Guest Blogger ~ Roxanne Dunn

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

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

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

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

The Tacoma Yacht Club spring parade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murder Unrehearsed

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

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

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

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

Kobo:

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

https://seaportbooks.com/

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

and via my website: www.roxannedunn.com

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

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

Links:

www.roxannedunn.com

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

https://twitter.com/roxanne_dunn

Guest Blogger~ Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Character Matters

by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

The prep stage of writing can be a time of enchantment when characters and motivations emerge like flowers blooming.  As I laid the groundwork for a story that would eventually be called “Perfect Strangers,” I felt as though I were not creating so much as discovering the answers to key questions.  Specifically, what kind of person creates multiple identities in order to rob a marijuana dispensary?

Authors say there are two kinds of writers, plotters and pantsers.  Plotters write outlines, sketch character bios, run their stories past lawyer friends to see exactly what kind of trouble they’ve gotten their protagonist into, and generally research down to the last stray molecule of information.  By contrast, pantsers prefer to fly by the seat of their…trousers. 

 I am a plotter.  This may have something to do with my days as a middle school teacher, when I would routinely tell my students that failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  Mostly, though, it just has to do with being me.  I like knowing where I’m going before I set off, and I like knowing who I’m writing about before we embark on mayhem together. 

For “Perfect Strangers,” I filled in a bio sheet that I’ve developed over the years.  I started with the basics:  name, age, sex/gender identity, job; and went on to such details as education, hobbies, and living and work spaces.  I decided how many kids were in the family of origin, whether the parents were married, and if so whether it was a happy marriage.  I described my character’s religion, ethics, and politics, and added a brief timeline of his life up till now.  Thus did I make my protagonist, Gershom McKnight, a recently paroled convict.  He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the single child of unhappy parents who did not encourage their son’s talent in visual arts (useful for a career as a forger later in life).  He was a juvenile delinquent who became a felon at age eighteen, and his best friend is his cellmate.

My biographical information on Gersom also told me how he sounded.  My notes under “Tone and Narrator” read as follows:

Narrator has spent 10ish years in prison.  S/he, but probably he, is smart, resilient, and resourceful, but at best an autodidact. Can have plenty of humor, but not lotsa highfalutin’ vocab and descriptions.  Tone is conversational, a cross between boasting and confiding.  He knows stuff, and how to do stuff, and is proud of it.

Suddenly, I could hear my fictional character talking.  I knew his voice, his sense of humor, his wry asides.  Now he and I could tell his story.

Many of the details I come up with never appear in the story they undergird.  For example, Gershom’s family life is never mentioned in “Perfect Strangers.”  However, all these data points serve me in the aggregate by giving me a precise picture of who I’m dealing with, what they sound like, and how they will behave once the action starts.  For me, it is a joyful process of discovery.

Mystery Writers of America Anthology

“It’s been said that all great literature boils down to one of two stories — a man takes a journey, or a stranger comes to town. While mystery writers have been successfully using both approaches for generations, there’s something undeniably alluring in the nature of a stranger: the uninvited guest, the unacquainted neighbor, the fish out of water.  No matter how or where they appear, strangers are walking mysteries, complete unknowns in once-familiar territories who disrupt our lives with unease and wonder. In the newest collection of stories by the Mystery Writers of America, each author weaves a fresh tale surrounding the eerie feeling that comes when a stranger enters our midst, featuring stories by prolific mystery writers such as Michael Connelly, Lisa Unger, and Joe Hill.”

IndieBound / Bookshop.org / Barnes & Noble / Amazon / Books-A-Million  / Audible.com 

Tilia Klebenov Jacobs is the bestselling author of two crime novels, one middle-grade fantasy book, and numerous short stories. She is a judge in San Francisco’s Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and a board member of Mystery Writers of America-New England. HarperCollins describes her as one of  “crime fiction’s top authors.” Tilia has taught middle school, high school, and college; she also teaches writing classes for prison inmates.  She lives near Boston with her husband, two children, and pleasantly neurotic poodle.

Website:  http://www.tiliaklebenovjacobs.com/

FB Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/Authortiliakj

Twitter Handle:  @TiliaKJacobs

Guest Blogger – Avery Daniels

Resort to Murder series goes to New Mexico by Avery Daniels

One piece of writing advice I received early on was to write in whatever genre I read, and I read a lot of cozy and amateur sleuth books.  I like how justice is served; the villain is caught, and for a few hours I am on the trail of a killer.  The vicarious thrills in the safety of my locked home appeal to me, so of course I started writing a cozy mystery series.

I often hear the advice to write what you know.  I grew up in a town with a historic five-star resort.  On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I would go to the resort and walk around their man-made lake and feed the ducks.  I celebrated special occasions at their exquisite restaurant, my employers held holiday parties there, and I won tickets to and attended a LPGA golf tournament at the resort.  So it was easy to make the setting for my cozy series this resort with the idea to have every other book at a resort my sleuth is visiting.  I have also volunteered over the years and helped plan and facilitate events, from retirement luncheons to signature fund-raising events with silent auctions. I have worked with hotel staff from soup to nuts on events, so I knew a good bit of what goes into Julienne’s task in that vein of her job.

 After I settled on the resort as a backdrop, Julienne solidified as the lead character. Julienne is a young professional who skipped college for a manager-in-training program at the local five-star resort. Her dream is to manage resorts around the world to satisfy her wanderlust and desire to experience other cultures.

 In the first book Julienne finds her sleuthing legs when she is the prime suspect in the murder and we are in her historic “home” resort inspired by the Broadmoor.  For book two, Nailed, the resort was a luxury Bavarian themed ski resort in Vail, Colorado inspired by Sonnenalp.  The third book, Spiked, was back at Julienne’s home resort.  This fourth book, Arrowed, is the first to venture out of Colorado.

In Arrowed, a cutthroat venture capitalist grabs Julienne by the ankle and with his dying breath says “the curse got me.”  The Enchantment Canyon Resort, where this occurs, is entirely fictional.  It is a combination of resorts and ideas I merged for the story.  I wanted the feel of a Mexican villa merged with a world class health and wellness resort.  I love Santa Fe and its unique mixing of Mexican and Native American cultures and foods and thus I wanted a resort that reflected the rich cultural heritage. 

I had terrible timing on Arrowed, though.  Here I am writing a cozy mystery set in Santa Fe, only a five-hour drive for me (and one of my favorite places to visit), and Covid made it impossible to do any personal research.  Fortunately, I have been several times and have many fond memories to rely on and supplement with internet research.  Just a tip: any trip to Santa Fe means you should plan on eating and drinking some of the best food in your life.  The food is one highlight of any trip there for me, along with the Margarita Trail!

If you have been to Santa Fe, or New Mexico, what are your favorite memories?

It all began when a dying man with an arrow in his chest grabs her ankle.
     During a heat wave at a Santa Fe resort, Julienne has the resort owner pressuring her to solve the murder. The victim is a high profile business man who made enemies rather than friends, leaving Julienne with a roster of suspects. She was supposed to be training the staff and spending quality time with Mason rather than investigating a murder. The heat turns up when an old girlfriend of Mason’s checks in and is determined to get back together.
     Arrowed is the fourth book in Avery Daniel’s Resort to Murder series and is an exciting contemporary cozy mystery. If you like Cleo Coyle, Maddy Hunter, Duffy Brown, Lynn Cahoon, and Annette Dashofy, then you’ll love this series with a strong intelligent sleuth, lavish settings, and tantalizing mysteries.
     Buy this spunky clean cozy mystery and start enjoying Julienne’s adventures today!

Youtube book trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-svubHiLbDE

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yoo3xfqw

B&N Nook: https://tinyurl.com/4rew7h83

B&N Print: https://tinyurl.com/2jbun5rt

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/v4tpqebd

Apple: https://tinyurl.com/2a2vxa2b

Bookshop: https://tinyurl.com/14ecxyic

Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.

Website:  http://avery-daniels.com/

Newsletter:  https://tinyurl.com/2p952mcv

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/avery-daniels

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Avery-Daniels/e/B0719JXY83/

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

Guest Blogger – J.L. Greger

TRAVEL DURING THE PANDEMIC

How would you complete this sentence: Be careful what you wish for because…? I suspect most of would say, “…because you may get it.”

I think that expression is apt during the COVID pandemic. Many Americans are bristling under travel restrictions now and dreaming of touring exotic locations. If they swallowed their pride, many would realize they’d be happier reading a novel set in a faraway place while seated in a comfortable armchair than actually experiencing the trip. I could also add that unfortunate travel dilemmas are hilarious when you’re not the one vomiting (I hope I’m not being too blunt.) or losing money.

A BOTTOM LINE FOR AUTHORS This is a good time to include travel in your novels. It will appeal to readers who are beginning to think of grocery shopping as a travel opportunity. You can also develop characters more fully when they are confronted with a challenging location.

Here’s an example. In Dirty Holy Water, my heroine Sara Almquist guesses her boyfriend Sanders plans to propose with the Taj Mahal in the background. A true romantic author would have Sanders propose as they gaze at the Taj Mahal shimmering in the mists at sunrise. As a mystery author who appreciates realistic settings, I felt that a romantic fantasy would leave out more than half the story. See what you think.

The guide promised the group a spell binding view of the Taj Mahal and hurried them off the bus. Sara was skeptical. She could see the gray Yamuna River with yellow mists above it and mud flats next to it. Scraggly greenery and rubble from buildings or walls filled the area between the bus and the river. She guessed the guide’s claim might be exaggerated because only three other buses were discharging tourists. Sara figured at least she wouldn’t be jostled during this viewing of the Taj Mahal and grabbed Sanders’s arm as soon as he alighted.

They strolled along the river. Women in brightly colored saris were washing clothes on the rocks at the water’s edge. Gradually the yellow mist lightened to gray and the outline of the Taj Mahal in a darker gray became visible. Sunlight hit the dome and it began to whiten and shimmer.

Sanders put his arm on Sara’s shoulder and guided her to a low wall. “We need to talk. Yesterday everything was so crowded and noisy. This is quiet but it looks….”

“Like the banks of a river that overflows it banks regularly?”

“Yes, but I expected it to be more refined and romantic.” He fumbled in his jacket pocket.

She realized he wanted to propose and might even foolishly go down on one knee in the mud. That would be a mistake—a funny one. She remembered a quotation from Oscar Wilde: “Nothing spoils romance so much as a sense of humor in the woman.”

She pulled his hand from his pocket and stroked it. “Yes, we should talk but why not after we go back to the hotel for breakfast? We can sit on a comfortable bench in the garden behind the hotel. It will be empty and quiet this morning”

He coughed. “I can’t eat. My gut….”

“I know. We can sip tea and eat a little toast or rice and then relax in the garden by the hotel.”

Blurb for DIRTY HOLY WATER: Sara Almquist is about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India when she becomes the chief suspect in the murder of a friend. Only the friend and her family, well to put it politely, have a couple of dark secrets. Sara soon realizes the difference between a villain and a victim can be alarmingly small in a dysfunctional family.

Book at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587

Website: http://www.jlgreger.com

Disclaimer and Bio: I love the challenges of foreign travel. I learned more than I taught when I consulted on scientific issues in the Marshall Islands, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Accordingly, my protagonist Sara Almquist has consulted on science issues in the Middle East (I Saw You in Beirut), in Bolivia (Ignore the Pain), and Cuba (Malignancy) in my thrillers.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janet.greger.3

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/J.L.Greger/e/B008IFZSC4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Guest Blogger- Tara Lush

As a journalist in Florida, I’ve written about the shady side of my sunny state for years.

Political corruption, horrific crime, drunken antics at tiki bars, alligators, naked people with machetes, cockroaches ending up in unmentionable places…nothing shocks me anymore. I’ve witnessed thirteen executions and covered numerous mass shootings.

I’ve long wanted to write crime fiction, and entertained the thought of doing true crime. But that seemed a little too close to my day job, and frankly, covering those horrific stories as a journalist sapped my desire to retell them in a novel.

My first forays into fiction were contemporary romances, and almost all were set in Florida. But crime fiction lurked in the corners of my brain, and in 2019, I sat down and finally plotted a murder mystery.

I adored the work of Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey and Edna Buchanan — how could I not, they’re all journalists, like me — but when I started to write my debut mystery, I just couldn’t muster the cynicism or the edginess of the hardboiled noir. Perhaps the tumultuousness of recent years played a part in that.

As I scribbled my first mystery, I imagined a slightly less-dysfunctional tropical paradise, one that was loosely based on the things I’ve seen in my twenty-plus years as a reporter in Florida.

I knew I wanted to retain the quirkiness of Florida, though, so I created a fictional island in the Gulf of Mexico, chock full of eccentric characters. Devil’s Beach is where gossipy old hippies mingle with reformed mafiosos. Where the local newspaper writes stories about chicken nuggets shaped like manatees. Where a handsome Instagram-famous barista is found dead and no one bats an eye when a laid off journalist tries to figure out how the barista spent his final hours.

I also wanted a gentle anchor in the book, and that’s why I set it in the coffee shop of my dreams. It’s called Perkatory, a place decorated in hues of weathered wood with sky blue accents.

And then, my reporter’s brain kicked in. I drew inspiration from decades of covering crime in crafting my fictional murder. From the stilted language of cop-speak to wrangling over deadlines with editors, I used details from newspaper stories to seed clues into my fictional story. And the suspects, those were easy — they are all based on people I’ve covered in the past, folks who stood out as true characters.

There are also some fun Florida easter eggs in the details — for instance, the wild monkeys that inhabit a park on my fictional island can really be found in a place called Silver Springs.

I believe that for Florida residents, they’ll recognize many of the places, stories and details in the book. And for you non-Florida folks, I’m hopeful you’ll read my book and feel like you’re on a beach vacation, one where you get to know those quirky characters at the end of the tiki bar.

ABOUT GROUNDS FOR MURDER: Barista Lana Lewis’s sleuthing may land her in a latte trouble as Tara Lush launches her new Coffee Shop mysteries.

When Lana Lewis’ best — and most difficult — employee abruptly quits and goes to work for the competition just days before the Sunshine State Barista Championship, her café’s chances of winning the contest are creamed. In front of a gossipy crowd in the small Florida town of Devil’s Beach, Lana’s normally calm demeanor heats to a boil when she runs into the arrogant java slinger. Of course, Fabrizio “Fab” Bellucci has a slick explanation for jumping ship. But when he’s found dead the next morning under a palm tree in the alley behind Lana’s café, she becomes the prime suspect.

Even the island’s handsome police chief isn’t quite certain of her innocence. But Lana isn’t the only one in town who was angry with Fabrizio. Jilted lovers, a shrimp boat captain, and a surfer with ties to the mob are all suspects as trouble brews on the beach.

With her stoned, hippie dad, a Shih Tzu named Stanley, and a new, curious barista sporting a punk rock aesthetic at her side, Lana’s prepared to turn up the heat to catch the real killer. After all, she is a former award-winning reporter. As scandal hangs over her beachside café, can Lana clear her name and win the championship — or will she come to a bitter end?

LINK: books2read.com/u/4A7KLA 

Tara Lush is a Rita Award finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow, and a George C. Polk Award winning journalist. For the past decade, she’s been a reporter with the Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters, and politics.

She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations under her real name, Tamara Lush. A fan of vintage pulp-fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, and 1980s fashion, she lives with her husband and two dogs on the Gulf coast.