Tag Archives: Ritter Ames

A day in the life with Laurel Beacham and a Jack Hawkes cameo by Ritter Ames

Hello, I’m Laurel Beacham, and with a job title of Art Recovery Expert and head of the London office of a venerable American art foundation, I’m not one for math and science theory. I leave that kind of hocus pocus for Nico, the gorgeous geek on my team. No, I’m more an arts and humanities girl, myself. However, I must admit the old rule about every action yielding an equal—and definitely opposite—reaction held true in my latest venture into art reclamation.

In other words, no good theft goes unpunished.

I probably should add here that I only steal things that have already been stolen. To return them to the rightful owner. Which is exactly what Nico and I were doing when we made a quick trip to France on a midnight foray. Thank goodness my climbing skills didn’t fail me.

When I made it back to London, I found out . . . My, my, how the tables can turn. And turn quickly.

No, this recovery wasn’t a sanctioned job by my boss at The Beacham Foundation in New York. This kind of mission never is. The official duties of my job entail more standard skills like negotiation, research, following clues, diplomatic discussions, and trailing the kind of ephemeral information I gain through a vast network of contacts—from Vatican sources to snitches on the street, through renowned art historians to shady contacts who go by aliases instead of legal names. One must be extremely flexible about knowing who to trust in my job and when, until I can locate stolen or lost masterpieces and circuitously return them via official channels.

Yet, sometimes speed is of the essence, making another rule apply in such clandestine instances: she who waits often loses the painting for good.

“That’s your motto, eh?”

Oh, hello, Jack. Let me introduce my. . .partner. . .would you say? This is Jack Hawkes.

“I would say partner. Though the term implies we always share information, so I can’t completely believe you think of us that way, Laurel.”

Like you haven’t ever held back intel. And still don’t.

“Fine. I’ll give you points for trying, if you’ll favor me with the same.”

Sure. Is that your phone ringing or mine?

“It’s my mobile. I’ll take this outside.”

Please do.

Good, he shut the door. And before you ask, Jack doesn’t work for the foundation, but he’s now an integral part of the four-person Beacham London team—though he’s actually the only Brit.

I thought at first he was a con man working to outmaneuver me on a sanctioned art recovery job, only to find his rap sheet and aliases had been manufactured by British intelligence services. However, his cunning charm and mastery of languages means he’s at home in most every setting. He also has resources that dovetail beautifully with the requirements of my team, though we still rely heavily on Nico for all our hacking needs because it eliminates the necessity for Jack to seek any pesky search warrants. Yes, he and I share the same squishy ethics on some things.

Mostly, Jack watches my back and I reciprocate. He often annoys me when he controls need-to-know info, but because I do the same I can’t really hold that against him anymore. Well, I try not to do so. Okay, it’s a challenge, I admit it, but I’m making an effort.

One thing I’ve learned being around art is that interpretation is all in the perspective. You can’t expect to know everything about a work of art with just one glance, and the same holds true with people. The more I know about a masterpiece or a person, the more I trust my instincts about what each is telling me. Jack isn’t the only person I’ve had to change my opinion on. And with the rate of the crowd around us who are good guys turning into bad, I’m glad I have a team to back me up in day to day operations.

Oh, and that recovery job on the masterpiece in France I mentioned earlier? Well, let’s just say my world quickly rotated on its axis after Nico and I cat burgled the painting back into the mainstream. But I’ll stop here, as I don’t want to give away the game. If you want to tag along with us, pick up a copy of Fatal Forgeries. My job is never the same two days in a row, but I can promise that it’s never boring.

If you’d like to join the adventure, pick up a copy of Fatal Forgeries, recently released by Henery Press on June 6th. I’ll give one signed copy of Fatal Forgeries to one lucky poster—print or e-copy (Kindle or Nook), winner’s choice. To enter, just comment with your favorite work of art. US entries only for print, please. The giveaway ends June 17, 2017. Good luck everyone!

You can read more about Laurel in Fatal Forgeries, the fourth book in the “Bodies of Art” mystery series.

When art recovery expert Laurel Beacham’s personal and professional worlds collide, she learns no good theft goes unpunished. Incomplete intel and a missing source compel her to make a huge mistake, and she’s left with a divided team. Every retrieved masterpiece has a price–and the cost of forgeries can be deadly. This time Laurel could lose not only her best lead, but also her most trusted ally. The stakes have never been higher, forcing her and her partner, Jack, to go on the run, crisscrossing Europe to evade the criminals. Except instead of two masterminds working against them, they realize there might be three. With no time to lose, Laurel and her team must pool their resources and work to set aside their differences before they become the next fatalities.

# # # # # # # # # # #

About the author
USA Today bestselling author Ritter Ames writes the Bodies of Art Mysteries, her way of coaxing her husband into more European travel for “research.” Visit Ritter at ritterames.com

All comments are welcomed.

Buy Link

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.

My Musing ~ Abstract Aliases by Ritter Ames

Abstract Aliases by Ritter Ames is the third book in the “Bodies of Art” mystery series. Publisher: Henery Press, October 2016

abstract-aliasesAbstract clues lead to new questions. New leads turn to “dead” ends. A heist plot ties to forgeries. Adversaries resurface twisting an already complicated case. And art recovery expert Laurel Beacham must not only outwit criminals, but keep her wits around Jack Hawkes’s cheeky ego.

Before the criminals they were tracking headed underground, evidence pointed toward two organizations as key to an epic art heist. Despite their best efforts, Laurel and her team haven’t caught a break in months—even Jack’s unofficial intel stuttered to a halt. But on New Year’s, as Big Ben’s bell tolls midnight, the guilty return and nowhere is safe. A source in Rome is killed within hours. Other allies are attacked in Rome and London, and a contact in Germany reports dangerous shadows closing in. The nearer the answers, the higher the stakes. Worse, Jack may not be the only one Laurel must learn to trust to avoid another brush with death.

Ritter has done it again with this fast paced, riveting, non-stop action roller-coaster ride filled with a multitude of surprising twists and turns that kept me reading until the end. The author has a way with the narrative putting me in the middle of all that is happening with my own heart palpitating as the drama moved from location to location. The mystery was set-up nicely with enough intrigue that I knew the outcome would be worth the wait. Getting more of the backstory on Laurel and Jack was an added bonus and truly enhanced the telling of this tale. Thank you Ritter for allowing the relationship between Laurel and Jack to progress. Snappy dialogue, great cast of characters and the chance to explore the art world was what the author expertly brought to this story and I can’t wait for the next installment.

A Day In The Life With Laurel Beacham by Ritter Ames

abstract-aliasesGo. . .Be an art recovery expert…Attend exclusive and posh parties. . .See the world. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? And it is—at least when you can duck people tailing you, can get stolen masterpieces back without having to actually steal them again yourself, and you don’t have to attend those fancy fundraising parties with a .38 strapped to your thigh and hidden under your designer evening gown.

Those are the little things that never get into the official job description, but it’s just my average day as Laurel Beacham, premier art recovery expert.

You’d think with the Beacham last name—and the Beacham Foundation on my business cards—I’d have it pretty good. And if Grandfather was still alive this would likely be the case. Though he’d probably put the kibosh to my doing day-to-day tasks that keep my adrenalin in the red zone. But Grandfather passed away more than a dozen years ago, and my shiftless father took over and lost the foundation and the family fortune before skiing to his doom, leaving me trying to pick up the pieces of my life and deal with the fallout of Daddy’s selfish actions. I’ve done pretty well, except I’m still broke most of the time, but that’s another boring story and another lecture from my boss, Max.

My job currently pits me and my team against a master criminal, and I have to stop the art heist of the century. Piece of cake, right? Sure, if we only knew who the criminal was, or had any definitive proof of what the heist entailed, or if I could trust anyone was truly on the level and not out to manipulate circumstance to his own advantage. Well, except my right-hand geek Nico. He manipulates everything his way, but it’s always my way, too, so we’re good.

When people ask what I do for a living, I usually say I liaison with museums and do special work involving the collections. Then, invariably, the questioner will either launch into a semi-long monologue about a favorite artist or Renaissance art or the Impressionist period, or the person will say something like “oh, that’s nice” and walk away. Unless the one asking is a guy who thinks because I’m blonde, attractive and under thirty that I obviously can’t wait to hook up with him. Those guys always stay; I’m the one who says “that’s nice” and leaves.

Very few people press me about what I actually do in my chosen career—thank goodness. While the normal public sees me at the gala balls and fundraisers given to promote art and convince funders to come through with cash to help art-based nonprofit enterprises, my role in the masterpiece game is quite a bit more than looking smashing in a Givenchy gown. Remember the .38 that I might have hidden under the designer couture.

Being an art recovery expert is part acting, part mind reading, and part cat-wrangling. And it constantly changes. Recently, I used hostage negotiation techniques to retrieve a master work by a fifteenth century English painter, so I could return it to the National Gallery in London. Sometimes talking with the thief doesn’t work and I have to…well…re-appropriate the piece on my own. Through various and often stealthy methods.

Correction, not completely on my own. I have a first class team. Nico is my gorgeous Italian geek who can get into anything digital. Cassie is American, like me, and helps run the London office of Beacham Ltd. She’s a genius at art restoration and forgery spotting. And Jack Hawkes. . .Jack Hawkes. . .

Jack is a Brit who started off as a thorn in my side, but has begun growing on me more than I would have ever believed. I still don’t completely trust him, and I’m not sure what his agenda truly encompasses, but while we’re on the hunt for international art masterminds Jack is proving his mettle. His quick mind and reflexes complement my own, even if I haven’t yet learned where he got his training. That’s one of those trust issue things I mentioned. Now, if I can just handle his damned cheeky ego.

However, as this spider web of lies and deceit and murder grows tighter and tighter around us, I’m honestly glad I have someone watching my back. I may still not know as much about Jack as I want to, but I am learning to trust him a little. Given my history with men, that’s saying a lot.

In the meantime, our quarry went deep underground several months ago, but one by one they’re surfacing again. I need to get my electronic gizmos ready to track them and see what I can learn. We really need a break if we’re going to stop this heist before it’s too late.

If you’d like to tag along for the ride, pick up a copy of Abstract Aliases, released this week by Henery Press. I’ll give one signed copy of Abstract Aliases to one lucky poster. To enter, just comment with your favorite work of art. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends October 17, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

Abstract Aliases is the third book in the Bodies of Art mystery series, published by Henery Press, October 2016.

Abstract clues lead to new questions. New leads turn to “dead” ends. A heist plot ties to forgeries. Adversaries resurface twisting an already complicated case. And art recovery expert Laurel Beacham must not only outwit criminals, but keep her wits around Jack Hawkes’s cheeky ego.

Before the criminals they were tracking headed underground, evidence pointed toward two organizations as key to an epic art heist. Despite their best efforts, Laurel and her team haven’t caught a break in months—even Jack’s unofficial intel stuttered to a halt. But on New Year’s, as Big Ben’s bell tolls midnight, the guilty return and nowhere is safe. A source in Rome is killed within hours. Other allies are attacked in Rome and London, and a contact in Germany reports dangerous shadows closing in. The nearer the answers, the higher the stakes. Worse, Jack may not be the only one Laurel must learn to trust to avoid another brush with death.

# # # # # # # # # # #

About the author
USA Today bestselling author Ritter Ames writes the Bodies of Art Mysteries, her way of coaxing her husband into more European travel for “research.”

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.


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!

My Musing ~ Marked Masters by Ritter Ames

Marked MastersMarked Masters by Ritter Ames is the second book in the “Bodies of Art” mystery series. Publisher: Gemma Halliday Publishing, March 2015

Laurel Beacham made working solo a habit and a personal success story. The world’s leading art recovery expert, she is known for her nerve, instincts, and the ability to do whatever it takes to bring each masterpiece back safely. Museums applaud her while thieves admire the cunning way she operates. No matter the odds against her, she listens to her instinct when challenges mount.

Right now, those instincts are screaming a warning.

Laurel’s last job landed her the head position over the London branch of the Beacham Foundation. All well and good, except bringing one case to a close only opened another even bigger one. And more importantly, the new case inextricably connects to Jack Hawkes, a man smart enough to be her equal, but one who keeps her trust meter hovering in the red zone. The pair leap headlong into a plot that gets more dangerous and illusive by the minute. As the bodies and forgeries add up and the clock counts down, will Laurel’s skills help her make it out of this job alive?

I like it. Immediately you are pulled into a fast paced, non-stop action drama that had me quickly turning the pages because I had to know what happens next. The excitement, the mystery, the suspense and the solid plot escalated this tale of worldwide exploits in their pursuit of stolen property. Oh what fun it would be to journey with Jack and Laurel who play their part splendidly with a bit of intrigue that rivals a few of the detective’s shows I used to watch. I love watching the interaction and the banter between the two and I liked that the author gave us more insights into these two characters, which explains most of why they do what they do. Boasting a great cast of characters, good conversations and the global background, this was a very enjoyable read and I look forward to the third book in this exciting series.

A Conversation with Nico by Ritter Ames

Marked MastersI am Nico. Laurel Beacham calls me silly names like her “gorgeous geek” and “secret weapon”—she does not think I know these things, but I do. It is okay. I know there is respect in her teasing. It is true I have pulled her attractive body out of many tight situations. Mio Dio! The woman charges headlong into every job, focused only on returning with whatever work of art has . . . poof! . . . vanished. Her day’s work is tracking the thieves with an instinct incomparabile, while my day is spent attempting to keep her in sight with a GPS tracker and a hope she has not misled me again in what she plans to do.

You see, she tends to lie by omission. It is a challenge.

Yes, she is bella e intelligente . . . I mean beautiful and smart . . . but she can do very stupido things because she has great passion for art. I understand passion. I am Italian, whereas Laurel is American and stubborn. It is my job to make sure she has the necessary tools each time to recover her objective.

Unlike Laurel, I do not like the fieldwork. I like quiet hours to work on the gadgets and specially designed packages I must have ready even before Laurel knows she needs them. She doesn’t always appreciate my gifts. A month ago, when I gave her some specially developed glasses she called them “nerd wear.” Yes, she has a great appreciation for appearances, but that is to be expected with the pitfalls she has had to overcome in her life.

I watch her be frivolous and too carefree with her money one moment, and the next she is like a tigress protecting me and her assistant Cassie from the yelling of our boss Max. Someday, I tell her Max does not scare me. I think she already knows, but it is her strong heart that jumps up to strike down anything she sees as bullying.

She must be protected from herself, for she does not know when to back off sometimes. In that regard, I have an ally in Jack Hawkes, as he also tries to keep her from running headlong into any disaster to grab the art objective. However, he also does stupido things himself, so I keep him digitally tracked as well. For his own good, naturalmente.

This newest job led our team to Florence, Italy, which should have been happy for me since it is close to my home, but there is too much danger to relax and enjoy the surroundings. I am tangled in quite a tight situation by the end. Laurel and Jack as well. Dead bodies, forgeries, exquisite masterpieces… It is all a day’s work for us. As long as we can get the work of art away before a bullet finds us instead.

If you enjoy fast-paced mysteries with smart characters, lots of twists and turns, and exciting world-class settings, pick up a copy of our latest adventure Marked Masters. I promise you will get more than a few surprises as Laurel and Jack reluctantly team up again to pursue an even greater risk to the art world than in their previous job. All while I keep the peace and pull them both out of the fire another time or three. The two are so evenly matched they cannot see they should trust each other more and fight less. But I will be there to make sure things are less rocky. That is my job. That is my day’s work. It is a challenge to keep them alive, believe me.

You can read more about Nico, Laurel, Jack and Cassie in Marked Masters, the second book in the “Bodies of Art” Mysteries series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. The first book in the series is Counterfeit Conspiracies.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on March 25 for the chance to win a copy of Mark Masters. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.

About the author
Ritter Ames is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Organized Mysteries series and the Bodies of Art Mysteries series, both published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. When she’s not writing or brainstorming new mysteries Ritter is usually trying to get her favorite yellow lab to stay out of the pond, or keep her grouchy black cat from trying to give the dog away on Freecycle. Ritter would love to live on a boat and write from far flung locations around the globe, but the dog would constantly have to be fished from the water, and her husband and cat would just complain endlessly about the dog’s smell, so staying on land seems to be the only good option to keep her sanity and not get sidetracked from writing.

Ritter tries to blog regularly at www.ritterames.com and subscribe there to get the latest news about upcoming releases, and inside scoops on her characters and series. Marked Masters and all of Ritter’s other books are currently available in print and all ebook formats through any online bookseller.

A Day in the Life of Jane McKenzie by Ritter Ames

Organized for HomicideHello, I’m Jane McKenzie, and my husband George and I moved to Hazelton, Vermont soon after our wedding forty years ago. We’ve had some good times here, but the happiest day of my life was when my son Keith suffered a pro-hockey career ending injury.

No, wait a minute. That isn’t what I mean. I’m not glad my son was hurt, but the nice result was he came back to Vermont to take a position as a sports anchor at a regional radio station. His wife, Kate, and my two lovely granddaughters, Samantha and Suzanne, moved here with him. So, I guess these have been the happiest follow-up days of my life.

Before they moved close to us, we only saw the kids once or twice a year. Now, I get to see them all the time, get closer to my granddaughters, and help out with activities. I know this helps Keith and Kate a lot, since his radio show is every evening, and she’s working hard to build her organization business Stacked in Your Favor. Everyone is so busy, even my granddaughters. It amazes me how those girls have so many activities for being only seven years old, but they’re a couple of real firecrackers and I’m thrilled to spend time with Sam and Suze each day.

My daughter-in-law, Kate, is another treasure—though she tries to do way too much on her own, has trust issues, juggles a busy home life while also working to grow her small business, puts way to much pressure on herself, and multi-tasks from sun-up to sundown using the unending lists she writes and keeps in her head to stay on-track.

Yes, I know. That sounds like most of us women. Right?

Kate is getting a little better. She’s made good strides in trusting lately, and as an organization expert finds prioritizing is second nature to her. She also keeps a rubber band on her left wrist to flip whenever the inner anxiety threatens to overtake her, and that gets less and less often. But she still forgets she can’t do it all. I’m just glad I have this opportunity to be there and help out whenever I’m needed.

However, there’s one thing Kate is starting to excel at—the one thing I truly wish she’d stop—and that’s her ability to solve mysteries. Her new organization business has enmeshed her in murder several times. She solved two murders last month, one the death of her first client, and now she’s trying to solve another so a teenage honor student isn’t packed off to prison. Between Kate and her best friend and business associate, Meg Berman, I have no doubt this new murderer will be caught too. Still, I’m worried this second killer is getting as successful at murder, as Kate is at solving the crime.

I just got my little family moved here to Vermont. I don’t want the move to mean that something bad could happen to my lovely daughter-in-law simply because she cares too much about helping innocent people.

You can read more about Jane in Organized for Homicide, the second book in the “Organized” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. The first book in the series is Organized for Murder.

About Organized for Homicide (Organized Mysteries #2)

Organization expert Kate McKenzie is looking forward to her newest consignment: organize the cross-country move for a divorced father and his two children. But when a dead body turns up, Kate’s carefully organized plans are thrown into chaos. Was it an accident? Or murder? Kate aims to find out and ends up falling more emotionally involved than she’d expected when the victim’s teenaged daughter becomes the police’s lead suspect. As a mother herself, she just can’t let the girl not only lose a mother but possibly lose her freedom and future as well. While the police follow the chain of evidence, Kate follows her gut, leading her on a dangerous investigation that could result in more than one death if she doesn’t watch her step…

Available in print and all ebook formats September 8, 2014!

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on September 10 for the chance to win a copy of ORGANIZED FOR HOMICIDE either in print or e-book version, winner’s choice. (Print U.S. only)

About the author
Ritter is an award-winning author who writes the Bodies of Art Mysteries series and the cozy Organized Mysteries series, both published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. She focuses most of her time and writing energies on globe trotting the world via her keyboard to create memorable characters and fascinating fiction novels for readers. In missy-catnapping-with-ccsthis great new endeavor, her cat muse remains faithfully by her side (see her catnapping in box)–only voicing displeasure when the food bowl sits empty due to Ritter focusing more on writing than on kibble. She is on Facebook and Twitter, and tries to blog regularly on her website at ritterames.com. Ritter uses her Pinterest boards at www.pinterest.com/ritterames to capture great places and ideas she wants to use in both series. Follow her blog and boards to learn more about her upcoming books.

A Day in the Life of Meg Berman by Ritter Ames

Organized for MurderShhhhh! I have a confession to make. When my best friend and neighbor, Kate McKenzie, was hired on to organize Amelia Nethercutt’s hoarder’s paradise of a mansion, I was jealous. I wanted to see what the inside of the place looked like. I’ve lived in Hazelton, Vermont all my life, and the wealthy Amelia was a hometown girl herself. So when she returned a decade ago with husband number five, and bought the biggest place in town to hold the couple’s fabulous and eccentric collections…Well, let’s just say the rumor mill hasn’t been quiet since. I’ve had ten years to imagine that interior, and Kate, who just moved here six months ago, not only gained a first look, but was getting paid to do so. Well, until the murder of course, and my best friend suddenly went to the top of the police list for favorite suspect.

Kate is an organizational expert. A few months ago, she started her business Stacked in Your Favor, and let me help with little set-up jobs. She always has great ways of doing things that seem so simple you don’t know why you didn’t think about them before, and she shares her ideas with everyone. I’ve started carrying a little notepad around lately, because I have the worst memory in the world, and I’m always forgetting to tell people things they need to know. Kate keeps notes naturally, and I think her brain constantly works in a list format. Because of her I’ve learned slow-cooker recipes that mean breakfast is ready when we get up in the morning, how to streamline laundry chores, and about a million other little ways to make life easier. She just tosses off little hints like they’re no big deal, but I can’t wait to try each one.

Anyway, Kate’s business is all about helping people reduce the clutter and chaos in their lives. Amelia signed on as her first real client, and let’s just say the Nethercutt clutter had reached epic proportions. Kate’s first day in the mansion was just to evaluate if she wanted the job, and determine what tasks the project entailed.

I convinced Kate to let me work part-time if it was bigger than a one-woman job. So while she sorted through the Nethercutt estate, I spent all afternoon in my front yard pretending to work my pitiful too-early-spring flowerbeds so I’d catch her when she arrived home. I’m not the most patient person on a good day, so I’ll admit to being antsy waiting to learn what lay hidden behind the walls. But the job over almost before it started.

Now, the real work begins. Motherhood mixed with murder investigation.

Besides the normal duties of any mothers—I have two elementary aged sons, and Kate has twin six-year-old daughters—we’re busy trying to put a name to the murderer, and figure out if the thefts we’ve discovered since the murder are connected, or secondary to the original crime. The police may enjoy more forensic resources, but we have a few advantages of our own. As mothers, our finely-honed intuitive skills are put to the test. Kate, of course, has the organization and logic necessary to tear down and put right any problem that comes her way. I bring a lifetime knowledge of Hazelton, as well as contacts through my mother, the almost professional club woman. In all, we may not know how to take and identify fingerprints, but if we work together we have a good chance to catch a sticky-fingered thief and point a finger at a cold-blooded killer.

We better be able to, anyway, because the crimes are stacking up and someone keeps systematically putting Kate in harm’s way. To find out if we get all the tasks crossed off our To-Do lists before we get crossed off the killer’s list, grab a copy of Organized For Murder. Besides learning if we solve this crime in time, Kate also shares organizational ideas that will work in most every household, no matter the family size. I need to go now and write down a couple of tips she gave me earlier today, then see if I can uncover some “facts” from my mother the gossip. But don’t tell Mother I said that! Remember, shh…

Organized For Murder, is the first book in the “Organized” Mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. Like all of Gemma’s books, this cozy series is a fun mystery with humor and great characters, but with the added extra of terrific tips woven into the plot to use long after the killer is marking the days behind bars. The novel is available at retail and online booksellers in both print and ebook formats.

Comment on this post by noon, February 25, and you will be entered to win a copy of either the print OR e-book version of Organized For Murder. One winner will be chosen at random.

Meet the author
Ritter Ames lives in a small town in the middle of America, but spends each day dreaming up crimes and creating chaos in her characters’ lives. Organized For Murder is the first cozy in her Organized Mysteries series, and she has another series, the Bodies of Art Mysteries, starting with Counterfeit Conspiracies, also published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. Ritter tries to blog regularly at ritterames.wordpress.com and uses her Pinterest boards at pinterest.com/ritterames to capture great places and ideas she wants to use in both series. Follow her blog and boards to learn more about Ritter and her upcoming books.

** For A Limited Time Only, starting today (2/24/14), “ORGANIZED FOR MURDER” is 99 cents as a digital download **

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.