Who killed the pottery teacher? Book excerpt from Gilian Baker’s new cozy mystery

I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Gilian Baker’s new Jade Blackwell mystery, A Time to Kiln.

Gilian chatted with me about Book 1 in this series on Episode 37 of It’s a Mystery podcast. Today you can read an excerpt from the newest book in the series. Take it away, Gilian!

Book excerpt Time to KilnIn this excerpt from the new Jade Blackwell Mystery Series, A Time to Kiln, Jade has formed a theory about who killed her pottery teacher, Paula Hexby.

After Paula’s husband, Dillon, made a scene at his wife’s funeral last night with local real estate agent, Jack Bristol, she thinks she’s got it nailed.

The next morning I was sitting in my office, but I wasn’t working. Instead, I was creating a timeline of the murder, struggling to connect the dots. Even though there was now another suspect, my money was on Jack Bristol. Last night’s brouhaha didn’t prove Jack was Paula’s murderer, but it did earn him another tick beside his name on my timeline.

I could see Paula falling under Jack’s spell—he was smooth and came off as worldly and sophisticated, even though he was really a small town boy. He was handsome and in my opinion, a better candidate for a fling than Roger Graver, who was much older and definitely not debonair.

Clearly Dillon hated Jack, but admittedly, it could have been for many reasons. Jack Bristol had few friends in the community, though we’d all done business with him at one time or another. But, Dillon detesting Jack because of an affair with his wife fit nicely into my theory.

Unfortunately, there were problems with my theory as well. For example, why would Paula and Jack use the studio as a love nest when they could’ve gone to Jack’s house? It would certainly be more comfortable and private since his house was farther out of town than the studio. If he were going to kill her, wouldn’t it be safer to do so at his own home? There he would’ve had time to bury the body on one of the acres he owned. It would have been nearly impossible for the sheriff’s department to find the body, even if he was suspected of the crime.

Even though I didn’t have the answers to those questions, I still liked Jack for the murder. I didn’t know him well since I’d never personally done business with him, and I’d been happy to keep it that way. However, I concluded that I now needed to get better acquainted with our local realtor.

***

Driving into town a few minutes later, I invented a story to sell my impromptu meeting with Jack. The melee last night would come up naturally in the conversation, Jack being the bragging type, but I came up with a lame cover story, just in case.

I slid into a parking space in front of Bristol’s Realty Office. All the lights were off, and even with my new bifocals, I couldn’t read the sign hanging on the door. Sighing, I unfastened my seatbelt and got out of the car. Seems he was out of the office, but there was a cell number listed so I could inform him of my real estate needs. Fat chance.

Sighing again, I got back into the car and dialed the number as instructed. It rang repeatedly until his voicemail kicked in. As I listened to his arrogant voice giving me instructions, I wondered if I should bother leaving a message. What the heck, I might as well, since he was probably rarely in his office.

After the beep, I left my fabricated story and asked him to call me on my cell phone. I clicked off the call after reciting my number. What should I do now? I’d been psyched to talk to him, so the thought of going back home to work left me feeling apathetic. Did I have any errands to run? I couldn’t think of any. Shoot.

On impulse, I started the car and headed to Paula’s Pottery Barn. I wouldn’t mind getting another look at those pieces with the opalescent glaze—the ones I suspected were the product of the pilfered recipe. Even if no one was around, I might be able to get a good look at them through the big front windows Paula had installed to show off her work before customers had even walked in the door.

It was another beautiful, breezy day, and I took full advantage of being out of the office. I rolled down my windows and turned up the 80s radio station. I sang along with REO Speedwagon …And I’m going keep on lovin’ youuuuuu…The song ended, and the station went to a commercial break right as I pulled into the driveway. Perfect timing. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, though I hadn’t really expected there to be.

I shut off the car in the middle of an ad by a local garage offering a special on snow tires. I didn’t want to think about the snow and cold on such a gorgeous day. Maybe I’d spend some time in the garden when I got home. I was speculating why weeds grew so much faster than things I planted when, out of habit, I turned and pulled on the door knob. To my amazement, it opened.

I’d want to keep my store locked up, even in rural Wyoming, but I shrugged to myself and walked around the large open space, viewing a matching set of teacups and pot all done in the opalescent glaze. Picking up one of the cups, I was astonished by how sturdy it looked, and yet, how light and elegant it was. It took a real artist to throw such a light cup. My attempt would’ve weighed five pounds if it weighed an ounce. I felt a sadness at the loss of such a talented young lady, even if she ended up being a thief and adulteress.

Caressing the smooth, glossy finish, I walked around looking at other pieces on display, when I saw a shoe lying on the floor near the studio door. As I neared it, I gasped and dropped the cup. The sound of it smashing into bits reverberated in my head as time seemed to stand still.

I now knew why Jack hadn’t answered his phone. He was lying on the cement floor of the dusty pottery studio, dead.

Find out if Jade eventually figures out who killed Paula and Jack by grabbing a copy of A Time to Kiln, the latest installment in the Jade Blackwell Mystery Series here.

Gilian BakerGilian Baker is a former English professor who threw in the towel and decided to show ‘em how it’s done. She’s gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain murder mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder for her Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggling with her husband watching British TV or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

Gilian lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She’s the author of Blogging is Murder and A Time to Kiln.
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A Time to Kiln: A Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery (Book 2)

A Time to KilnDisenchanted with life after solving her first real case, Jade Blackwell, successful blogger and amateur sleuth, throws herself into a new hobby…until murder rears its ugly head.

But when Jade attempts to ferret out the killer of local pottery teacher, Paula Hexby, she comes up short and suspicion begins to descend on her daughter’s former boyfriend. Evidence and bodies are stacking up, as Jade finds herself caught between an untrustworthy client and her beloved community.

Now at a personal and professional crossroads, Jade must once again jump into the breech, along with partner Gabrielle Langdon, to uncover the truth behind this string of horrific murders. Is she really cut out for this life of sleuthing and danger? Has Jade been defending the real murderer all along? Or is there something much more sinister afoot?

Book Excerpt from Blogging Is Murder

Hello readers!

Today the lovely Gilian Baker has a treat for us. She’s got a brand new book coming out, Blogging Is Murder, and she’s sharing an excerpt with us, as well as some behind the scenes thoughts about why she wrote this book and the very current and present issues about online privacy and security that concern us all.

Take it away, Gilian!

******

The first book in the Jade Blackwell Mysteries series, Blogging is Murder, came about as a catharsis for the frustrations of trying to make a living from my first blog. The issues that arise are ones that every blogger deals with. And cyber-theft is a blogger’s biggest nightmare.

In the scene I’ve chosen to share, Jade, our protagonist, learns that her friend and fellow blogger, Liz Collins, has been hacked, and more besides. The hacker has taken over Liz’s blog and her social media profiles. The situation has now escalated and Liz is at her wit’s end. Jade meets her friend at the little tea shop in Aspen Falls, Wyoming, Tea & Sympathy, to offer comfort…and to satisfy her curiosity.

“Well, last night we decided to bring the sheriff in because the hacker—Connie is her name, by the way—showed up on our doorstep.” Liz took a gigantic breath once she’d gotten the words out.

“What?”

“Yeah, that’s why we’re so freaked out. But we didn’t want to make a scene in front of the kids, so we decided to go to the sheriff station today to see what he recommended.”

“So, what did he say?”

“First, we made an official complaint. I have to print out all the correspondence from my hosting and social media companies, so there’s proof in our file. Oh, my gosh, Jade. I have a file at the sheriff’s office.” She dropped her head into her hands as I grabbed for her tea cup before she tipped it over.

Reaching over the table, I patted her arm, making the usual comforting noises while she cried. Why would someone decide to invade her life like this? Why would someone go to the trouble of hacking to add to a blog and social media profiles? Were mine safe? I needed to take immediate action when I got home.

I stopped patting. “Wait a minute. This Connie woman showed up on your doorstep last night. How on earth did she find out where you lived?”

Liz’s red face looked up, her eyes peeking at me through her eyelashes. “My physical address is still on my accounts. You know that legally you have to have an address listed on the emails you send to your subscribers.”

I nodded, with a sinking feeling of what was coming next.

“I meant to get a P.O. Box, Jade, but it always got pushed back on the priority list. I mean, with all the other stuff you have to do as a blogger, it just didn’t seem that important, even though I’d read other peoples’ stories about similar situations. I guess in the back of my mind I just didn’t believe anyone would do it to me.”

She paused to blow her nose loud enough to make several patrons turn and look. “I’m not some huge celebrity, although the blog is gaining popularity.”

“Oh, Liz. Don’t blame yourself. I’ve been doing exactly the same thing. In fact, we’ve all heard those stories. But in every case, those savvy online entrepreneurs didn’t take action until someone came to their houses either.” I made a mental note to hit the post office PDQ to get the P.O. Box I’d been procrastinating.

*Note from Gilian:
Per FCC regulations, bloggers are required to include an address on all correspondence they send to people who sign up for their newsletters. Even though it’s recommended to use a P.O. Box as this address, it’s not uncommon for bloggers to use their physical address. The idea to add this to the story occurred when I read a post from a blogging personality who described a night when a fan showed up at her house asking for advice.

“Part of me knows that, but I keep thinking about the kids. I should have been protecting my family, Jade. But something else always seemed more urgent.”

“I know.” I patted her arm again. “What else did the sheriff suggest?”

“We started the process to get a restraining order against her so if she shows up again, they can do something. The cyber-crime stuff is less cut and dried.”

“Well, you know I’ll do whatever I can to help. Just give me a call.”

Liz blew her nose again, this time with barely a sound, and gave me a more genuine smile. “I know, Jade. I feel better just talking about it.” She looked at her watch and sniffed. “Oh, man. I’ve gotta get going. School lets out soon.” She looked up at me with wet, hazel eyes. “Thanks so much for dropping everything to meet me, Jade. I know you must have a hundred other things on your plate today.”

“Don’t be silly, Liz. Family and friends always come first.” As the words came out of my mouth, my mind went to my huge to-do list that had just gotten longer… now I needed to add “keep people from hacking my life” to it.

*******

One of the reasons I decided to include the cyber-security angle as part of the plot in the book was because of the pervasiveness of the problem. The average person now uses the Internet to shop, bank and file their taxes. What must it be like to also have to worry about someone hacking into your blog—the way you make a living? How can bloggers protect the personal information of the fans who buy their products and services? How difficult is it to get into someone’s Facebook account and post as that person?

Does the hacker go free? Is Liz able to save her livelihood? Who get murdered and why? The answer to these questions are answered in Blogging is Murder, now available for pre-order.

Gilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.

Connect with Gilian on her website or on Twitter @GilianBaker

Find Blogging Is Murder on Amazon.
Watch the book trailer.

Deleted Scene from Sugar and Clive and the Movie Star

S&C-MovieStar-1[1]In addition to writing mystery novels I write children’s books. Adventure novels for 9 to 12 year olds, set in British Columbia’s southern Gulf Islands. I love, love, love this scene with two of my favorite characters from those books; Larry and Graham, two hapless seagulls with large personalities and small brains. Scenes like this are so difficult to cut out of a book, but this one had to be removed from Sugar and Clive and the Movie Star for structural reasons. Fortunately there’s no reason I can’t share it here with you.

As a bit of background, for those not familiar, here is the cast of characters for this scene:
Sugar: a medium sized dog with a large-sized heart and our heroine;
Clive: Sugar’s best friend, a barn swallow who is as dignified as he is kind;
Willa: a dog who normally acts in films;
Liz and Kayla: Willa’s humans;
Marion: Sugar’s human;
Larry: an enormous and smelly seagull with a hero complex;
Graham: Larry’s slightly smaller, and slightly less bright, seagull cousin.

Enjoy!

The next morning, Sugar did one of her very favorite things; she formed a plan. She thought that if she and Willa could find another animal who had worked in the movies, that creature might be able to tell her about other jobs that were available in the industry. In the early morning, Liz and Kayla dropped Willa off at Marion’s again. Willa didn’t have any scenes on the call sheet that day, and her humans rightly imagined that the dog would have more fun with Sugar than hanging around inside a trailer all day.

The idea Sugar had about talking to someone who had worked in films was a bit of a stab in the dark, but the problem was that every other job Sugar and Clive had suggested to Willa the day before hadn’t appealed to her. She was animal who needed an occupation; that much had been made very clear. So if the movies were what she was familiar with, and if she liked the people and the atmosphere on a movie set, then that was the industry they needed to find out more about.

Keep reading →