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 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

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.

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:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annwcharles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ann_charles

Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/annwcharles

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

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

Guest Blogger – June Trop

Miriam bat Isaac, Alchemist and Sleuth Extraordinaire by June Trop

I write historical mysteries set in Roman-occupied Alexandria during the first century CE. My protagonist, Miriam bat Isaac, is an alchemist and amateur sleuth whom I got to meet quite unexpectedly.

You see, I spent my early professional life as a science teacher. I met Miriam when I was taking a course on the historical development of concepts in chemistry. Chemistry is generally taught as if the knowledge accepted as Truth now has always been known. So, when the professor assigned a paper on some chemistry concept from the past, I had no idea what to write about. In desperation, I roamed the stacks of the library while looking toward the heavens for some inspiration. If I’d been looking where I was going, I might never have met Miriam.

As I bumped into one of the bookcases, a tome from a top shelf fell on my toe. It opened to a short article about a woman known as Maria Hebrea. I wondered how a woman from Ancient Alexandria came to be the legendary founder of Western alchemy and hold her place for 1500 years as the most celebrated woman of the Western World.

In the alchemical literature, Maria Hebrea is alternately referred to as Mary the Jewess or Miriam the Prophetess, sister of Moses. Like her, all alchemists wrote under the name of a deity, prophet, or philosopher from an earlier time to enhance the authenticity of their claims and shield themselves from persecution. Although the tradition among all the crafts and mystical cults was to guard the secrecy of their work, persecution was a real risk for alchemists, who could be accused of and summarily executed for synthesizing gold to debase the emperor’s currency.

With so little known about her, not even her real name, I was free to invent a life for her. With her plucky spirit and analytic mind, why not make her my detective in a mystery series? She’d be up to the challenge; she’d play fair; and she’d make the pieces of the puzzle fit together. She’d even give readers a chance to the solve the puzzle along with her, although they’d likely be unable to do so. And the solution would satisfy her sense of justice. So, while my Miriam bat Isaac is fictive, her personage is based on the once-famous Maria Hebrea, alchemist extraordinaire.

In the latest of her five adventures, The Deadliest Thief,Miriam’s best friend, Phoebe is kidnapped. At the same time,a brute of a man is stalking Miriam’s assistant, Nathaniel ben Ruben, an itinerant potbellied dwarf. Could this brute be the same man who kidnapped Phoebe? And can Miriam find her before it’s too late?

According to Kirkus Reviews, The Deadliest Thief has “an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.” [but] “The real strength of Trop’s atmospherically rich book lies in her ability to transport her audience to a distant time and place.” So, let The Deadliest Thief, e-book or paperback, take you into the Alexandria’s underbelly to help Miriam solve her most baffling case yet. 

The Deadliest Thief

Miriam bat Isaac, a budding alchemist and amateur sleuth in first-century CE Alexandria, becomes frantic when her best friend, Phoebe, is kidnapped. At the same time, a brute of a man is stalking Nathaniel ben Ruben, an itinerant potbellied dwarf. Could this brute, the last surviving jewel thief from the Temple of Artemis, be the same man who has kidnapped Phoebe?

Buy Links:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/the+deadliest+thief?_requestid=261164

or wherever e-books or paperbacks are sold.

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 Author – Susan Elia MacNeal

My series’ heroine, Maggie Hope, has been through a lot in the eight novels of the series—most recently falsely imprisoned on a Scottish island. Before that she was held by the Gestapo in Paris, and before that she went up against a serial killer in London. And then of course there’s the war itself. Which is why for her ninth outing, THE KING’S JUSTICE, I wanted to not only write a new thriller/mystery—but also show the toll Maggie’s experiences have taken on her.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is the modern name for what in Maggie’s time was called “shell shock.” And although I sometimes describe Maggie as “Nancy Drew meets James Bond,” one thing that makes Maggie different is that all of her experiences, both good and bad, have changed her as a person. (As opposed to Nancy and James, who, while wonderful, remain static characters, regardless of how much danger they’ve be in and trauma they’ve survived.) In this novel, she tries to ignore her psychic damage by quitting the secret agent game, smoking non-stop, drinking too much, and riding much too fast on a motorcycle. But eventually she has to come to terms with her past, her trauma, her fears, and her vulnerabilities.

THE KING’S JUSTICE takes place during March of 1943, in London. The Blitz is over, but the war continues—and unexploded bombs can be found all over the city—just waiting for something to set them off. I have Maggie working as a bomb defuser, a job desperately needed in London at the time, —and also because Maggie’s a bit of an unexploded bomb, too. To defuse herself, she needs to work through her past traumas, some brought to light by a stolen violin and a new serial killer.

This killer is dropping suitcases full of bones in the Thames, and they’re washing up on the banks, sometimes half-buried in sand and silt. Some of the “mudlarkers” of London—those who dig on the riverbanks for lost historic treasures like Roman coins, medieval pottery shards, and Elizabethan rings—find the suitcases with the bones, and report them to Scotland Yard. Maggie’s beau, DCI James Durgin takes the case, and Maggie is ultimately recruited to help, because of a connection to someone from her past.

Like unexploded bombs, I really loved working in the metaphor of mudlarking—sifting through trash to find treasure. I think Maggie’s coming to grips with the traumas of her past was a lot like mudlarking—she has to excavate a lot of “dirt,” before she can find her “treasure”—a return to, well, not her old self, of course—but someone who’s experienced trauma, processed it, and come through the other side.

Without giving anything away, in the novel’s first scene, we meet Maggie as she’s in a deep pit, defusing a bomb. By the last scene, she’s looking down on London from the observation deck of the Monument to the Great Fire of London. Like the city itself, Maggie has gone through disaster and rebuilt, now stronger, smarter, and more compassionate. I hope readers will find her journey inspiring.

In THE KING’S JUSTICE, the ninth book in the acclaimed Maggie Hope mystery seriesby Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam Hardcover; On Sale 2/25/2020),our heroine is on edge. Maggie has returned to London after being imprisoned on a remote island for knowing confidential SOE information, but she is traumatized by her experience. As Maggie takes a break from spying, she starts to behave more and more recklessly. She drinks too much, speeds through the streets on her motorcycle, and joins a squad tasked with defusing unexploded bombs left in London from the Blitz.

When conscientious objectors to the war start disappearing, Maggie is determined to stay out of it. But as human bones start washing up on the shores of the Thames inside of suitcases, it becomes clear that a serial killer is afoot, and Maggie must put aside her hesitations and get to work. Little does Maggie know that this investigation will force her to conquer her demons and face her past in order to solve the case.

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.

susaneliamacneal.com • Facebook.com/MrChurchillsSecretary

Twitter: @SusanMacNeal • Instagram: susaneliamacneal

Guest Blogger – Collin Glavac

I am happy to say that I finished writing my first book, Ghosts of Guatemala, a spy thriller that follows a cold-blooded assassin on a kill mission in Antigua for the CIA. It’s the first in a trilogy and readers have been giving me really great reviews!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much. I’ve wanted to be a lot of things, but I had gotten compliments on my writing when I was younger which helped fuel my desire, and I’ve also just had a burning love for stories and imaginary worlds for the better part of my life. I’ve been working at writing fiction since I was twelve. Every time I heard a good story or read a bad book, it only wanted me to write something of my own.

How did this book get started?

Years ago my dad took me on a road trip to Chicago. Amidst our father-son shenanigans, he proposed I write a stageplay for him. I thought he was joking. Turns out he wasn’t. Once he confirmed he’d finance the whole project (he’s a retired teacher who wants to do stuff) I agreed. We had a blast producing two stageplays, and I got to write, direct, and act in both. Both were comedies; the first was about quirky college kids and their relationships revolving around a video game in In Real Life, and the second play was a reverse romcom with a magical twist in LoveSpell. I was happy to cut my teeth on this creative work but I’d been working on long-form fiction since elementary school, though nothing that would stick or be appropriate to send off to an agent. Dad suggested we tackle a novel together – his idea, my writing, his marketing. And bam! A couple years of arguing later we’ve got a sweet sweet book up for sale. I wrote the entire thing in a single night of a fevered sweat…

Actually though?

No. It took me about two months to write the bulk of it (three if you count the third month I spent procrastinating to write a single chapter). Then waiting on beta readers, and back and forth editing, and more procrastinating…my parents sat me down and threatened to publish the thing in a week whether it was ready or not. So I made sure it was ready. The word count is around 75k, which is a little longer than the first Harry Potter book. I’m really happy with the length – I wanted something with substance but still a quick read.

Did you have any objectives when writing the book?

Yes. My first and foremost objective is to try to create a cohesive story. I forget where I read it, but a comic book creator was talking about telling stories, and they said that if the reader can’t tell what’s going on in the frame it doesn’t matter how good your story is. The most important thing is making sure the reader knows what’s going on. That’s not to say we can’t play around with mysteries, clever reveals, or unreliable narrators, but it still rings strong in my mind as the first thing I have to do as a writer. And I find it a lot harder to do that than I’d like to admit. It is a difficult thing to write a story that makes sense throughout multiple perspectives, keeping track of a timeline and time zone shifts, knowing which secrets some characters know that others don’t and what the reader knows and doesn’t, and so on. My second objective, after I think I am meeting the first, is to make a compelling story, a story that is interesting, and something that I hope readers would enjoy reading. If I complete those two things, I feel very accomplished. If I had a third objective, it would try and be unique and put enough originality into the piece that makes readers really impressed. And although I tried to do that, I was still very much invested in the first and second objectives.

Speaking of which, what makes your book unique?

I do think the book enjoys a bit of a unique spin. The most unique part about Ghosts of Guatemala is that it takes place in Antigua, Guatemala, and this setting acts as a vibrant part of the story. Most of the book is fairly typical of the thriller genre – I’ve got the CIA doing shady stuff, a cool and collected protagonist, and a bad guy we can’t help but love – which was my aim in telling a story in this genre. But Antigua gives a great opportunity to inject a ton of culture, language, geography, and history that not too many are familiar with. I try to make sure it’s not just a simple paint-job over the story. I really wanted Antigua and the city’s personality to help impact and shape the plot. Full disclosure; I’ve never been to Latin America, but my father has (for months at a time) and this is where he was integral to the creation-process. I would send him chapters and he would edit my poorly worded Spanish, or point out that buildings weren’t as high as I had written and so on. One of my favourite parts had to be completely cut from the story because I had written an awesome fight scene taking place on a beach. Unfortunately, Antigua is landlocked in the mountains – yikes.

What was it like writing this book?

If I’m being perfectly honest, Ghosts of Guatemala isn’t my kind of genre. I’m a sci-fi/fantasy guy; I’ve been reading almost nothing but swords, dragons, and spaceships for the better part of thirteen years. I’m a nerd! But I also take pride in being a chameleon in my craft. If I’m required to write in a different style, or about a different topic than I am used to, I best be prepared to do it. Simple as that. My approach was one of mimicry. I thought of every stereotype and cliché in the genre, then tweaked them or made them my own. I’m constantly reminded how hard it is to write a true cliché. By the time you spend some time with something you think is unoriginal, it’s usually become your own. I also altered my default writing technique a bit more toward something that fit this genre better – shorter, terse sentences and more exposition than I usually prefer.

Who can you trust when corruption and danger are a way of life?

The CIA never left Latin America, and is facing catastrophic blackmail at the hands of an erratic Guatemalan drug lord: the infamous patrón of Antigua – Pablo Puentes. Desperate for a swift solution, the agency calls in their black operative fixer: John Carpenter.

John is a cold-blooded professional ready for the job. But the mission doesn’t have a simple fix. Pablo has a disastrous kill switch in place. John is still haunted by the mysterious death of his best friend who died on a far too similar mission, and now is uncertain about how much he can trust his handler or his sensual partner.

Back at the agency, tensions are running hot as the stench of corruption is growing to a boiling point. If things aren’t put to rights – and soon – the entire mission will go up in flames and take the CIA down with it. Only John Carpenter can bring this drug lord to justice and get the answers he deserves.

Because this mission is personal…

“If you like the relentless tension of Daniel Silva and the gritty reality of Lee Child then you’ll love this first book in the John Carpenter Trilogy!”

Buy Links: https://books2read.com/u/38Epw7

Collin Glavac is a Canadian born actor and writer who lives in the Niagara region. He has written, directed and acted in two original stage plays, In Real Life, and LoveSpell. He completed his Dramatic and Liberal Arts B.A. and M.A at Brock University.

Ghosts of Guatemala is his first novel.

Author website: www.collinglavac.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Collin-Glavac-Books-1121304391410779/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CollinGlavac

Guest Blogger- Reggi Allder

Hi Ladies of Mystery, thank you for having me.

I write in two different genres, suspense and contemporary romance. Years ago, I found an old romantic suspense novel in a friend’s basement and read it. I was hooked and thought what could be more exciting than combining the thrill of falling in love while wondering if you will solve a mystery and stay alive. So, I wrote my first romantic suspense, Shattered Rules. My current suspense is Dangerous Web

After spending a great deal of time with the villains in my suspense books, I needed a change of pace and decided to write a contemporary romance and so, Her Country Heart a Sierra Creek Novel was written. I now look forward to spending time in my imaginary small-town of Sierra Creek, California where strong men and determined women intersect. If you love cowboys and independent women check out Her Country Heart.

I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, though I don’t work backwards, I often know the end of a book before the beginning. Whether I’m writing a suspense or a small-town romance, I begin the first chapter even though not all the characters and the plot twist are understood. Still, I have visualized the ending, sometimes writing the last scene first.

In both my suspense and contemporary novels, the characters have difficulties to overcome. The males are strong but may be a wounded hero. The women are determined to make changes in their lives in order to manage their future. All my characters must cope with their passion as each fight to discover a hidden strength and work their way toward a lifelong goal.

My Suspense Series: Dangerous Web, coming next Dangerous Money and Dangerous Denial.

Dangerous Web

A web of intrigue brings the reader into the world of black ops, mystery, and desire.

Emma lives a quiet life. When the past returns to threaten her present, is the key to her safety the man offering protection? Does he have secrets that will put her in greater danger?

Webb lives undercover and never lets anyone get too close. However, in his current perilous situation, Emma is the only one he can trust. Still, if he accepts her aid, he might be putting her in jeopardy. Can he justify involving her? Will he be able to manage his growing desire for Emma? 5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon  A non-stop suspense from the first chapter until the end!

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XXNBDXV

Reggi studied creative writing and screen writing at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and was a past chapter president of Romance Writers of America (RWA).

When she is not writing, she enjoys viewing romantic movies with her hubby and searching antique shops for vintage tea cups and saucers. Her dogs make sure she gets exercise by going on long walks with them.

She enjoys hearing from readers. Follow her on Bookbub, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, allauthor.com