23 Sep 2014

Anna Celeste Burke: A Dead Husband

11 Comments Book Reviews

Jessica Huntington’ s divorce party A-DEAD-HUSBANDnear Palm Springs definitely turns into one of the worst hangovers when her friend Laura’s husband Roger is found dead. Jessica is a self-confessed ‘luxury slut, drama queen and coffee snob’ and at a critical moment in her life. She is a great lead character to spice up the detective story that follows to find out who killed Roger Stone. 

Jessica begins her own investigations and contacts a college acquaintance to help her with the defence of her friend. But soon she finds herself a target and in danger. Enjoying a life full of luxury and privileges Jessica remains a wonderful woman throughout the story with a big heart who is always there for her friends.

Full of colourful supporting characters that often threaten to steal the show the story contains romance prospects on the way and some great humour. It is easy to read, very enjoyable and more intelligent than the cosy mystery label might suggest. The legal aspects of the drama have been well researched and the plot is complex and evolved. 

Very recommendable.



TWITTER:                             https://twitter.com/aburke59

FACEBOOK BOOK PAGE:   https://www.facebook.com/annacelesteburke

WEBSITE:                              http://www.desertcitiesmystery.com/

BLOG PAGE:                         http://www.desertcitiesmystery.com/#!blog/c1dh1

ABOUT.ME:                          http://about.me/annaburke/#

GOODREADS:                       https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7553558.Anna_Celeste_Burke

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00H8J4IQS



AMAZON PAPERBACK U.S.:   http://ow.ly/yFnyH

BARNES & NOBLE PAPERBACK:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-dead-husband-anna-celeste-burke/1117656215?ean=9781494413514


Interview with the Anna Celeste Burke  cropped head shot

Thank you so much, Christoph, for this opportunity to do an author interview on your wonderful blog. It’s an honour to be included along with the other terrific authors you so generously support. I don’t know how you do all that you do, but I’m glad you do it!

Aw thank you… but back to you. Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person. Your biography has some exciting details. Tell us about your life then and now in Palm Springs.

Surf’s up! Well not literally, but metaphorically speaking. Surfing is one of my favourite metaphors for trying to capture what my life’s wild ride has been like. Not all that surprising, I suppose, for someone who came of age in San Diego, within biking distance of the beach. And, in the heyday of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, I might add.  I live in the desert, now, near Palm Springs about a 100 miles due east of the blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s almost a cliché that, at 17, I ditched a university education to marry a high school dropout, rock guitarist, in a tiny lawyer’s office in Tijuana; a cab driver our only witness. I had my reasons—‘love is all you need,’ one of them. Unfortunately, the authorities didn’t agree and picked me up as a runaway before I could meet my husband and his rock band in Oahu, Hawaii. A few months later, when I was able to join my husband, the band broke up. Wipe out! It was time to climb back up on the board and try to catch a new wave.

So what did we do next? Go to Disney World, of course. The new theme park was just opening in Orlando, Florida. My husband and I both had family there. They offered us a place to stay while we took a basic 3-month course in food preparation. Hired as culinary assistants, we started working for ‘the mouse,’ under the tutelage of a number of European chefs. Disney soon launched a chef’s school and my husband and I were each selected to attend. We completed the training and were promoted to prep chef positions at different resort hotels.

The classroom part of that experience convinced my high school dropout husband to get his GED and we both enrolled in a local community college. We hoped a degree would advance our careers at the ‘mouse factory’. But an education changed everything. The next big wave rolled through and we found ourselves in a whole new world as graduate students at the University of Michigan—a cold and challenging place—and I’m not just talking about the weather. Academia is a rarefied environment with an esoteric culture of arcane rituals and rules, not to mention a ton of work.

Hey, but it was the ‘age of Aquarius’ and we were going to become social scientists. I could hear the rock anthems beating in sync with the new waves ripping through our lives. There’s gonna be a revolution, right? We wanted to be part of that—change the world. We hung tight and did our best to surf the waves that came at us, one after another in the hallowed halls of academe, raising a couple children in the process. Beating the odds, we both received PhDs, found tenure track jobs, [at UMs arch rival on the football field, The Ohio State University], earned tenure and retired.  After more than thirty years of teaching and research in social and behavioural science I’m not sure how much we changed the world, but the world certainly has changed us.

I did learn a few things. A lot happens over which we have no control. Life comes at you fast and relentlessly, sets of waves pounding away at the shore, each one unique and a bit unpredictable. Fortunately, there are some ‘glassy’ days—days when the surface is smooth and quiet so you can bob around and get a read on where you are. At this point in my life, I can also say you don’t have to ride every wave. Let some of them go and wait for a really good one to come your way. Catching the perfect wave, riding it brilliantly to shore is rare, but exhilarating when it happens. Interspersed are the inevitable ‘wipe outs’ that leave you breathless and struggling to ‘right’ yourself in turbulent waters. Resurfacing, spitting and choking, grit and grime in places you never imagined, it isn’t always easy but it is always an adventure. “Guess what,” I tell my husband after we retire, “I’m going to be a mystery writer.” Here we go again, so hang on. Surf’s up!

How did you get the ideas for the books?

The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series came about while we were visiting the desert resorts out here. The setting is stunning—a movie backdrop and playground to presidents, moguls and movie starts. On the hunt for a place to retire, we looked at gorgeous properties, most of them way out of our league, pricewise. The homes are architectural stunners, skilfully blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. I wondered who lived in all those multimillion dollar homes, behind guard gates, overlooking the golf course with the mountain views beyond. What was their life of wealth and privilege like?

Then the Great Recession hit and all hell broke loose. Those gorgeous modern day palaces, in tiny country clubs and desert resorts, lay among the rubble. It reminded me of the troubled life and times of the landed elite in those classic British mysteries. In particular, Agatha Christie novels, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, focused on the foibles and misfortunes of the rich and famous—why? If readers like to root for underdogs they hardly fit the profile, nor do the sleuths that do the investigating. No penniless P.I.s scraping by in dingy flats. But even American noir classics like Raymond Chandler’s, The Big Sleep, focus on the rich. Is it because they’re the ones who can afford to hire a gumshoe like Philip Marlowe, or is it that there’s just more trouble for the moneyed class?

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to take a daughter of privilege—a woman born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and put her in dire circumstances that test her mettle. After her law career goes belly up, her stint as a desperate housewife turns into an absolute nightmare when she’s ruthlessly betrayed by her husband. Retreating to her childhood home in the California desert the barrage continues. When her best friend’s husband is murdered, and her friend becomes a suspect, Jessica unwittingly steps into the role of amateur sleuth. It turns out Jessica Huntington, of the Huntington Beach Huntingtons, is tougher than you might think. The woman is neurotic, and relies way too much on retail therapy as the solution to her troubles. She’s impulsive, shallow and naïve even, but she’s no light weight. Having survived Stanford law school and passed the bar on the first try, she’s got plenty of the ‘little grey cells’ Hercule Poirot finds crucial to sleuthing. Resourceful and resilient, she’s a fast learner and has a wonderful sense of humour about life and the absurd situations in which the universe [aka, the author] places her.

Are you at all like Jessica, your heroine?

Jessica Huntington is often in over her head before she knows it—so like me? Nabbed! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to swim for it after getting in too deep.

Jessica overanalyses everything. A lawyer, rather than a social scientist, she has the same desire to solve puzzles that fuels scientific curiosity. She’s determined to find out the truth, even when she probably should just stay out of it.  A ‘pathological optimistic’ she believes there’s more good in the world than bad, and that justice can be realized, even when ranting about why bad things happen to good [or everyday average, doing the best they can] people. So, nabbed again! Those are a lot of my own biases coming through.

I don’t have a shopping ‘jones’ and no black AMEX card. I do understand the sensual pleasure she derives from buying beautiful things, and the appeal that ‘retail therapy’ holds for many women. It’s the thrill of the hunt for a bargain, for example. A sporting event, like football is for many men. The sense of control that comes from exercising choice in the act of consumption makes it a participatory sport. A fleeting, even false sense of control, for women faced with so many things they can’t control, sure. But a gorgeous, satiny cinnamon coloured duvet in an imported Italian fabric at half-price: score! Finding the perfect outfit to wear to an important meeting, game, set and match!

I love, love, love the idea of lavish extravaganzas, cooking up a storm for friends and family. Not too surprising, given my stint as a chef. I wish I did have that black AMEX so I could take all my friends on holiday to the Grand Wailea, like Jessica Huntington does, and bring them home loaded down with suitcases full of goodies.

After “A Dead Husband” comes “A Dead Sister” – what’s next?

I’m writing book 3, A DEAD DAUGHTER, in the Jessica Huntington series. I hope that will be available to readers by the end of the year.  A DEAD MOTHER will follow in 2015.  After that, I have several ideas about what to do next…there are more family members who could become the victims of murder and mayhem, but I think book 5 might be either A DEAD GOLFER or A DEAD BRIDE.

I also have started the first book in a second series, the Betsy Stark Desert Cities Mystery Series. Betsy Stark lives in the desert, too. In fact, she’s being introduced to readers in A DEAD DAUGHTER. Her life story is almost the antithesis of Jessica Huntington’s. Betsy Smart came up the hard way. Like Jessica she’s smart and tough, plus she has a little something extra that I won’t share here, but I think makes her an interesting protagonist. The first Betsy Stark mystery is tentatively called THE CLEANSER. I’m hoping to have it available for release early in 2015.

Do you have a favourite genre, for writing and for reading?

I read all sorts of other things. Not just fiction, but nonfiction too. But mystery is my favourite for reading and writing. The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series is humorous mystery fiction with a side of romance. At the core is a mystery but the books combine elements from other genres, including a family saga that unfolds as one of the subplots in the series.  I haven’t said much about the cast of supporting characters, but they’re an unlikely bunch of friends who get swept up in her efforts to figure out ‘whodunit.’ Some of them are a tad over the top, wacky, but loveable and funny, so they bring much of the humour to the books. The Betsy Stark series will be a little darker with elements of magical realism in addition to mystery, stopping just shy of venturing into the paranormal.  

Who are your favourite authors?

I really like to read mysteries—not just those British and noir classics, but more contemporary works, cozy and hard-boiled, both male and female sleuths, amateurs and pros. I’m especially fond of series and will read my way right through them once I’ve found one I like.  Contemporary favourites include light reads like Dorothy Gilman, Lilian Braun and Janet Evanovich. But also more ‘hard-boiled’ sleuths like Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, and two series starring lawyers as sleuths by Rebecca Forster & Jonnie Jacobs. I enjoy thrillers, too, especially David Baldacci’s King and Maxwell series of political thrillers, and James Rollins’ science-tinged thrillers with bond-style villains and Sigma Force scientists with special ops skills.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?

I started writing nonfiction as a scholar, publishing with traditional scientific presses on a number of gloriously nerdy subjects. The whole process was clearly laid out, with well-defined routes for getting your work reviewed by peers. There are specific outlets aimed at targeted audiences for your work. It’s not unusual for those outlets to have a small number of subscribers, mostly other researchers studying the same or similar topics, like Drug Control Policy or Behavioral health treatment—two areas in which I published. Presses that aim to reach practitioners, as well as researchers, have larger numbers of subscribers and more readers for your books and articles. Libraries are often among the subscribers so they make your work available more widely—especially to students.

The writing itself was stilted, dry, and bounded by strict proscriptions for scientific and technical writing. I began to write fiction for fun and relaxation. It was kind of an “antidote” to the boxed-in style of writing required of an academic—a way to “color outside the lines.” Fiction writing felt freeing and even a little rebellious. Initially, I wrote in the horror and sci-fi genre, completing a novel, a script, and a short story, plus parts of other novels and stories that remain unfinished. Attending several writers’ conferences, I received some encouragement about my work. Compared to academic publishing, self-publishing is like the Wild West. We indie authors are pioneers rushing to stake a claim in this ungoverned territory.

I found Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing platforms easy to use and almost cost-free ways to bring a book to market. Given I’m retired keeping costs down is important. I do my own book covers using stock images and Photoshop so that’s a cost-saver too. My husband and sister, who have both been involved in research and writing as a way to earn a living, edit the books. So it’s quite the bootstrap operation.

The hardest part about the whole enterprise is marketing the books. While the movement from print to ebook is well underway, I think a lot of my potential readers still shop at book stores or find their next read on a library shelf. Those are two places pretty much off limits for self-published authors. Of course, the average “shelf-life” of a book, even at a megastore is short. One study I read several years ago said 3 days!  

Like most self-published authors I’m relying on social media to get the word out. The amount of time that requires is staggering, and there’s still no clear data about what works. Since I’m not sure what’s best I try to have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Quora, and a couple dozen other sites targeting authors and readers. That’s in additions to maintaining my own website and blog at www.desertcitiesmystery.com.

Out here in the desert we occasionally experience haboobs. That’s a wall of wind and sand that moves through the valley. If it overtakes you, your visibility is obscured by all that sturm und drang until it subsides. How often are my tweets and posts swept up in the cyber world equivalent of the haboob?

The best part about the whole process has been meeting so many authors—traditionally published, self-published, and those ‘hybrid’ authors in both camps. The generosity and support has been a high point of the experience. There’s a camaraderie that rivals that I’ve found in other lines of work.

That experience is right up there with having my first book, A DEAD HUSBAND, scramble into the top 100 on Amazon’s list of cozy mysteries and mysteries with women sleuths.

What is your advice to new writers?

Write, write, write…edit, edit, edit. But not at the same time or you’ll never get anything done. Write loose, edit tight. Learning to shut the critic up long enough to get words down on a page is vital. Unleashing the critic is important, too, so you don’t fall in love with every word you write.

Read, read, read. Not just in your own genre, but read all sorts of things. There are good books and blogs out there that can really help you improve your writing, book production, and marketing. Reading about the book biz has to be on your TBR list, too.

Research and organize. Even when you make stuff up, like I do, there are plenty of facts you use to add detail and realism to your characters and plot. You want to check them out—could your character really have used Facebook in high school? Was that actually a snippet from a Bruce Springsteen song your character is quoting? I use timelines and spreadsheets to keep it all organized. The timing and sequencing of key events in the story are set out in a timeline. Key details about characters are stored in a spreadsheet. This is important to me since I’m writing a series with recurring characters. I go back and add things as they are revealed about characters later on.

What is your life like outside of writing?

Is there such a thing? Let me in on your secret! Only kidding [sort of], I love hanging out with my husband, hiking, painting, reading, listening to music, and playing with my Siamese cats.

Trivia section: What is your favourite and why?
Hot or cold? Hot, never cold—that’s why I live in a desert!
Sweet or salty? Sweet, especially if there’s also chocolate involved.
Cat or dog? Cats, because they’re easier to care for than dogs and I have two sweet and clever Siamese cats.
Favourite colour, animal, musician, album? Love purple, jaguars, my husband’s lead guitar playing, Do I have to choose only one album? I have so many favourites: The Beatles and the Beach Boys; Roy Orbison, K.D. Laing, Leonard Cohen, Julie Cruz, Rufus Wainwright, Adele, The Traveling Wilbury’s, Mahavishnu Orchestra and John McLaughlin, Alanis Morrisette, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald…did I tell you I married a musician?

What are you really passionate about besides writing?

Unjust authority—abuse by those in power really yanks my chain. I’d like to see them all get their comeuppance, so I send Jessica after them.

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

Among the living, I’d have to say a favourite writer: Janet Evanovich, David Baldacci, Sara Paretsky, or James Rollins or maybe a musician, like Brian Wilson.

Among those who have moved on: Dorothy Parker, Agatha Christie or Walt Disney

Among those who are entirely fictional: V.I. Warshawski, Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Emily Pollifax, Jessica Fletcher, Columbo



TWITTER:                             https://twitter.com/aburke59

FACEBOOK BOOK PAGE:   https://www.facebook.com/annacelesteburke

WEBSITE:                              http://www.desertcitiesmystery.com/

BLOG PAGE:                         http://www.desertcitiesmystery.com/#!blog/c1dh1

ABOUT.ME:                          http://about.me/annaburke/#

GOODREADS:                       https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7553558.Anna_Celeste_Burke

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00H8J4IQS




AMAZON PAPERBACK U.S.:   http://ow.ly/yFnyH

BARNES & NOBLE PAPERBACK:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-dead-husband-anna-celeste-burke/1117656215?ean=9781494413514


“A Dead Sister” by Anna Burke is an excellent follow up to her “Dead Husband”. Jessica Huntington has a lot on her plate, especially after her last adventure. In this novel she looks into the death of one of her friends who dies in a mysterious accident 14 years ago.
The book balances her private issues, such as the broken down marriage, and her intimate connection to the victim well, making for a very personal and heart felt investigation, which lends the story more gravity and power. 

Jessica is a great lead character with strong emotions, thoughtful and clever whose circumstances show that money and looks still won’t necessarily buy you happiness. But she has good people around her and she won’t quit until she finds out the truth.
The detective part is well written and at times very compelling. A must for fans of detective novels with interesting settings and fascinating characters. Very recommendable.



AMAZON PAPERBACK U.S.:   http://ow.ly/yFnRm

BARNES & NOBLE PAPERBACK:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-dead-sister-anna-celeste-burke/1119210596?ean=9781497473973


written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

11 Responses to “Anna Celeste Burke: A Dead Husband”

  1. David Lawlor says:

    Great interview. You’ve lived the life, Anna. Looks like you’re riding the crest of a wave right now.

  2. Barbara A Martin says:

    Anna, I’m so glad you taught at Ohio State. I might have to stop reading your wonderful books if you had stayed a Wolverine. Go Buckeyes! (Inside joke)

  3. Jennifer Theriot says:

    Great post! Every time I see your covers, I ask myself “WHY haven’t you one-clicked yet??” I love the covers and cannot wait to read them:)

  4. Chris Rose says:

    Great interview, Christoph.

    Celeste, your answers made wonderful reading and – seriously – there’s room for a great novel just in there, based on your experiences with hubby. Fascinating stuff.
    All you need to do is write about a couple of 60s hippie-surfers, and their ups-and-downs along the way – sorry, I’ve recently written a blog post about metaphor; I should have have added a link it to this interview 😉

    Your desert backdrop must have been so inspirational, and I can really see you taking a wry look from time-to-time with your characters; it must have been great fun here-and-there, especially when, in one sense you’re well-removed from them, but in another, as you say, you possess many of the traits. I think that’s one of the joys of writing, just seeing how you think…

    Inspirational reading. And more reading material for me to download.

    Keep up the good work 😉


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