Guest Blogger~ Sally Carpenter

Christmas can be murder

By Sally Carpenter

Only ten weeks until Christmas!

In my mind, it’s never too early to break out the holly and tune up the carols. I’m a Christmas junkie. I cry when I pack away the decorations each year and count down the days when I can put them up again. I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving them up year-round. That would save me the bother of hauling them out of storage each year and unpacking.

Readers of cozy mysteries love Christmas. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about the holiday season that brings out the larceny. Maybe it’s the juxtaposing of a cheery time of goodwill against murder, or the thought of strangling that annoying neighbor with a strand of colored lights. Most cozy series have at least one Christmas-themed mystery. I finally wrote my contribution to the genre: The Notorious Noel Caper.

As you can tell by the title, it’s part of my Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series—book five, in fact. I’m astounded that I’ve made it this far in my writing. I have two cozies in my other series—the Psychedelic Spy—for a total of seven books. Many authors have a greater backlist, but I’ll celebrate my output. My first novel was published ten years ago (2011), so that’s almost one book a year. Not bad for a part-time author holding down a day job. Also, many writers stop after one or two books, so I’m thrilled with my longevity.

My Christmas mystery has a twist—it’s set in Southern California, where snow is something you won’t see unless you watch a Hallmark movie or drive (with chains on the tires) up the mountains to the ski resorts. In SoCal, Christmas means sand at the beach, and “cold” weather is 55 degrees. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have commented about the thick, quilted coat I brought with me when I moved from the Midwest. A “winter coat” here is really a hoodie zipped up.

My book is the only Christmas cozy ever written with surfing Santas. When I was writing the third draft, I saw a newspaper article about the real surfing Santas. That sounded so cool I added them in the story. Every year some surfers dress up in red-and-white wetsuits, put on fake beards and Santa hats, and surf off the coast. No agenda except to put a smile on faces as people watch them shoot the waves. My book cover has a surfing Santa. In chapter 15, Sandy is involved in a surfing Santa event and, like everything Sandy does, ends in near disaster.

The story is set at the Santa’s Magic theme park, based off a poplar (and fictious) movie franchise. SoCal is home to a number of theme parks. Santa’s Magic was inspired by the real-life Santa Claus Land (now called Holiday World), which opened in Santa Claus, Indiana, in 1946, making it the world’s oldest theme park (Disneyland debuted in 1955). My Psychedelic Spy series also has a Christmas theme park, but I made sure the two parks had different rides and attractions.

Sandy is the emcee of the Miss North Pole pageant, inspired by the fact that teen idol Donny Osmond has been involved with both the Miss Universe and Miss USA events. But things get sticky when Sandy’s girlfriend, Cinnamon, is jealous of him spending time around the beautiful contestants. Sandy and Cinnamon are sorting out their relationship that’s been growing over four books.

And the mystery? Well, this time I have three bodies. I had asked members of a cozy readers Facebook group how they felt about multiple murders in a book. Their answers scared me. One said, “The more the merrier!” Since cozy murders take place off the page, three bodies are not as ruthless as it sounds. All of the bodies turn up at the Santa’s Magic park, substituting ho-ho-homicide for holiday cheer.

Christmas cozies remind us of the darkness that lurks in human hearts. In scripture, after the joyful nativity the Holy Family fled into another country to escape an evil ruler who then killed hundreds of babies. Christmas Day may mean sorrow to families who can’t afford gifts or those who face empty dinner table chairs that once held loved ones who have passed away. For some, Christmas may be just another day of living in a sidewalk tent. But cozies also bring us a happy ending: the crook is caught and community order is restored. And what will happened between Sandy and Cinnamon? That too may be a happy ending as well.  

It’s Christmastime in Tinsel Town, and there’s plenty of ho-ho-homicide at the soon-to-open Santa’s Magic theme park, where bodies are dropping like snowflakes. Former pop star Sandy Fairfax has a killer job—he’s the emcee for the televised Miss North Pole beauty contest–er, scholarship pageant. But will the beautiful contestants make his girlfriend jealous? Or will she join him in his sleuthing? The deadly Christmas season begins at a celebrity bowling tournament when a pinsetter plops down a body instead of the pins. Throw in surfing Santas, a seductive executive’s wife, a sleazy tabloid editor, an egotistical movie rival and a gift-wrapped death trap, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Print link:   https://www.amazon.com/Notorious-Noel-Caper-Fairfax-Mystery/dp/1952579317

ebook link:  https://www.amazon.com/Notorious-Caper-Sandy-Fairfax-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09CN1W7V1

As my Christmas gift to readers, I’m giving away a free story to those who sign up for my mailing list. Sandy Fairfax starred in a hit 1970s TV show, Buddy Brave Boy Sleuth. You can get a free Buddy Brave adventure, “The Medieval Malice Caper,” at http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com; scroll to the bottom of the page for the button.

Sally Carpenter is a native Hoosier who now lives in Southern California. Besides writing seven cozies, all published by Cozy Cat Press, she has stories in three anthologies and penned chapter three of the group mystery Chasing the Codex. She works at a community newspaper where she also writes the Roots of Faith column. This year she welcomed a new rescue cat into her home.   

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.carpenter.54

Guest Blogger~ Debbie Burke

Hi, Ladies of Mystery, I’m crime novelist Debbie Burke. Thank you to Paty Jager for her gracious invitation to chat with you today. Here’s a little about my main character.

Montana widow Tawny Lindholm is swept up into a terrorist plot when she trusts the wrong man.

After Tawny receives a new smartphone as a gift, she’s baffled. This instrument of the devil behaves as if possessed and she dubs it Lucifer. Enter a dashing widower who offers to help her untangle its mysteries. Lonely and vulnerable after her husband’s death, Tawny falls prey to his charm. She doesn’t realize he is a terrorist who sent her the device as part of his plot to destroy the electrical grid. His target: Hungry Horse Dam where Tawny is a longtime seasonal employee. He sets her up as the scapegoat to take the fall for his crime.

Soon she’s being followed. When she can’t explain large cash deposits, the bank and suspicious feds freeze her money. She’s broke, her family is threatened, and she’s on the run.

Can she turn the devil back on himself to save her own life and prevent a blackout affecting millions?

Are there autobiographical elements?

Tawny’s struggles mirror my own experiences with a frustrating new smartphone.

Fortunately, though, I haven’t met any charming terrorists!

When I was writing the book, news stories about the vulnerability of the power grid kept surfacing. Documentaries exposed how easily a smartphone could trigger a cyberattack that would disrupt electricity to vast swaths of the U.S.

I was onto something timely…and scary.

Tawny may seem like an unlikely thriller hero—an everywoman like your neighbor or coworker—but, with technology intruding into all aspects of today’s life, this scenario could happen to anyone…even you.

Instrument of the Devil is the first book in the Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion series. Toward the end of the book, a larger-than-life lawyer named Tillman Rosenbaum comes on scene to defend her. He’s brilliant, arrogant, and sexy. Their gasoline-and-match chemistry leads into the second book, Stalking Midas, where Tawny goes to work for Tillman as an investigator.

Each book is written as a standalone and can be read in any order but there is an ongoing arc of their stormy relationship.  

The series is meant to be entertaining, with fast-moving action, surprise-twist plots, and quirky characters. But it also examines timely issues like terrorism, racism, elder fraud, teen suicide, and a justice system that rarely gives justice. 

Please stop by my website: debbieburkewriter.com

Twitter: @burke_writer

Try Instrument of the Devil for FREE then come back for the other Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion

Click on covers below for Amazon links.

Links to other online booksellers:

Instrument of the Devil

Stalking Midas

Eyes in the Sky

Dead Man’s Bluff

Crowded Hearts – A Novella

Flight to Forever

  

  

Guest Blogger ~ Brenda Whiteside

The Wickedest Town in the West turned ghost town, turned hippie haven, turned tourist mecca…that’s the inspiration for my latest series, The MacKenzie Chronicles. Although I’ve renamed my city Joshua, Arizona, anyone familiar with Jerome, Arizona will recognize the setting within my stories.

I was born and raised in Arizona and fell in love with the city in the 1960s. Jerome has long been a favorite place to visit for locals. The town nearly died in the 1950s when the mining dried up. What once was a raucous little town in the late 1800s through the 1920s, hanging on the side of a mountain, inhabited by the men who worked the mines, the wealthy who owned the mines, and the ladies who lived in the cribs and entertained both, became a ghost town. And the city does literally hang on the side of the mountain. There is the ruin of a jail that slid down three streets during a storm decades ago. The three main roads are stacked like stadium seating on the side of the mountain.

In the 1960s, hippies discovered Jerome and squatted in the abandoned buildings. They took up residence mainly in an area of town called The Gulch. In my series, I have renamed it The Ravine. The wave of hippies and artists also bought homes, improved them, and turned the town into a center for art. To this day, The Gulch/Ravine is a roughed-out area with a road that is nearly impossible to drive. The remaining hippie community prefers it that way.

Today, the town flourishes with artists, wine tasting, historical settings, and restaurants. The residents prefer to keep the town looking much like it did in the 1920s when the mines pumped out the minerals that made millions.

Frank MacKenzie, an artist, and Susie Muse, a store owner and mystic, met in the hippie days of Joshua. The MacKenzie Chronicles are about their three children, now grown. Susie died a couple of decades ago, but two of her offspring have mystic talents while one has her feet more solidly on the ground like her father. There is murder, mystery, suspense, and romance in Joshua, Arizona for the MacKenzie siblings, some of which reaches into those early hippie days and affects the present.

Mystery on Spirit Mountain

The past never sleeps.

The truth never dies.

Only Harlan MacKenzie can sense the troubled history of the Big Purple House. When he’s hired to restore the historical mansion, he doesn’t foresee the secrets—secrets that entangle his family in deceit and murder.

Phaedra is selling the house that has been in her family for decades. As her friends-to-lovers relationship with Harlan escalates, she puts her values on the line and chances losing him.

After a stranger comes to town, weaving her web of deception, hell-bent on correcting an old grievance connected to the house, dark revelations of the past implode the present. Harlan and Phaedra are thrown on a dangerous path, not only risking love but possibly their lives.

BOOK LINKS:

Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Spirit-Mountain-MacKenzie-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B09CP3BXVG/

Other Book Links:

https://www.bookbub.com/books/mystery-on-spirit-mountain-the-mackenzie-chronicles-book-2-by-brenda-whiteside

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58803364-mystery-on-spirit-mountain

Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure stories with a touch of romance. Mostly. She and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. For now, they’ve settled in Central Arizona, but won’t discount the possibility of another move in their future. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes.

Visit Brenda at https://www.brendawhiteside.com

Or on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaWhitesideAuthor

Sign up for her email newsletter: https://us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4804e039587723cfe02e83f2c&id=5e4b22a4ac

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brendawhitesid2

She blogs and has guests: https://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003V15WF8

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3972045.Brenda_Whiteside

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/brenda-whiteside

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

Guest Blogger ~ Ben Wiener

“A well-designed thriller that I didnt want to put down! “ — Nicolas Colin, author of Hedge

This is a real book! You wrote this?” – My daughter

Here’s a very short mystery for you: How does a male venture capitalist find himself penning a guest post for a blog named “Ladies of Mystery?”

Murder at First Principles, my debut novel, is a Silicon Valley murder mystery told from the first-person point of view of a young woman, Addie Morita. Addie is a frustrated junior staffer at the Northern California Computer Crime Task Force, questioning her decision to enter public service rather than the lavish startup industry that has swept up her friends and former classmates from a prestigious local college, when her life takes a sudden turn. One by one, former classmates show up in body bags, and soon Addie receives anonymous, taunting messages with hints about the crimes. Addie must match wits with both the mysterious killer, potential suspects and a stubborn, famed Special Agent, Hope Pearson, as she pursues her “big break” and tries to break the case.

Female readers have been the biggest fans of Murder at First Principles so far. While my stated purpose in writing the novel was to enlighten and entertain, with startup business strategies woven into the plot, the story is engaging and electrifying for any mystery lover.

I decided to make the two main characters female to break the stereotypical “detective drama” format and make the two characters’ contrasts and tensions poignant and dramatic. Like most people in the real world, Addie, Hope and the rest of the diverse cast of characters have things to hide, cloudy motivations and challenges to overcome.

Ironically, as a male writer, writing from the POV of a woman drove me to greater clarity. I have found in other contexts, as I write male characters, that I am prone to take certain traits, motivations or thought processes for granted. Writing Addie’s story forced me to get to know her first. The process of figuring her out, as opposed to starting to write assuming I was, or knew, the main character myself, made the writing a joyful and enriching experience, and produced a superior product.

Murder at First Principles is not just about women, it benefits women. Proceeds from my books support FemForward, a nonprofit with which I’m affiliated that promotes young women in tech.

Seth Godin says “Art is generosity.” Murder at First Principles is my mischievous, rollicking, topsy-turvy gift to mystery lovers. It will keep you turning pages and guessing, up to the very end.

Murder at First Principles

Addie Morita, a frustrated young crime researcher, finally gets her big career break when a serial killer targets her successful former classmates from an elite San Francisco Bay Area college. Addie must match wits with both the taunting killer and the intimidating Special Agent assigned to the case, racing to decipher key clues buried in a famous startup strategy book — before it’s too late.

Murder at First Principles is the debut Startup Fiction novel by successful venture capitalist Ben Wiener. Written as a murder mystery, the plot is designed to enlighten and entertain, introducing readers to Hamilton Helmer’s iconic work, 7 Powers, and its seven market-proven strategies for sustained competitive advantage. Every suspect in this story is hiding something — strap yourself in and try to uncover their secrets while discovering the secret “powers” innovative businesses harness to create persistent differential returns.

PURCHASE LINKS

https://amzn.to/3wWbJ6Q

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murder-at-first-principles-ben-wiener/1139629514

https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/murder-at-first-principles

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1570694765

https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/511143258/Murder-at-First-Principles

Ben Wiener is a venture capitalist and author. He founded and manages Jumpspeed Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund, and he has authored two full-length novels, Murder at First Principles and the forthcoming Fever Pitch. His motivation for writing is to “enlighten and entertain.” In addition to his novels he has published a number of short stories and humor essays.

Ben grew up in Allentown, PA and graduated (with honors) from Columbia Law School. He clerked on Israel’s Supreme Court and practiced corporate law in New York City and Tel Aviv. He moved permanently to Israel with his young family and co-founded his first software startup in 1999. Ben worked for a variety of startups and larger companies before founding Jumpspeed Ventures in 2014.

SOCIAL LINKS

www.benwiener.net

https://www.linkedin.com/in/benwiener/

Twitter: @beninJLM

Guest Blogger ~ Randy Overbeck

“An accomplished work of haunting mystery fiction fans of the genre won’t want to miss.”—ReadersFavorite.com

A mystery is a mystery is a mystery—not.

Readers who enjoy solving a whodunnit with their fiction can chose a cozy, a hard-boiled detective mystery, a police procedural, a noir mystery or even a historical mystery.

They each have their own conventions, required elements and fans. But they all have in common one thing …a body, often on the first page, almost always within the first chapter. Readers of these sub-genres will usually meet the victim—sometimes a nice, unwitting fellow, sometimes a despicable character even a mother couldn’t love—within the first few pages and learn about them, often with a nice dash of back story thrown in. Just before the victim, well, becomes the victim.

Then the reader spends the remainder of the novel trying to unravel the puzzle as they encounter character after character, searching each for motive, means and opportunity, dodging red herrings to try to arrive at the culprit, hopefully right before the great reveal by the author.

It’s how it’s done, it’s expected. For all the types of mystery—except mine.

Like the other types, my Haunted Shores Mysteries are classic whodunits, with the parade of possible bad guys (and girls), turns down wrong alleys, and a meticulous shifting through clues—though all these are harder to navigate because each is a cold case murder, the deed occurring years earlier.

But the aspect that sets my narratives apart from these other mysteries is the victim. Oh, Darrell—and the reader—encounters the victim in the first few pages, but he has no idea who the victim is. And it’s not a simple case of mistaken identity. You see, when Darrell first stumbles onto the victim—or more likely he/she runs into him—he/she is a ghost.

And his or her death has been covered up so as to not look like murder. The challenge for Darrell—and the reader, I hope—is to sift through clues together to first learn who the victim really was, then determine how he/she died, then try to unravel the clues that lead to the murderer. It’s a complicated process fraught with peril.

In CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, the newest novel in the series, a tall, injured female chases Darrell down the street of Cape May—all in the first few pages. He has no idea who she is, why she is following him or that she is a victim. Until she reveals she is a ghost and pleads for his help. Even when he finally decides to help this poor woman find justice, he has no idea who she is, how she really died, much less who could be possible suspects for the murder. A tall mountain to climb.

If you’re a mystery lover who enjoys solving a complicated puzzle, check out CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY (or the other #1 best selling entry in the series, BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE). See if you can get to the top of the proverbial mountain before Darrell. I’ll guarantee it will be fun trying.

No matter how far you run, you can never really escape a haunted past.

Darrell Henshaw—teacher, coach, and paranormal sensitive—learned this lesson the hard way. With his job gone and few options, he heads for Cape May to coach a summer football camp. The resort town, with gorgeous beaches, rich history and famous Victorian mansions, might just be the getaway he needs. Only, no one told him Cape May is the most haunted seaport on the East Coast. One resident ghost, the Haunted Bride, stalks Darrell, begging for his help.

He can’t refuse. 

Joining forces with Cassie, a street-wise teen and another sensitive, he investigates the bride’s death and discovers her murder is connected to a far greater horror. But can Darrell and Cassie expose those behind the crimes before they end up being the killer’s next victims? 


Incredible sale on the entire Haunted Shores Mysteries series! 

BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE-$.99, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY–$1.99, SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER (pre-publication price)—$2.99.

Purchase links:

https://www.amazon.com/Crimson-Cape-Haunted-Shores-Mysteries/dp/1509231633

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crimson-at-cape-may-randy-overbeck/1137088608?ean=9781509231638

https://www.bookbub.com/books/crimson-at-cape-may-by-randy-overbeck

Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for more than three decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His thriller, Leave No Child Behind (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon and B & N No. 1 Best Seller, Blood on the Chesapeake and Crimson at Cape May have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including “Thriller of the Year–ReadersFavorite.com, “Gold Award”—Literary Titan, “Mystery of the Year”—ReadersView.com and “Crowned Heart of Excellence”—InD’Tale Magazine. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.

BOOK TRAILER—CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY

Randy Overbeck

randyoverbeck@authorrandyoverbeck.com

www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

@OverbeckRandy

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