Guest Blogger ~ Susie Black

No matter what stage an author’s writing career is at, one thing that is constantly drilled into their head is to only write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t you dare write it. If you don’t have the creds for what you write, you are toast because readers can spot a phony by the second paragraph and never finish reading your book. This concept is one I never lose sight of and is the reason I write about the subjects I do. 

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.

I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. it is also the genre I read, am comfortable in, and enjoy the most. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

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. 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. Holly Schlivnik, the main character, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. The plots and premises of my stories all take place in the fast-paced ladies’ apparel industry. The premise behind the story in Death by Sample Size is what if a buying office big shot in the apparel industry so universally disliked that when she was murdered, there were so many potential suspects that it wasn’t a question of who wanted her dead, it was a question of who didn’t.

DEATH BY SAMPLE SIZE

Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?

The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer.  Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/productttt/BO93F24T3F

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-by-sample-size-susie-black/1139356591

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/Susie-black

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57877534-death-by-sample-size

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=k8swEAAAQBAJ

I Tunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/death-by-sample-size/id1564686461

kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=Death+by+Sample+Size

TARGET.COM: https://www.target.com/s?searchTerm=Death+by+Sample+Size

Just behind my college graduation, wedding day, and the birth of my son, June 9th was truly one of the most amazing days of my entire life. My debut cozy mystery Death by Sample Size was released for publication. I am humbled, honored, and proud to be able to say that now I am officially a published author! A life-long dream has come true, a hard-fought-for goal has been accomplished.

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black 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? Reach her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com

Social Media Links:

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/Susie-black

Facebook: https://facebook.com/TheHollySwimsuitMysterySeries

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57877534-death-by-sample-size

Instagram: Susie Black (@hollyswimsuit) • Instagram photos and videos

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/authorsusieblack-61941011

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hollysusie1_saved/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@hollyswimsuit

Guest Blogger~Susan Elia MacNeal

Hello and thank you for having me, Ladies of Mystery!

            I’m thrilled to be here talking about The Hollywood Spy. It’s the latest novel in the Maggie Hope series—but it can also be read as a stand-alone, so don’t worry about needing to catch up.

            In The Hollywood Spy, Maggie Hope returns to the United States—and not just anywhere, but Los Angeles, in the summer of 1943.

            Why Los Angeles? Typically, the setting for the books has been London and the UK. Well, I read the Pulitzer-Prize-nominated non-fiction book, Hitler in Los Angeles and that was the catalyst I needed. Yes, you read that title correctly—in the 1930s and even after World War II began, southern California was a hotbed of fascist activity for both German and American Nazis. When I finished reading the book (which reads like a thriller, by the way), I knew I wanted to set a book there and then.

            Los Angeles turns out to be a perfect place for Maggie Hope’s adventures to continue. She’s asked (by her former beau) to investigate his fiancée’s murder. Well, that’s a bit awkward! But Maggie needs a change of scene from dreary grey London—and what starts as a cursory inquiry turns much darker and twistier as more clues are discovered.

            Los Angeles, the city, is a character in her own right in this book. Some of the locations are the Chateau Marmont (where Maggie and her friend Sarah Sanderson stay), the Walt Disney Studios (where John Sterling, Maggie’s ex beau works), the swanky Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, Schwab’s Pharmacy, Caltech, and the Carthay theater. I loved reading books and articles about L.A. during the war, as well as watching documentaries. Taking a research trip was also both productive and fun.

            In The Hollywood Spy, we also meet some famous names from Hollywood at the time: Walt Disney, of course, but also choreographer George Balanchine, composer Igor Stravinsky, singer Cab Calloway, aviation and movie tycoon Howard Hughes, and actress Lena Horne.

            But it’s not all glitz and glamour in Los Angeles, as Maggie and her friends soon find. There’s a dark underbelly as well—all historically documented. In June of 1943, L.A. was torn apart by the Zoot Suit riots. People who identified as LGBTQ were in danger of being arrested or worse. “Smog” was just beginning to appear as traffic increased and rubber plants and war industry polluted the air. And there was significant corruption in the LAPD.

            Los Angeles proved to be a wonderful setting to punch through the soft fog of nostalgia about “the Greatest Generation.” While it’s true most of America was standing shoulder-to-shoulder to fight the Nazis and Axis powers, things (especially in L.A.) are a bit more complex. After all, the government needs the country’s unity—to produce the men and machines for war. Los Angeles was not only home to Hollywood, the propaganda machine for the U.S., but also the aviation industry. While “pulling together” was supposed to stitch up tears in the social, racial, sexual inequality in America, the reality wasn’t as simple as the propaganda and shared memories would have it sound. Los Angeles—and America—stood both divided and together.

            Thank you for having me—hope you read and enjoy The Hollywood Spy!

THE HOLLYWOOD SPY

A Maggie Hope Mystery

by Susan Elia MacNeal

Los Angeles, 1943. As the Allies beat back the Nazis in the Mediterranean and the United States military slowly closes in on Tokyo, Walt Disney cranks out wartime propaganda and the Cocoanut Grove is alive with jazz and swing each night. But behind this sunny façade lies a darker reality. Somewhere in the lush foothills of Hollywood, a woman floats, lifeless, in the pool of one of California’s trendiest hotels. When American-born secret agent and British spy Maggie Hope learns

that this woman was engaged to her old flame, John Sterling, and that he suspects her death was no accident, intuition tells her he’s right. Leaving London under siege—not to mention flying thousands of miles—is a lot to ask. But John was once the love of Maggie’s life…and she won’t say no.

Maggie is shocked to find Los Angeles as divided as Europe itself—the Zoot Suit Riots loom large and the Ku Klux Klan casts a long shadow. As she marvels at the hatred in her home country, she can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see her lost love once again. But there is little time to dwell on memories once she starts digging into the case. As she traces a web of deception from the infamous Garden of Allah Hotel to the iconic Carthay Theater, she discovers things aren’t always the way things appear in the movies—and the political situation in America is more complicated, and dangerous, than the newsreels would have them all believe. 

Buy Link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/617760/the-hollywood-spy-by-susan-elia-macneal/?pdivflag

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.

Visit randomhousebooks.com or susaneliamacneal.com
You can find the author of on Facebook @MrChurcillsSecretary, Twitter @SusanMacNeal, and Instagram @susaneliamacneal

 

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