The Mystical Mystery Sisters

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Guest Post by Amber Foxx

Marion Eaton and Virginia King and I have three different takes on the mystery genre, all of them unconventional. Our protagonists, in various ways, pass through the barrier between ordinary reality and something else—another time, or perception and knowledge not accessible by the everyday mind. We’ve come to appreciate each other not only as writers but as friends. Virginia and Marion have actually met—Marion, from England, happened to have already planned a trip to Australia, where Virginia lives, shortly after we started communicating. I haven’t been so lucky yet, but I feel fortunate in their long-distance friendship. To introduce my Mystical Mystery Sisters, I thought it would be fun for each of us to answer the same questions.

When you started writing the first book in your series, did you know where it was going or did it surprise you?

Virginia: I’m a “how would I know what’s going to happen, I’m only the author” kind of writer. The First Lie started with one sentence: All she had to do was jump. This applied to my main character, Selkie Moon, and also to me. I wrote that sentence with no plot and no plan. Selkie is named after the Celtic seal people—the ones who peel off their skins and dance in the moonlight on human legs—but The First Lie is not a retelling of the selkie myth. Selkie Moon is a Sydney girl who’s run off to Hawaii and got tangled up in the mythological layers of a deep mystery. The mythical elements that popped into the story as I wrote it became complex threads that converge in a stunning conclusion – because it certainly stunned me. It still makes me cry whenever I read it.

Amber: I knew what The Calling was about, but not how it would end. When I put the prologue up for my online critique group, one member mentioned that it was clear that Mae’s missing father was going to be a key mystery. Oh? I’d thought he was backstory. Mae’s struggle with her psychic gift was to be the main plot—but then I realized that her search for her father would be the unifying thread, in the background behind the family struggles and the mystery of what Dr. Tann can do with his own strange gift. Already the book was on a new track based on that observation. I didn’t know how any of the relationships would work out—or not work out. The characters had to go through all of it for me to know.

Marion: It surprised me. I had a rough idea of what I was going to write – a memoir of a special time in my life when I was young and the world was rosy. I started writing and came upon something mysterious to which I had never found the answer, and suddenly, the book took a completely different direction. From a rather boring factual account I suddenly found myself writing a fictional mystery thriller complete with ghosts and a time-slip.

Which of the mysterious phenomena in your book comes closest to something that has really happened to you?

Virginia: I’ve mostly taken true things and let my imagination make them bigger than my own experience. But there is one scene where Selkie has an out-of-body experience and heightened perception of her surroundings. This has happened to me several times—once for an hour in a garden where I felt completely connected to one rose, to every curve and tint of its petals, to every tiny flaw, to every drop of dew. I’ve also had amazing insights into my own mind through psychotherapy and there’s a scene where Selkie has to dive into the murky depths of her mind and discover a dark secret. I couldn’t have imagined the mystical layers of that scene if I hadn’t experienced the process myself.

Amber: Two come very close—one creepy, one beautiful. The creepy one is the wolf spirit. It would be a spoiler to say any more. Some of the visionary and energetic experiences Mae has when she starts practicing as a healer are similar to some things I felt when I had a little training in that field.

Marion: Actually, many of them are close to my personal experience. Perhaps the most unnerving was the sound of a horse being ridden fast up a deserted High Street late at night — when there was nothing to be seen. The experience was even more unnerving because it was so close and so real that my husband pushed me out of the way, and he was not normally given to flights of fancy. The most mysterious was when all the clocks stopped— the incident which provided the title of the book. But that was not my personal experience: I overheard the conversation between two of my friends.

What do you do to refresh your creative source—to water your inner garden?

Virginia: Writing itself refreshes me. I’ve almost finished Selkie’s next mystery, The Second Path, and as my imagination puts surprising things into the evolving story, I get energized to follow them. This is my idea of fun. Then in the middle of the night, connections emerge from that day’s writing, so I keep a note book by the bed and decipher my scribbles in the morning. The moments when I’ve not quite woken up often produce pages of notes and these subconscious connections inspire me back to the keyboard. I live in a valley full of birds in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, so I also carry my notebook when I walk.

Amber: My daily yoga practice smooths out my energy and helps me focus; it’s good for me that I forget about writing while I’m doing it (although I do get ideas for teaching yoga classes). I occasionally incubate dreams to get an answer to a plot problem. I dreamed one of the scenes in The Calling when I was stuck—a new minor character showed up. My best flow happens when I’m running, though. Something gets knocked loose; some little dam in my mind crumbles and ideas move. Often, I get back from a run and have to take notes before I lose track of all the inspirations. And I need to be around people, too. Go out dancing, do something social. Unlike many writers, I’m an extrovert. People give me energy—and they inspire characters, of course.

Marion: I love that you called it an inner garden, because my garden is the source of much delight and renewal. Spending time working or dreaming there, or walking in nature, always calms, refreshes and fulfils me. For many years I have had a daily practice that makes my day go swimmingly. In the morning, I do a little yoga or tai chi, followed by a dancing or breathing meditation, then I take my dog for a walk through the beautiful Sussex countryside. By the time I come back, I am full of ideas and itching to get on with the day, and particularly to write. I also meditate for 10 minutes before I fall asleep at night, so I wake refreshed and happy. If I find myself stuck when writing, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and call on my Muse for help. She never fails me.

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The Mystical Mystery Sisters have teamed up for a giveaway. Enter the drawing to win a paperback copy of the first book in each author’s series. To enter, click here:

The drawing will be held midnight, Sunday April 26.

The Calling

The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

Amber Foxx, author of The Mae Martin mysteries

Amber Foxx,
author of
The Mae Martin mysteries

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions— access to secrets she could regret uncovering.

Gift or curse? When an extraordinary ability intrudes on an ordinary life, nothing can be the same again.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Amber has worked professionally in theater and dance, fitness, and academia. In her free time she enjoys music, dancing, art, running and yoga. She divides her time between the Southeast and the Southwest, living in Truth or Consequences during her New Mexico months.

When the Clocks Stopped

The Mysterious Marsh Series, Book One

Marion Eaton author of The Mysterious Marsh Series

Marion Eaton
author of
The Mysterious Marsh Series

When lawyer Hazel Dawkins decides to write some wills while she waits for the birth of her first child, she unwittingly triggers dramatic consequences. Mysteriously, she encounters Annie, a woman whose tempestuous life took place more than two centuries earlier when Romney Marsh was a violent place, dominated by smugglers.

Soon that past collides with the present, and Hazel finds herself pitted against an evil that has stalked the marsh for centuries. As her destiny intertwines with Annie’s in the shifting time-scape, Hazel confronts a terrifying challenge that parallels history—and could even change it. If she survives.

Retired from legal practice, Marion lives near the sea in the beautiful Sussex countryside with a long-suffering husband, a lazy Saluki, a wild garden and an urge to write into the small hours—all of which she attempts to keep in some sort of order. 

The First Lie

Selkie Moon Mysteries, Book One

Virginia King author of The Selkie Moon Mysteries

Virginia King
author of
The Selkie Moon Mysteries

Selkie Moon is a woman on the run. In a mad dash for freedom she’s escaped her life in Sydney to start over again in Hawaii. But her refuge begins to unravel and she’s running from something else entirely. A voice in a dream says that someone is trying to kill her. Not that she’s psychic, no way. But the messages and threats escalate until she’s locked in a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious stalker. Entangled in Celtic and Hawaiian mythologies, the events become so bizarre and terrifying that her instinct is to keep running. But is she running from her past? Or her future?

Virginia has lived most of her life in Sydney, but has travelled to many places. She’s been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, a producer of audio-books, a writer of fifty-plus children’s books, and an award-winning publisher. These days she’s a full-time writer who paints a bit, living in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband.

From April 21 – 30, each e-book will be on sale for $1.99 US.

To learn more about the authors and their series:

Gargoyles: Mischievous Monsters for over a Millennia

I’m pleased to welcome fellow Sister in Crime Gigi Pandian as today’s guest on the blog. Gigi and I share a fascination with gargoyles, the subject of her post, and Gigi’s latest mystery, The Accidental Alchemist, features a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician. Take it away, Gigi!


I’ve always been fascinated by gargoyles, so when I began writing a paranormal mystery about an alchemist, the gargoyle character ended up taking over the story!

I’m not alone. Gargoyles have fascinated people for millennia. Though they were most popular during the medieval era in Europe, the first known use of gargoyles was in ancient Egypt.

Nobody has the definitive answer as to why drainage pipes were anthropomorphized as gargoyles, but many different forces contributed to their rise in popularity. Gargoyles reached the height of popularity in 13th century Europe. Since they look like tormented souls, and were often used on cathedrals in medieval Europe, one common theory is that gargoyles symbolize trapped souls, showing people they would be safe once they entered the interior sanctuary of the church.

Within this theory, it’s up for debate whether or not those tormented gargoyles were trapped human souls, fierce guardians warding off the devil, or creatures ready to harm people who didn’t attend church. As with much religious interpretation in the Middle Ages, it’s likely that all of these interpretations were used. After all, most people were illiterate, so different ideas spread in different areas.

But what was the intent of the stone carvers themselves? Gargoyles provided an outlet where they could let loose with their creativity.

Historian Janetta Rebold Benton speculates that gargoyles have always fascinated people because we’re naturally drawn to the mysterious and the macabre. “The modern horror movie,” she says, “like the medieval gargoyle, pretends to threaten us but does no harm.” And yes, I do read books about gargoyles by historians!


Technically, a gargoyle is a water spout used for draining rainwater away from a building. But over time, the term has come to be used more broadly, applying to ornamental grotesques perched on buildings. And today, many of these modern “gargoyles” are have a much more benevolent appearance. The gargoyles of Notre Dame in Paris are even said to keep watch for anyone drowning in the Seine.


Architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was the man who created the gallery of gargoyles at Notre Dame, during the cathedral’s restoration in the 1800s. Those famous gargoyles are a “new” addition to the old cathedral.

I love to use real history in my novels, so in The Accidental Alchemist, I created Dorian the gargoyle using the real history of Notre Dame. Both Viollet-le-Duc and famous stage magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin are important figures in the Accidental Alchemist series.


The Accidental Alchemist is the first in a series, so there’s plenty more fun with gargoyles to come.

In The Accidental Alchemist: Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle—not to mention a master of French cuisine—and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text.

“Pandian launches a supernatural cozy series that hits high marks for a modern twist on an ancient practice.”Library Journal

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and the forthcoming Quicksand) and the new Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, and her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Find Gigi online at, connect with her on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GigiPandian), and check out her gargoyle photography on the Gargoyle Girl Blog at


The Ideal Bookshelf

I’m thrilled to welcome one of my favorite mystery authors, Sandra Parshall, as a guest on today’s blog. Her award winning series features veterinarian Rachel Goddard, a passionate, strong-willed character with hidden vulnerabilities. The writing is flawless, the characters three-dimensional and memorable, and whenever I’m in the midst of one of her books, I find myself haunted by the depths of the story, unable to get it out of my mind. If you are new to the series, you should read the books in order, beginning with HEAT OF THE MOON. Just be aware that you may not be able to put this book down.

Today Sandra offers some thoughts on the ideal bookshelf. Please join me in welcoming her to the blog.

Sandra ParshallWhile browsing the new books section of my neighborhood branch library, I came across a delightful book titled My Ideal Bookshelf , edited by Thessaly La Forge. For page after page, more than 100 writers, artists, filmmakers, and other creative people talk about the books that have meant the most to them — the books that would make up their “ideal bookshelf” and represent who they are.

Which books changed their lives? Which made them the people they are today? Which books are their beloved favorites, the ones they read again and again? Each entry is illustrated with a painting by Jane Mount of that person’s ideal bookshelf.

Naturally, I went for the writers first. Robert Crais is a prime example of someone whose life has been shaped by reading. When he was growing up in Baton Rouge, he read “everything I could get my hands on” and picked up The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler at age fifteen because “the cover had this really hot chick on it.” Reading that book was the beginning of his love for detective fiction and his fascination with Los Angeles. It helped to make him the writer he is today. Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, about a human born on Mars who is a loner hero, further influenced Crais’s writing and his outlook on life. Harlan Ellison’s The Glass Teat, a collection of his Los Angeles Free Press columns about the television industry, spurred Crais to leave Louisiana for Los Angeles and begin a career as a writer for Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, and Miami Vice.

 Francine Prose has a shelf filled with the works of Anton Chekov, who “saved my sanity, or what was left of my sanity” during a “messy time” in her life. Reading Chekhov is almost a religious experience for her, uplifting in the same way as gazing at great art.

Scott Spencer’s ideal bookshelf ranges from Enemies, a Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer at one end to A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene at the other, with the works of Alan Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Roth, John Cheever, Bruce Jaye Friedman, Vladimir Nabakov and Doris Lessing in between. The volume that represents his youthful ambitions, though, is Evergreen Review. When he was growing up on the working class south side of Chicago, that literary publication gave him a glimpse of a “dazzling bohemia that I would one day be a part of.”

As the essays in My Ideal Bookshelf prove, the written word can also have a profound effect on people who have never aspired to be writers themselves. Tony Hawk, a professional skateboarder, has found inspiration in books as varied as Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called “It”, about a shocking case of child abuse, and Endurance, Alfred Lansing’s account of the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica that kept a ship of explorers helplessly adrift in Earth’s harshest climate for six months. These books taught Hawk that the human spirit can triumph over adversity and turn life’s worst experiences into something positive.

My Ideal Bookshelf  is filled with such testimony to the power of books, and browsing only a handful is enough to restore the flagging spirit of any writer who doubts that sitting alone at the computer, tapping out words on a screen, is a worthwhile way to spend her time. Books can change lives, and by changing lives they can change the world. The beauty of being a writer is that you never know when a book, a paragraph, a sentence you’ve created will touch another human being’s heart. I was stunned when a woman told me that after reading my first novel, The Heat of the Moon, she understood her troubled relationships with her own mother and sister for the first time. Could any writer ask for more than that?

My own ideal bookshelf would be crammed with works that have affected me. I grew up in a poor family, a family of non-readers, so I can’t explain where I got my love of reading and writing. The public library saved my life by showing me a world beyond the dreary one I lived in and giving me hope that I could be part of that greater world someday. Like Crais, I read everything I could get my hands on, ranging from Dostoevsky to Graham Greene. The writers who most influenced me, though, were Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor, not because they wrote about exotic places but because they showed me that my own life contained the seeds of stories worth telling.

Poisoned Ground 300Today, I can hardly believe that after all the years of struggling to break into print, I am sliding my own sixth published novel onto a shelf with five that came before it. It might not measure up to the groaning shelves of authors with twenty, thirty, or more volumes to their credit, but it’s the book collection that makes me smile with pride.

What books would you place on your ideal bookshelf to represent your life and the person you’ve become?


Sandra Parshall is the author of six Rachel Goddard mysteries, set in Virginia. Her 2006 debut, The Heat of the Moon, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her latest title is Poisoned Ground (March 2014). A longtime member of Sisters in Crime, she has served on the national board and managed the SinC members online community for many years. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a veteran Washington journalist, and their cats Emma and Gabriel. Visit her website at



Interview with author Yves Fey

Today I am pleased to present an interview with one of my favorite writers, Yves Fey, author of Floats the Dark Shadow, an atmospheric historical mystery that absolutely knocked my socks off. Before proceeding to the interview proper, here’s a little introduction to the author and her work:

yves feyFLOATS THE DARK SHADOW is Yves Fey’s first historical mystery, set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. Yves Fey has an MFA in Creative Writing from Eugene Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. She has read, written, and created art from childhood. A chocolate connoisseur, she’s won prizes for her desserts. Her current fascination is creating perfumes. She’s traveled to many countries in Europe and lived for two years in Indonesia. She currently lives in the San Francisco area with her husband and three cats. Writing as Gayle Feyrer and Taylor Chase, she previously published unusually dark and mysterious historical romances.

SAT: Welcome to the blog! When did you first become interested in Paris? I don’t mean writing about Paris, particularly, but what drew you to Paris as a place you might like to read about or visit?

YF: I’ve been a movie addict since kidhood. My love affair with Paris began with An American In Paris, which I saw when premiered. What’s very hokey about it now wouldn’t have bothered me then, and even now the Art inspired ballet at the end is amazing, with Lautrec, Renoir, and Dufy etc.  Apparently it was filmed in the studio, but in my mind I’ve added the real Paris backdrops when I think of it.  And then the Belle Époque romance of Gigi…

SAT: Given that, what led you to set a story in Paris?

YF: I used to write historical romance, but switched to mystery because my sensibility was too dark. Although Paris is my favorite city, I was also enamored of the beauty of  Venice and wanted to set my first romance there. I couldn’t find a historical event that pulled me, so I set it in Florence during the conflict between the Borgias and Savonarola. Next book, I planned to do something à l à Colette, set in Paris. I was told that Paris wasn’t romantic to romance readers. Couldn’t I do Scotland?

Paris continued to claw at my brain to have a novel. When I decided to do an historical mystery, it was at the top of the list for setting, with not much in second place. But finding the right story for the setting took some time.

SAT: What do you like about writing historical fiction?

YF: I’m not all that fond of the present, though I do worship at the altar of my big screen TV.  I like reading and writing about history so I can live there vicariously.

SAT: Why fin-de-siècle Paris in particular, the post-Baudelairean Paris of the Symbolist poets and décadents, rather than some other period of French history?

YF: Before I knew who my villain was, I considered a wider time frame, though the 80s and 90s had the edge. I wanted an American artist heroine who was a student of Impressionism or one of the other movements of that era. While there were many artists working in early post-1900 Paris that I love, I do prefer the works of the latter half of the 19th century to the modernists, so that was a big factor. But edging it toward the 20th century also offered a lot of interesting artistic turmoil for the heroine to encounter throughout the series. I didn’t want the shadow of the Civil War hanging over my heroine, so that excluded the 1860s. I was interested in referencing the Commune, but I didn’t want the bleakness of 1870s Paris. I also hoped to have Oscar Wilde as a character at some point (I’d planned a scene where he met the Revenants in Floats the Dark Shadow, but there wasn’t room for it, so he’s just referenced and is an alibi for one crime). I also had hopes of doing Hugo’s funeral in flashback, but that didn’t work out. Those things were all part of the decision, as I looked at who was alive and working in Paris from 1860-1900, and what events I might include.

Somewhere in here, when my first plot wasn’t coming to life, I decided on a Gilles de Rais copycat for my villain. Huysmans book about Gilles de Rais, La Bàs, was published in 1891, so I focused my research on the 90s. In my reading, I found the story of the Bazar de la Charité, and decided it was a wonderful dramatic scene. I love having a big historic event in my books, even if it’s not one that’s well remembered now, so that was the deciding factor for the year 1897. I’d even thought Michel and Theo might meet at the Bazar, but that chapter kept moving toward the center and I wanted them to have some contact about the murders before that. Somewhat later, I found the story of the midnight concert in the catacombs, and was overjoyed that it happened earlier that year. Those were my historic lynch pins. I hadn’t paid a huge amount of attention to the dates of the Commune at first, as it was going to be dealt with in Michel’s memory, but then I saw that it framed the events of the novel as well. As for the poets, the greatest of the era were all mostly dead—Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine—but they were still the main influences on the Revenants.floats the dark shadow

SAT: Where did Theo come from? Do you have any background as an artist yourself?

YF: I do have a degree in art, and when I decided to write a mystery set in Paris, I absolutely wanted an artist heroine because I felt I could bring her to life vividly, and have her see Paris in a unique way.  Theo and I share a lot of opinions—but not all, and she’s much braver and more direct and emotional than I am.

I had a completely different character at first, but she refused to be an artist, she wanted to be a journalist. I struggled for months with that character and plot, and had all but given up when my copycat killer idea came up and flipped everything around. Theo and Michel had actually been characters in an abandoned historical romance, an Elizabethan La Femme Nikita. When the cop took on new importance to track down my copycat killer, I seized upon them, but had to really reimagine their backstories, since the spy framework put totally different pressures on them that vanished with the fin de siècle Paris setting.

SAT: Tell us how you went about researching the details of 19th-century police work in Paris that are so essential to your portrayal of Michel and to the plot of your story?

YF: That was and is one of the hardest aspects, as my French is nowhere near good enough to use original sources. I hunted the whole time I was working for more and better information in English. I had a book called Crime Scene Stories that was very useful. And I had a great find in a book of the period, with lots of etchings, called The Paris Law Courts, which had great information on how prisoners were booked and what the interior of the jails was like.

I’ve made Michel a member of the Special Brigade, which was quite real, and let him play a bit fast and loose with the hideously bureaucratic French police and law system. There is lots of information available on Bertillon’s complex system of anthropometry which was in use all over the world at the time, before being supplanted by fingerprints. So I could play around with that. There were a lot of big changes happening, so information on historic cases and changes in practices are relatively easy to find, but basics are elusive.

I have visited parts of the old prison, and the Police Museum in Paris.

SAT: I love your website, and it’s even more remarkable to me that you did it all yourself. Tell us how you went about the process of learning the techniques and designing the site.

YF: It was achieved with much floundering and flailing. I did read up on WordPress, but not nearly enough to be confident. The language was too confusing, even though I’d done a little programming in MOO, I’d mostly forgotten it—I was never good at it. I felt overwhelmed, so I decided to do one thing at a time. But one thing would lead to another, and another…arrgh.

I tried a couple of different themes with pretty colors, but they were too limited.  Then I found Weaver, which promised to let me do pretty much whatever I wanted in terms of color (very important for an artist) and layout. And, I was able to do just about everything that I did want to do, but I would often look for the explanation in the wrong place and spends days or even weeks getting the wrong advice for things that turned out to be relatively simple if you knew where to look.  The biggest of these happened pretty early on. I knew I wanted to have different images at the top of different pages. This is easy to do with what they call the Featured Image.  But I misunderstood and thought that the Featured Image was a picture included in the text of the blog or page. So I asked around on the forums and got the wrong advice, or too difficult advice, or advice that worked but limited something else.  Weeks later, someone asked, Why don’t you just use the Featured Image?  So I got my different banners to introduce my different topics. There were several other things that drove me insane because they required so much hunting to figure out, or find the right widget to make work.  It’s very crazy-making when you think something will take 2 hours and it takes 2 weeks!

Some of the things were easy from the start, like doing my own backdrop and picking font colors, but still took a long time just because I fiddle endlessly. Just recently I changed my background because so many people have trouble reading light text on black. I love black and find it easy to read light on dark. It suited the dark feel of the book, but I caved since it was really a big issue where some people could not read the text.  But I sort of sigh when I land on glaring white pages. I find them really boring. The new background is a teal and I do like it, even if it’s not as Gothic in feel as the black. It’s a huge site, but I did ask friends who had old cranky computers if it would load, and it would, so I’ve gone with what I wanted. It will probably be in progress forever, as far as adding text goes, but all the pages have wonderful art to look at. I’ve done most of it myself, but I did get some help with some of the lettering and with frames on the art. The fun part was hunting the art, though that took ages as well. I knew many of the artists, of course, but I kept finding more and more wonderful relevant art I wanted to include.

SAT: Your current passion is creating perfumes. A most unusual hobby! Tell us how that came about.

YF: My best friend and I had done some perfume quests in the past, and we had a couple of favorite perfumers, Serge Lutens and Les Parfums de Rosine, who were based in Paris. On a research trip, I’d already spent my allotted perfume money on Arabie and Rose d’Éte. It was pretty much time to leave when I happened on a shop in the Marais where you could design your own perfume. I thought that would be great fun, but I’d bought my perfume and was running around trying to finish my research, so I didn’t go in. It wasn’t until after I left that I got the idea to design a perfume for one of the characters. Back home, I began to play around a little without much success. On my next trip, I did design a perfume for my courtesan, Lilias. It came out really well. I thought I could use some to promo the book—but the book took longer to write than expected, and I used up the perfume myself. I began doing more experiments at home, and being an obsessive personality, was soon pretty much lost in my creations. It’s really difficult! I’ve ruined more things than I’ve succeeded at, but I do love it. Theo has been totally elusive. I’ve got a fun spicy rose for Carmine, a dreamy absinthe inspired scent, and a yummy Paris Patisserie.

SAT: Thank you so much, Yves! I’m sure I’m not the only one who eagerly awaits the next installment of Theo’s adventures.

Floats the Dark Shadow has already been listed for a number of awards. For more information, and/or to order a copy, visit the author’s website at:


I’m thrilled to welcome one of my favorite mystery authors, Sandra Parshall, as a guest on today’s blog. Her award winning series features veterinarian Rachel Goddard, a passionate, strong-willed character with hidden vulnerabilities. The writing is flawless, the characters three-dimensional and memorable, and whenever I’m in the midst of one of her books, I find myself haunted by the depths of the story, unable to get it out of my mind. If you are new to the series, you should read the books in order, beginning with HEAT OF THE MOON. Just be aware that you may not be able to put this book down.

Today Sandra offers some thoughts on her main character’s profession of veterinarian. Please join me in welcoming her to the blog.

I’m always amused when a reader or interviewer asks if I’m a veterinarian.

Me? Perish the thought.

The work of a veterinarian like my protagonist, Dr. Rachel Goddard, requires a type of emotional strength I will never possess. A good vet is a marvel to me – and by “good” I mean one who is both skillful and gentle, compassionate with pet owners but tough about doing what’s best for the animal. I imagine it’s not unlike being a pediatrician for very young children who can’t communicate verbally. But a vet carries a burden that no pediatrician does: he or she frequently must make the recommendation that it’s time to bring a painless end to the patient’s suffering.

I couldn’t do it. I can’t imagine myself euthanizing an animal – or working with sick animals day after day. Taking care of healthy pets during routine visits for checkups and vaccines is no picnic either. People go into veterinary medicine because they love animals, then spend their whole careers being hissed at, growled at, scratched and occasionally bitten by their terrified, I-don’t-want-to-be-here! patients

Rachel is made of stronger stuff than I am, and I admire her for it. She cares deeply about her patients, but she does what is necessary to heal them, end their pain, or see to their basic medical needs. I didn’t base Rachel on a particular person, but she shares her gentle approach to caring for animals with our real-life female vet.

When I started writing about Rachel – in The Heat of the Moon (2006) – we’d already had a couple of female vets for our cats, and the friend who volunteered to help me get the animal medicine details right was a woman vet, but I still thought I was clever to choose an unusual occupation for my protagonist. Before long, though, I realized my fiction was following a real-life trend. In 2009, for the first time, women outnumbered men in the veterinary profession, and that majority has continued to grow. Today nearly 80% of veterinary students are female. Vet colleges are now actively working to recruit more male students to maintain diversity.

What explains the shift? A lot of veterinarians might say it’s because their profession doesn’t pay as well as other branches of medicine, and men aren’t as willing as women to accept an average salary of $70,000 to $80,000 after investing the time and money to complete their training. If a man loves animals and wants to work with them, though, the prospect of a middling income won’t stop him any more than it will stop a woman. The change in vet college enrollment may simply be a reflection of the general shift in education: since 2000, women students have outnumbered men in U.S. colleges.

The new female majority is changing the profession. Women will always be the ones who have the babies, and this basic fact of human existence must be taken into account. Flexible schedules and part-time employment have become more common for vets who are mothers. Some prejudice against women still exists, of course, both among pet owners and male owners of veterinary clinics, but the sheer number of women in the profession should eventually eliminate any lingering bias.

I admire anyone, male or female, who chooses to work for the benefit of animals. I hope my respect for veterinarians shows in my portrayal of Rachel. I get a kick out of writing her because she’s so much stronger and smarter than I am, and through her I can vicariously do some of the things I’m too much of a wuss to do in real life.

Sandra Parshall is the author of the Agatha Award-winning Rachel Goddard mystery series. The fifth in the series, BLEEDING THROUGH, will be published September 4.

Visit Sandra at her website,, and join her each Wednesday at

Saint Nick goes on the Road

The E-Road, that is:

Saint Nick’s Blog Tour

Sunday Dec. 4 at Buried Under Books
Nancy blogs about Trees, Christmas and Otherwise
Includes Giveaway!

Monday Dec. 5 at Suddenly Books
Interview & Giveaway

Wednesday Dec. 7 at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews & Interviews

Thursday Dec. 8 Interview with Morgen Bailey

Friday Dec. 9 at Pens Fatales
Nancy blogs about Leftovers, Fir-Tree Style

Wednesday Dec. 14 at Potluck with Judy
Nancy blogs about Fir Trees and Christmas Cookies

Thursday Dec. 15 Interview: On the Hot Seat with Cally Jackson

Guest blog & Giveaway on Girl who Reads
Date and topic TBA

Interview & Giveaway on Great Minds Think Aloud
Date TBA

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