Wednesday, June 16, 2021

An Interview with Connie Berry, Author of 'The Art of Betrayal'

Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare's College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie. 


Tell us about  your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

The Art of Betrayal is the third book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. 

Kate is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. She’s thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. This complex case pits Kate against the spring floods, the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history, a house with a tragic history, and a clever killer with an old secret. 

I was inspired to write this story by the history of the sacking of the Old Summer Palace north of Beijing in 1860 by British troops under the command of the British High Commissioner, Lord Elgin. The act was in response to the torture deaths of delegates sent to negotiate the surrender of the Qing dynasty. Within three days, the magnificent palace, possessing the most extensive and invaluable art collection in China, was reduced to ashes and rubble. The soldiers helped themselves to many of the treasures, which have ended up in museums and private collections all over the world. China has made patriating these treasures a constitutional mandate.

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?

My books are published by Crooked Lane Books, New York. In 2018, I met Faith Black Ross, senior editor, at SleuthFest Writers’ Conference. She liked my writing and offered me a contract. That simple story happened after ten years spent writing my first novel. During those years, I learned how to write a book. The best thing I did was join the national and local chapters of Sisters in Crime. They encouraged me to attend writers’ conferences, to take advantage of as many learning opportunities as I could, and to meet other authors. Having a support system was key.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?

One of the things I learned with my first book is the publisher gets to choose the title. This is a good thing, because they do the market research and know what they’re doing. Book titles convey something about the book to a potential reader. My working titles are never the final title. Crooked Lane did ask me for ideas, though. For The Art of Betrayal, I submitted at least twenty-five potential titles, incorporating words that conveyed the content and theme. They chose the one that fit best, and I’m very happy with it.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?

Cover design is another aspect of the publishing process handled by the publisher. I was asked to provide a summary of the content, some key words and themes, major settings, and an excerpt or two that captured the essence of the book. Since The Art of Betrayal is set in England during the month of May, and since an early key scene takes place at the village May Fair, the cover depicts a May pole on the green in an English village. I love the menacing clouds. They perfectly capture the setting and mood of the book.

Who is your cover designed, and how was your experience working with the designer?

I don’t know who designed the cover but I’d like to thank him or her. I suspect the design was a collaborative affair. An early mock-up was blue-washed and too dark. Throughout the process, I was invited to give my thoughts. 

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?

An early reviewer said this: “As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I was going to love the book.” That is exactly what a cover should do—draw the reader in.  

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?

As a traditionally published author, I’m not the best person to ask. I’ve never looked for a cover designer. For those designing their own covers, I can suggest reaching out to one of the terrific organizations—Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, etc. These organizations exist to support and encourage authors, and they offer loads of resources. A indie writer might also check out the credits on a cover they especially like. Who designed it? Find out and contact them.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?

Thank you so much for letting me chat about The Art of Betrayal. I had lots of fun writing the story and hope your readers will give it a try.


1. Amazon: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery: Berry, Connie: 9781643855943: Books

2. Barnes&Noble: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (

3. Booksamillion: The Art of Betrayal : A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry (

4. Indiebound: The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery |

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

❀Q&A on Book Covers with W.L. Brooks Author of THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MASK❀ #TheTruthBehindtheMask #bookcovers

 W.L. Brooks was born with an active imagination.  When characters come into her mind, she has to give them a life- a chance to tell their stories. With a coffee cup in her hand and a cat by her side, she spends her days letting the ideas flow onto paper.  A voracious reader, she draws her inspiration from mystery, romance, suspense and a dash of the paranormal.

A native of Virginia Beach, she is currently living in Western North Carolina. Pick up her latest novel, Unearthing the Past – available now!





Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it? 

The Truth Behind the Mask is the fourth novel in my romantic suspense McKay Series, and this book is all about Alexandra McKay. After getting to know this character throughout previous installments, I couldn’t wait to write her story.


Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way? 

I’ve been lucky enough to have my series published by The Wild Rose Press. But, with every manuscript, I’ve prepared a query letter, synopsis, and had the first chapter ready before I even began submitting it. Every publisher and or agent has different guidelines for submission, so be sure to check what they require before you send anything out.  


How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later? 

I usually come up with my title after the manuscript is finished but before I submit it for contract. I brainstorm with a friend, throwing title ideas back and forth, then out of the ether comes the title.


Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?


I tend to have a pretty good idea for what I want on my cover, but this time I was drawing a blank. Luckily, once I came up with the title, the idea for the cover just clicked.


Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her? 

Kim Mendoza, an artist with my publisher, created the cover for this book, and she did an amazing job.


How was your experience working with the designer? 

We didn’t work together directly, but she took what I had envisioned and gave it life.


What has been the readers’ response to your cover? 

People seem to like it.


What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer? 

Look at the cover designer's previous work, see if their vibe matches yours, and be as open with them as you can.


Anything else you’d like to say about your book?

This is probably my favorite book in my McKay series thus far. 

Book Info:

Is Alexandra McKay the reason her sister Fletcher left town? Yes. Does that mean Alex wants to put her life on hold to bring the little beast back? No! But when she discovers her sister’s been abducted, Alex will do whatever it takes to rescue her.

Giving up his PI gig was tough, but Jake Keller would rather do that any day than partner up with Alexandra McKay. Unfortunately, if he wants to find his friend Fletcher, he has to work with Her Royal Pain-in-the-Behind-ness. Hot or not, the woman makes his jaw twitch.

Forced together by circumstance, and ensnared in a web of clues, the pair submit to their undeniable passion. But if they’re unwilling to face the truth, they will risk not only Fletcher’s life but their own chance at happiness.


Amazon →

Sunday, June 6, 2021

❀New Creativity / Self-Help Release Alert❀: 'The Fire Inside: ' by Lucy Adkins & Becky Breed


Author: Lucy Adkins & Becky Breed
Publisher: WriteLife Publishing
Pages: 290
Genre: Creativity / Self-Help


The underlying principle of The Fire Inside is that we all have within us vast untapped reservoirs of creativity, and when we recognize and begin to connect with that potential, our lives will open in ways we cannot begin to imagine. Many books have been written about the art and craft of individual disciplines of creativity. Yet few are so inclusive, so welcoming as this book, offering insight not only for furthering ones abilities in the traditional arts, but also in our day to day creativity, which so enriches our lives.

Based on the authors’ combined fifty-five years of teaching, working with writing groups and providing workshops on writing and creativity, The Fire Inside is written in a spirit of warmth and generosity. It invites the reader to:

Say yes to creativity and the nurturing it provides

Choose to live a bigger life

Uncover inner sources of inspiration and discover how “the magic” happens

Become a part of the creative community

Let go of forces that try to limit you

Develop skills for what it takes to live more creatively

Locate the “sweet spot” needed to build your life as an artist and creative being

Wherever  one may be in his or her creative life—just tiptoeing in or fully immersed in the life of the imagination, The Fire Inside will be a companion in that life, a source of encouragement and inspiration. The manuscript is composed short essays designed to provide a daily dose of support and motivation. It includes anecdotes, inspirational quotations and end of chapter meditations and exercises which ask Why not me? What gets in my way of being creative? In what unknown ways am I waiting to blossom. 

More and more, we hunger for meaning and for opportunities of self-expression. The Fire Inside, in its bite-sized essays which can be read in five or ten minute increments, speaks to that hunger, and provides a source of the creative nourishment we all need.

Deep within us, we have a yearning, a passion, a desire to make and to do, to create something out of our hearts and imaginations that did not exist before. To bring forth something new upon the earth. It is innate in us, this intense wanting, and when we are engaged in the specific type of creativity we were meant to do—whether it be painting, writing, making music, or designing a new way to educate our children—we experience what Martha Graham calls “a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening.” It’s what puts the spark in our eyes, the skip in our steps. It is the fire inside.
         Do you know that fire? Sometimes it manifests itself as restlessness,a vague dissatisfaction, a feeling that there is something important you must do, you have to do, to be true to yourself. It is the little ache you feel when you read a story that is heartbreakingly true and think I want to do that, or when you see a painting that stuns you with its power, and your fingers itch to pick up a paintbrush. Maybe it isn’t exactly clear what is burning inside, what you want and are put on earth to do. Or perhaps you know in your bones that you must write poetry, you must dance or die, you must create gardens of incredible beauty, but maybe you’re afraid that if you try you will fall flat on your face. You doubt yourself and your abilities. This is the way we humans are, having an intense wanting on one hand, fear and doubt on the other. But let us accept as an essential truth that we are all creative, wildly creative, each and every one of us— that we have vast reserves of untapped talents and abilities—songs only we can write, sculptures waiting to be born from the unique spirit that is us; and when we accept that belief and act on it, oh, then! We wake each day with a new animation, a vibrancy and passion. We feel like children let out of a stuffy classroom into a blue-sky spring day, and we can’t wait to see what we can do with it.
         The fire inside is the “something” that fascinates you, intrigues you, so that you go to sleep and wake up thinking about it. You want to study it from all its interesting angles and make it central to your life, keep working at it, falling short in your aspirations at times, but trying and trying again. And if you are not currently involved with something that brings with it such zeal, if you’ve kept your fire tamped down, unable to act on your passion for whatever reason, know that it is still there—the beginning of days filled with intense purpose and meaning, waiting for you.

The Highest Kite
         Imagination is the highest kite that can fly.
         —Lauren Bacall, By Myself and Then Some          The human brain is a remarkable thing. It keeps the body going, stores knowledge, analyzes, remembers, puts two and two together to make sense of the world, and somehow allows for the miracle of imagination. When we were children, we lived in worlds rich in imagination, allowing us to transform a blanket draped over a chair into a cave, the tree-filled ditch behind the house into a secret forest. We carried out endless adventures in the worlds we created, the synapses in our brains sparking with delight and excitement.
         But when we become adults and take on duty and responsibility, we don’t invite imagination out to play as much as we used to. The good news—especially for those wanting to live more creative lives—is that we can become just as involved in flights of fancy as we used to be, rediscovering the world in all its beauty, its design as well as its asymmetrical magnificence. Ask yourself: if you were a little seed in the ground waiting for spring to warm you and pull the green livingness of you up to the sun, what would that be like? If you were a baby robin in a blue egg in a nest, how would it be pecking your way into the world? Crazy questions, maybe, but ones that can stimulate us to bursts of creativity, and as Lauren Bacall suggests, that is a joyous way of living in this world.
         So, if you haven’t exercised the muscles of your imagination lately, why not start now? Not that you have to embark on a novel, necessarily, or begin work on the next Mona Lisa; you can begin simply and joyfully as children do. Look at pictures of art and imagine stepping inside the frames. Who would you talk to and what would you see? Or look outside your window and take note of the different elements there. Maybe you see a bird flying or tree branches swaying in the breeze, then imagine a conversation with that bird or that tree. It may come haltingly at first, in fits and starts, but when you let whimsy back into your life, the brain begins to work in new ways, mapping out new neural pathways. And like muscles gradually becoming stronger as you exercise, so does the imagination become livelier and more free-wheeling. You will find your life opening up, becoming richer as your mind discovers ideas for your next artistic project in the pattern of the night sky or the sound of the wind before a storm. Imagination can be the be-all and end-all for you; it can be everything.



Lucy Adkins earned her MFA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is a writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her first poetry chapbook, One Life Shining, was published by Pudding House Press. She co-presents the Nebraska Humanities program “Diaries and Letters of Early Nebraska Settlers,” and is a frequent writing instructor for OLLI, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and the Larksong Writers’ Workshops. Her book, Two-Toned Dress, was the winner of the 2019 Blue Light Press poetry chapbook contest.



Becky Breed, a veteran educator, poet, and essayist, co-wrote and facilitated “Women at the Springs,” a Nebraska Humanities program empowering women to live more courageously, as well as “The Intergenerational Project” connecting elders and teens through stories to promote communication, writing, and use of the media. She has an Ed.D. in Education, and in addition to teaching at the university level, was the principal of a Gold Star School which was awarded recognition for significant improvements in reading, writing, and math. The students’ resiliency and drive to be the best they can be helped shape the fabric for several of the enclosed essays.

Together the two co-authored Writing in Community: Say Goodbye to Writer’s Block and Transform Your Life, which was awarded an “IPPY” in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Writing in Community, the first book in their “Essential Writing and Creativity” series, along with the impact of Adkins’ and Breed’s many presentations and workshops led to their being named winners of the 2020 Lincoln, Nebraska Mayor’s Arts Award in Artistic Achievement in Literature.