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Happy Book Birthday to: The Luthier’s Apprentice by Mayra Calvani

The Luthier’s Apprentice

tlaNiccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him.  And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

Enjoy the Excerpt!

 The Luthier’s Apprentice

Chapter One


Brussels, Belgium

Present day

Sixteen-year old Emma Braun got off the school bus and strode down Stockel Square toward her home. She glanced up at the October sky and wrapped her wool scarf tighter around her neck. Heavy dark clouds threatened a downpour. 

As she passed a newspaper stand, the headlines on The Brussels Gazette caught her attention:


Emma stopped. For a moment she could only stare. She dug into her jacket pocket for coins and bought a copy.

The newspaper article left her stunned. Not only because three well-known violinists had gone missing in the last several months, but because the latest one was her teacher, Monsieur Dupriez.

The news story seemed so hard to believe, she stopped at the next street corner to read it one more time.

It was the last week of October, and the shops and homes were lightly adorned with Halloween decorations. Pumpkins and Jack-o-lanterns sat on doorsteps. Witches, broomsticks, and black cats hunkered down in windows and shops. Just last evening, Emma had sauntered along this street with her best friend Annika, unconcerned and looking forward to Halloween. Now, everything had turned dark and ominous.

The strange incidents she had experienced for the past two weeks added to her stress.

At first she had thought they were a string of coincidences, but not anymore. While scowling at obnoxious Billie Lynam during school recess, for instance, she wished he would fall flat on his face… and half a minute later, her wish was granted. On various occasions she guessed people’s thoughts before they spoke. And yesterday, on her way home from school, she accurately guessed the meal her mom had left on the table for her.

Was she some kind of a psychic? If so, why now? People didn’t develop powers like these overnight. Did they?

She hadn’t told her mom about her new abilities yet; only Annika knew. Maybe she would tell her mom today, after she shared the news about Monsieur Dupriez.

As Emma approached her home, she quickened her step. By the time she reached the door she was almost running. She raced into the hallway and dropped her book bag on the floor.

“Mom!” she called, looking in the kitchen, then in the living room. The house was silent. “Mom!” she called again, racing up the stairs to the bedrooms. Entering her mother’s room, Emma found her sitting very still on the bed with a crumpled letter in her hand.

When her mom saw her, she hastily put the crumpled piece of paper into her pocket and rose from the bed. Her arched brows were furrowed with anxiety.

Emma momentarily forgot the newspaper article. “Are you okay, Mom?”

“I’ve just received some unsettling news,” her mom said. “I must make a trip to see your Aunt Lili. She’s ill. She…I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”

Aunt Lili? Emma frowned. More surprises. Emma had never met her mom’s eccentric only sister, who lived alone in the Hungarian mountains secluded in an old chateau surrounded by dark woods—or so her mom said. Though again, her mom hardly ever mentioned her.

“What’s wrong with Aunt Lili?” Emma asked. “Can’t I come with you?” She had always been intrigued by her mysterious aunt.

“No. You’ll stay with Grandpa. You enjoy working with him, don’t you?” Her brown eyes met Emma’s before turning away, and though her voice sounded matter-of-fact, Emma detected a trace of ambivalence.

Emma sighed. She loved violin making with a passion, but Grandpa was a bitter taskmaster. No matter how much she tried to please him, she never could. Maybe that’s why her mom often seemed so reluctant about her apprenticeship.

“I’d rather go with you,” Emma said. “Plus, next week is holiday.” All Saints holiday week—or Toussaint, as they called it here—almost always coincided with Halloween.

“That’s out of the question. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Besides, you can’t miss your violin lessons, not with the Christmas competition at the academy coming up soon.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Emma said gravely, extending the newspaper.

Her mom took it. “What’s this?”

“This is why I came running up the stairs.”

Her mom read the headlines. She gasped and looked at Emma. When she finished reading, she sat on the edge of the mattress and stared into space. “Oh, my God…” she whispered.

Emma sat next to her mom. “It says Monsieur Dupriez disappeared in his study. The doors and windows were locked from the inside. The police don’t have any explanation. How can this happen? It’s not logical. It’s not humanly possible.”

“No, not humanly possible…”

“Just like the other three—that German violinist, the French one, the American. Nobody has explained their disappearances. Who would want to kidnap violinists?” When her mom didn’t answer, she began to gnaw at her fingernail.

As if by reflex, her mom pulled Emma’s hand away from her mouth.

“Sorry,” Emma mumbled. “I’m just worried about him.”

“Poor Madame Dupriez. We must visit her. She must be in quite a state.”

“Can you call her now?”

Her mom sighed. “I will. In a moment.” She looked at Emma, her features softening. Gently, she smoothed Emma’s glossy chestnut locks and side fringe away from her face. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine. You mustn’t be afraid.”

“Afraid? Why would I be afraid?”

“I mean, about Monsieur Dupriez.” Her mom appeared flustered.

“I’m not afraid. I’m worried, and angry. I want to find out what happened to him. Without him, I don’t even want to take part in the competition.”

Monsieur Dupriez had been Emma’s teacher since she was four years old. But more than teacher, he was her mentor.

“You will do your best at the competition—with or without Monsieur Dupriez. Do you hear me?” her mom said. Then her voice softened. “Listen, darling, I know how close you are to Monsieur Dupriez, but you cannot allow his disappearance to destroy your chances at the competition. I’m not asking you to win, only to do your best. You have great talent, a gift, and your duty is to use it to the best of your ability. Never forget this. Monsieur Dupriez would never want you to forget this.”

“You still haven’t told me what’s wrong with Aunt Lili,” Emma said, changing the conversation. “Why must you go to her now, after all these years?”

Looking into Emma’s face, her mom hesitated, as if unable to decide what—or how much—to say. “You know she’s always been ill, a recluse. She…” She rose from the bed and walked to the window, then opened the curtain. It had started raining, the drops pelted against the glass. “This time it’s serious. She may die.”

Emma couldn’t help feeling a twinge of suspicion. She hated distrusting her mom, whom she loved more than anything in the world, but this time her mom was lying. Emma trusted that feeling, another of her freaky new abilities. She felt an overwhelming urge to chew her fingernails, but tried to control herself. For her mom, a violinist’s hands were a work of art.

“But what’s wrong with her? What kind of disease does she have?” Emma insisted.

“Her heart is very weak.” Her mom turned away from the window to face Emma. Her voice was laced with impatience.

And again Emma thought: She’s lying.

“Please don’t worry about it,” her mom went on in a lighter tone. “I’ll try to come back soon.”

“How soon?”

“As soon as I can manage.”

“Grandpa is always in such a nasty mood,” Emma complained.

“Well, that isn’t news, is it?” Her mom stared down at the floor, as if absorbed by her own thoughts. After a pause, she added, “He’s old and his back always hurts. You know that.”

“I love Grandpa, but he’s so freaking…” She tried to come up with the right word. Bizarre.  Instead she said, “Mysterious. You know, with his violins.”

Her mom looked at Emma and frowned, as if waiting for her to say more.

“You know what I mean, Mom. With that room at the top of the stairs. The one that’s always locked.”

Her mom’s features hardened. “He keeps his most valuable pieces in there. You must never disobey him. He would be very disappointed.”

“Who said I would go in there?” Emma asked, trying to sound innocent. If there was something she intended to do, it was going inside that room. Once she’d almost been successful. For some crazy reason, Grandpa had forgotten to lock it one day. But the instant she touched the doorknob, he had called her from the bottom of the stairs, his wrinkled features twisted into a mask that had left her frozen. He had appeared enraged and afraid at the same time.

“When are you leaving?” Emma asked, shaking off the past to focus on the present issue.

“As soon as possible. Tomorrow, probably. I’ll get the plane tickets today.”


“Emma, please. If you’re going to complain or say anything negative, I don’t want to hear it.”

Fine. Obviously, this wasn’t the best time to bring up her new psychic powers. She headed to the door.

“Where are you going?” her mom asked.

“To my room.”

“I’ll call Madame Dupriez to see if we may visit her after dinner. In the meantime, I want you to pack. You’re moving to Grandpa’s tomorrow.”


In her room, Emma dragged her suitcase from the top shelf in the closet and set it on the floor.

“Hi, Sweetie,” she said to Blackie, her rabbit. “Want to get some exercise?” She opened the cage door so Blackie could hop out and roam about her room. Blackie was housebroken, and smart as a cat—or close to it.

She stared at the elegant taffeta gown hanging from her wardrobe door, a strapless design a la Anne Sophie Mutter she’d already bought for the upcoming violin competition.

She sighed.

Slumped on the bed, Emma wondered for the umpteenth time about Monsieur Dupriez’s strange disappearance.

Where could he be?

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Author bio:

authAward-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The WriterWriter’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

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Meet the Heroes of Murder Comes Ashore

Hey guys! Guess what I did today? I interviewed the heroes of my cozy mystery, MURDER COMES ASHORE. Yeah, that’s exactly like having a three way conversation with myself. So, you know, the usual :) Enjoy!


Julie: Hey guys. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I know you’re both super busy, but I’m really excited to introduce you to my friends.

How about we start with introductions? Tell us your name, occupation and how you know my heroine, Patience.

Adrian: Me? Okay, I’ll start. *beaming smile* *shows off that blasted dimple* I’m Adrian Davis. I’m running for town mayor. I met Patience when we were still in diapers. We grew up together. *stormy blue eyes twinkle* She’s my soul mate.

Sebastian: *scoffs* I’m FBI Special Agent Sebastian Clark. I met Patience a few years ago when she worked human resources at the bureau. She interviewed and hired me.

Adrian: That’s why you call her Boss. *laughs* I get it. That’s cute. I just thought it was because she’s the boss of you. *points thumb at Sebastian* This guy. Hey, point of advice. Maybe try something more feminine like sweetie or sugar.


Adrian: So, they’re dating now. He followed her onto our island right after she moved back home.

Sebastian: I came here to help her clear you of a murder charge.

Adrian: *Sincere smile* Hey, I appreciate that, man. *lifts fist* *shields mouth on one side* I’m not sure that was the only reason he headed over here from the mainland, if you know what I mean. It looked to me like he was smitten from the start.


Adrian: *winks* You are a smitten kitten.


Adrian: *laughing*

Julie: Adrian, what do you think about Patience dating Sebastian? You don’t seem upset, but you just called her your soul mate. That’s complicated, right?

Adrian: Ah. Seb’s a good guy and he makes her happy for now.

Sebastian: *watching Adrian*

Julie: Sebastian? Any thoughts?


Adrian: He’s the strong silent type.

Julie: I see that. (I also see his hooded brown eyes and sidearm. Hot).

Adrian: *leans over to look at Sebastian* So, what do you two talk about? Old cases? Hit men? Serial killers who got away? Wait. Embezzlement. I hear that makes great pillow talk.

Sebastian: You’re a marshmallow.

Adrian: *Laughs* I like him. He keeps her safe. Until she comes back around, at least I know she’s safe.

Sebastian: *groans* *shoulders slump slightly*

Adrian: *facing Sebastian* Right? I mean, she needs at least a special agent to keep her out of trouble. She gets shot at, car bombed and abducted more than anyone on this planet. *shakes head* Loving Patience is hard. Takes a lot of….well…patience.

Sebastian: *chuckles*

Adrian: *smiles* She’s a trouble magnet. Patience runs headlong into firestorms trying to satisfy her insane curiosity. She’s a nightmare to care about.

Sebastian: *brow scrunches*

Adrian: *to Sebastian* Where is she now?

Sebastian: She’s covering phones at the station while Frankie runs out to pick up lunch.

Adrian: You left her answering phones. At the police station?

Sebastian: *eyes slide shut* *swears* *pulls off mic, stands, strides away*

Adrian: *watches him leave* *cracks up* See what I mean? She’s a handful. He’s got his work cut out for him. She’s probably already knee deep in an investigation. *sighs* I’ll be here when she’s tired of being rescued.

Julie: So, what? You wouldn’t rescue her?

Adrian: *leans in conspiratorially* I will always come for her. I just know how to make it seem like she was the one who did the saving. Hero-Complex back there can’t resist swooping in and saving the day. Patience isn’t the kind of girl who appreciates all the saving. *winks*

Julie: *swoons over the dimple* Well, there you have it folks. Patience has her work cut out for her. Charismatic love lost, Adrian, is back and waiting with open arms. Sexy alpha male boyfriend, Sebastian, is already in place for new love. I’ve gotta tell you. Those aren’t the worst problems a girl can have, but I don’t envy her the choice. Good luck, sister.

If you’re looking for a fun new series with plenty of hot chemistry, intrigue and antics, please consider my new release Murder Comes Ashore to warm up your winter. I hope it will make you smile : )

Murder Comes Ashore

Art by Harlequin 2013

Art by Harlequin 2013


Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.

Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.

When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.

Musings Welcomes Author Nancy Cohen!

PubPinkHooks in Cozy Mysteries
By Nancy J. Cohen

What does an editor mean when she asks about the hook for your proposed mystery series?

Basically, this refers to the marketing angle or the unique slant that your series offers. Your hook is based on the series premise, whether it’s the sleuth’s occupation or a particular locale. For example, my Bad Hair Day mysteries take place in a beauty salon owned by my hairstylist sleuth, Marla Shore. When I created the series, there were few other stories set in a similar environment. Now there are several, but they’re each different because of the setting or the sleuth’s particular characteristics.

So first you need to assign your sleuth an occupation. Are you a foodie? Maybe your gal works in a coffee shop, a bakery, a cupcake store, or a soup kitchen. Or else she’s a caterer or a food critic. Likely you’ll include recipes along with your story.

Or perhaps you enjoy hand-made crafts for a hobby, so your sleuth opens a scrapbooking store or designs jewelry or makes quilts with a circle of friends. You can include crafting tips in these types of stories.

Bed-and-breakfast owners and tour guides are also popular tropes. And don’t forget your pet mysteries. Dogs and cats have their own fans.

Ghosts are always popular, as you’ll witness by the paranormal mysteries or psychic detectives.

Whatever your personal interests, you are likely to find a mystery series to match. If not, you can create one.

The location also lends personality to these stories. My heroine lives in South Florida, which gives these books a different flavor than a beauty parlor set in Savannah. The age of the protagonist makes a difference. Whereas Marla is in her thirties, another hairdresser sleuth might be old enough to be her mother. The hook in all of these is the hair salon angle.

We could speak about the opening hook in your story or end-of-chapter hooks, but those have to do with writing craft. First you need to hook the reader on your overall series premise. Then you can worry about story details.

So what is the unique angle to your series?


HangingbyaHairHanging By A Hair
A Bad Hair Day Mystery
Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again?
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About Nancy:

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide for mystery writers. Her imaginative romances have also proven popular with fans. Her titles in this genre have won the HOLT Medallion and Best Book in Romantic SciFi/Fantasy at The Romance Reviews. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys reading, fine dining, cruising and outlet shopping.

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My Thoughts on Settings

Setting plays a major role in all my favorite books. I love opening the cover and finding myself in another time, place or dimension. Books transport readers on their words. It’s magical, really, if you think about it. I can trust my favorite authors to whisk me away on a bad day and I love it. I crave it. I want to do that too! I can only hope to come close.

Settings are paramount in most stories, but they aren’t easy to write. I normally write locations I know. Places I can close my eyes and tell a reader everything about because capturing the senses in a place I know is the easy part. From the scent of ash in the air after a bonfire or the lingering reverse cascade of fireflies in the field to the steady roar of wave breaks on the beach, the senses are just the beginning.

Understanding the rules of the setting is equally important for a reader, maybe more important because the rules impact a reader’s perception of the story. Setting is more than the location. Setting is everything from the time of day to the point in history. Setting is a mood. A vibe. A tone the reader latches onto instinctively based on what we share. For example, I’ve never been to dystopian Chicago, but after finishing Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, I plan to visit “Merciless Mart,” the Ferris wheel and the not-currently-dried-up river while I’m in town this weekend. The rules in her novels are stern and imperative for survival. I want to walk the real streets and envision those eerie details she shared with me in her novels. Roth is a world class world builder / setting setter. This is me with appreciation and serious envy eyes.

When I wrote Deceived, I used small town America for the false sense of security. My favorite! Nothing ever happens in rural Ohio, right? Normally, no. Not so much. BUT what if it did? I mean, if you aren’t safe in the Ohio Valley where are you safe? Answer: Nowhere. *evil grin* I loved ripping the safety blanket away from readers. My serial killer, The Reaper, is at large in my novel, closing in on the heels of my teenage heroine who has no idea she’s being stalked, though she certainly knows something is very very wrong. I used setting to my full advantage: roaring rivers to drown out snapping twigs, dark forests to cast shadows and hide killers, even the low light gas lamps were little help to a girl on the run. I thoroughly enjoyed dropping my story into this setting. If I wrote the story again, I’d use this setting every time.

When I write light hearted mysteries, I use my favorite island escape. Small islands are great for community antics, getting to know secondary characters and a romp in the ocean for my hero and heroine. For my sweet romance novels, I use a small country town because there’s something endearing about a country girl and something downright sexy about a cowboy. If I moved the stories to other settings, they’d lose their fire and that is boo because I like fire….I think I’ve written my share of those too!

For those of you as captivated by settings as I am, would you care to share? What’s your favorite story setting? Favorite novel with a great setting? Someplace you write about or love to read about? I’d love to hear!

What the Heck is a “Cozy”?

Art by Harlequin Enterprises

Art by Harlequin Enterprises

I probably don’t have to tell you cozy mysteries are in a class by themselves. Cozy readers are some of the most passionate people I know, but in case anyone out there is stumbling onto the term for the first time, let me tell you the cozy “rules.” Okay, I used quotes because I’m kind of a most-things-are-probably-guidelines girl. Plus, “rules” seems so rude and totalitarian, doesn’t it? I prefer Guidelines. Maybe that’s me?

Cozy guidelines are easy. These lively little mysteries are part of the crime fiction family, but they are also so much more….They’re fun! Cozies always have an amateur, female sleuth. She’s always drawn into the investigation and has to learn as she goes. She lives in a small community where she’s comfortable. The secondary characters are rich and interactive.

Cozies don’t linger on gory crime scene details and they don’t use excessive foul language. They also don’t describe intimate scenes between characters. Ugh, that really does sound like rules, huh?

BUT! Hang in here with me. This is the best part…Cozies are meant to make a reader smile, keep her hooked and hopefully keep her guessing. Cozies can have romance, but it never overwhelms the plot. Cozies are written for quick-witted readers and the storyline moves at a clip. Plus, like any good mystery, red herrings abound! I do enjoy a good bunny trail. Just when I think I know what’s happening, the author yanks the carpet out from under me and I’m reading faster to find out what will happen next! Cozies are a thrill for me. I’m still getting my head around the fact I’ve written one. No. Two!

Many small things come together to form a good cozy, but my favorite aspect of this genre is the humor. I love to laugh and I really really like to make others laugh. A lot. So, when I pick up a novel that can make me smile, it’s a keeper – and it’s often a cozy. If I can make a reader laugh? You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my head. If I make a reader laugh, I’ve nailed it. I win at authoring.

In Murder Comes Ashore, I’ve taken a curiosity-driven island counselor and taunted her with endless amounts of intrigue and obstacles. She’s dealing with body parts washing up on the beach and interrupting her swim, locals worried about their safety, a shark infestation, birders arriving by the busload, money problems and some pretty serious threats on her life.
If that’s not enough, she’s got family drama. Her adoring, hippie parents don’t understand her Type-A ways. Her current love interest doesn’t understand why her ex-soul mate is always hanging around and her ex doesn’t really see the problem. The town’s dividing up publicly on the topic of her love life and hey! They even made shirts.

I think women have the most fun with cozies because we understand the struggle. We juggle the same things, minus the murder, I hope. We deal with family and friends and romance. Community commitments and punch a time clock. Women know all about how easy it is to leave the house wearing two different shoes. We’ve all tried to dial our glasses and put the phone on our nose. Imagine trying to solve a murder too. It’s crazy, but when it’s someone else’s crazy… it’s fun to watch the antics unfold.

Car bombs? Shootings? Abductions? Sure. But what about golf cart chases, cat dates and missing eyebrows? Absolutely! In a cozy mystery, there’s no end to the antics an amateur can get herself into while following the clues to a killer. I shudder to think how far I’d make it in a real sleuthing scenario. I’m going to guess not very far.

Are you a cozy reader? What’s your favorite series? Do you think you’d make a good sleuth?

If you’re a fan of amateur sleuth stories or searching for another fun read, I hope you’ll consider my new cozy series. If you do, I hope you will smile 
Murder Comes Ashore

Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.

Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.

When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.

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