Guest Bloggers- Dr. Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

The Working Stiffs: How We Get Our Ideas

by Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Judy: I do autopsies in a big city medical examiner morgue. The murder mystery ideas come strolling through the door most every day!

T.J.: Take the plot of First Cut, our debut novel. The seed for the story came from an actual homicide, where Judy got called out to the death scene. The decedent was a petty thief. He jacked a laptop off a man sitting in a café—and the robbery victim pulled out a gun. He shot the thief a bunch of times, in front of witnesses and under security cameras, took the computer out of his dead hands, and walked away.

Judy: I was there to answer questions from the homicide detectives about the gunshot wound trajectories, but all I kept thinking was, “what was so important on that laptop that someone would kill over it?” The book’s story took off from that mystery.

T.J.: You see a lot of overdoses, too. Those came in handy for First Cut.

Judy: Fatal drug overdoses are fascinating to me, because they can be any of several manners of death. When a poison is self-ingested, it could be a suicide or an accident. If it is administered by another person, it could be a homicide. It’s the same cause of death—a poisoning—but the actions people take behind that poisoning might be accidental, intentional, or nefarious. It’s my job to make that call. The police only get involved when we are certain the case is a homicide.

T.J: And even then you can’t always convince them. The tension between the determination of the medical examiner and the findings the police can make for some juicy conflict.

Judy: Just like the tension between the district attorney trying a case and the medical examiner who gets called as a witness. Trial lawyers have to build their cases based on what the witnesses are claiming, but if those witnesses are lying—or just mistaken—their testimony might not comport with the ME’s physical findings from the autopsy.

T.J.: So that’s how we work. Judy brings these stories home and we toss them around until we’ve come up with the case-based outlines for a murder plot. She gives me the story and I work to fashion it into the narrative structure of the American noir detective novel—our corner of the genre-fiction world. When I get stuck, we talk out additional scenarios from her long experience in forensic investigation, and the plot gains a new twist. She never lets me cut corners with the science, though!

Judy: It can be really satisfying—because, unlike in real life, we get to determine the outcome of the cases and the fates of the characters. We take poetic license in the narrative, but we always write our mysteries with scientific rigor, too. It’s a lot of fun!

First Cut

A young rookie medical examiner. A suspicious case. An underworld plot only she saw coming.

From the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff

For San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr. Jessie Teska, it was supposed to be a fresh start. A new job in a new city. A way to escape her own dark past.

Instead she faces a chilling discovery when an opioid-overdose case contains hints of something more sinister. Jessie’s superiors urge her to close the case, but as more bodies land on her autopsy table, she uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate plot involving drug dealers and Bitcoin brokers.

Drawing on her real-life experiences as a forensics expert, Judy Melinek teams up with husband T.J. Mitchell to deliver the most exhilarating mystery of the year. Autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all—even if it means that the next corpse on the table could be her own.

https://www.amazon.com/First-Cut-M-D-Judy-Melinek-ebook/dp/B07P1B4CJL

Bio: The Working Stiffs are the married writing team of forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek and writer T.J. Mitchell. They are coauthors of the New York Times bestselling memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (Scribner, 2014), and the new novel First Cut, the debut in a forensic detective series from Hanover Square Press. Its sequel, Aftershock, is coming in February, 2021. You can follow the Working Stiffs on Twitter @drjudymelinek and @TJMitchellWS, and Facebook/DrWorkingStiff.

Guest Author June Trop

ANCIENT FORENSIC SCIENCE

My mysteries are set in Roman-occupied Alexandria during the first century of the Common Era. Why then? Well, one reason is I thought my protagonist, Miriam bat Isaac, wouldn’t have to deal with forensic technology. Little did I know that, although the Romans didn’t have a formal body of forensic knowledge, they used some methods similar to what we have today. One example is bloodstain pattern analysis.

In The Deadliest Sport, Miriam examines the blood spatters in the room of a sleazy waterfront inn to solve a “locked-room mystery”, that is, a mystery about a crime, usually murder, that appears impossible to have been committed. The crime need not take place inside a locked room, as it does in The Deadliest Sport, but in any utterly inaccessible place.

The most famous case of a Roman jurist analyzing a bloody handprint is titled “Paries Palmatus” or “The Wall of Handprints.” A blind son is accused of stabbing his father in his sleep to obtain his inheritance. Purportedly, the blind man took his sword from his room, walked across the house in the dead of night, and entered his father and stepmother’s bedroom. Then he stabbed his father once, killing him instantly without waking his stepmother, who found her husband dead in bed when she awoke. A trail of bloody handprints led from the parents’ room back to the blind son’s room, and his blood-covered sword was found as well.

The defense argued that the stepmother did it, upset because she would lose out on the father’s fortune to his blind son. So, she framed the blind man using his own father’s blood:

It was the stepmother, yes, the stepmother who set this up with her sure sight; it was she, with her right hand, who brought that poor blood there and made the imprint of [her] hand [on the wall] intermittently! The wall bears the imprints of one palm, has them at intervals, with a certain empty space in the middle, and everywhere the palm-print is intact; a blind man, on the other hand, would have dragged his hands [along the wall].

What other forensic techniques did the Romans use? Emperor Tiberius used footprints and drag marks to argue that his praetor, Silvanus, threw his wife out their bedroom window rather than, as the husband asserted, she chose to jump. Unfortunately for Silvanus, the marks of her struggle and his forcible ejection convinced the Senate of his guilt.

The point for me was that I learned every setting, especially a historical setting, is going to have its challenges, even its surprises. So, set your story in a time and place you’ll enjoy researching and then take your readers there. 

FOR THE DEADLIES SPORT by June Trop

Miriam bat Isaac, a budding alchemist in first-century CE Alexandria, welcomes her twin brother Binyamin home to fight his last gladiatorial bout in Alexandria. But when he demands his share of the family money so he can build a school for gladiators in Alexandria, Miriam explains that he forsook his share when he took the gladiatorial oath. When she refuses to loan him the money for what she feels is a shady, and dangerous, enterprise, Binyamin becomes furious. Soon after, the will of Amram, Miriam’s elderly charge, turns up missing, Amram becomes seriously ill, and the clerk of the public records house is murdered. Could Binyamin really be behind this monstrous scheme? If not he, who could be responsible? And is Miriam slated to be the next victim?

Buy links: https://www.amazon.com/Deadliest-Sport-June-Trop/dp/1626947554

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-deadliest-sport-june-trop/1127167995

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students’ imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling.

Her books have been cited for excellence at the New York Book Festival, by Wiki Ezvid, the Historical Novel Society, and as a 5-star Readers’ Favorite.

An active member of the Mystery Writers of America, June lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, NY where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine’s next life-or-death exploit.

Connect with June on her website www.JuneTrop.com or her Facebook page: June Trop Author.

Guest Blogger – Dwayne Clayden

Why I write Thrillers

For most of my 42 years as a paramedic and police officer, each day had the potential to ramp up my fight-or-flight response. I leaned toward the fight response. But not every day raised my adrenaline to toxic levels. There was a night shift in February, the temperature was minus thirty Celsius, and the only other vehicles on the streets were other police cruisers, tow trucks, and cabs. None of us had anything to do. We frequently checked in with dispatch, to make sure our radio was still working, but mostly to hear another voice.

There were many times where I felt my arteries pulsing in my temples. A foot pursuit, a car chase, walking into a bar fight, or checking an abandoned building at two A.M. There were the frequent times I got myself in nasty situations and needed backup from my team. There was the emotional response to traffic fatalities, suicides, abuse, and murder. Some will stick with me forever.

Now that I am writing crime thrillers full time, my goal is to write realistic police and paramedic scenes that evoke a response in the reader. I want to put the reader in the cruiser with the banter between partners, then the sudden shift to a crisis. They are in the foot pursuit with the officer. Their hearts beat faster, and their breath comes in gasps. That, maybe, there is a tear as they read about a serious injury or death.

In my third novel, Wolfman is Back, I was struggling with the last scenes. They wouldn’t come to me. We were on a flight back from Las Vegas when it hit me. I knew the ending. I grabbed a pen and my notebook and started writing. I wrote from takeoff to landing three hours later. But there was a point I was so emotionally involved in the story, that the tears flowed. I sniffled and watched the tears drop on my notebook.  I continued writing. At home, I typed those scenes into the manuscript. I cried again. Readers contacted me to tell me they had cried during those scenes. They had felt the emotion I felt, and I conveyed that onto the pages of the novel.

I love creating characters readers cheer for, and ones, well, that they don’t cheer for! Some of my characters are composites of partners—quirks and all.

I have received emails from readers complaining that they stayed up half the night because they couldn’t put the novel down. I love those comments—and I can totally relate!

I love reading thrillers. When a thriller has me up at midnight, and I say one more chapter, then damnit, I need to read the next chapter—those are the stories I want to write.

My goal is to write the novels I love to read.

I guess I’m continuing my career, and the emotional rollercoaster I rode for so many years, by putting my experiences and emotions on the page. And I love every minute!

Crisis Point book one in the Brad Coulter Novels

When his partner is killed during an armed robbery, Brad Coulter is left grappling with the loss along with a sudden burst of criminal activity in his quiet city. His new partner is a bitter veteran who challenges Coulter as he lands a spot on the newly developed Tactical Support Unit.

Between a violent shootout with a lone gunman high on glue, and a confrontation with a deadbeat father and abusive husband, Coulter and the TSU become experienced in managing extreme cases. But nothing can prepare them for the real crisis point that will forever change the face of a city and the cops that patrol its streets.

Crisis Point is a bestselling action-packed thriller set in Calgary, Alberta, that will have you racing to the showdown.


Kindle https://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Point-Brad-Coulter-Novel-ebook/dp/B07BGBMQGX

Dwayne Clayden combines his knowledge and experience as a police officer and paramedic to write realistic crime thrillers.

Crisis Point, Dwayne’s first novel, was a finalist for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada, Arthur Ellis Awards.

OutlawMC and Wolfman is Back are the second and third novels in the Brad Coulter Thriller Series.

The Brad Coulter Series will continue in 2020 with 13 Days of Terror.

In August 2020 Dwayne will release the first novel in a new crimer thriller series, Speargrass-Opioid.

In his 42 year career, Dwayne served as a police officer, paramedic, tactical paramedic, firefighter, emergency medical services (EMS) chief, educator, and academic chair.

Dwayne is a popular speaker at conferences and to writing groups presenting on realistic police, medical, and paramedic procedures.

The co-author of four paramedic textbooks, he has spoken internationally at EMS conferences for the past three decades.

Email:                            DwayneClayden@gmail.com

Website:                        http://www.dwayneclayden.com

Connect with me:         LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

Expanding my Horizons by Paty Jager

“You can’t make everyone happy.” One of my least favorite sayings but so true.

I took two trips last year that were experiences I’d never had before. I finally saw a tropical island for myself and I traveled to another country by myself – Iceland. I loved the trips and wanted to use what I experienced to write books with my characters enjoying the same places.

I set Abstract Casualty in the Shandra Higheagle series in Kaua’i Hawaii. I had a great time reliving my time there while writing the book. And the fun I had finding a way to get my character to the island in a realistic manner. Some readers loved it and the new experience, others wrote to me and wanted Shandra back in her fictional county in Idaho. They missed the secondary characters they’d come to know.

For those readers who love going back to the same place, Capricious Demise is set back in Weippe County, my fictional county in Idaho. I finished the first draft and will be releasing it in July.

This month, June 1st, the 5th Gabriel Hawke Novel, Fox Goes Hunting, released. My critique partners, beta-readers, and proof reader, loved it! I already received one 2 star review. The reader didn’t like that Hawke wasn’t tracking as much and they couldn’t pronounce the names of the characters. This book is set in Iceland.

I loved bringing things into the book that I saw and learned while in Iceland. I hope to capture a broader range of reader by going “International”. Yes, there are typical Icelandic names for characters from there. It is also set during an international Search and Rescue conference so I had secondary characters from around the world.

Yes, both books set in real places took twice as long to write. I had to make sure distances, towns, places were correct. I wanted to make sure I gave a clear picture of where they went and what they saw.

When I write the Shandra books set in a fictional place, I can make things up as I go, though I did make a map of the county when I started writing the series, so I do keep things in the same place every book. But if I want to add a business, I find a block that I didn’t put a business in already and add it.

The Hawke books are set in a real place, but I made up fake towns in place of the real ones to keep anyone I might have grown up with in that county to think I am talking about them. 😉

While I know there are some readers who don’t like the unexpected, I believe writing outside of my comfort zone and incorporating other places and cultures into my writing helps me grow as an individual and hopefully gives my readers a glimpse at a culture they might not get a chance to experience first hand.

Guest Blogger – Jeannette de Beauvoir

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

We’re all attracted to things that sparkle. From the moment we’re born, our eyes follow shiny objects. And because everyone likes them, precious stones and gems have acquired a substantial monetary value.

And therein, naturally, lies crime.

In the nursery rhyme, the “little star” twinkles “like a diamond in the sky,” but diamonds are no little stars: they’re big and bright and can be very, very dangerous. Blood diamonds cost countless people their lives and limbs. Diamonds are stolen and imitated, fought over and killed for, and still every February we buy them, give them, and receive them as delicate, beautiful expressions of love.

One of my novels, Deadly Jewels, deals with a diamond theft during World War II that has repercussions in the present day, its unfinished business echoing up through the years. And you might think that it was easier to steal diamonds back then, but you’d be wrong: unlike other crimes, which seem to be more and more blocked by technological advances in loss prevention and law enforcement, it seems that jewel thieves are alive and well and very much at it.

One of the things that we say about murder is that we only know about the failures—a successful murderer being, of course, one who is never caught because murder is never suspected. The same cannot be said for heists: we know only too well when and where they occur, and sometimes even by whom.

And I have to say that the history of heists isn’t without some humor.

Take the so-called Pink Panther gang, some very serious thieves from Eastern Europe who earned their nickname following the theft of a £500,000 diamond in central London—they hid the stone in a jar of face cream, a move learned from watching The Return of the Pink Panther. That’s right: Inspector Clouseau taught them. They’ve been enormously successful and are responsible for what are considered some of the most glamorous heists ever.

A science museum isn’t the first place you’d think of as a backdrop to a diamond heist, but that happened in the Netherlands during an exhibition called The Diamond: From Rough Stone to Gem. Thieves got away with $12 million in diamonds and jewelry after smashing a window to get in (they weren’t picked up on video and none of the guards saw or heard anything) and accessing six of 28 alarmed cabinets in the main jewelry room before escaping. That one still has a lot of people scratching their heads.

In 2013, thieves netted $136 million in diamonds belonging to an Israeli guest at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes—the same hotel that was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 jewelry heist film To Catch a Thief.

I could go on and on—really, I could—but you get the point. There’s something about diamonds that brings out the James Bond or Marilyn Monroe in all of us. And the mystery not only of their attraction but of the lengths to which people will go to steal them is one of endless fascination—for this mystery writer, anyway!

DEADLY JEWELS

When Martine LeDuc, publicity director for the city of Montréal, is summoned into the mayor’s office, she’s pleasantly surprised to find the city is due for a PR coup: a doctoral researcher at McGill University claims to have found proof that the British crown jewels were stored in Montréal during WWII.

Martine is thrilled to be part of the excavation project, until it turns out that the dig’s discoveries include the skeleton of a man with diamonds in his ribcage and a hole in his skull. Is this decades-old murder leading her too far into the dangerous world of Canada’s neo-Nazi networks, or is there something going on that makes the jewels themselves deadly? Is history ever really completely buried?

With pressing personal issues crowding into her professional life, Martine needs to solve not only the puzzle of the jewels, but some more recent crimes—including another murder, a kidnapping, and the operation of an ancient cult in Montréal—and do it before the past reaches out to silence her for good.

https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Jewels-Novel-Jeannette-Beauvoir-ebook/dp/B0140MQVX8

Jeannette de Beauvoir is the author, most recently, of The Matinée Murders. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Author’s Guild, and the National Writers Union, you can find out more (and read her blog or sign up for her newsletter) at her website. You can also find her on Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, and Goodreads.

She doesn’t own any diamonds.

Guest Author – Camille Minichino

Puzzled by Crime

Since we’ve been sheltered in place, sales of jigsaw puzzles have soared. As trusted a source as NPR recently reported an increase of more than 300% over last year’s sales.

It’s not hard to figure out why people have turned to puzzling in a time of great confusion and uncertainty. If you’re focused on finding that piece of blue sky over Tuolumne Meadows in the Sierras, or the jacket of the woman ice skating in Rockefeller Center, you can hardly give in to fear or anxiety at the same time.

Other puzzles, too, are having their moment. Newspapers offer extra crosswords, acrostics, and entire supplemental sections with Sudoku, logic puzzles, and picture puzzles for kids.

Some say humans are designed to solve problems, and puzzles fill that need, especially ones that come with a clear set of rules and an unambiguous solution.

Am I ever going to talk about cozies?

Yes, here it comes.

Cozies are primarily puzzles. That’s not to say that the other elements of fiction are unimportant. Cozy readers expect all the basics of a good story: engaging characters, sparkling dialogue, appealing descriptions, riveting suspense, and a satisfying conclusion.

What cozy readers don’t expect are graphic details that take away from the essential puzzle. Does that mean that cozies make light of murder, for example? A case can be made that the touch of humor often found in cozy mysteries takes away from the seriousness of the matter. But the theory behind cozies, to my mind, is that readers already know that murder is horrible, that it’s brutal, violent, no matter the weapon, and that it takes an enormous toll on everyone around it. We don’t need to dwell on those aspects. We choose to dwell on the puzzle that connects the motive, the victim, the killer, and the clues.

The amateur sleuth featured in cozies is making a red velvet cake with her hands, while her mind is figuring out the clues. Instead of forensic details and images of internal organs being weighed in the pan of a laboratory scale, we’re treated to her aha moment—the oven timer goes off and she realizes that Mr. Victim in the Library could not have been killed before two o’clock in the afternoon. Puzzle solved!

The cozy sleuth usually has a threat to her life when the killer realizes how smart she is, how she’s been able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. But the cozy reader knows the danger is there only to provide another opportunity for a clever move, as if the whole story were being played out on a chess board. Quite satisfying.

Murder is brutal in real life, and there are subgenres in crime fiction that deal with that—noir and horror, for example, and what are called thrillers.

At the moment, we seem to be living in a medical thriller. Maybe we’d rather leave that behind as we read. If so, cozies are there for us.

MOUSSE AND MURDER

A young chef bites off more than she can chew when she returns to her Alaskan hometown to take over her parents’ diner.

When Chef Charlotte “Charlie” Cooke was offered the chance to leave San Francisco and return home to Elkview, Alaska, and take over her mother’s diner, she didn’t even consider saying no. For the past year, she’s built a comfortable existence, spending her days making sure the restaurant runs smoothly and that her cat, Eggs Benedict, is appropriately pampered. But soon life at the diner starts feeling a little one-note.

Determined to bring fresh life and flavors to the Bear Claw Diner, Charlie starts planning changes to the menu, which has grown stale over the years. But her plans are fried when her head chef Oliver turns up dead after a bitter and public fight over Charlie’s ideas—leaving Charlie as the prime suspect.

With her career, freedom, and life all on thin ice, Charlie must find out who the real killer is, before it’s too late.

Buy links are at https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/622413/mousse-and-murder-by-elizabeth-logan/

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist. She’s the author of 28 mystery novels, plus many short stories and articles. Her 5 series feature a physicist, a miniaturist, a college math professor, a postmistress, and a chef in a fictional town in Alaska. She teaches science at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and writing workshops around the SF Bay Area. Her latest series, the Alaskan Diner Mysteries, written as Elizabeth Logan, debuts with “Mousse and Murder.” All her names and numbers can be found at www.minichino.com, and at https://www.facebook.com/camille.minichino

Guest Author Terri Reid

The origin of my main character – Mary O’Reilly

Gold leaves floated down from tall branches and then rushed with the wind across the concrete pavement of the playground only to be caught against the brick walls of the school. Children laughed and ran, along with the leaves, playing on equipment that would be considered criminally neglectful today.

In a corner of the schoolyard, with leaves swirling around their Mary-Jane shod feet, the young girls stood together, discussing the upcoming weekend. Dressed in the plaid uniforms of their Catholic School, one might think the conversation would have inklings of piety or, given their age, perhaps it centered on the cutest boys in class. But no, their conversation was much darker and more daring.

“You have to stand under the oak tree, leaning against it’s trunk.”

“And you have to have a rosary around your neck, not just a necklace.”

“Then you have to repeat three times, the words ‘I believe in Mary Worth.”

“The…then…what happens?

“She climbs down the trunk of the tree, grabs hold of the rosary, and tries to choke you to death.”

“To death?”

“Or she scratches your eyes out with her long, dead fingernails.”

“Dead fingernails?”

“You need to try it, on Friday night. It always works best on Friday night.”

This is where Mary O’Reilly was born, although I didn’t realize it at the time. My Irish-Catholic upbringing filled with stories of ghosts and ghouls fed the storyteller that was in my DNA. The stories weren’t only shared on the playground, they were told by parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. Hearing ghost stories, especially true stories that people had actually experienced themselves, created a delicious terror that could not be duplicated by any other event. Then having a ghostly experience of my own gave me a clearer insight of not only the paranormal, but how people react when you admit you have seen a ghost.

My main character, Mary O’Reilly, was a fourth-generation Chicago police officer. One night, during a drug bust, a dealer darted out of a derelict apartment building. His eyes and his gun were trained on Sean, Mary’s oldest brother. She didn’t even think about her reaction. She stepped between her brother and the bullet. Then everything went dark.

The next thing she remembered was floating above the hospital room where the nurses and surgeons were working on her broken body. Then above the Waiting Room where she saw her parents and her brothers pacing, their faces drawn and pale. Finally, she drifted up to a place that felt peaceful and safe.

“Mary, you have to make a choice now,” the deep, gentle voice echoed in her head.

“You can continue on to the light,” he continued. “Or you can return to be with your family for a time. But if you choose to return, your life will be different. Things will have changed.”

She thought about her family, remembered the look on their faces, and made up her mind immediately.

“I chose to go back,” she replied.

When Mary recovered, she discovered the change was a little more than she bargained for. Mary now could see and talk to ghosts.

Mary’s character is smart, brave, athletic, and compassionate. She is loyal and she has a tender heart. She has learned that a ghost is only a person who happens to be dead. And, as she works with the dead to solve their mysteries, she has learned one compelling truth: often the true monsters are the living.

Loose Ends

Dying is what changed Mary O’Reilly’s life. 

As a fourth generation Chicago cop, she knew the risks of the job and stepping between another cop and a drug dealer’s bullet was just something you did.  She would have done it even if the cop hadn’t been her older brother.  Rushed into surgery; Mary flat-lined.  She actually saw it, because she was watching from the ceiling of the room.  She floated pass her family in the waiting room, looking worried and much, much older.  And then she started her walk towards the light.  She was nearly there when she heard a voice call her by name and give her a choice.  Continue on or go back.  But if she went back things would be different. Boy, was that an understatement.

Now, a private investigator in a small town, Mary’s trying to learn how to incorporate her experience as a cop and new-found talent of seeing and communicating with ghosts into a real job. Her challenge is to solve the mysteries, get real evidence (a ghost’s word just doesn’t hold up in court), and be sure the folks in town, especially the handsome police chief, doesn’t think she’s nuts.

Twenty-four years ago, a young woman drowned in the swimming pool of a newly elected State Senator.  It was ruled an accident.  But now, as the Senator prepares to move on to higher positions, the ghost of the woman is appearing to the Senator’s wife. 

Mary is hired to discover the truth behind the death. She unearths a connection between the murder and the disappearance of five little girls whose cases, twenty-four years later, are still all unsolved.  As she digs further, she becomes the next target for the serial killer’s quest to tie up all his loose ends.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003Y5H8IK

Terri Reid is the author of the Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mysteries. An independent author, Reid uploaded her first book “Loose Ends – A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery” in August 2010. By the end of 2013, “Loose Ends” had sold over 200,000 copies and, has consistently ranked as one of the top selling books in its genre. This year she celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Loose Ends.

She has nineteen other books in the Mary O’Reilly Series and several other series including The Willoughby Witches, The Blackwood Files, The Order of Brigid’s Cross, and The Legend of the Horsemen.

Reid has enjoyed Top Rated and Hot New Release status in the Women Sleuths and Paranormal Romance category through Amazon US. Her books have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and German and are also available in print and audio versions.

Reid has been quoted in a number of books about the self-publishing industry including “Let’s Get Digital” by David Gaughran and “Interviews with Indie Authors: Top Tips from Successful Self-Published Authors” by Claire and Tim Ridgway.

She was the keynote speaker for Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair in Lumberton, N.C., a guest presenter at Love Is Murder in Chicago, a guest lecturer at a number of universities in Illinois, and has been the opening speaker for the Illinois Paranormal Conference.

Reid lives in northwest Illinois near Freeport, Illinois, the setting of the Mary O’Reilly series.  She writes a weekly blog called Freaky Friday through her website at www.terrireid.com and can be reached at author@terrireid.com.

Revisiting a Vacation by Paty Jager

I went on a trip of a lifetime, for me, last summer. When I received an email about a literary trip set in Iceland and saw the itinerary and how well we’d be taken care of, I told my hubby it was my birthday gift and I signed up.

Now, almost a year later, I am getting ready to publish a book I set in Iceland. I loved the country- the people, the scenery, the history. I felt at home there. Hmmm… I wonder if I have more Norse in me than I thought? I’m ready to go back whenever my hubby would agree to it and the pandemic lifts.

The trip was put together by The Author’s Guild. It was a mix of half usual tourist sights and half literary sights. We had a meeting with Yrsa Sigurdardottir, a crime fiction author in Iceland whose books I had read and enjoyed. We went to a museum which had ancient Icelandic manuscripts. They were made of sheep skin and wood covers. And we visited the home of the 1955 Nobel Prize winning author, Halldor Laxness.

But I would have to say the highlight of my trip was getting the other writers, who mostly wrote non-fiction books excited about helping me find a good place to have a murder. Each place we stopped someone would say, what about this or that? And then as a group they would come up with how and why someone would be murdered in that spot. It was a lot of fun.

landscape at Kleifarvatn Lake

On the last day, which happened to be my birthday, all ten of us loaded up in the small bus we’d been travelling in all week, and headed to Lake Kleifarvatn. The landscape at this lake has been likened to a moonscape. It is sparse, barren, rocky surroundings. I took quite a few photos, thinking this would make tracking someone near impossible and would make a great place for a tracking specialist to be needed.

Boiling mud pools at Krysuvik

However, we continued on and as soon as I saw the steam and the bubbling mud I knew I’d found my means of murder! At Krysuvik, a tourist attraction of sulfurous steam escaping boiling mud pools, I could see a body half in and half out of one of the mud pools. The more I walked around the area taking photos, I solidified this was where the the murder would take place.

I asked our guide, Ragnar, lots of questions and scribbled in my little book. I asked him about Search and Rescue. He said they had a large SAR program. When I came home, I looked it up. I was so excited! They had a world reknown SAR conference every two years. I could send Hawke to Iceland to teach at the conference. And the best part, the conference was this year, well, we’ll see if it is still held with all the closures of conferences this year, but it would be held in the Harpa. The Harpa is a fairly new concert hall and conference center that is beautiful! It was a building across the street from our hotel and I had been in it for dinner one night and a play another. It was a building I knew.

This is Harpa. It has beveled colored glass panels all over it and is gorgeous when the light hits it just right.

Everything just seemed to fit together for my book! And I’m pleased to say, Fox Goes Hunting, book 5 in my Gabriel Hawke Novels is available in pre-orde and will release on June 1st. What a fun way to celebrate the anniversary of my trip- with a book set in Iceland.

Writing the book I was able to revisit several of the places I’d been, reconnected with our guide for some help with things I hadn’t seen or didn’t know about the country, and enjoyed putting my taciturn Native American Game Warden in an environment different than he knew.

Blurb for Fox Goes Hunting

While teaching a tracking class at a Search and Rescue conference in Iceland, Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke discovers a body in a boiling mud pool. The body is the young man Hawke’s class is tracking.

Unable to walk away from the young man’s death without helping to find the killer, Hawke follows the clues and discovers the young man had few enemies, and all of them have alibis. The killer is cunning like the fox, but Hawke is determined to solve the homicide before the conference attendees head home in five days. 

Pre-order at all ebook vendors:

https://books2read.com/u/3yEjKv

Guest Blogger- Ann Charles

Ann on the street in Deadwood

Hi, I’m Ann Charles and I write the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, which has a spicy mixture of mystery, paranormal, humor, and romance.

One of the questions that I am asked periodically by fans of this series is how I came up with my heroine—Violet Parker. They often want to know if I based her off someone I know; or, if I am the real Violet and she’s based on me since we both have two kids, a boy and a girl.

Deadwood haunted hotels

Before I talk about the “how” in relation to Violet, let me tell you a little about her. At the start of this eleven-books-and-growing series, she is in her mid-thirties and a single mother with nine-year-old fraternal twins whose father was basically a sperm donor. She’s semi-recently moved to the small town of Deadwood, South Dakota to live with her Aunt Zoe and is trying her hand at a new career—real estate. Unfortunately, little girls are disappearing in the area and her daughter could be next, so she finds herself trying to hunt down a kidnapper while struggling to make her first sale and keep her little family alive and afloat.

Lucky for me, my experiences with motherhood are nothing like Violet’s. However, she and I do share a sense of humor, parenting exasperations, and a fondness of family and friends. We also are softies for crusty old men who make us laugh at their colorful and often unchecked ways.

Violet Parker came to me one day while I was visiting my mom, who lives in the Deadwood area. I was pregnant with my second child and driving around town when the thought came to me—what would it be like to be a single mom trying to raise two kids here. At the time, the economy was struggling a little and the big gold mine in the area had closed down, so jobs were hard to come by, especially for a thirty-something woman with a family to support. From the start, I knew Violet and I would be good friends because we kept sharing the same jokes about different characters as they came on the page, and we found ourselves wincing at our children’s antics.

I loved creating a character based on so many strong women I knew over the years who were raising kids on their own. They were my heroes, and I wanted Violet to represent them in different ways, so that we could all cheer her on whether it was for her successes in her career, crime solving, or love. Like so many of us regular women, I wanted her to be curvier than most, have wild hair (literally and figuratively), and make mistakes along the way. BUT, she would be funny and charming and full of love for her family and friends.

From this mishmash of thoughts and experiences, Violet Parker was born, and so was the Deadwood Mystery series.

Ann Charles

USA Today Bestselling Author

www.anncharles.com

Ann Charles’s books are available as ebook, print book, and audiobooks for individuals, bookstores, libraries, etc. You can find her books on all of the usual major vendor sites: Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Ingram, Audible, and Overdrive, as well as many others. You can also find links to her books on her website: http://www.anncharles.com

Book 11 in the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, DEVIL DAYS IN DEADWOOD, will be available for pre-order at the end of April with a release date near the end of May. (With this crazy virus mucking up the works both online and offline, Ann isn’t giving set dates at this time.)

USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy mysteries full of comedy, adventure, suspense, romance, and paranormal mayhem. She currently has five on-going series in the works and is often daydreaming of starting a sixth series, but she needs to master the art of cloning first. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.

Social Media Links:

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Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ann-charles

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4605878.Ann_Charles

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Charles/e/B004JLYPFW

The Angst That Doesn’t Go On The Page by Paty Jager

Many literary prose are filled with angst and trepidation. I wonder if literary writers feel the same angst and trepidation that genre writers do?

This is a confession of sorts. Before I started writing mystery, I just researched either history, settings, occupations or whatever I needed to make the story real and conjured up characters that I liked and hoped readers liked. Those were my romance books.

Then I wrote an action adventure trilogy. I researched and read and studied. I came up with a high IQ character and hoped I could pull her off. I set books in areas I had never been, but I found people who had or lived there. I dug deep to make sure I had all the knowledge I felt I needed to write those books. When the first one released, I knew it was going to flop. How could I write about an anthropologist with a genius level IQ and make people believe her?

But I did! Readers loved Isabella Mumphrey. The first book won an award!

After all the angst and worry, I decided to try my hand at the genre I really wanted to write– mystery. And what did I do? I made my character half Native American. Mainly because I feel it is a culture that gets shoved under the rug and partly because I love research and learning new things. I thought why not learn about the culture along with my character.

But I worried I couldn’t pull her off. That someone would tell me I didn’t have the right to write such a character or I wasn’t portraying her correctly. However at book 14 in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, I have people who love the information on the culture that I include in the books. This makes me happy that I am informing my readers about a culture they may not know about in an entertaining way.

Then I start writing another book and I worry this one won’t be as good as the last. Or I feel it’s lagging, not enough twists, or not enough culture… There is always something I feel I didn’t flush out enough.

This goes on daily as I write. My books go through critique partners, beta readers, a line editor, a sensitivity reader, a proof reader and my final arc readers before it gets to the public. And I still worry that something was missed.

It isn’t until my ARC readers send me the links to their reviews that I know if my book was mediocre or they enjoyed it. I”m happy to say the newest release has been a joy to get reviews and emails about. The subject lines have been: I loved it! You did it again!

These are worth all the worrying, angst, and beating myself up over the characters and plot.

Here is Abstract Casualty

Book 14 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series

Hawaiian adventure, Deceit, Murder

Shandra Higheagle is asked to juror an art exhibition on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

After an altercation at the exhibition, the chairwoman of the event, Shandra’s friend, arrives home with torn clothes, scratches, and stating she tried to save an angry artist who fell over a cliff. Shandra and Ryan begin piecing together information to figure out if the friend did try to save the artist or helped him over the edge.

During the investigation, Shandra comes across a person who reminds her of an unhealthy time in her past. Knowing this man and the one from her past, she is determined to find his connection to the dead artist.  When her grandmother doesn’t come to her in dreams, Shandra wonders if her past is blinding her from the truth.

https://books2read.com/u/4XXLke