Guest Blogger ~ Susie Black

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.

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. Sarcastic, irreverent Holly Schlivnik, the continuing main character of The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. Holly is the me I always wanted to be. 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. My stories all take place in the fast-paced, at times cutthroat Los Angeles ladies’ apparel industry and give readers an insider’s view of how the latest designs really end up on the rack in their favorite stores.

The premise of Death by Pins and Needles is Lissa Charney, a thoroughly despicable showroom manager on the swimwear aisle in the California Apparel Mart, has stepped on countless people as she climbed the precarious steps of corporate ladder and cheated her way to the top. The Charney character is based on a real person with a dreadful, but well-earned reputation. There is no shortage of competitors who would have loved nothing more than to help Lissa fall off the ladder and plunge to her death. The potential murder suspects are also based on real people who would have given their right arm to eliminate the real life Ms. Charney.

Susie is offering a free download of a swimsuit fitting guide for everyone reading this post. You can get it here:

Swimsuit Guide

Since Lissa Charney didn’t think any of the rules applied to her, she had no problem breaking them all. From job stealing to dumping a boyfriend when he needed her the most, selfish and self-centered Lissa’s list of enemies rivaled those of Al Capone. So, when Lissa is murdered, no one on the swimwear aisle in the California Apparel Mart was particularly surprised…the only surprise was what had taken so long. Who wanted Lissa Charney dead? The list was as long as your arm….but which one actually killed her? The last thing Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected to find when she opened the closet door was nasty competitor Lissa Charney’s battered corpse nailed to the wall. When Holly’s colleague is wrongly arrested for Lissa’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth sticks her nose everywhere it doesn’t belong to sniff out the real killer. Nothing turns out the way she thinks it will as Holly matches wits with a heartless killer hellbent for revenge

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Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but 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? Contact Susie at:



Guest Blogger ~ John DeDakis


On the night of December 20, 1959, I was sitting in the left front seat of the Vista-Dome car of the Burlington Zephyr passenger train as it hurtled through northern Illinois on its way from Chicago toward my hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

The engineer would later tell a coroner’s jury that he was going 90 miles an hour (legal at the time) as we rounded a gentle curve at the tiny town of Chadwick.

From my vantage point in the darkened dome car near the front of the train, I could see the locomotive’s searchlight slice through the darkness, sweeping the tracks that stretched ahead of us.  Suddenly, off to my left, I saw a car speeding toward a crossing we were approaching.  The car looked like a 1949 Chevy, distinctive because of its sloped rear end.  A split second later, I lost sight of the car as it went in front of the train.

I heard a bang, the train shuddered, and debris rained onto the Plexiglas dome, cracking the window I’d been peering through. I ducked, then scrambled down the narrow stairway to the dome car’s lower level where I told my dad and the conductor what I’d just witnessed. 

I was nine years old.

The crash killed three people including a boy about my age.

Fast forward to 1994. I was doing a writing exercise recounting a personal experience—the one you’ve just read.  As I wrote, I remembered a radio news report about a car-train collision in which an infant survived.  I began wondering, “What if an infant survived the crash I witnessed and grew up wondering about her past?” 

That idea turned into my first mystery-suspense novel Fast Track.

The novel isn’t about the accident.  If anything, it’s an example of how a personal experience can be the seed of an idea that can blossom into something else—something redeeming. 

Fast Track begins with my 25-year-old heroine vexed because she doesn’t know what to do with her life. She discovers the body of the aunt who raised her from infancy—a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. (This is an echo of my sister’s suicide in 1980, but that’s another story for another time.) That trauma begins a quest to unlock secrets kept hidden for a quarter century when my protagonist’s parents died in a mysterious car-train collision.

The Fast Track manuscript went through 14 major revisions over 10 years before I found my current agent, Barbara Casey, (the 39th agent I queried).  During that process, I drew on other personal experiences to add texture to a story that includes politics, journalism, and mentoring relationships.

Fast Track is the first novel in a series that’s now five books and counting. But it all started more than 63 years ago in Chadwick, Illinois.  So, I suppose it’s fitting that I named my heroine Lark Chadwick.

Orphaned as an infant, sexually assaulted as a naïve college student, strong-willed, impulsive Lark Chadwick is vexed and trying to figure out what to do with her mixed-up life. When she discovers the body of the aunt who raised her, Lark goes on a search for answers.

She is stunned to learn from a 25-year-old newspaper clipping that she’s the “miracle baby” who survived a suspicious car accident that killed her parents at a rural railroad crossing in southern Wisconsin. Lark convinces Lionel Stone, the crusty Pulitzer-Prize winning editor, to let her do a follow-up investigation of the crash. Two of her sources are the sheriff and the town’s mayor, they’re running against each other for Congress, the election is a week away, and both men have a secret that will unravel the mystery.

Award-winning novelist, writing coach, and manuscript editor John DeDakis is a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” DeDakis is the author of five mystery-suspense-thriller novels. In his most recent novel, FAKE, protagonist Lark Chadwick is a White House correspondent dealing with “fake news” in the era of #MeToo. DeDakis, a former White House correspondent, regularly leads writing workshops at literary centers and writers’ conferences. He is also the host of the video podcast “One-to-One with John DeDakis” on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin, DeDakis now lives with his wife Cindy in Baltimore, Maryland.


Guest Blogger~Terri Karsten

            People often ask where I get my ideas. The answer seems simple—ideas come fromthe people we meet, the things we read, the places we go, the songs we know. But the first kernel of an idea is not enough to create a novel.

So, how does a kernel develop into a book? For me, it starts when an idea won’t let go.  Characters start chattering in my head. Scenes start playing out in my day dreams. I sometimes spend years thinking about an idea before I actually start writing. Then I do a lot of research to learn more about the period. I want my historical fiction to immerse the reader in a world as real and accurate as possible. I want the reader to know what it was like to live ‘back then.’

My historical novel, A Mistake of Consequence, developed in just that way. The first idea came from a college class in American Women’s Studies. We read many primary documents, including one about a young woman who had been indentured in Virginia. She wrote her father, complaining of the horrible conditions there and begging him to send ‘his poor undutiful daughter’ adequate clothing. Her heartfelt letter made me want to learn more.

My curiosity led to major research about indenture, a practice was quite common in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Indenture was a legal contract binding a person to work for a certain number of years in return for some compensation such as passage to America. The indentured person was not free to leave the contract and had limited rights as a servant.

Then I discovered that in addition to the people who indentured themselves or family members, many men, women, and children were snatched from England, Scotland, and Ireland and sold in the colonies. In spite of important differences (indenture theoretically had a termination date) the parallels to African slavery were intriguing,

            As I learned more, the characters emerged. The first I envisioned was Callie Beaton, an impetuous, young Scottish woman. Callie’s temper would lead her to the wrong place, straight into the hands of a ‘spiriter’ who kidnapped her, transported her across the ocean, and sold her. Penniless and bound in a strange place, her goal was to return home.

Callie’s story portrays one path indenture could take, but I wanted to show a broader picture. Two other characters gradually took shape, one indentured by choice, and one by circumstances beyond her control. Though both are secondary characters, their lives become entwined with Callie’s.

With these three women in mind, I still needed a plot. I always want to know how the story will end before I can start writing. For this novel, I needed a love interest, a murder victim, and at least one villain to drive the action and influence the outcome. That meant more characters taking up space in my day dreams.

My goal in writing historical fiction is to portray ordinary people living in circumstances very different from our own, but sharing the same joys, fears, and concerns about their families. I want to show that strong, resilient women had important roles in all eras. History, especially women’s history, can help people today learn from the challenges of the past.

            Gradually all these ideas coalesced in A Mistake of Consequence, a rollicking adventure in Colonial America, told from a unique perspective, that of a woman bound by custom and law, but with the courage to choose her own path.

Mistake of Consequence

It is 1754 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Callie Beaton is nearly twenty,
single, and determined not to marry anyone her grandfather deems worthy.
But after her impulsive flight from yet another unwanted suitor leads
her to the pier one rainy evening, Callie is mistaken for someone else
and dragged aboard a ship. Trapped in a dark hold and at the mercy of
strangers, Callie has no idea the ship is headed for a bustling port
city across the ocean in America.

Wracked with seasickness, unable to convince the ship’s captain she is
not who he thinks she is, and with only one scraggly dress to her name,
Callie somehow survives the horrid journey. She arrives in colonial
Philadelphia penniless, nameless, and alone in a strange place. Two men
offer her help: Ethan Asher, a handsome gentleman with a hidden past,
and Davy McRae, a charming ship captain with a dangerous secret. Neither
seems trustworthy, but when tragedy strikes, Callie is caught in the
middle and must choose one of the men to help her if she is to save
herself and her newfound friends from disaster.

In this historical romantic adventure, a Scottish lass who finds herself
in the wrong place at the wrong time unwittingly embarks on a journey
across the ocean to a new beginning where she searches for love,
belonging, and ultimately her true destiny.

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An avid fan of all things historical, Terri Karsten lives in a hundred
year old house near the upper Mississippi River. After retiring from
teaching high school English, she divides her free time between writing
books, playing with grandkids, and chasing the outdoor life. Karsten
writes both fiction and non-fiction, and has publication credits in a
variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias, including Highlights
for Children, The Winona Daily News and An Encyclopedia of Women’s
History. Her novels focus on historical fiction with strong women as
protagonists (A Mistake of Consequence, When Luck Runs Out). For more
information, visit her website:

Social Media links:

Guest Blogger ~ Barbara Pronin


            I confess I have an odd history of collecting miscellaneous bits and pieces – a compelling smile, a story in the news, a flowering meadow under sunlit skies that almost defies description. For the most part, I have no clue how or if these snapshots will come together in a novel. But I am not surprised when that compelling smile one day lights the face of a character, or when that flowering meadow becomes the very place where the lovers in chapter three come together.

            Let me see if I can help you understand how the magic and mystery happen.

            In 2019, we checked in for a weekend at a seaside hotel in California – a boutique hotel, the brochure called it, which I interpreted as small, over-priced, a little bit quirky, and not necessarily solvent. The pretty young desk clerk who checked us in seemed to be a bit frazzled – all the more so when a colleague tapped her on the shoulder.

 “I’ll take over,” she whispered. “Your daughter’s on the phone. She says it’s urgent.”

The desk clerk heaved a sigh, managed a wan smile, and ran for the nearest phone.

            Months later, we went to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore. The colossal sculpture, breathtaking in the shadow of the brooding Black Hills, is truly a sight to behold. We toured the national park to watch the buffalo roam, stopped for a night in Rapid City, and moved on to the storied town of Deadwood.

            Deadwood, as popularized by the TV series, was the dusty little gaming mecca where Wild Bill Hickok met his Maker. It still supports itself as a gaming mecca, but its neighbor, Lead, is home to the Homestake Mine – at one time the nation’s largest, deepest, and most productive gold mine in the nation. The mine closed in 2002, but it’s still open for tours – so in we went.

            I felt a chill as I took a step into the dark, dank interior of the mine, its concrete walls damp with decades of moisture and crosshatched with the remnants of rutted trails embedded by trams and miners bringing up the precious ore.

            I leaned forward, peering over the rails into the darkened mineshaft. All around me I heard the quiet buzz of tourists. But in my writer’s mind, I heard the anguished cry of someone falling into the depths.

Who was it? Had they fallen or been pushed? And if they had been pushed, why?

Out of nowhere, the frazzled desk clerk walked into my head and began to tell me a story. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get it down on paper.

If you’re curious to know how a California desk clerk wound up in a mine shaft in South Dakota, please read “The Miner’s Canary.”

As for me, I’m busy connecting bits and pieces for my World War II historical, “Winter’s End,” due out this coming October.

Thanks for caring –



They say you can’t go home again… For single mom Julie Goldman, who long ago left the ghosts of her troubled youth behind her, inheriting her aunt’s old Victorian in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota, is as much a test as a blessing. Her aunt was not the person she thought she knew, and a diary left by her long-dead cousin Kate sets Julie on a path to find her killer. But with two new murders in town, and a series of vague threats, Julie must overcome her personal demons to protect her daughter and stop the killer who has them clearly in his sights. : the miner’s canary barbara pronin

The Miner’s Canary: a novel by Barbara Pronin, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® ( 

Barbara Pronin saw her first byline in a community newsletter at age eight and was forever hooked on writing. She has worked over the years as an actress, a probation officer, a news editor, and a substitute teacher, the last of which inspired her first book, a non-fiction guide to effective subbing still in print more than 30 years later.

Her earlier mysteries, including three as Barbara Nickolae, earned kudos from such best-selling writers as Mary Higgins Clark and Tony Hillerman, and have recently been republished. Her latest mystery, “The Miner’s Canary,” was published last October. Her newest work, a World War II historical titled, “Winter’s End” is set for publication in October 2023.

A lover of dark chocolate, Greek sunsets, and Dodgers baseball, Barbara lives and works in Orange County, Calif., where she writes on real estate for RISMedia and is eagerly waiting for the next cast of characters to take up residence in her head and demand that she tell their story.



Guest Blogger ~ Marcia Rosen


Mysteries Have Their Place!

After landing on the moon…that could have been a fun location for a murder.

The Egyptian Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, or White House? They would be great locations for a good murder. In fact, they have been.

Major cities, small towns, and many made up villages have become the location for a murder mystery and, especially, several very successful mystery series.

There were plenty of murders in cities along Rt. 66. John Steinbeck named it the Mother Road. I think of it as the Murder Road.

Location was once considered everything in business…before technology. Location is still essential in a good mystery. Location is place, and place is as much a character in mysteries as the people.

Murder on the Orient Express—what a great location for a murder, moving and stopped.  As was the apartment in Rear Window, and another apartment in the haunting film, Laura. In and around London there were many murders with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and a fascinating one on an English Country Estate in Godsford Park.

We lovers of mysteries know that murders and other crimes have occurred on all sorts of moving vehicles, in different rooms in small homes and large estates, and possibly even in our own back yards?  Well, hopefully not! 

The lover of mystery books enjoys envisioning the place where a story takes them, and in movies and on television the place often becomes central to the appeal and importance of the story. It helps the viewer to become caught up in it, perhaps even feel a part of it.  Some plots are dark and frightening and provide an extra sense of anticipation for lovers of thrillers like the type written by Stephen King, and his locations add to the suspense.

The art of a murder mystery and investigation includes a private detective or the police or, in a cozy mystery, an amateur sleuth. The dialogue needs to create suspense with some foreshadowing and fake clues are followed and soon ignored. Finally, the arc of the murder mystery starts having the story lead to the chase of the real villains, who are caught—dead or alive—of course.

But, what about a location, where murder and mayhem terrorize the residents. Doors are locked and there are whispers and secrets behind those closed doors. Questions remain.  Who killed their neighbor’s wife in the alley next to the post office? Who stabbed the old man as he walked across the bridge late at night? Who pushed the young man off his apartment balcony? Why did the murderer run his or her car over the victim on a country road, the moon hidden behind the trees? Were there witnesses to any of these murders? Ah, where are they possibly located?

As a mystery writer, I believe location plays a huge part in the plot and ultimately when and where the murder is solved.  To escape murderers hide in a location fitting the plot, one designed to build up a sense of suspense and anticipation.

We as readers and viewers also enjoy explosive endings. There are gunfights and car chases up and down city streets. There are threats and demands until the final moments of capture. The movie Witness ended in an Amish barn. In the book The Name of the Rose, written by one of my favorite authors, Umberto Eco, the murders and the ending take place in an Abbey in the 1300s. In Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, the finale is on Mt. Rushmore. Another favorite of mine is Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series taking place somewhere along the California coast. And, in historical fiction, the landscape fits the century and the plot.

Location, location, location. The book ends. The film is finished. Surely calm prevails, the dark sky is lighter, and all is right again. Or is it?

Send me your favorite mystery location. Author, We’ll add it to my site or possibly one of my social media posts. 
Thank you.


An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock, and Me Mystery: “Murder at the Zoo”

A body is tossed into the lion’s habitat at the zoo where Miranda Scott is the senior vet. She and Detective Bryan Anderson join forces to unravel that mystery and several more murders. A fan since childhood of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Sherlock Holmes they seem to live in her head, frequently telling her what to do…and not do. Murders, family, deceit, revenge, and a gangster father and godfather often get in the way of a fine romance between Miranda and the Detective.

Marcia Rosen (aka M. Glenda Rosen), award winning author of eleven books including The Senior Sleuths and Dying To Be Beautiful Mystery Series and The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (With son Jory Rosen). She is also author of The Woman’s Business Therapist and award winning My Memoir Workbook.       

Marcia is a member of numerous writing organizations and frequent guest speaker.