by LynDee Walker
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Midnight Mysteries, and a link to purchase it.
Cooler breezes, shorter days, and pumpkin spice everything naturally gets mystery readers thinking about Halloween—but nine bestselling cozy authors have had jack-o’-lanterns on the brain since spring when they cooked up the idea for a Halloween mystery anthology.
Ritter Ames, Carolyn Haines, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Larissa Reinhart, Karen Cantwell, Connie Shelton, LynDee Walker, Morgana Best, and Maria Grazia Swan each wrote a new, original mystery short story/novella, and then compiled them together in the collection Midnight Mysteries, now available at Amazon.
“The whole thing started with Ritter,” Walker said. “She’s been a fantastic ‘fearless leader’ through this whole process.” Ames, who writes both the Bodies of Art mysteries and the Organized mysteries, spearheaded a similar project with her author friends for the holiday season in 2015.
“Several of us did a Christmas anthology last year, and it was so much fun I thought it would be a blast to do another,” she said. “I’ve always loved fun Halloween stories, so that seemed like a good thing to do next. And what is better than a cozy Halloween tale, right?”
Not much, it turns out. The collection was Amazon’s number one mystery anthology before it had been out for a week, and it’s holding on at number three almost three weeks later.
“Ultimately, I just picked my dream team,” Ames said. Haines, Swan, and Cantwell were part of the 2015 project, and Ames said she and Haines met up at Left Coast Crime last winter and brainstormed the Halloween idea. “[Carolyn] introduced me to Connie Shelton who was also at the conference and whose Samantha Sweet series I already enjoyed…[I added] some Henery Press friends in Larissa Reinhart and LynDee Walker, whose work I already read, and [also] Eleanor Cawood Jones who makes me laugh daily on Facebook and wrote one of my favorite short stories in the lastest Malice Domestic anthology.”
Most of the stories in the collection feature characters avid mystery readers will recognize from the authors’ bestselling series. In the Midnight Mysteries, readers will find brand-new, original shorts featuring Sarah Booth Delaney, Marmaduke Dodsworth from the Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romances, Cherry Tucker, Nichelle Clarke, Kate McKenzie, Thelma Spelled (The Kitchen Witch’s grandmother), Samantha Sweet, and Lella York.
“Eleven books into my series, [Samantha’s] running a highly successful pastry shop—and there’s a little help from a magical artifact,” Shelton said. “The bookseller next door invites everyone to a costume party at his shop, and after baking a zillion cookies, cupcakes, and an all-black cake for a young witch’s wedding, the gang is looking forward to the party. But during the soiree one of the guests is murdered and a rare book vanishes, so Sam and her husband, county sheriff Beau Cardwell, are now involved in solving the pair of mysteries.”
The only story not tied to an existing series is Cawood Jones’ “Salad Days, Halloween Nights,” though she has published two volumes of short story collections.
“I dearly love a tale with a twist, and especially one where you might find yourself unwittingly in sympathy with the criminal. Emotions run high at holiday time, and costumes and candy and parties make a great setting for a crime story,” she said. “The annual family shindig Chef Jackson Bell throws at his restaurant is a key part of the story, with plot winding into the setting. I’d like to be invited to a party like that! Ironically, the time of year where people hide behind masks and in costumes is actually when my main character begins to see himself clearly for the first time in years, and act accordingly.”
Cantwell took a ghost from her Sophie Rhodes series and gave him his own tale.
“Marmaduke is not the main character of that series, but I’m pretty sure that to most readers, he is the favorite character. Heck, he’s my favorite character,” she said. “It Takes a Ghost” occurs between the second book in the Sophie Rhodes series, “Some Like it Haunted,” and the upcoming third book, “Spirit in the Rye,” when Marmaduke dons his Sherlock Holmes hat and takes a stab at crime investigation alongside a rookie police detective. Turns out, his talent for invisibility is quite an asset.”
Leading into an upcoming project was popular among the authors—LynDee Walker’s story, “Frightening Features,” leads into her new title as well.
“I was a little nervous when Ritter asked me to do this because I think I do better with novels than shorts,” she said. “But I love Halloween, and I had the perfect setting; the abandoned Renaissance Fairground in my story is an actual place, and sending Nichelle out there to write a feature on a ghost hunting TV show sounded like so much fun it overcame my jitters.”
Walker isn’t the only Halloween fan in the bunch. Haines said it’s her favorite holiday of the year.
“My family loves horror movies, and when I was growing up, my mother went all out,” she said. “Our house was the place to be because, of course, I grew up in a haunted house. My mother was a great prankster, and she loved doing the little things that made this spooky holiday a special treat for all of us.”
On the flip side, Reinhart said a spooky book and some treats are more her speed.
“I like to read a classic horror book every year and eat candy and the other fall activities like apple picking and pumpkins,” she said. “I dislike making and dressing in costumes, and I don’t get into the thrills of haunted houses and the like. I wear a t-shirt that says, ‘This is My Costume.’ But I enjoy dressing Cherry Tucker in them.”
Best, who writes the Kitchen Witch series, said the supernatural was taboo when she was a child, but one Halloween night made her a believer.
“I was raised in a strict religious family, where anything even remotely paranormal was said to be ‘of the devil.’ One Halloween, my sisters and I were sitting with our mother in the living room, when we saw a tall man in dark clothes walk up the steps and go to the front door. My mother went to answer the door, but there was no one there. The house was on the side of a hill and the steps, flanked by a steep drop, were the only way to the front door—there was no other exit. My sisters and I did not see the man leave. He vanished into thin air. Just then, we heard a scratching sound in the ceiling that turned into loud constant banging. My mother ordered my father to go into the roof to see if possums were making the sound. My father called out that there was nothing in the roof, and at that very moment, the whole ceiling moved in ripples. It sounded as if elephants were bashing on it. The house then shook violently as loud banging sounds traveled around the house in an anti-clockwise direction. It sounded as if someone with superhuman strength was banging on the walls. My sisters and I thought it was great, but our mother was enraged. She went outside and screamed threatening Bible verses at the house. It brought the neighbors out of their houses.”
Midnight Mysteries is available now at Amazon for $2.99 in ebook, or free through Kindle Unlimited.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Midnight Mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “midnight,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 15, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section and watch for many more Halloween short stories this month.