Guest Blogger ~ Suzanne Trauth

How did I come up with the main character in the series?

     The heart of the Dodie O’Dell mystery series is, of course, Dodie herself, restaurant manager and amateur sleuth. I began the first book in the series, Show Time, around 2014, only a couple of years after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the New Jersey shore area. I’d been toying with the idea of a female amateur detective and I knew I wanted her to reside in northern Jersey, in the general area where I lived. And I wanted her to be new to the location…not born and raised there. So my goal was to find a way to get this character to my fictional small town of Etonville. In the first book, after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the restaurant she managed, as well as her home, Dodie was ready for a new life. When a job opened up in a restaurant owned by a relative of her former boss, she jumped at the chance for a second chapter. As luck would have it, the Windjammer restaurant was located next door to the Etonville Little Theatre, providing an abundance of opportunities to showcase interesting menus and the foibles of small town community theatre in my books!

     Dodie became friends with many of the theatre’s members and before long she was helping out on her days off—sewing costumes, hanging lights, assisting at auditions. And then she got a brainstorm, a way to boost the Windjammer’s business while supporting the Etonville Little Theatre: create theme food for every production. For example, seafood for Dames At Sea, Italian fare for Romeo and Juliet, a 1940s Brooklyn food festival for Arsenic and Old Lace. It was a smash success except for one problem…dead bodies started to turn up. Although no one blamed Dodie for the mysterious murders, she had to admit they did begin to appear once she moved to town. She assumed the role of unofficial detective, helping, or sometimes hindering, Etonville’s police chief with her quick-witted, outside-the-box detection skills. Not to mention her ability to navigate the town rumor mill at the local hair salon.

     The latest Dodie O’Dell mystery, Killing Time, is set on the eve of Halloween and the theatre is rehearsing Dracula. When a stranger appears in the town cemetery with a stake in his heart, Dodie shifts her attention from the production-themed food—a garlic infused menu from appetizers to entrees—to solving the murder in order to rescue the production.

     Every book in the series is focused on a different play paired with theme food served at the Windjammer restaurant…and with a murder related to the theatre’s current production, with victims such as the box office manager, a guest director, a musical accompanist, even a stranger found on the set on an opening night. Dodie has her hands full solving mysteries, managing the restaurant, and supporting her theatre friends. She’s up to the challenge!

With Halloween just around the corner, Dodie O’Dell is making preparations for the town costume party while the Etonville Little Theatre is staging Dracula. But casting the titular Transylvanian is proving challenging. The amateur actors in the company are not shy about chewing the scenery, but who among them can convincingly sink their fangs into a victim’s neck? When a mysterious newcomer with a transfixing Eastern European accent lands the part, rumors that he might be an actual vampire start to take flight—not unlike the bat who’s recently been spotted in the town park. But everyone’s blood really runs cold when a stranger is found in the cemetery with a real stake in his heart. Dodie decides to stick her neck out to bring the killer into the light of day. She’d better keep her wits about her, though—or Dodie may be the next one to go down for the Count . . .

Buy Links:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killing-time-suzanne-trauth/1132868201?ean=9781516107261

https://bookshop.org/books/killing-time-9781516107261/9781516107261

Suzanne Trauth is the author of the Dodie O’Dell mystery series—Show Time, Time Out, Running out of Time, Just in Time, No More Time, and Killing Time—and What Remains of Love, an historical romance, as well as plays and non-fiction books. In her previous career, she spent many years as a university professor of theatre. When she is not writing, she coaches actors and serves as a celebrant performing weddings. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

Visit her website: http://www.suzannetrauth.com or connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SuzanneTrauth



It’s All in the Details by Karen Shughart

Even in fiction, it’s important that some details are correct, especially in a murder mystery when describing an investigation and its resolution when the killer is captured. While the plot, setting, and characters can be a complete figment of the imagination, there’s got to be some accuracy when describing the measures taken to solve the crime.

Our communities offer many resources to those of us who write mysteries, among them sheriffs and police personnel, district attorneys, public defenders, prosecutors, and judges. Having access to these experts and being willing to learn from them adds a level of authenticity to our stories, and hopefully results in more reader satisfaction.  I’m fortunate that these professionals have been available to me when I’ve had questions.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

There’s wiggle room, of course, but when investigators on TV are trying to solve a crime and get DNA results in an hour, that’s not how it really works. Although technology has evolved, and today it’s possible for a speedier turnaround time- sometimes in as little as six hours-I try and stick as much to the facts as possible.

I’m working on Murder at Freedom Hill right now, the third is the series of Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mysteries.  In the last two books, the crimes were solved without my needing to provide precise details of what followed after the murderer was apprehended. This time around it’s a bit more complicated.

I’ve realized as I’ve been writing this book that my knowledge of some those procedures is a bit rusty, and I wanted to clarify the steps that must occur from arrest to sentencing, the difference between probation and parole, and the circumstances that permit the defense attorney to make a deal. A few weeks ago, I met with our county’s district attorney.  We spent about an hour together, and after, I went home and revised some sections of the book for clarity, although I must admit that I fudged a few of the details to mesh better with the story.

 The women and men who work at various levels of law enforcement and in criminal justice professions are a valuable resource to those of us who write mysteries. They help provide a framework that allows us to create a book that weaves fantasy and reality into a believable plot.

Guest Blogger ~ Darlene Dziomba

I have always had a love of animals. My parents would good-naturedly complain that wherever we went, I had to pet every dog I saw. Half a century later, things have not altered. My volunteer work at the Animal Welfare Association has me close to numerous dogs and cats. As I scrub one kennel, I chat with the animals in neighboring kennels.

The idea for Clues From The Canines came from the experiences I had and the staff I met during my volunteer shifts. I thought that by creating characters whose days centered around working to find homes for animals in shelters, I could raise awareness of the efforts made on animals’ behalf.

When I crafted the protagonist, Lily Dreyfus, the piece of me embedded in her personality is an introvert who loves animals. There are numerous scenes in the book where one finds Lily talking to either the animals at work or her two dogs at home. Her friends criticize her for spending more time with animals than she spends with humans.

The time Lily spends with animals leads her to a new love interest. She even considers that she has found her soul mate. Lily met Pete when he came to the Forever Friends Animal Shelter to adopt a dog to aid him in coping with the PTSD he suffered from post-military deployment and the despondency he feels after losing both parents in a tragic auto accident.

Pete uses outings with his dog to get to know Lily. They have an accidental meeting in a park, and Pete asks Lily to join him on a walk with his dog. He suggests a stop for ice cream after the walk. Eventually, he summons the courage to ask her to dinner.

Their different family experiences draw them even closer together. Pete is an only child with a small extended family; and Lily is the oldest of four children. Her parents were active volunteers in the children’s school, and they made friends with other parents. She relays stories of multi-family trips to parks and beaches. Pete realizes that a lasting relationship with Lily will provide the sibling experience he did not have as a child.

The hope and promise of the relationship are brought to a screeching halt. Pete is found dead. Lily’s world is shattered. Her friends and her dogs help her pick up the pieces and sniff out a killer.

Clues From The Canines

Set in a small town in New Jersey, Clues From the Canines combines witty dialogue with tension and intrigue.  Lily, the Adoption Coordinator at the Forever Friends Animal Shelter, is stunned by the news that her physically fit, former Marine boyfriend is dead. When the police rule the death a homicide, Lily, spurred on by grief, resolves to sniff out the killer. She gathers her pack, both human and canine, to point police to the perpetrator.

The canine pack competes for the alpha position, their owner’s attention, and extra treats, while the human pack doggedly seeks out justice.

Darlene Dziomba debuted the Lily Dreyfus Mystery Series with the release of Clues From the Canines in March 2022. The book is currently being read on four continents.  Darlene volunteers at the Animal Welfare Association, a New Jersey animal shelter, where she chats with the dogs while completing her assignments. She has a 30-year career in Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and is an avid reader, gardener, and traveler.  Darlene is a member of Sisters in Crime and lives in New Jersey with her four-legged best friend, Billie.

www.ReadDarlene.com

@ReadDarlene1

facebook.com/read.darlene.7

ReadDarlene@hotmail.com

Guest Blogger ~ Dominique Daoust

Why I write cozy mysteries

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I felt like I had to prove I was a dedicated reader by opening the pages of the classics.  But regardless of how many times I forced myself, I simply couldn’t connect with them, they weren’t for me.  And why bother reading something during your free time if you didn’t enjoy it?

After some trial and error, I finally zoned in on what I liked.  I’m a big fan of mysteries and thrillers, historical fiction, true crime and other non-fiction like biographies.  They all bring something to the table that resonates with how my brain works.  I love the twists and turns of a good thriller, the time travelling in historical fiction, the stark realness of true crime, and the revelations of biographies.  My Goodreads TBR list exclusively contains those genres, but there’s one more I recently added.

I think it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone when I say the past few years have been rough.  Other than cuddling my pets and watching reality television (big shout out to RuPaul’s Drag Race!), the only other thing that kept me mentally afloat was my newfound discovery of cozy mysteries.  The laid-back, small-town settings, the quirky characters and pets, the element of mystery that still pulled me in even though it was lighthearted.  It opened my world to a whole subgenre of mystery I could enjoy without it feeling so harsh and heavy.  And who knew there were so many categories!  Cafes, bookstores, gardening, vineyards?  Cozies basically cover every hobby and profession in existence and it’s perfect (cheers to London Lovett and Vivien Chien!).

When I finally decided to start writing, choosing the genre was a no-brainer.  I could include elements I like from all the other genres I’ve been reading for years and wrap them up in a cozy little package.  My goal wasn’t to create a new classic but rather write some fun mysteries that people can enjoy.  Not only did it relieve the pressure and expectations of the end result, but they were a blast to write! 

With The Deadly Exclusives Trilogy, I’ve incorporated a setting and job I’m familiar with, all wrapped up in a historical period I’ve been obsessed with for years.  I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, my first job was as a maid and I studied journalism.  And I’ve watched so many 1930s movies on the Turner Classic Movies channel that I can’t keep count.  I doubt any genre other than a cozy mystery could quite capture the tone I wanted. 

Many cozies have brightened my days and I sure hope my trilogy can do the same for others.   

Secret sources have a whole new meaning.

Newbie reporter Rita Larose is tired of getting assigned boring stories at one of Montreal’s most popular newspapers. It’s 1930 after all, women don’t need to only write about household chores anymore! But when a high hat socialite gossips about the New Year’s Eve party at the Bonne Nuit Hotel, a riveting mystery falls right into Rita’s lap. This is her chance to prove to herself and her underestimating colleagues that she has what it takes to write the hard-hitting articles.

While going undercover as a maid to get the scoop, Rita will soon discover unexpected friendships and an unusual gift of her own to contend with. Will she be able to juggle this newfound ability while not blowing her cover and jeopardizing her career-making article?

Purchase here: https://www.amazon.ca/Disappearance-Bonne-Nuit-Hotel-Exclusives-ebook/dp/B09WVW6L53

Dominique Daoust is the author of The Deadly Exclusives Trilogy. She is a journalism graduate from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. When not reading or writing, she likes to do yoga, drink margaritas, incessantly quote Friends and listen to rap while doing mundane household chores.

You can follow her on

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dominique.daoust/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DominiqueDaoustAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22331118.Dominique_Daoust

What Being a Writer Means to Me

I started writing stories when I was a youngster. I wrote my own versions of the books I read. My first original was a story about fairies which I illustrated. My mother sent it to a publisher, who sent back a nice note telling me to keep writing, and I did for a long time.

My first efforts as an adult were rejected and I’m sure because I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t get serious about writing until I had grandkids. My sister did our family genealogy and I decided to write an historical family saga based on both.  I had to do lots of research about places and times my ancestors lived and believe me it took a long, long time.

The second one I wrote was published by a major publishing company. I had no clue about marketing or promotion and did one book signing. When the 2nd was published, I knew a bit more.

Next came my first mystery, and another.  I’ve been at this a long time, and now have 50 published books all available on Amazon. Along the way I’ve learned so much about writing and promotion.

Besides the fun of writing and creating characters who seem as real as the people I know, I’ve had a great time over the years traveling all over the county attending writers workshops and mystery cons—Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, plus many of the smaller ones  that have disappeared like Mayhem in the Midlands and Crimefest.

I was able to meet some of my favorite authors like Mary Higgins Clark, William Kent Krueger, Craig Johnson, Naomi Hirahara, and so many, many more. Plus, I made friends with so many other writers and more importantly readers.

When I read about how much writers and readers enjoyed this most recent Left Coast Crime, I was a tad envious, but then realized I had so many great memories of conferences past and all the interesting people I’ve met over the years.

I’m now in the process of my two favorite writer pursuits: 1. Planning for and promoting my latest book, the last in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Reversal of Fortune and 2. Putting together ideas for my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Being a writer is a wonderful and rewarding part of my life in so many ways.

Reversal of Fortune is about the death of a fortune teller. It’s available in paper and for Kindle on Amazon: (I wrote this series as F. M. Meredith)