Guest Blogger ~ Susie Black

No matter what stage an author’s writing career is at, one thing that is constantly drilled into their head is to only write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t you dare write it. If you don’t have the creds for what you write, you are toast because readers can spot a phony by the second paragraph and never finish reading your book. This concept is one I never lose sight of and is the reason I write about the subjects I do. 

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies’ swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write.

I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. it is also the genre I read, am comfortable in, and enjoy the most. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling. Holly Schlivnik, the main character, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. The plots and premises of my stories all take place in the fast-paced ladies’ apparel industry. The premise behind the story in Death by Sample Size is what if a buying office big shot in the apparel industry so universally disliked that when she was murdered, there were so many potential suspects that it wasn’t a question of who wanted her dead, it was a question of who didn’t.

DEATH BY SAMPLE SIZE

Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?

The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer.  Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/productttt/BO93F24T3F

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-by-sample-size-susie-black/1139356591

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/Susie-black

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57877534-death-by-sample-size

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=k8swEAAAQBAJ

I Tunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/death-by-sample-size/id1564686461

kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=Death+by+Sample+Size

TARGET.COM: https://www.target.com/s?searchTerm=Death+by+Sample+Size

Just behind my college graduation, wedding day, and the birth of my son, June 9th was truly one of the most amazing days of my entire life. My debut cozy mystery Death by Sample Size was released for publication. I am humbled, honored, and proud to be able to say that now I am officially a published author! A life-long dream has come true, a hard-fought-for goal has been accomplished.

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

Looking for more? Reach her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com

Social Media Links:

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/Susie-black

Facebook: https://facebook.com/TheHollySwimsuitMysterySeries

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57877534-death-by-sample-size

Instagram: Susie Black (@hollyswimsuit) • Instagram photos and videos

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/authorsusieblack-61941011

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hollysusie1_saved/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@hollyswimsuit

Writing Makes me Happy by Paty Jager

I started this writing journey decades ago because I had a need to write. That sounds hokey or corny to some but it was my husband who first realized when I didn’t have time to write, I became cranky. LOL I would become irritable and crabby when I was so busy raising kids and taking care of the chores that I didn’t have time to write. He would say, “Go write for a while. Leave the dishes, or do the laundry later.” And I would go write, and the real world would once again be a happy place for me.

My best guess would be, anyway from what I’ve noticed over the years, my overactive imagination would keep me up at night with ‘what ifs’ and tragedies befalling family members. When I write and am engrossed in causing all kinds of trouble for my characters, my mind is at ease and I sleep better. If I don’t write, I put all of the danger into potential threats to my family members and friends. Weird, right?

I also enjoy the research. Over the years, even as a child, I would read books and discover new places, new people, new cultures, and learn about things I didn’t have where I lived. That was exciting to me! As a teen I loved the old Gothic Romances by Phyliss Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I enjoyed living in mansions, the terror of crossing a moor in the dark, experiencing a time and country that was so different from what I lived. I also liked they were the thickest books in the school library. I could go through a thin novel in two days, reading during lunch, afterschool and when I was supposed to be sleeping. 😉

I started reading mysteries then and continued as an adult. A good mystery for me has twists and turns and engaging characters. I devoured books by Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Dorothy Gilman. Lilian Jackson Braun, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Grafton.

Putting a bit of mystery in everything I write has shown me that I am a writer who has to write mystery to feel I’ve built a complete story. And that is why I write mystery books. It is what, is deep in my core. I like writing twists and turns and having justice at the end of the story.

My innate need to always write about justice or injustice has brought me to writing mysteries with Native American influences. Whether it is characters or setting. Their plight has always tugged at my conscious and now, with writing, I have a way to show they are human and viable people just like everyone else. They have been trod upon and nearly annihilated, yet because of their faith and resilience they are growing stronger and becoming a voice that needs to be heard.

Writing mysteries with Native American elements is what makes me happy. I have a couple of romance series I need to finish, and I tried. However, my heart isn’t into those at this time, so I will continue to write the stories that are calling to me.

Here is the latest release of my new Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series.

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

Book 1

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.

Universal Buy link:

https://books2read.com/u/brPxxw

Guest Blogger~Susan Elia MacNeal

Hello and thank you for having me, Ladies of Mystery!

            I’m thrilled to be here talking about The Hollywood Spy. It’s the latest novel in the Maggie Hope series—but it can also be read as a stand-alone, so don’t worry about needing to catch up.

            In The Hollywood Spy, Maggie Hope returns to the United States—and not just anywhere, but Los Angeles, in the summer of 1943.

            Why Los Angeles? Typically, the setting for the books has been London and the UK. Well, I read the Pulitzer-Prize-nominated non-fiction book, Hitler in Los Angeles and that was the catalyst I needed. Yes, you read that title correctly—in the 1930s and even after World War II began, southern California was a hotbed of fascist activity for both German and American Nazis. When I finished reading the book (which reads like a thriller, by the way), I knew I wanted to set a book there and then.

            Los Angeles turns out to be a perfect place for Maggie Hope’s adventures to continue. She’s asked (by her former beau) to investigate his fiancée’s murder. Well, that’s a bit awkward! But Maggie needs a change of scene from dreary grey London—and what starts as a cursory inquiry turns much darker and twistier as more clues are discovered.

            Los Angeles, the city, is a character in her own right in this book. Some of the locations are the Chateau Marmont (where Maggie and her friend Sarah Sanderson stay), the Walt Disney Studios (where John Sterling, Maggie’s ex beau works), the swanky Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, Schwab’s Pharmacy, Caltech, and the Carthay theater. I loved reading books and articles about L.A. during the war, as well as watching documentaries. Taking a research trip was also both productive and fun.

            In The Hollywood Spy, we also meet some famous names from Hollywood at the time: Walt Disney, of course, but also choreographer George Balanchine, composer Igor Stravinsky, singer Cab Calloway, aviation and movie tycoon Howard Hughes, and actress Lena Horne.

            But it’s not all glitz and glamour in Los Angeles, as Maggie and her friends soon find. There’s a dark underbelly as well—all historically documented. In June of 1943, L.A. was torn apart by the Zoot Suit riots. People who identified as LGBTQ were in danger of being arrested or worse. “Smog” was just beginning to appear as traffic increased and rubber plants and war industry polluted the air. And there was significant corruption in the LAPD.

            Los Angeles proved to be a wonderful setting to punch through the soft fog of nostalgia about “the Greatest Generation.” While it’s true most of America was standing shoulder-to-shoulder to fight the Nazis and Axis powers, things (especially in L.A.) are a bit more complex. After all, the government needs the country’s unity—to produce the men and machines for war. Los Angeles was not only home to Hollywood, the propaganda machine for the U.S., but also the aviation industry. While “pulling together” was supposed to stitch up tears in the social, racial, sexual inequality in America, the reality wasn’t as simple as the propaganda and shared memories would have it sound. Los Angeles—and America—stood both divided and together.

            Thank you for having me—hope you read and enjoy The Hollywood Spy!

THE HOLLYWOOD SPY

A Maggie Hope Mystery

by Susan Elia MacNeal

Los Angeles, 1943. As the Allies beat back the Nazis in the Mediterranean and the United States military slowly closes in on Tokyo, Walt Disney cranks out wartime propaganda and the Cocoanut Grove is alive with jazz and swing each night. But behind this sunny façade lies a darker reality. Somewhere in the lush foothills of Hollywood, a woman floats, lifeless, in the pool of one of California’s trendiest hotels. When American-born secret agent and British spy Maggie Hope learns

that this woman was engaged to her old flame, John Sterling, and that he suspects her death was no accident, intuition tells her he’s right. Leaving London under siege—not to mention flying thousands of miles—is a lot to ask. But John was once the love of Maggie’s life…and she won’t say no.

Maggie is shocked to find Los Angeles as divided as Europe itself—the Zoot Suit Riots loom large and the Ku Klux Klan casts a long shadow. As she marvels at the hatred in her home country, she can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see her lost love once again. But there is little time to dwell on memories once she starts digging into the case. As she traces a web of deception from the infamous Garden of Allah Hotel to the iconic Carthay Theater, she discovers things aren’t always the way things appear in the movies—and the political situation in America is more complicated, and dangerous, than the newsreels would have them all believe. 

Buy Link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/617760/the-hollywood-spy-by-susan-elia-macneal/?pdivflag

Susan Elia MacNeal is the New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope mysteries. MacNeal won the Barry Award and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Agatha, Left Coast Crime, Dilys, and ITW Thriller awards. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

Visit randomhousebooks.com or susaneliamacneal.com
You can find the author of on Facebook @MrChurcillsSecretary, Twitter @SusanMacNeal, and Instagram @susaneliamacneal

 

Reaching out by Paty Jager

Whenever I start a project with a topic I know only enough about to want to write about it, I reach out to others who have experience.

That’s what I did for my latest Gabriel Hawke book, Stolen Butterfly. For years, I’ve heard of the injustice towards the Native American people. The women and children who were murdered and missing. While the cause, MMIW, now also titled MMIP, because it isn’t just women but children and even some men who are murdered or missing, has been growing slowly, the last few years it has started rolling with fury.

While the Indigenous population is only 2% of the all the people in the U.S., they are the group with the largest percent of missing and murdered people. The reason is law enforcement up until lately hasn’t cared. It has taken the MMIW movement to bring this to light.

Because I had decided back when writing book 1, Murder of Ravens to have Gabriel Hawke tackle this injustice, I reached out to social workers in and around the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation to find help in telling my current release, Stolen Butterfly, accurately. The social worker I contacted, put me in contact with a woman who has lost four family members and is an advocate of the MMIW/MMIP cause. When she told me the stories of the people she’d lost and photos she took to commemorate them, I was choked up. That’s when I knew this was the book I was born to write.

Not only was the woman, Kola Shippentower-Thompson, an advocate for MMIP, she also is the co-founder of Enough Iz Enough a non-profit that teaches women and children how to defend themselves and be aware of danger. She was the prefect fit for the research I needed. She also had worked in security at the Wildhorse Casino on the reservation and her husband works with the Tribal Police in the Fish and Wildlife division. She could answer all of my questions and give me the emotional side I needed as well.

One of the secondary characters in the book is my new main character in my upcoming Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries. Kola has graciously said she would answer any questions along the way as I write that series which will be set on the Umatilla Reservation.

By reaching out and asking for help to make sure my book captures the way the people come together when a person is missing and showing their emotions, as well as the treatment they receive from entities that should be helping, I hope my book will build a little more compassion toward the Indigenous People. This is a book that I hope will make more people aware of the fear that is faced every day by a people who have lived through diseases that nearly wiped them out, being banished to reservations, and then treated as if they weren’t human. They are strong and resilient and deserve to be heard when their people are being taken from them.

Here is the review Kola gave my book after reading it: “The story was captivating, I couldn’t put it down. So many memories were brought to surface, so many emotions, like this has been lived before, because it has, this is a glimpse into our reality in the Reservation. Thank you for seeing us & helping tell part of the story.” 

The proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the non-profit Enough Iz Enough. This is a community outreach organization that advocates for MMIW on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation.  

Stolen Butterfly

Gabriel Hawke Novel #7

Missing or Murdered

When the local authorities tell State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s mother to wait 72 hours before reporting a missing Umatilla woman, she calls her son and rallies members of the community to search.

Hawke arrives at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and learns the single mother of a boy his mom watches would never leave her son. Angered over how the local officials respond to his investigating, Hawke teams up with a security guard at the Indian casino and an FBI agent. Following the leads, they discover the woman was targeted by a human trafficking ring at the Spotted Pony Casino.

Hawke, Dela Alvaro, and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce join forces to bring the woman home and close down the trafficking operation before someone else goes missing.

Universal buy link: https://books2read.com/u/baZEPq

Guest Blogger ~ Roxanne Dunn

Writing: nudging words into sentences, then sentences into paragraphs that sound pleasing to the ear. An excruciating process that takes massive amounts of time.

For years, my husband and I worked in Seattle and lived aboard an elegant, old, wood motor yacht. We spent our free time cruising to other harbors, eating, drinking, and playing with other boaters.

But whenever I had a few minutes alone, I wrote.

Every spring, our yacht club flocked to Tacoma to participate in the Daffodil Marine Festival. This weekend event culminated in a parade of boats decked out with thousands of daffodils, brightly colored flags, and all hands sporting white pants and navy blazers.

The Tacoma Yacht Club spring parade.

One year, while everyone else roamed up and down the dock drinking margaritas and meeting old friends, I sat in a corner of the saloon and struggled with my assignment for a creative writing class. And hoped I didn’t look too antisocial.

The day before the parade was crammed with activities, including a Jeopardy trivia game. Each club selected a token to represent their group. My husband was ours. I was still typing, putting words together, ripping them out, and starting over, so several of the women carted him off to the local thrift store to find a suitable outfit.

He came back dressed in an iridescent purple strapless dress, a hot pink feather boa, and white roller skates with huge pink pom-poms. I have to say, he looked stunning. Someone whipped out a black lipstick, carefully applied it to his lips, and he was ready.

As I recall, our club didn’t score all that well, but my husband was a big hit. He practically floated around on his roller skates, flicking his pink boa from side to side, and pirouetting with élan and grace.

Since then, I have rewritten the assignment I was working on too many times to count, but it finally became part of Murder Unrehearsed, my debut novel, which made it to press last August.

You’d think that after all that time, my characters wouldn’t be able to surprise me. But in the final draft, one of them, hottie lawman Matt McCrae, did. He insisted on getting up early, mixing a batch of dough for baguettes, and baking his special chocolate sandwich cookies while the bread dough was proofing.

So, I put on an apron, got reacquainted with my mother’s aunt’s sugar cookie recipe, and made several variations. Although the chocolate cookies filled with chocolate ganache are Matt’s favorite, the lemon version with lemon buttercream is a close second. Their delicate, buttery flavor married with the sprightly taste of fresh lemon is perfect for spring. I’m baking some now.

In the end, his love of baking didn’t make it into the book, but the recipes are posted on my website. I hope you enjoy them.

Murder Unrehearsed

When aspiring young actress Heather Shelton jumps in the car with her dog, Bear, and flees to her family’s mountain cabin to escape an untidy romance, all she wants is peace and time to study for auditions. What she gets is murder. The only witness of a savage killing – and squarely in the crosshairs of a ruthless assassin – she is injured and left for dead.

Heather knows handsome men are bad news, but hottie lawman Matt McCrae’s smile gets her every time, until he leaves her hanging out as bait to trap the killer. McCrae promises to protect her, but fails, and she faces killer alone, with only Bear to help.

Kindle:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DHJ6TG7/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Barnes and Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murder-unrehearsed-roxanne-dunn/1137387167?ean=2940162985846

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/murder-unrehearsed

https://seaportbooks.com/

https://www.thewildrosepress.com/books/murder-unrehearsed

and via my website: www.roxannedunn.com

Roxanne Dunn has studied writing in Paris and Seattle, and writes the galley column for Pacific Yachting magazine. Murder Unrehearsed is her debut novel.

She is a retired physical therapist, a foodie, a fanatic about good chocolate, and a private pilot. She lived aboard an old wood motor yacht for seventeen years, and in her dreams, is a pianist of renown, an acceptable water color artist, and a globe-trotting yogini.

Links:

www.roxannedunn.com

https://www.facebook.com/roxanne.dunn.127

https://twitter.com/roxanne_dunn