A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was my first cozy mystery as I've just now gotten into the genre, and I can honestly say I couldn't have picked a better book as my first! Heather Blake has such a way with characterization that you feel as though you actually know the characters.
Fast-paced and humorous, the story kept my attention easily, and I couldn't wait to find out who'd killed the poor victim. And just when I thought I knew, Heather threw a twist in I didn't see coming which was perfect!
Overall, A Potion to Die For was a witty, wonderful story, and I can't wait to read the next in the series!
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Meet the Author: C. Hope Clark
Today, I'm happy to introduce C. Hope Clark, the author of the Edisto Island Mystery Series as well as the Carolina Slade Mysteries. She's here today to talk about a crossover novel that includes both sleuths!
A crossover occurs when the characters of one book (or series) cross paths with those in another book (or series). Embarrassingly, I never heard of the term Crossover Book until my publisher asked me to write one. Then I thought, Oh, crap, how am I going to do this!
Dying on Edisto is the crossover, a brand new release, and it falls under the Edisto Island Mystery Series. Number five, to be precise. The protagonist is Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan who used to be a top-notch Boston detective until the Russian mob killed her husband. She went crazy chasing the killer, took to the bottle, lost her job, and moved herself and son back down South, planting herself on South Carolina’s Edisto Beach, her childhood vacation place. Recognizing the talent, the beach offered her the badge, and there she resides and solves crime. . . crimes most of the lazy beach community never knew it had.
Great detective, but still needs to work on herself.
Enter Carolina Slade, aka Slade because she hates the feminine sound of her first name which says a lot about her from the outset. Originally a Department of Agriculture bureaucrat, she once found herself in the middle of a bribery investigation, and after almost losing her job, family, and life, still decided she loved solving cases. Coupled with federal agent Wayne Largo, whom she met on that case, they travel the state of South Carolina handling department criminal activity. You haven’t seen crime until you see it in the country where you can more easily get away with all types of creative wrongdoing.
You haven’t ever seen crime solved Slade’s way.
Challenge: Who’s the alpha?
Each protagonist is in charge of a series for a reason; they want it. They are interesting enough to carry off the role. When you have two equally qualified leading players, who do you select to run the show?
The tiebreaker turned out to be setting. Callie manages the Edisto Island area. Slade travels the state. Logistically it proved easier to send Slade to Edisto than yank Callie out of her jurisdiction. So Edisto it was.
But Slade kept finding the body first in all my scenarios.
We gave Slade a prologue of three hundred words and let her find the body. Then a fully-fleshed out Chapter One became Callie’s as she rightfully seized the story as hers, forced to deal with this clumsy oaf of a tourist who traipsed all over her crime scene.
Challenge: Are they friends or foe?
After all, these two woman are accustomed to running the show. Do we put Slade in the back seat or make the two ladies enemies?
As with any mystery, conflict rules the day. They clash from the outset, but it’s up to each of them to decide if they can work with the other on behalf of the case. Could they get along long enough to share? As a minimum, we realized that their personalities certainly had to add obstacles to the sleuthing, and the ending was up to them. We just knew we could not disappoint the Slade fans nor the Callie fans.
Slade’s books are in first person, and Callie’s are in third, designed that way from the outset so when I sat down to write, the POV put the right character in my mind without the other’s voice intruding. But now I had both in one story.
We left Slade with her first person and Callie with her third. Not only did the characters remain true to form as represented in their series, but the switch aided the reader in the transition from chapter to chapter.
Challenge: How to keep the guest from stealing the spotlight.
Slade is a rowdier, more visual person. Callie can be stoic but forceful. Put them in the room and turn them loose, however, and Slade initially takes the attention by sheer personality. She’s not the neatest or shrewdest crime-solver, ignoring rules in preference to following them, she draws a crowd.
Slade’s chapters became shorter, and Callie was given twice as many chapters. After all, she was in charge of the investigation. We needed to be in her head more and make her in charge. It was the only way to rein in Slade and make her behave.
The balance here is juggling Team Slade versus Team Callie. Each comes with her own set of readers who will pick up the book already rooting for one over the other. The writing wisdom comes in accenting both of the protagonists’ strengths, capitalizing on their weaknesses, and avoiding the messiness of simply doubling everything from two series into one.
What we didn’t want to do is throw Slade into the Edisto world and have her accomplish nothing. We weren’t interested in a token or cameo presence. The goal was for the Edisto readers to pick up Dying on Edisto, fall into the character dynamics, and pique an interest in the Slade series. And of course, we would hope the Slade readers would hear about Slade’s appearance in the Edisto series, and pick up those books as well.
It’s strategy, both in the writing and the promotion. We don’t hide the fact that we’d love all the readers to fall in love with both series. They can have a favorite. That’s part of the fun. But if they become intrigued enough in the other world, too, we all win.
ABOUT DYING ON EDISTO
One death. Two detectives. And unexpected backup.
A Callie Morgan and Carolina Slade crossover, standalone mystery!
When a renowned—and now dead—travel blogger washes ashore on the banks of Indigo Plantation, Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan agrees to head the investigation as a favor to the county sheriff, whose reasons are as questionable as the death itself. When death turns to murder and a watchdog from the county makes her investigation difficult, Callie reluctantly turns to Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo, vacationing agents with the Department of Agriculture.
Because poison is growing on this plantation and someone knows how to use it well.
C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Dying on Edisto, Book 5 of the Edisto Island Mysteries, and her ninth novel. She has also authored two award-winning mystery series and is fast at work on another. In her other life, she manages FundsforWriters.com, selected by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 18 years. Her newsletter reaches 35,000 readers.
Can we talk about hate?
We live in a world where hate seems to be the norm. People say they hate other people, whether it's celebrities, neighbors, or politicians. It's not unusual to see post after post on social media that details how much a person hates something or someone. And the more I see it, the more I wonder why the focus is on the hate. That's why this quote stands out to me.
Instead of saying "I hate someone," why not direct your energy towards love? Instead of dwelling on that part of a person you don't like, is it possible to find something that you do? If not, wouldn't it be more beneficial to shift your focus to the positive?
How much better would we be as a nation if we eliminated the word "hate" from our vocabulary? Oftentimes, we use it to explain our feelings for someone or something we disagree with when we don't actually hate. When you say you hate, you're saying you're repelled by, you're revolted by, you regard the object of your hate with disgust, and you shudder at, or recoil from that person or thing. Is that the type of emotion we should allow to consume us so much that it's all we talk about?
An article in Everyday Health illuminates the destructive power of hate. saying "the more you feed it, the stronger it becomes." Hate has the power to take over your life, to become the main focus of your existence. I know because I've seen it. I've watched it destroy lives which is why I don't talk about the things I hate. (I'm not saying I've never done it before, but it's a habit I've made an effort to break.) I talk about the things I love, the people I love, and the places I love. I may not like something someone does, but do I hate them? No. Because I refuse to allow someone's actions , beliefs, or personality to control my emotions.
And when you think about it, we only know a part of the celebrity or politician we see that we claim to hate. That person might have beliefs that don't align with yours, but does that make them deserving of your hate? They could be a wonderful father, brother, sister, or mother. They could donate their time or money to charities you know nothing about. They could honestly want what's best for this world. We don't know their hearts, and we can't step inside their minds. So what's wrong with giving people the benefit of the doubt? (I'm not talking about truly evil people that only seek to destroy lives like serial killers and the like.) And if that's not possible, wouldn't it be better to spend less time talking about how much you hate them and more time focusing on the things and people you love?
Meet the Author:Jennifer Uhlarik
Hi everyone! Thank you so much for allowing me to share today.
I’ve known I wanted to write since I was twelve. However, at age 30, God called me to write Christian fiction. I’d just begun writing book three in a secular series when God dropped this new directive on me, and I told Him, “Sure, Lord, just as soon as I finish this novel.” Can you imagine that conversation?
God: “I said I want you to write Christian fiction.”
Me: “And I said I would—after this novel.”
Me: “You can’t ask me to shift gears now!”
God: “Um, I’m God, and I just did!”
For a month, I wrestled with Him before I finally surrendered. Once I did, God told me to continue with the story I was writing but bring the characters to Him.
That was my first foray into writing Christian fiction.
In the past sixteen years, I’ve written a lot of stories, and there’s been some level of a Christian element to almost all of them. However, in writing my latest, Sand Creek Serenade, I experienced God in a very different way than I have with any other story.
From the moment the story took shape in my mind, I knew there would be a stronger spiritual arc than in any story I’d written before. As I began to pray about that, God gave me a Bible verse to pray over the story. Psalm 2:8—"Ask of Me and I will give you the nations…” While I’ve chosen a verse I felt paired nicely with the theme of a story before, I’ve never had God give me a verse. So I have prayed this verse over this story for well over a year.
Then, as I began the actual writing, a certain song kept coming up—on the radio, in church services, just about everywhere I turned. Bethel Music’s No Longer Slaves.
Every time I heard the song, I’d get such a sense of the story’s hero and heroine. I could imagine them clearly. I finally put the song into my playlist and started listening to it before I’d sit to write each day, and each time I heard it, upcoming scenes I needed to write would begin to play like a movie in my mind. In fact, that experience began to spill over into church worship services.
As we’d begin to praise God through song week after week, He’d give me “downloads” of upcoming scenes in movie form. These downloads were so vivid I’d go home and write them out. To my astonishment, I finished writing the story in a record four months.
While I have sensed God’s direction or help while writing other stories, I’ve never experienced His presence in the ways I did in writing Sand Creek Serenade. I’m excited to see where He might take this story or how He might use the novel to reach readers. It should be exciting to watch what unfolds starting tomorrow when the story releases!
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West.
Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker.
Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.
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Everyone who knows me knows I'm a big fan of suspense. I watch it, write it, and read it. But I've never been into mysteries like Murder She Wrote or Matlock. I always wanted books and television shows with more emphasis on the suspense. But yesterday changed all that!
I went to Barnes and Noble just to look which never actually happens. I'm hoping one day it will which is, I suppose, why I keep trying. At any rate, I strolled through the books, pausing at my favorite authors, and something drew me to the mystery section. First, I stopped at the new books section which had a couple of cozy mysteries displayed. I opened one, and the first line immediately caught my attention.
So then I head to the section where ALL the mystery books are displayed, and one by one, I started checking out the opening lines. If a book hooks me from the start, I'm in for the long haul. One of the first books I picked up was A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake, which is the first book in her A Magic Potion Mystery series. Check out the first line:
If there was a Wanted poster for witches, I was sure my freckled face would be on it.
Oh, yeah. I was caught, and the book went home with me...as did five others, all cozy mysteries that I can't wait to read. I started with Heather's book, and I'm over halfway finished. I've been laughing all the way through it. How have I let myself miss out on these?
A Potion to Die For is warm, funny, with a hint of romance and magic—everything I love to read in books! And the heroine, Carly Bell Hartwell, is someone I'd love to be friends with. I'm so excited to have discovered a new-to-me author and genre!
“Ow!” A suitcase landed on top of my shoulder as I attempted to wrestle my carry-on into the overhead bin.
“Sorry about that.” The man behind me didn’t sound sorry, but I held my tongue. It was going to be a short flight, and I’d endure a little inconvenience since it was getting me one step closer to my dream.
I side-walked into the seat row and found my spot next to the window, adjusting the shade to hide the sun from my eyes. I turned in time to see the man who’d accosted me with his suitcase dropping into the seat next to me. I shifted and gave him as much room as possible. He was well over six feet tall with long legs and broad shoulders so this wasn’t going to be a comfortable flight for him no matter what I did.
“I really am sorry about that suitcase. I thought I could catch it.” His brown-eyed gaze landed on my face, and one corner of his lips quirked upwards in a half-smile. “I guess I’ve never been good at deducing the speed of gravity.”
Surprisingly, I smiled back. “It’s okay. I doubt it’ll even bruise.”
The flight attendants began their safety presentations, but I’d been flying for most of my thirty years and had them memorized. Apparently, so had my seatmate for he hadn’t changed his focus.
“You look familiar.” The minute the words left his mouth, he held up one hand. “I swear that’s not a pickup line. I really have seen you somewhere before.”
“If you watch WTCL News, that’s where you’ve seen me.” An anchor for the past two years, I’d just been offered a prime position with a larger news station in Charleston, SC.
He snapped his fingers. “That’s it. Julianna Bridges.” He extended his hand. “Doug Rickards. Nice to meet you.”
I took his hand in mine, and the warmth of his palm unnerved me. Quickly withdrawing, I pretended to make sure my seatbelt was snug when the plane began accelerating down the runway. The force of the takeoff pushed me back against the seat. Seconds later, we were airborne, and I glanced at Doug, surprised to find him still watching me.
He didn’t apologize for staring. “You had the biggest smile on your face during takeoff.”
“Did I?” My face flushed. “I’ve always loved flying. There’s just something about soaring high above the clouds, leaving all of your worries far below.” Realizing I was babbling, I lowered my gaze and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.
“Can I buy you a drink, Ms. Bridges?” The husky rumble of his voice made my toes tingle.
I’d never met a man on an airplane before. I mean, I’ve met men, but none that I’d consider dating. But this one... I realize he’s waiting for my response. “Absolutely, and it’s Julianna.”
He pressed the overhead call button.
Feeling a bit like a giddy school girl, I asked, “So what is it you do, Mr. Rickards?”
“It’s Doug, and I’m the news director for WDBD in Charleston.”
My heart shot up to my throat then the smile faded from my face. “Which means you knew all along who I was. Why the ruse?”
His eyebrow lifted. “Ruse? I’m not following you.”
“Really? You don’t know that I’ve just been hired to work for WDBD as the six o’clock anchor? That wouldn’t be something that would get past the news director. In fact, I believe all new hires have to be approved by you.” My ire rose with my voice. “I’ll bet you even engineered our seat assignments, didn’t you? Well, let me tell you this, Mr. Rickards, whatever game you’re playing, I’m not interested. We will be business colleagues and that is it.”
With a sniff, I sit back against the seat and try to stare a hole through the window. It’s only when I hear chuckling that I shift my glance. He’s laughing. At me. My temper boils, and I wonder if I should tell him right then and there that I won’t be taking the position after all.
“Ms. Bridges,” I correct icily.
“I suppose I should have added that I’m the outgoing news director. My successor hired you.”
“I’ve taken a position at a rival station.”
“Oh.” I want to sink into my seat. “I see. I suppose I should apologize. I mean, I do apologize. I’ve always made jumping to conclusions an Olympic sport.”
“Does that mean I can still buy you that drink or maybe dinner once you get settled?”
“Let’s start with the drink.” I turned in the seat to face him. “If that goes well, you’ll know where to find me.”
My thoughts, experiences, challenges, and goals. Right here. At least once a week or so. Oh, and opinions, too. Those will definitely come in. Join me!