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.

A Party and New Covers by Paty Jager

I’m excited to reveal the new covers for my Isabella Mumphrey Action Adventure/Romantic Suspense/Thriller trilogy.

However, you won’t see them here. 😉

I’m having a “Where in the world is Isabella Mumphrey?” Facebook party on this coming Saturday, November 14th from 5-7 pm Pacific time. If you go to the page and sign up to join the party, it will tell you what time it will be live in your time zone. Since Oregon had decided to not change time this Fall, yet, I’ve been hearing we are… So hopefully you can catch me during one of the two hours.

https://www.facebook.com/events/471554667120961

I’ll be giving away two large prizes and many small prizes during the two hours, besides revealing my covers, giving you clues to the “Where in the world” game, and visiting about how this trilogy came to be and anything else you want to talk about.

Here are the Blurbs for the books. Secrets of a Mayan Moon won the Reader’s Crown in 2013 for Best Romantic Suspense.

Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Book one of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

Move over Indiana Jones and MacGyver- Isabella Mumphrey has arrived!

Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job. Unless she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can. She heads to Guatemala at the request of her mentor, but drug trafficking bad guys and artifact thieves wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.

Upon seeing Dr. Mumphrey has never been in a jungle or out of the states, undercover DEA agent, Tino Kosta, gets tangled up in helping her discover the truth.

Which could make them casualties of the jungle.

Secrets of an Aztec Temple

Book two of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

Revenge isn’t always sweet… 

Isabella Mumphrey can’t leave a puzzle alone.  Much like Indiana Jones and MacGyver, she has a knack for getting out of sticky situations. This time she attempts to use her anthropology knowledge to uncover who is stealing priceless artifacts from an Aztec Temple in Mexico City.

Tino Konstantine is also in Mexico City. He has infiltrated a drug lord’s organization to find enough evidence to not only prove the man’s illegal activities, but to bring him down for numerous deaths. Namely those of Tino’s family.

But when their operations collide, and Isabella, strolls into the drug lord’s home, Tino is challenged with the choice of saving her or fulfilling his revenge.

Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star

Book three of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

The truth doesn’t always set you free…

Landing in the underground world of human trafficking, anthropologist Isabella Mumphrey, a female Indiana Jones / MacGyver, learns her own past is as sordid as the predicament she’s uncovered.  No one is who she’d believed them to be—not her parents, her cousin, her aunt.

The only constant in her life is her fiancé, Tino Konstantine, and now their enemy is using her knowledge of the Hopi blue star to lure Tino to his death.

If yo can’t wait to see the covers or wish to purchase them, here is the link to their page on my website. https://www.patyjager.net/romantic-suspense/

My post next month should be informing you about my latest release from the Gabriel Hawke series. It was fun to write but a booger to get logistics correct. I had to call in help from my sister-in-law and my younger brother. More on that next month! There you go. I like to keep people in suspense and wondering….

Guest Author ~ Zaida Alfaro

Since I can remember, I was always writing.  I would write poems to my family and to my imaginary best friends.  Then as I got older, my poems progressed into song lyrics, and those song lyrics progressed into my two music albums. Then, many years ago, I became an avid reader of cozy mysteries, because of my sister. She gifted me a book because of its cover.  I ended up reading the entire series of the author.  I didn’t know the cozy genre existed before then. The story lines were intriguing, engaging, and funny at the same time. I was so inspired by the authors, that I then decided to take my musical experiences, and put it on paper. I began writing and completing this first novel, in between my full-time job, my weekend gigs, and my personal life. The phobia’s, the dream sequences, and the quirkiness of the main characters, are all based on facts. I also wanted to bring the love I have for Miami, the Cuban culture, my family, and music, to the readers of my novel, and to the series to come. The ironic thing is the main character is not my favorite character in my book.  My favorite character is Alexia.  At first, Alexia was not going to have such a big role in my book, but the more I wrote her, the more that I fell in love with her character.  The character is based off my older sister, and a lot of the bantering, communication, and the closeness that Vy and Alexia have in the book, portrays my actual relationship with my older sister.

If you are currently writing a novel, the best advice I can give you is to not give up.  I received so many rejection letters, that I was on the verge of not sending out any more query letters.  Then I attended a book signing for one of my favorite authors.  Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for her, I was the only person that attended the signing.  I was able to sit with her for an hour and talk about my novel and the hardships.  She said to me, “give yourself a deadline of a year before you resort to self-publishing. Do not give up just yet.”  So, when I left that signing, I calendared a year from that date.  In six months, my book was picked up!  So, do not give up.  Give yourself a deadline and send out as many query letters as you can.  There will be one publisher that will believe in your work, but make sure that you believe in your work first.

I just want to say, thank you readers and to Paty for taking the time to read my book and also blog about it.  I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Welcome to my crazy world!

THE LAST NOTE: A Miami Music Mystery

Killer songs and a killer voice, but a killer at her gig?  Vy has always found herself at the center of attention as the lead singer for one of Miami’s top cover bands, but when she finds herself at the center of a murder investigation, while performing at the Steel Horse Bar, that changes the tune of the night.

Someone believes that Vy knows the truth behind the murder of the bar owner Ricky, and now that person is after her. Vy better figure out quickly who wanted Ricky dead, who is threatening her with her favorite band’s song lyrics, and why she’s falling for the handsome Detective Houston, before she too sings her last note.

With a mixture of mystery, mayhem and comedy, you will find yourself immersed in Vy’s musical and murderous world.

buy link:
https://www.amazon.com/Last-Note-Miami-Music-Mystery/dp/1946063487

The novel’s main backdrop, the amazing city of Miami, Florida, is beloved and well-known to me. I was born and raised in Miami, and like the novel’s main character Vy, I am a singer/songwriter, as well as the lead singer to a self-proclaimed cover band. All things relating to music or literature are my passion. I keep a journal, and I am constantly writing poems, stories, and any thought that comes to mind. I have a fascination for black and white films, that have the element of mystery. As I have been told by many, I have a very creative imagination.  Many years ago, I became an avid reader of cozy mysteries. The story lines were intriguing, engaging, and funny at the same time. I was so inspired by the authors, that I then decided to take my musical experiences, and put it on paper, hence the outcome of The Last Note: A Miami Music Mystery.

Push the Limits by Paty Jager

I have written two mystery series with Native American characters, while I am not Native American. I’ve read books by Native American authors, have a friend who lives on the Colville Reservation with her Native American husband, and I have lived in an area that has so much Native American history I feel it seeps into you.

But I am facing my biggest challenge as a writer, now, when it is more politically correct to be of the same heritage as the characters you write.

I started slowly, with my heroine, Shandra Higheagle being only half Native American so I could have her raised without that influence and have her discover it as I did writing her story.

Paiute Dancer photo by me

But I felt the area where I grew up, needed more exposure about the people who lived and were stewards of the land before if was favored as lush feed for cattle. And that was how my character, Gabriel Hawke, came to be. He is of Nez Perce and Cayuse heritage. He is working as a State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife Division in Wallowa County, the land where his ancestors summered and winter. While he hasn’t lived on the reservation since graduating high school, I feel I can pull off his loyalty to his ancestors and still have him respect his culture but not be fully immersed in it.

Now, as I am writing the last Shandra book and moving onto a new character, I have to tame the lump in my gut and start contacting people on the Umatilla Reservation. My next character will be living and working on the reservation. I will need first hand knowledge to make this character ring true and to make her not only show the life of someone trying to end the cycle of prejudice and move on, but also someone who values her people’s culture.

That my writer and reader friends is what I will be trying to achieve the next few months. Connecting with people who are willing to allow me into their world and to show a life that I am not a part of but believe in.

Wish me luck! And let me know if you have anyone on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation who would be willing to help me. I’m sending out feelers this week.

Guest Blogger – Lorrie Holmgren

When I start to plan an Emily Swift Travel Mystery, I go where my amateur sleuth will go and jot down descriptions, observations, and plot ideas in my journal.  Because Emily is a travel writer, I want to capture her enthusiasm for new places and describe them as well as I can. Useful as my journal is, however, I often turn to the Internet to develop my ideas in more detail when I’m actually writing. I find the combination of real-life observation and research works for me.

Sometimes I have an idea for a scene that means I must head off to a place I’ve never been.   In Murder on Madeline Island, the first book in the Emily Swift Travel Mystery series, Emily is helping an elderly woman search for her long-lost Ojibwa brother.   I thought her search might lead her to a Powwow.  So, I drove to Bayfield, Wisconsin to see a powwow firsthand. As I always do, I jotted down detailed descriptions in my journal.  But when I started to write the scene, I realized I needed more.  I went on UTube to watch the Shawl Dance and Grass Dance and found out their significance.  Then it was easy to imagine the scene.  In the final version a snippy young girl who has been resisting Emily’s entreaties to meet with the old woman, dances beautifully, transforming herself from a girl into a crow.  The character’s love of tradition gave her greater depth and made her more likeable.  That was my intention anyway. If you read it, let me know if you agree.

Sometimes I see something on a trip that gives me a plot idea and then I go online to find out more.  While I was in Hawaii, my husband and I visited a mountain top that had been the site of an ancient temple. Fresh fruits and flowers were placed there as if at a shrine or gravesite.  It seemed to me this would be the perfect place for a body to be discovered.  So, in Homicide in Hawaii, that’s where the victim’s body is found.  I went online to do research and discovered there had been a resurgence of interest in the old Hawaiian religion and worship of the god Lono.  Here was another lead to help me develop the story.  One character – a young girl who has been adopted and is now seeking information about her Polynesian heritage becomes fascinated by the old religion.

Now, when we are all kept inside by the Pandemic, it was a particular joy to relive my last trip to England where I did the research for A Killing in the Cotswolds, the third book in the series, which has just been published by Cozy Cat Press.  In the novel, Emily is writing articles about daytrips not far from London when she is drawn into a murder investigation.  Like Emily, I travelled from London to charming Cotswold villages to Stratford upon Avon and Avebury and enjoyed delicious teas and visits to historic sites.  But it was Internet research that gave me the idea for the long-buried secret that led to murder. I didn’t use the actual event, but it spurred my imagination.

For now, I highly recommend armchair travel.  Emily Swift Travel mysteries are available in print and Kindle on Amazon.

A Killing in the Cotswolds, An Emily Swift Travel Mystery

It’s springtime in England and travel writer Emily Swift is writing about charming Cotswold villages. But when a politician is found dead in a country inn, she and her boyfriend Jack are drawn into a murder investigation. Who killed him? An actor with a talent for deception?  A schoolmaster fired after a mysterious death? A tour guide at Warwick Castle bent on revenge?  Over tea and crumpets, Emily’s childhood friend begs her to find out and save an innocent woman from being charged with murder. Emily can’t say no. Clues lead through the British countryside and danger lurks where Emily least expects it.

The books are available in print and Kindle on Amazon

Lorrie Holmgren is the author of three Emily Swift Travel Mysteries: Murder on Madeline Island, Homicide in Hawaii and A Killing in the Cotswolds. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, busily penning mysteries and hoping it will soon be safe to travel.  She enjoys Zumba, Salsa, Bachata, aqua aerobics, gardening, knitting, and book group discussions.

Website www.lorrieholmgren.com

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