Monday, February 21, 2011
"I'm already hoping for more books in this great series." – Mark Baker, Amazon Top 100 Reviewer
I recently had the privilege of hearing Cathy Wiley read from her humorous cozy mystery, Dead to Writes, and I enjoyed the excerpt so immensely, that I just had to ask her to come share here at Fiction for Dessert. This is SUCH a fun read and the voice of Cassandra Ellis is so priceless that you won't want to miss it!
Author Cassandra Ellis is thrilled to death when her first murder mystery novel is released. She enjoys glowing reviews, praise from friends and family, and all the excitement that comes from being published.
But her celebration is cut short when she becomes the primary suspect for a real life murder. One of the sources she used while writing her novels has been shot, and Cassie is the last to have seen him alive.
When she’s taken into questioning, she spends more time than she wanted in Baltimore City police headquarters. (Although she’d like to spend more time with James Whittaker, the homicide detective assigned to the case.)
When another of her experts is murdered, again right after meeting with her, she needs to apply the knowledge she gained while writing mystery novels to find the killer.
Before more friends die... or before Cassie herself is targeted.
AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE:
One day, she was going to kill her best friend for always being late.
In the meantime, she would just kill someone else. As Cassie Ellis looked around the upscale restaurant, she barely noticed the sleek design, the contemporary furniture, or the exposed brick walls. She concentrated on the people. Waiting, watching, for that perfect moment, that perfect mark. Her eyes fell on a distinguished older gentleman sitting in a back corner. She smirked when she saw him glance over to the considerably younger—and considerably more attractive—blonde with him. Clearly, he was checking to see if his date was impressed by the ambiance of the restaurant.
Just as clearly, he was her perfect victim.
Still, she was a fair sport. If he didn’t order wine, he’d be fine. If he did order wine—at least a particular bottle—then he’d die.
He ordered wine. He had to show off for the blonde, after all. Cassie wasn’t surprised to hear him order the most expensive Merlot on the menu; she had him pegged as a Merlot drinker. A pretentious one, she thought, staring at him like her cat stared at a doomed mouse. She knew something about that particular wine, that specific bottle.
The waiter unknowingly acted out his part of the drama. He took the bottle from behind the bar, walked over, presented it, and waited until the man nodded his approval before wielding the opener. He then handed the cork over to the man for inspection.
She let out a sigh of relief when the man nodded again. The fool didn’t notice anything.
The waiter poured a small portion into the man’s glass. Even with the dim lighting, she was able to see the rich, deep ruby color. She approved of the man’s technique as he raised the balloon-shaped glass and swirled. Rivulets of liquid flowed down the sides of the glass, showing off the legs of the wine just like the blonde was showing off hers in a beaded black dress.
The man brought the glass to his lips. He sipped delicately, inhaled to aerate the liquid, and swished it around in his mouth. Finally, after the wine passed all those tests, he swallowed.
And all hell broke loose.
He lurched out of his chair, sputtering and clutching at his throat as his face took on a dark red color that rivaled the wine. The blonde screeched as he dropped the glass on the table, destroying the pristine whiteness of the linen tablecloth with shattered crystal and splattered Merlot.
Cassie didn’t blink as she watched the man—no longer so distinguished looking—crash into the next table. The guests screamed as the victim thrashed about, sendingwhipped potatoes, baby field carrots, and black truffle meatloaf all over the restaurant. She could hardly blame them, she’d scream too at the loss of such a delicious-
“Are you okay?”
She blinked a couple of times and brought her mind back to the real world. Her waiter stood next to her table with a concerned frown on his handsome face.
“Is everything all right, Cassie? I kept saying your name, but you didn’t answer.”
“Oh sorry, Alan. My mind was …well, elsewhere. Hazard of the writing profession.” She looked over at the table in the corner, where another waiter was just now bringing out a bottle of wine for the distinguished gentleman and the blonde. “I’ll wait to order until Michelle gets here, but could you prep a bottle of the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs?”
The waiter raised one sandy eyebrow. “Bubbly, Cassie? Do we have something to celebrate?” He paused a moment and grinned. “Let me guess, your book’s being pub—
“Don’t say it,” she interrupted and held up a hand. “I want to tell Michelle first. I promise I’ll tell you afterward. Anyway, I want to surprise her. Can you bring out the bottle about five minutes after she arrives?”
“Of course. Shall I open it with a big flourish?”
She smiled her approval. When Alan left, she turned back to her couple in the corner. Just like in her fantasy, the man went through the entire tasting process, including distributing the liquid in his mouth. Even with her love of wines and appreciation of the tasting ritual, she never liked swishing wine around her mouth. It reminded her too much of gargling mouthwash.
She watched as he swallowed. The results were less dramatic than the story in her head. She had to laugh at herself when she heard the blonde ask about the wine and refer to the man as “Dad.” Obviously, she had read that scene incorrectly. But in her humble opinion, her version of the story was more interesting.
Cassie bent down to snag a notebook and mechanical pencil out of her purse. Tucking a curl behind her ear, she made a note to check out the efficacy and speed of cyanide poisoning. She tapped the pencil against her lips and wondered how the poison could be added to the bottle without any evidence of tampering. If she could figure it out, it would make a fascinating murder method for The Merlot Murders, a title idea thatcame to her. It would establish the “M” alliteration pattern she had started with Mailbox Murders with that title for her second book.
Her second book. Alan had been right, but more right than he knew. Than anyone knew. She couldn’t believe she had managed to keep the secret for this long, but she wanted to be certain it really was going to happen. So she had waited. And waited. And now…
As she put away her notebook—something on her “never leave home without list”—a flash of red from the depths of her cavernous bag brought a mixed surge of butterflies and pride. She wasn’t nervous telling Michelle the news; she knew her best friend would be excited. But her temperamental friend might get upset that she had withheld the information for so long. Well, she’d find out soon.
She grabbed the salt shaker from the center of the table and slid it back and forth while she resumed observing those around her. This time, she decided to forgo her usual diversion of imagining murders. Not that she felt animosity towards her fellow diners; she just was fascinated by mystery stories, especially murder mysteries. Since childhood, she had enjoyed following along with the clues, outwitting the villain, and cheering on the detective. Later, she enjoyed writing new and different ways to commit and solve such crimes. Now, the stories she created were going to pay off. Literally.
That would be good, since she didn’t make that much teaching online writing courses. She was fortunate to have a trust fund from her grandmother that she used to buy a house seven years ago when she turned twenty-one. She didn’t have to worry about a mortgage, and the writing courses paid the rest of her expenses. Mostly. She still had tons of student loans. If she sold enough books, she might even be able to pay them off before she turned forty.
The advance would help with that. Of course, she was putting most of it towards promoting her book. It wasn’t cheap to send out postcards, advertise online, and attend conferences and book signings. But it was going to be worth it. Her Great American Novel was getting published. She hoped it would even sell.
She popped up from her chair as a petite blonde scurried into the room, breathless with apology for being late. Seeing Michelle Edwards in her work clothes, she was glad she had changed into a nice outfit. Her emerald silk shirt and black pants weren’t as nice as Michelle’s navy blue suit, but at least she wouldn’t embarrass herself. She gripped her best friend in an enthusiastic hug.
As they sat down, Cassie reflected on how much they both had grown and changed over the years. She had known Michelle since they were in elementary school. They met through a book, naturally, a book both of them had wanted to read at the same time. When they fought over Trixie Belden and the Mystery off Glen Road, the teacher told them to share and read alternate chapters to each other. Mr. Baldwin probably regretted that action as the two girls became best friends and giggled and whispered back and forth throughout the school day.
Back then, Michelle had been a shy, nerdy girl with messy braids, broken glasses, and a buck-toothed grin. Now, her long, brown hair was smooth, her glasses stylishly Bohemian, and braces had repaired the overbite.
Cassie hoped the years had improved her as well. Her carrot-red hair had darkened down to a burnished copper, although the curls were wild as ever. Her skinny, gangly body had morphed into a tall, athletic one. Not a graceful one though, unless she was on a bike. Then she could almost fly.
“So… tell me. Why are we here? We only come to Corks to celebrate, so tell me, tell me, tell me.” Michelle was never patient.
Cassie had to laugh. That very impatience was the reason they had fought over that book all those years ago. Michelle refused to wait until she was done.
Of course, she was just as impatient. So rather than the long speech she had rehearsed, she took a deep breath and blurted it out. “I’m being published. I mean, my book is being published.”
Michelle leaped out of the chair with a squeal and grabbed her in a choking hug. “That’s incredible, Cassie! Mailbox Murders, right? Who’s publishing it? When? How can I buy tons of copies?”
Her best friend was never lacking in enthusiasm, Cassie thought as her grin widened. “Yes, Mailbox Murders. DSG is publishing it.” The name of one of New York’s largest publishers brought out another squeal from Michelle.
“Oh my God! That’s so awesome. When will it be out? This year, oh no, probably not, publishing takes forever. Next year?” She sat back down, bouncing in her seat.
“Actually…” Cassie bit her lip as she reached into her bag. “July 8th.”
“Of next year?”
“No, this year. As in Saturday.”
While her dream of biking and camping around the United States never came true, Cathy Wiley has achieved her childhood goal of writing mysteries. She's happiest when plotting stories in her head or on the computer, or when she's delving into research, be it hands-on or in books. (Or yes, the Internet, but she makes certain to confirm that information.)
She draws upon her experience as an event planner and human resources manager to show the lighter, quirkier side of people. And upon her own morbid mind to show the darker side.
In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, dancing, wine, food, and reading. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, with two very spoiled cats. She would greatly enjoy getting e-mail from her fans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also visit her website at: www.CathyWiley.com
or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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Posted by Karen Cantwell at 6:56 AM