Monday, July 29, 2019

A chat with Vett Brayborn, a gifted detective!

Vett Brayborn is a character created by Dr. Sandra Tanner

Hello there, my dear readers! Ready to start another week? I'm doing an extra post today, for Ms. Vett Braybron, a fascinating cozy detective with a special gift. Tell us, Vett, what is your major strength while investigating a murder? 

I have a power from within. The easiest way to explain it is to say I have a gift of sight. Some people in my community don’t like those words and don’t understand what I can do. Nevertheless, I have a supernatural sight that brings me knowledge and discernment far beyond what anyone else has admitted to being able to know or discern. When I say knowledge, I mean having an uncanny understanding of what is right and wrong in a situation or thing. The knowledge is closely related to wisdom—knowing clearly how, when, where, and what to do with the knowledge presented to me. The discernment gives me the ability to look at a situation or environment and at some point know the truth. The truth is not always plain as day or quickly revealed. But after removing layers, I see it.

In my youth, I was afraid of my gift because my friends could not do what I could do; I didn’t want to be different. There were many times in my youth where my mother held my crying and shaking body while consoling me and helping me to see that what I had was nothing to be afraid of. She showed me that what I was able to do was my gift from God and that other people had gifts that I didn’t have. By the time I was in my early twenties, I was completely comfortable with it and knew explicitly that my gift was given to me to help people.

That's quite a strength! And what’s your major weakness while investigating a murder?
I’m a softy at heart. I tend to become too involved with the interested parties; I empathize deeply with the people I am helping. I share in their suffering and grief. I’ve tried to remain detached because I think the knowledge and discernment would come to me quicker if I did. You know the old adage “can’t see the forest for the trees.” I think I become too involved with making the people I work for feel better or comfortable that it takes a moment for me to see the situation outside of them. But I eventually do. When I was working to find the name of the murdered victim found buried on my deceased great aunt’s farm, I was so concerned about making sure my great aunt’s name did not get tarnished that I had to stop worrying and refocus on the main point at hand: There was a dead man who needed to be identified and his killer needed to be found. So sometimes, I need to stop and refocus myself.  I don’t want to be un-emphatic. I just need to stay better focused on the case in addition to recognizing and sharing the perspective of the people I work for. 

The human element is very important while wroking on a case. What’s your daytime occupation? How does it relate to your investigations?

I own a Southern food restaurant called Vett’s Place that I love. It is open seven days a week. I am the full-time manager and my Aunt Clove—my mother’s youngest sister—is the chef. She is the best cook I know. My restaurant does extremely well and I am proud of it.

Since I am the owner and manager, I can come in late or leave at any time to carry out my inquiries and investigations. My strong people, leadership, finance, and creativity skills helped make my restaurant the success that it is. These same skills assist me in my investigations. The biggest of these skills is people skills. My employees and clients trust me. I work hard to make sure they do.

Who do you see yourself closet to: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Sam Spade? 

Definitely Miss Marple. I am not an elderly spinster, but I am an amateur consulting investigator, just like Miss Marple. Also, like Miss Marple, I solve crimes using my shrewd intelligence (and in my case, my gift). I, too, have a remarkable ability to latch onto a casual comment and connect it to the case at hand. I love the Miss Marple stories and can relate to them wholeheartedly. Two of my favorites are The Mirror Crack’d and a Caribbean Mystery.

The Mirror Crack'd is a favorite of mine too. Do you have anyone helping you in your investigations? Tell us about them. 

Unlike Miss Marple who has no regular secondary character around her, I have my best friend Dimma Kirkland. Dimma and I have been best friends since elementary school. She owns a successful real estate agency. Dimma did a great job in handling the sale of my great aunt’s farm and other properties. She does not always accompany me on my inquiries and investigations, but we do meet to discuss my findings. She has a special knack of asking questions that bring me enlightenment. Dimma has been married since graduating college and has one child, Simone, who is my godchild.

Dimma is the yang to my yin—up and down, respectively. When I am feeling down about a case I have yet to solve, Dimma will inevitably say the right thing that will pert me right up.

Let's wrap it up with a quote. Do you have a favorite one? 

I have two.
1.     And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (MEV Bible, Galatians 6:9)
2.     Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. (Joseph Campbell)
Some days when I feel like I am getting nowhere in my inquiries and investigation, hearing or reading these two quotes are just what I need to get me back on track. These two quotes are so uplifting.

Thanks for the interview, Vett, and I hope to visit your restaurant soon!


A native of Pittsylvania County, VA, Dr. Tanner holds a Ph.D. in Organization and Management (Leadership focus) from Capella University, Minneapolis, MN, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA.
At an early age, she developed a love of mystery and suspense stories from reading popular detective novels and magazines. She directed this love into writing her own whodunit murder mysteries. Her published novels are Sundrenched WaterSecrets of Salmer Tawgg (So Now They Know), and Sacks of Murder. Her short story Oh, My Dear God! won 3rd place prize in The Writers Weekly 24 Hour Short Story Contest. She is currently seeking publication for her fourth murder mystery novel—Stolen Four Minutes
Dr. Tanner enjoys watching detective television shows, and she looks forward to solving the crime ahead of the detectives. She considers herself to be an amateur investigator and delights in formatting plausible whodunit scenarios.
She is a member of James River Writers. She is a past president and past director of the Richmond chapter of ISM (Institute for Supply Management). She served for 11 years as the president of the 23rd Investment Group, an investment group she founded, which is currently in its 19th year of operation.

Dr. Tanner lives with her husband in Richmond, Virginia, where when she is not writing, reading, or attending writing seminars, she travels seeing the beauty of our fifty states—eleven more states left to visit.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A chat with Rosalie Bennett, the Wild Card Detective!

Rosalie Bennett is a character created by J.S. Peck

Rosalie Bennett, our guest today, is quite a girl! She can tell more about herself that I can, so let's cut to the chase and ask her some questions. Tell us, darling, did you choose to become a detective? Or didn’t you have a choice?
My fiancé was a policeman. When he refused to get involved in the drug dealing in his precinct and ended up dead, I knew that he’d been murdered despite the police chief insisting he had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car. As a psychic, I knew I was right. When no one would listen to me, I knew it was up to me to prove them wrong. And then, when my tarot card client, Melissa, was murdered, what choice did I have but to do what I could to find their murderer
Sometimes I wish I had psychic powers. Not only it would help me catching killers, it would also allow me to talk to my Wilson, rest his soul. And what’s your daytime occupation? How does it relate to your investigations?
I write a spiritual column for Women Living Well, a magazine that has asked me to start writing what really goes on in Las Vegas. That’d take me out of my hiding away for the three years since my fiancé‘s death and step back into the real world. I’m also a psychic who reads tarot cards, and when the Death card shows up in a reading, it’s a warning that murder can follow. The Death card appeared in the reading of my recent client and I was determined to find her killer—as a self-declared sleuth. I thought that perhaps it might lead to me discovering what really happened to my fiancé.
Apart from the spiritis, do you have anyone else helping you in your investigation?
I met a news reporter from Channel 5, Brian Boyce, who asked me as a psychic to help him in his investigation since it appeared that what he was working on and my trying to find my client’s killer were tied together. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was working undercover for his client and the FBI. He and his partner own a detective agency in Boston, Massachusetts. All three of us worked together.
That's hardcore! What do you know about crime scene investigation?
I’m sorry for laughing, but to answer your question, not that much. But I’m learning. My detective partners are always amazed at how I can get so involved in all that happens. Trouble seems to follow me.
We have that in common. Are you a fan of crime novels? What are your favorites?
As a young girl, I read the Nancy Drew series. I loved that she was smart and able to solve crimes. Since my parents’ death, I’ve stayed away from reading anything to do with death. But now, I’m excited about starting to get into the world of all the wonderful crime and mystery books out there.
Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want others to know.
When I was in middle school, I punched a boy who was bullying me in the face and gave him a bloody nose. I got in trouble for doing it. My grandmother was called, and I was dismissed from school for the rest of the day. She was not happy with me; she hated violence of any kind.
Is your grandmother still alive?
Yes, and no. By that, I mean that she’s no longer alive on earth, but she visits me spiritually and gives me advice. She’s always around when I need her or when she has something to say.
Let's end with a quote. What's your favorite one?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” – Anais Nin

Thank you so much for the interview, Rosalie! Continue the good work. And to my readers: stay tuned, for we'll have another interview next Sunday. Kisses from Grandma Bertha!


Thursday, July 18, 2019

A chat with Jane Drew, from the Hollow!

Jane Drew is a character created by author Lissa Knowles
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Grandma Bertha Interviews. Today's guest is a little unusual. Her name is Jane Drew, and she runs a special place called The Hollow, where I hope to spend a holiday sometime soon. Jane has a lot of fun stories to tell us, so let's get on with it!
Tell us, Jane, what was the first investigation you ever did? 
I’ve always been what you might call a ‘Nosy Parker’ kind of person and I see mystery and intrigue at every turn.  When pencils went walkies in kindergarten, it was clear to me that Mr. Farfuddle (our principal) was trying for a Guinness World Book entry for the largest collection of unique pencils, even though nobody else believed me.
Did you manage to find the missing pencils?
Not really, it turned out that one of the school secretaries, a Mrs. Pennyfeather, was keeping all the extra pencils she came across in one of her desk drawers so that she always had spares on hand. 
You can imagine my surprise when years later I saw Mr. Farfuddle being interviewed about his unique pencil collection and there was my special pencil front and center.  I was right all along.  I just knew Mr. Farfuddle had a shifty look about him.
That’s incredible!  What was your most recent investigation?
Most recently an Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox church had the nerve to die with his mouth stuffed full of sticky bun that was made from my secret recipe.
Oh no!  You mean the sticky bun killed him? 
Of course not.  I was only concerned because he had walked out in front of me while I was ziplining and I accidentally knocked him into some bushes. I thought perhaps he had suffered a delayed heart attack.
Do you think you have more investigations in your future?
I sincerely hope not.  Three unexplained deaths in The Hollow are quite enough for me, thank you very much.
What is your daytime occupation?  How does it relate to your investigations?
I am the Estate Manager of The Hollow, an estate located close to the Appalachian Mountains in upstate New York.  I'm responsible for looking after the maintenance and upkeep of the grounds and buildings on the property. 
What is The Hollow exactly? 
A certain privateer captain (Amos Agnew) was looking for a place where he could retire and live in security.  He heard tales of a place tucked up against a mountain where numerous caves and tunnels could be found while he was stuck ashore in New England recovering from an injury.  After a particularly successful series of victories he, along with his crew, were ready for a new adventure. They all set out from the port of Beverly, Massachusetts to search for the hidden caves their Captain had heard about.
Caves and a 'place of hot waters' were often mentioned in stories they heard from Native Americans that they encountered during their trip into the wilds of New England.  When the travelers stumbled across a natural depression with numerous hot pools, Captain Agnew knew he had found what he was looking for, a secure, safe haven for himself and his crew.
He and my grandfather designed the castle at the heart of The Hollow to be a refuge for the rich and infamous of the day, meaning his closest associates who wanted a break from their life of piracy. My grandfather, Tobias Drew was a Captain Agnews Executive Officer and was also a Master Mason, so he was responsible for overseeing the construction of a castle, its surrounding walls and a secret tunnel system that connects everything in The Hollow with a hidden series of caves. Captain Agnew died childless but his will made provision for my family to remain as the caretakers of the property 'in perpetuity -- or forever, to put it simply.
The castle that houses the Secret Springs Spa and Wellness Center was built as Captain Agnew's residence and he gave the stone outbuildings that are scattered around the estate to any of the crew members who wanted to stay here with him and start a new life. Virtually everyone living here at The Hollow is descended from the sailors who gave up their sea-faring days to follow their captain wherever he led them.
Do you watch crime TV show and movies? What are your favorites?
I love all the cozy mystery series that have been turned into TV shows an mysteries.  I’ve just been binge watching the new Agatha Raisin series based on the cozies by M.C. Beaton.  There is one scene in an early episode where a gorgeous Indian man is doing yoga on the village green – naked if you can imagine it! 
How do you deal with the authorities while doing your investigation?
Because client privacy is essential to the reputation of The Secret Springs Wellness Center, I try to avoid dealing with state police as much as possible.  Unfortunately, following the recent death of my daughter-in-law’s grandmother, I seem to have been landed with my very own undercover police officer staying with me and the grandmothers who share my house.  Plus the owner of the security company who looks after the grounds and outbuildings around The Hollow is taking more of an interest in the inner workings of The Hollow than I really like. 
Some days I feel like I’m juggling a couple of live hand grenades as I pick my way between a mysterious butler and a retired State Police inspector who has been asked by the Department of Homeland Security to keep an eye on The Hollow.
Do you have anyone helping you in your investigations? Tell us more about them.

My three best friends, BJ, Lynne, Eleanor moved in on my life during following the death of my husband, Greg.  I can’t imagine managing to get to the bottom of some of the strange things that have happened around The Hollow since that time.

So how long have you all known each other?

Our friendship back before the 'dawn of time', meaning pre-marriage and kids. We all knew each other's families since we were children, because our grandfathers had all sailed with Captain Agnew who patrolled the waters off New England in a schooner called Tyrannicide. 

My great-great² grandfather was Captain Agnew's Executive Officer while BJ, Lynne and Eleanor are descended from other members of the crew who sailed on the Tyrannicide.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your friends?

The four of us ended up attending university together before branching off and following our personal interests.  BJ went to law school, Lynne studied psychology, Eleanor majored in economics and I ... well I specialized in staying home and having children, four of them to be precise.

The are all semi-retired now, Lynne works the most of them since she has oversight of the rehab wing of the Secret Springs Spa and Wellness Center.  BJ and Eleanor occasionally commute to New York if something comes up that piques their interest.  They help me with handling the legal and financial aspects of keeping a large estate like The Hollow afloat and secure.

 Thank you for your time, Jane! Don't forget to save me a spot at the Hollow, I can't wait to know the place. And thanks also to my readers. Don't forget to check out Jane's adventures. See you next week!


Author Lissa Knowles

I started reading mysteries when I was about ten, with Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer rising rapidly to the top of the heap as my favorite authors. After 50 years plus of reading cozies I finally decided to try my hand at writing one. With my husband of 42 years cheering me on in the background, the Gramma's Off Her Rocker series is off to a rousing start with my first book, Toasted to Death.

I'm currently hard at work on Sinnin' Buns, a cozy that takes up right where Toasted to Death leaves off. 

A second cozy series is also in development, Livin' the Dream - on an Island in the Pacific. I don't want to give anything away but the island in the Pacific might not be where you would imagine!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Chat with Meg Miller, a Detective After my Own Heart

Meg Miller is a character created by Phyllis H. Moore

Hello and welcome to a new interview with a cozy detective. Today we're talking to Meg Miller, a lovely lady who I proudly call my friend. Tell us, Meg, what was the first investigation you ever did? What was the last? Do you expect to do more investigations in the future?

Bertha, I know you must know this feeling. I found a dead body, and she was naked. Eventually, I would learn it was someone I knew. Wouldn’t you know, I was the only one in the house, and of course I was a suspect.

For ten years I was the organizer for the Victorian homes tour during the Dickens Festival. That year, I resigned for new blood to take over. I even gave my hooped petticoat away, thinking I wouldn’t need it. However when the new organizer, a young socialite, fell ill (little did I know that was facelift) at the last minute, I had to step in. That was the reason I found myself in Darrow House just hours before the tour and happened on a nude body in the upstairs bedroom.

Needless to say, we couldn’t carry on with the tour. There was crime scene tape everywhere. It was a fiasco. Part of me wanted to solve the crime because I wanted to clear my name. However, there was a bigger crime than the murder, and I knew it had something to do with that mega-church run by some shady guys I’d gone to high school with. They objectified women, lived in lavish homes, and drove the most expensive cars. When I knew the murder and those characters could be linked, I couldn’t back away from finding out what the heck was going on. It’s all written up in A Dickens of a Crime.

The last murder investigation I was involved with was when Tom Richards and I swapped houses for the summer. He rented a cottage on the beach on Galveston Island, Texas. My friend Jean got to spend some time with me there. I called the beach in front of my cottage Pelican Beach. That’s why the situation became Pelican Beach Murder. Jean saw the woman that piqued my interest, a hippie squatting in an abandoned house across the road. I was out of my element. Everyone in that little beach town, Jamaica Beach, knew everything about the Charles family. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I’ll tell you right now, Bertha, as God is my witness, I’ve never been that scared in all my life. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and every time I opened my mouth, the guy waved the gun and told me to shut up. I was lucky to get out of there alive. So, I don’t plan to intentionally solve a crime ever again.

However, I do have some mysteries in my own family I need to figure out. My mother died when I was young, and she left me knowing nothing about her family. I blame myself for not ever asking about them, but it wasn’t until I had my own grandchild that I realized the importance of that information. So wouldn’t you know that when an uncle died and left me an inheritance, I was floored. It opened a whole new mystery for me to sink my teeth into. That’ll be Mystery on Inheritance Ranch. I think it’ll all be solved by the fall. But, I tell you what, Bertha, nothing is as scary as looking into the faces of those who came before you and facing their flaws. I will keep solving mysteries when they present themselves, but I’m not seeking them.

From my experience, mysteries end up seeking us. I love the fact that you don't overlook the human element. To me, that's the most important thing. What’s your major strength while investigating a murder?

I think we’re close in age Bertha, so you’ll understand what I mean by “people skills.” No one talks to each other any more. They’re all glued to their electronic gadgets. Developing relationships is what I rely on. I plied the widower with cakes and casseroles. I offered to clean out his wife’s gigantic closet and donate her evening wear and furs. I attended the funeral at that disgusting mega-church with their valet parking and crystal chandeliers. In other words, I endeared myself so I could observe and listen to what they were saying about their deceased friend. I also befriended the victim’s twin step-daughters. One of them came to me for support.

Yes, I think my ability to develop relationships was my biggest asset in getting witnesses to Detective Crawford. However, all the credit goes to my cat, LaRue. If it hadn’t been for LaRue, I doubt the crime would have been solved. And another thing, and I know this sounds a little eerie. I began experiencing something that’s never happened to me before. At first it was a scent, then it was unexplained intuition. It’s so remarkable I can’t even tell you what it is. All I can say is I’m a believer now, and I trust my instincts.

I know how it is. It's amazing how much people open up when they realize you're listening to them. And what’s your major weakness while investigating a murder?

Like I mentioned, people are attached to these electronic devices. My weakness is I never remember to keep my cell phone charged. And, of all things, there’s a camera on there. Who knew? When Detective Crawford figured out I could get into the widower’s medicine cabinets and such, she made a veiled suggestion that I could take pictures instead of writing everything down. I can’t tell you the amount of time that’s saved me. I stood in that bathroom looking at my own face on that phone for a while, but finally I was snapping pictures of prescription bottles like a pro.

Yes, there’s been a learning curve with technology, but I think I’m getting there. I’m on the social media. At first, I only did it because my nephew lives in England and I live in Texas. I wanted to see the pictures of his children. After my brother told me I could be his friend on the computer (I didn’t even know what that meant), I had my daughter help me set up an account. Now, she says I’m a creeper. I do find out interesting things on those social media accounts and wouldn’t you know I’ve found murder weapons on there in photos. However, I have to remember not to comment. For heaven’s sake, there are so many new rules I don’t know about.

Well, the bottom line is I’m technologically challenged. If anyone touches the remote to my television, my heart stops. My car, television, watch, and telephone are all smarter than me and I can’t stand it, and I don’t want to read the directions. You see what I’m saying, Bertha?

Yes, I do! I'm not that skilled with technology myself. I still have a VHS movie collection, can you believe it?! Tell me, what’s your daytime occupation? How does it relate to your investigations?

Currently, I’m retired. I worked for my entire career as the head librarian in our community library. I know all of the people in county government and many people in the town because of my employment. I also know how to do research. That has come in handy. Again, I’ve had to learn to rely on the computer but I have all types of information at my fingertips.

My husband, God rest his soul, was the county attorney. I have the blessing and burden of his career, also. He’d prosecuted some of the people involved in that mega-church I mentioned before. They have a history of financial fraud that goes back to their deceased parents. Paul, that’s my husband, talks to me. I know, that’s a little eerie, but I started to listen. I don’t ignore intuition any longer, like I said before.

Another thing I do, since I’m retired, is volunteer. I have several organizations I enjoy working with. The Historical Foundation, sponsors the annual homes tour that I organized. That’s the reason I was at Darrow House. Needless to say, they were all atwitter that I found the dead body. My frequent trips to the police station during that time, it was Christmas, got me involved with the Blue Santa project. At the time, I didn’t have grandchildren, so it was fun to shop for children for Christmas. One of my favorite charities is Dress for Success, providing work clothing for women just entering the work force. That gave me the perfect excuse for helping Brian Hillard, the wealthy widower, clean out his wife’s closet to look for the murder weapon.

I may be working harder since I retired than I did when I had an 8 to 5. I bet you can identify with that, Bertha.

I surely do. I have been a housewife all my life, but ever since I started solving murders, my life turned into a roller coaster. And it makes me proud to help the police do their job. Is there anything you can do that the police can't?

I can eavesdrop and I’ve been known to do this from a closet. I don’t have to read the person their rights or obtain a search warrant. I can find evidence and then notify law enforcement so they can obtain a warrant. I can take a person a pound cake and look around the house. I wouldn’t ever want to have the restrictions of a professional.

A few times I’ve been snooping and had to hide in a nearby closet to wait for people to leave. It’s worked out just fine in a couple of instances, but once, wouldn’t you know it, the damn phone was charged and started ringing. That wasn’t a pretty scene because the guy that called me out had a gun. My heart’s never beat so fast. So, you see, the police have rules for a reason. I don’t like guns and I don’t carry one. The best thing that’s happened to me since I started paying attention to investigations is I’m not afraid to talk back any more. I can be a talker. My tongue can get me in trouble, but it can also get me out of trouble. If a person doesn’t have a gun, I will get in their face. Just ask Hal. I had to take him down a couple of pegs. How dare he try to manipulate me.

I admire law enforcement and appreciate the job they do. If I can help them in any way, I’m willing to do what I can. I don’t want to be an investigator or find any more dead bodies, but I seem to draw them to me. Mysteries of any kind beg me to solve them. Bertha, it gives me a purpose and I bet you can understand it when I say, everyone needs a purpose.

Everyone needs it, and nobody can forbid us from seeking it. Thank you for the lovely interview, Meg, and I hope to see you again soon!


Phyllis H. Moore wants to live life experiences more than once: doing it, writing about it, and reading about it. The atmosphere of the south draws her in and repels her. The characters are rich with dysfunction and redemption, real. She’s had two careers and two retirements. Both careers gave her inspiration for her novels: The Sabine Series, Sabine, Billy’s Story, Josephine’s Journals and Secrets of Dunn House, Opal’s Story, Tangled, a Southern Gothic Yarn, and The Bright Shawl, Colors of Tender Whispers, The Ember Months, Birdie & Jude, and an anthology of spooky short stories inspired by real places and events, The Bridge on Jackson Road. In 2018 she also released a new genre for her, A Dickens of a Crime, a Meg Miller Cozy Mystery. She has authored one nonfiction book, Retirement, Now What? Phyllis has been published by Caffeinated Press in the anthology, Brewed Awakenings 2, Fifteen Tales to Jolt Your Mind Awake.