karen Cantwell): My favorite Halloween story, you say? Well, yes, that is a most fascinating question to ask a ghost, now isn’t it? First, let me introduce myself: My name is Marmaduke Dodsworth. I was born in Dartford, England in the year eighteen hundred and eighty-four. I lived a mostly content life until 1915 when I traveled to the United States of America where I was struck by a car and killed. I would not say it was a good death, but oh well, as you Americans say. One Halloween, not so long ago, I joined my living friend, Sophie on a haunted house tour. There, I met a fellow spirit by the name of Myrtle May. Myrtle tutored me in the fine art of moving objects through space. Some may consider that this is a feat which comes easily to ghosts, but I assure you, this is not the case. Myrtle, ah, fair Myrtle. She had a gift and she taught me well. In no time at all she had me levitating tea pots, tea cups, spoons, and even a lamp. Why, you should have seen the faces on the tour patrons! Wide eyes, fallen jaws. We had them trembling in their boots! Yes, it was a fine Halloween indeed.

* * * * * * * *

Cherry Tucker (Vigilante Vignette/Larissa Reinhart): My favorite Halloween memories are not from childhood since I was the sole kid wearing a handmade costume. Not that my third grade Chiquita Banana suit wasn’t brilliant—although it did cause a bit of a mess—but you have to understand when I was growing up, Pinterest didn’t exist so homemade costumes were not in vogue.

But even after Shawna Branson played Monkey in the Middle with my bananas (literally), I grew to love making costumes. And now handmade costumes are in vogue. I even get paid for them. When you’re an artist, you hustle for any kind of job.

My particular favorite was a recent Halloween party at Red’s County Line Tap. Painted a Renaissance landscape backdrop in ochres and siennas, cut a big hole in the canvas, inserted my head, and went as the Mona Lisa. Luke wore a dusty pair of Wranglers, boots, and a western shirt. In the crowded bar, Luke’s cowboy had found my Mona Lisa smile and pulled me into the gents’ bathroom before our friends and family could notice. We’re the Romeo and Juliet of Halo, if you didn’t know.

Actually more like Hatfields and McCoys.

Before we could talk, my brother-in-law Nik had kicked in the bathroom door.

His kick alerted my brother, Cody. Who, misinterpreting our bathroom cluster, threatened to kill Luke.

Which led to my sister, Casey, pitching a fit for all to hear.

And then Red booted us all from the party.

But I’ve had worse happen. I just may reprise that Mona Lisa costume yet.

* * * * * * * *

Jackson Bell (Salad Days, Halloween Nights/Eleanor Cawood Jones): I don’t talk about it much, but a big part of the reason I love dressing up for Halloween as an adult is because there were a couple of years as a kid when I didn’t get to put on a costume or even enjoy any candy. My foster parents were good to me, but strict, and Halloween wasn’t on their radar.

So when I became Chef Jackson Bell, opened my own restaurant, and Halloween rolled around, I couldn’t wait to decorate, dress up, and throw a party for new customers and their kids on Halloween eve. It started small, but now we sell out every year. We carve pumpkins, admire costumes, eat treats and pumpkin pie, and laugh a lot.

My favorite Halloween was five years ago, when I first invited all the kids in foster care in our little city to come to their own party at the restaurant. It’s an annual event now. We provide costumes and masks, and the kids trick or treat at the tables and in the kitchen, enjoy Halloween lunch, and take home a bag of treats and a little pumpkin apiece. I love it!

* * * * * * * *

Nichelle Clarke (Frightening Features/LynDee Walker): I haven’t had much luck with Halloween the past couple of years—my late Octobers seem to be stuck in a “recovering from a life-threatening injury” rut that leaves me parked on the sofa with a bag of Oreos and Anderson Cooper on my TV. But sometimes, that’s not as bad as it sounds.

I’ve always loved this holiday—costumes and spooky stories are such fun, and my mom had the only “Halloween Tree” in our neighborhood when I was a kid (we got an old Christmas tree from Goodwill and spray-painted it black. If only we’d decided to sell them, we’d be holiday millionaires today.) These days, I have a teeny one that sits on the table behind the sofa, and this year, my boyfriend (still pinching myself a little on that one) camped out to play nurse/entertainment director, and it turns out he’s pretty good at it. He even dug out my spooky light up witch and the “Munchies for Monsters” candy bowl, slicked his dark hair back and popped in some vampire teeth for the trick or treaters. And, when he wasn’t manning the door, he gave a wicked foot massage. It may just be my favorite Halloween yet, healing surgical wound and all.

* * * * * * * *

The Black Cat (Weeping Moon/Maria Grazia Swan): Halloween is a canine conspiracy. The word Halloween is a dead giveaway. Try saying it slow and with a high pitch. . .get it? It’s the sound of a dog howling. . .

Ghosts, witches and goblins is what makes the day fun they say. Ah! Is what they aren’t mentioning that matters. Black cats. . .yes, black cats.

Every witch has a black cat. I’m not saying that Lella, my human personal assistant, is a witch, although there are days—but in general she pays attention to my needs and I heard her say a firm no to some neighbor kid who wanted to ‘borrow’ me, Flash, for Halloween.

Borrow. Is that even legal? And tonight is Halloween. I get to sit and watch the parade of loud kids wearing silly costumes that will be obsolete in the morning. And what for? So they can go door to door to beg for cheap candies? Take the costume money and buy your own candies I say. So everyone would stay home and my human could rub my belly instead of wasting time opening and closing the front door.

* * * * * * * *

Samantha Sweet (Spellbound Sweets/Connie Shelton): Prior to one very special Halloween, Samantha Sweet was a 50-something woman who broke into houses for a living. Covering the bills was a stretch and she baked pastries at home to fill in the gaps. Early one autumn, she encountered a dead body in one of her break-in houses, clashed with the very handsome deputy sheriff, and was handed a magical artifact. Those three events set her life on a new course and led to the first mystery she ever solved.

Halloween will always hold a special place in Samantha’s heart because October was the month in which she finally realized her dream of opening her own pastry shop, Sweet’s Sweets, and Halloween was the first crazy-busy holiday for her new business. Each year, as autumn rolls around, the witches come out of the woodwork and when costumed kids stop by Sweet’s Sweets for decorated cookies, Sam readies for the holiday with her best baked goodies of the season.

* * * * * * * *

The Kitchen Witch (No Time to Witch/Morgana Best): “You’re kidding me, right?” I asked.

Thyme, my closest friend, shook her head. “Every Halloween, an evil demon, repelled only by pumpkins, manifests the very worst fears of the townspeople.”

I wasn’t sure if she was pranking me. “Worst fears, like snakes, spiders, being buried alive, getting peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth?”

“All that, and more.”

I disabled the smoke alarm and threw the burned remains of my latest attempt at baking into the sink in one fluid motion. “Mine is that my cupcakes make someone spontaneously combust.”

“I can understand that. Anyway, last year, a man forgot to place a pumpkin, and he. . .” Thyme paused to wipe a tear from her eye. “Amelia, do you have a pumpkin outside your house?”

“No!” I exclaimed, as I heard a knock at the door. “Be right back.” I opened the door, using one of my charred cupcakes as a doorstop.

The hideous demon standing there struck terror into my very soul. As he stretched out a gnarled black hand to my throat, I threw my cupcake at him. He dissolved into flames.

Thyme gasped behind me. “How did you kill the demon?”

I shrugged. “It was a piece of cake.”


You can catch up with these characters plus other favorites in the limited-edition anthology MIDNIGHT MYSTERIES, which includes all-new stories by Ritter Ames, Carolyn Haines, LynDee Walker, Larissa Reinhart, Karen Cantwell, Maria Grazia Swan, Morgana Best, Connie Shelton, and Eleanor Cawood Jones. Tell us about your favorite Halloween below, and you could win one of two kindle copies! The giveaway ends November 6, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

Thanks so much for having us today, Dru!

All comments are welcomed.

Interview with Mystery Characters by Ritter Ames

Cozy Holiday EscapesInterviewer: Hello readers! Welcome to our Christmas issue of Cozy Sleuths Magazine.

I’m interviewing several interesting characters today who play roles in several of the yuletide-themed stories in the new Cozy Holiday Escapes anthology available now at a special price, with eight stories in all. We’re thrilled to have characters from four of those tales here today to talk about how their lives took a turn toward mystery.

Amanda, let’s start with you. Tell us how you began in the pet sitting profession. I understand you feel it started with your name.

Amanda: I often asked myself how I ended up with this name, Amanda. Hardly a family name. My mamma was Italian and my father American, maybe they figured that was a good compromise, easy to spell and pronounce on both side of the ocean. Then I found out it means lovable, worthy of love, and it all made sense. In my opinion, every creature is worthy of love, even Cheech and Chong the two mischievous cats or Sam, the friendly dog I’m pet sitting at the moment.

Interviewer: And I understand you have a very distinctive pet you’re currently caring for—

Amanda: Matilda. A desert tortoise. Hard to miss, due to her size. She is very quiet and of course slow moving, here, see? That’s her compound, in the yard. Wait a minute…Matilda? OMG!!! Where is Matilda?

Interviewer: Well, Amanda needed to run find Matilda, so let’s move on to Barbara Marr. Barbara, how did a movie blogger’s life turn into mystery solving?

Barbara: I’m just an ordinary mom living in the ordinary suburbs. I have three beautiful daughters, a super sexy husband who looks like George Clooney, a dog, two cats, and a duck.

Interviewer: Come on…I’ve heard there’s more to it than that—

Barbara: Yes, I also find myself in dangerous situations every once in a while. You know, situations with guns and killers and such. Once there was a hand grenade. But deadly weapons and personal peril aside, it’s been a good life.

Interviewer: And this Christmas?

Barbara: This Christmas, something felt wrong. My heart wasn’t in it. Then I heard that those Finches were up to no good, and well, I couldn’t help myself. I pulled another Barbara Marr.

Interviewer: Readers, you’ll love reading this new adventure. Shuffling my notes here, next we have Sheriff Coleman Peters. We understand you’ve had to keep an eye on Sarah Booth Delaney again. Both professionally and romantically, I hear.

Sheriff Peters: Sarah Booth works hard to end up on the “nice” list each Christmas, but to be honest, I’d like to see her name on the “naughty” side. But only if she’s naughty with me. Sarah Booth and I have shared a few kisses, and she’s one special lady.

Interviewer: Once the mysteries are solved, Sarah Booth is out of trouble, and bad guys are locked up, do you have any special plans, Sheriff?

Sheriff Peters: I’ve planned a private Christmas Eve complete with eggnog, a gift or two, and some mistletoe. I’m ready to take my relationship with Sarah Booth to the next level, and that’s what I’m hoping Santa will bring me. Merry Christmas!

Interviewer: Sounds promising. We wrap up with our final guest, Kate McKenzie. Kate, I understand this is your first Christmas in your new Vermont hometown.

Kate: It is, and I’m really enjoying the whole Currier and Ives feeling of Hazelton’s hometown festivities. My best friend and neighbor, Meg Berman, is making sure I see and do everything this season. She even believes she’s going to get me to eat fruitcake.

Interviewer: So all your organizing tasks are done, and the mysteries are solved this year?

Kate: Not exactly. Some puzzling things are happening around Hazelton. They might all be coincidences, but I’m getting the feeling there’s more to it. Meg is always ready to investigate. But I’m trying to be good since I promised my husband to stay out of trouble this Christmas. I hope I can keep my promise.

Interviewer: It sounds like everyone is trying to stay on Santa’s Good List. Readers, to hear what happens to these four sleuths, as well as stories featuring four more sleuths from other bestselling mystery series, get a copy of Cozy Holiday Escapes.

Besides these stories by Maria Grazia Swan, Karen Cantwell, Carolyn Haines and Ritter Ames, there is a Kiki Lowenstein story and a Cara Mia Delgatto tale by Joanna Campbell Slan, Leslie O’Kane included an Allie Babcock story, and there’s a new Bodies of Art short by Ritter Ames.

All of us at Cozy Sleuths Magazine give the collection our highest critical review—five magnifying glasses. It’s specially priced at 99 cents, but get it quick—just like Santa, this anthology disappears after the holidays!

About Cozy Holiday Escapes

Eight light holiday short stories by six bestselling mystery authors–

  • “How the Finches Stole Christmas” by Karen Cantwell, a new story in the popular Barbara Marr series. When a new couple moves down the block and Christmas decorations begin disappearing, Barbara investigates in her own humorous way.
  • “Organized for Christmas Wishes” by Ritter Ames is a Kate McKenzie Organized Mysteries short story. Kate and Meg sign up for a cookie exchange, and find a new mystery to solve.
  • “Cara Mia Delgatto’s White Christmas” by Joanna Campbell Slan, a short story in the Cara Mia Delgatto series. Cara spends Christmas with her new friends in Florida and learns what a recycled, upcycled, repurposed Christmas can mean.
  • “Bones on the Bayou” by Carolyn Haines, a Sarah Booth Delaney short story. A hometown Christmas event is tarnished by a practical joke, and Sarah Booth Delaney investigates after a foreign visitor goes missing.
  • “Christmas in Venice” by Maria Grazia Swan. Amanda finds she has to do more than pet-sitting over the Christmas holidays when Matilda the tortoise goes missing.
  • “A Dog-Gone Christmas” by Leslie O’Kane, an Allie Babcock short mystery. Allie Babcock and her mom are at the airport, heading for a holiday away from home, when Allie notices a dog-switch and has to find a celebrity’s canine.
  • “Kiki Lowenstein and the Secret Santa” by Joanna Campbell Slan, a Kiki Lowenstein scrapbook story. Kiki and her scrapbook pals think they’re just having fun with a holiday scrapping party, but there’s more to the Christmas story.
  • “Seasonal Switches” by Ritter Ames, a brand new Bodies of Art Mysteries story. Laurel Beacham stops a Christmas crime, and may be gifted something she’s wanted for months–and almost given up on receiving.

cozy

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on December 11 for your chance to win a Kindle or Nook edition of Cozy Holiday Escapes. Five lucky commenters will be randomly selected. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life With Flash York by Maria Grazia Swan

Gemini MoonI miss the old days.

We shared a special togetherness then, the two of us, twenty-four/seven. I miss that.

I also miss having my breakfast served promptly every morning at 7:30. I thought about adding, rain or shine, but this is Southern California. Everybody knows it never rains in Southern California.

She called me sweetie; you know, with that special tone of voice, baby talk. It melted my heart every time. She would caress me, soothe me, sometimes make me laugh–ooh, so ticklish. Heavenly I tell you.

Sadly, that’s all gone.

Look at her now. It’s 9:30, and she’s still in bed, eyes wide, staring at the ceiling. What’s up there that’s so fascinating? When I first noticed this unusual behavior, I grew concerned. Was she sick? Several times, I cuddled up beside her on the bed. I have to tell you I saw nothing on the ceiling worth staring at. Nothing. It was as white and plain as ever. I tried letting her know how much I missed her touch, how late it was, how hungry I was. But nope, she kept staring up at the ceiling, smiling.

It all started with that Larry person.

Even when Kyle was in trouble, she spent time with me. She was unhappy then and cried a lot, but that was better than this.

Larry arrived, and it all changed. What makes him so special? Before him, when she left the condo, those times were brief and infrequent, like when she volunteered at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Now she takes off with this Larry, and sometimes she’s gone overnight. And I’m alone. All night! Poor, poor me. When she comes back the next morning she’s all giggles and sunshine. Don’t know what that man feeds her to make her so happy. Then again, that’s better than having him here. She shuns me altogether then while they cuddle and pet on the couch, the very couch where she used to cuddle with me.

Typical Italian, she thinks all she has to do is rustle up something special and delicious, and all her neglect and absences will be forgotten and forgiven.

WRONG.

If you think gourmet cuisine will get you off the hook, dear Lella, you’re sadly mistaken. It takes more than a can of primo solid white albacore tuna to win back the affections of any self-respecting feline.


You can read more about Flash and Lella in Gemini Moon, the first book in the “Lella York” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. Books are available at online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on February 23, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Gemini Moon. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. Maria_SwanShe lived in Belgium, France, Germany, and beautiful Orange County, California, before settling in her current home of Phoenix, Arizona. Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). Her idea of a perfect evening includes stimulating conversation, rich Italian food, and a perfectly chilled Prosecco. Maria has written several novels, short stories, and articles for high profile magazines and blogs taking on life and love … Italian style!

Follow Maria at her website, Twitter or on Facebook


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