Guest Blogger ~ Peggy Rothschild


Until our home burned down during the Thomas Fire in 2017, I had focused on writing both traditional and coming-of-age mysteries. Sometime during the aftermath of the fire, my agent suggested I try writing a cozy. Having never written one, I wasn’t sure if I could, but decided I might as well try. I read dozens of books to study the genre (and made a list of “acceptable” oaths along the way!).

The next important piece of the puzzle came when I watched a friend compete at an agility trial. I met handlers and their dogs and had a wonderful day—all the while scribbling away in my notebook. Once the idea for a mystery began to take shape, I contacted my agent. I told her I’d been reading to better familiarize myself with the genre and had an idea for a story but was worried there were already a lot of cozies featuring dogs. Her answer: You can never have too many dogs! So I began to write.

It was a lot of fun. Diving into the cozy genre was just what I needed—something light, but still involved, featuring interesting characters, and someone hiding a motive for murder. And, as an added bonus: The research was fascinating. Those middle-of-the-night periods where I pondered “what happens next?” still occurred, but the various directions the story beckoned were exciting to grapple with.

A DEADLY BONE TO PICK straddles the line between cozy and traditional mystery and features two wonderful dogs, Harlow and Noodle—as well as my heroine, Molly Madison. Molly’s dog, Harlow, was easy to “cast” and is based on the dog my husband had when we first met. A sunny, smart, lovable golden retriever, she greeted (almost) everyone with enthusiasm. Casting Noodle took a bit more research. I wanted the story to feature a dog who wasn’t necessarily easy but was smart and had a terrific tracking nose. After much research, I landed on a Saint Berdoodle. They combine the amazing noses of poodles and Saint Bernards and—in Noodle’s case—added in a prodigious drool factor. Weighing in at 180 pounds, training him becomes a necessity for Molly soon after they meet.

When writing Molly, I wanted her to have law enforcement experience so she would be a credible protagonist who understands how an investigation works. I gave her a slightly murky past because life isn’t always simple and straightforward. And I gave her a sense of humor because that’s what helps people handle the twists and turns life can hand out.

Here’s a brief blurb about the story from Penguin Random House:


When Molly Madison, dog-wrangler extraordinaire, stumbles upon a murder in her new hometown, she must track down a killer to save the day.

Ex-police officer and former P.I. Molly Madison is starting over. After the death of her husband, she and her golden retriever, Harlow, move cross-country to California. But as charming and peaceful as the beachside town seems, she soon learns its tranquil tides hold dark secrets.

On her first day in the new house, a large, slobbering Saint Berdoodle wanders in. Molly winds up taking on the responsibility of training Noodle since his owner is too busy to do the job. On one of their daily beachside walks, Noodle digs up a severed hand. Once Molly alerts the police and they run a background check on her, an incident from her past makes her an immediate suspect—after all, Noddle’s testimony to clear her name won’t hold much water in court.

To prove her innocence, Molly must rely on instincts keener than a canine’s to sniff out the real killer. But when Molly’s life is put in danger, will her two very loyal pups be able to rescue her?

A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild: 9780593437087 | Books A Deadly Bone to Pick: 9780593437087: Rothschild, Peggy: Books

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Peggy Rothschild and her husband now live in the beach community of Los Osos—where there are enough trails to keep her out of trouble for years. Peggy’s coming-of-age mystery/adventure, PUNISHMENT SUMMER, was published by Evernight Teen in 2015 and her short stories have been included in The Best Laid Plans, Heartbreaks and Half-Truths, and Avenging Angelenos anthologies. She also illustrated the children’s book Angie’s Great Big Beautiful Life: Tales of a Rescue Cat.
Peggy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the SLONight Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Her newly released mystery, A DEADLY BONE TO PICK, is the first book in the Molly Madison Dog Wrangler series. Book two, PLAYING DEAD, will be out in February 2023.

You can connect with her at:


To Prologue or Not to Prologue (#2) by Karen Shughart

I promise this isn’t a duplication of Paty Jager’s blog from last Monday. Paty and I frequently seem to be on the same page when choosing topics for our monthly blogs, and when I read her title, I was terrified that my extremely rough draft had somehow made it’s way into scheduling instead of her very well-written and polished one. Fortunately, my fears were allayed when I saw her name as the author. Whew! And while our titles are the same, we’ve written from our own points of view.

Each of the books in my Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mysteries has an historical backstory that’s related to the crime and provides clues to why the murder was committed. In book one, Murder in the Museum, the prologue introduced a character whose journal, written in 1845, was discovered at an archeological dig in Toronto, Canada. The prologue in book two, Murder in the Cemetery, ties the crime to a battle that occurred in Lighthouse Cove, NY during the War of 1812.

My creative juices really started flowing in book two, and I played around with writing two prologues: the first as described above; the other to introduce the setting, the month of May. You’ll have to read the book to learn why that’s important. My dilemma was which to keep and which to discard. I realized I was emotionally attached to both, so decided to get my publisher’s advice-few books are written with two prologues. Her quick response: “go for it,” and I did.

I’m heading down the home stretch with book three, Murder at Freedom Hill. Yet again, I’ve written two prologues: the first, the historical backstory – it takes place in 1859 in Lighthouse Cove during the abolition movement, when fleeing slaves boarded a schooner to transport them across Lake Ontario to Canada. The second is set in November, the month when the harvest is over, and the chill and frost of winter lurk just around the corner.  

What I love about writing this series is that I don’t have to follow all the rules. It doesn’t mean I am undisciplined; I certainly know how to craft a story from beginning to end, but I enjoy taking liberties with commonly accepted writing practices when it makes sense.

It’s up to us mystery writers to decide how our stories will be written. Some begin with the murder; others lead up to it, it can go either way. It’s the same for prologues. Sometimes a book needs no prologue, but at other times a prologue can set the scene and enhance the plot. And at times, two prologues are even better.

Guest Blogger ~ Cherie Claire

A SCANCy series takes on Covid: Ghost Fever by Cherie Claire

            The last thing I wanted to rehash in my mystery writing was the virus that stole two years of my life. Of course, I’m exaggerating. I’m still here and am grateful my immediate family and friends are healthy and well. But write about Covid? Wasn’t high on my list.

            And yet, I had visited an outfitter in a rural area of the Florida Panhandle, just outside Pensacola, and it birthed an idea. Here was a place to zip line, kayak and relax in cabins on a piney woods property with an old schoolhouse from the 1920s and a creepy cemetery — yes, a cemetery! And it got better. Inside my cabin was a book about a rash of UFO sighting in the area in the 1970s. Nearby is a state park named for Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who searched for the Fountain of Youth.

My imagination took off.

            The seventh book in my Viola Valentine paranormal mystery series combines all those elements, but adds time travel as well. What other pandemic had Americans been subjected to — the Spanish Influenza of 1918! That’s in the story as well.

            Ghost Fever may take place in 2021 amid the Covid scare but there’s a lot of adventure to enjoy.

The series features my main character, Viola Valentine of New Orleans. After a hurricane upends her life, Viola separates from a loveless marriage and becomes a travel writer, her dream profession. But the storm also blew open a psychic door. Now she sees ghosts who have died by water and mysteries to solve everywhere she goes.

            She’s what I call a SCANC. But it’s not what you think. SCANC stands for Specific Communication with Apparitions, Non-Entities and the Comatose. And Viola has seen all three!

The key word here is “specific.” Viola repressed her psychic abilities when she was young, tired of being chastised as having a vivid imagination when ghosts would appear. Children of the Paranormal TV show had yet to air so poor Vi had no support system, either. When my mystery series opens, Viola realizes that the trauma of the hurricane opened that door back up, but this time, the ghosts Vi sees are strictly related to water.

Along the way, that husband she tried to distance herself from won’t let her go. When I first started writing the series, I envisioned him a goofy distraction at best. He ended up stealing my heart and has become a colorful fun character throughout the series. He has some supernatural talents as well.

Do they get back together? You’ll have to read to find out.

Ghost Fever is the latest book in the Viola Valentine series, but the fun begins with A Ghost of a Chance, when Viola first discovers her ghostly talent. That ebook is free to download at all online bookstores. I also routinely give away copies of other books in the series through my newsletter. You can sign up and enter the contests at

Hopefully, Viola won’t have to experience another hurricane or pandemic, although being a New Orleans native she’s bound to see another storm or two. Vi has visited numerous Deep South locations and I’ll be sending my travel writing character to Southern destinations in future books, although an Alaska cruise is floating through my mind these days. Pun intended.

Regardless, there will be more Viola Valentine ghost stories to come.

Ghost Fever

The ghosts of the past never stop haunting.

Viola takes a job at her old summer camp in the Florida Panhandle, hoping for a peaceful place to work after months in Covid lockdown. But old traumas from her time at Camp Secret Spring resurface and Viola’s dream of a quiet getaway quickly turns into a nightmare.

Her best friend disappeared that summer, never to be found. Was it the camp’s mysterious water that Ponce de León searched for? Or can her friend’s vanishing be chalked up to the UFO sightings over the years? And just who were the Utopians who lived there before, many of whom died in the pandemic of 1918?

Book Seven in Cherie Claire’s Viola Valentine mystery series.

Book Links







Cherie Claire is the award-winning author of a mystery series and several Louisiana romances. New this year is Ghost Fever, part of a paranormal mystery series featuring New Orleans travel writer and ghost sleuth Viola Valentine. A native of New Orleans, Cherie now lives in Georgia where she works as a travel writer, but returns to her home state of Louisiana often. Visit her website at and follow her on social media.


Amazon Author Page:

Twitter: @Claire_Cherie,






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 . . .

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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: or connect on Facebook:

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

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.