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/

Writing Makes me Happy by Paty Jager

I started this writing journey decades ago because I had a need to write. That sounds hokey or corny to some but it was my husband who first realized when I didn’t have time to write, I became cranky. LOL I would become irritable and crabby when I was so busy raising kids and taking care of the chores that I didn’t have time to write. He would say, “Go write for a while. Leave the dishes, or do the laundry later.” And I would go write, and the real world would once again be a happy place for me.

My best guess would be, anyway from what I’ve noticed over the years, my overactive imagination would keep me up at night with ‘what ifs’ and tragedies befalling family members. When I write and am engrossed in causing all kinds of trouble for my characters, my mind is at ease and I sleep better. If I don’t write, I put all of the danger into potential threats to my family members and friends. Weird, right?

I also enjoy the research. Over the years, even as a child, I would read books and discover new places, new people, new cultures, and learn about things I didn’t have where I lived. That was exciting to me! As a teen I loved the old Gothic Romances by Phyliss Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I enjoyed living in mansions, the terror of crossing a moor in the dark, experiencing a time and country that was so different from what I lived. I also liked they were the thickest books in the school library. I could go through a thin novel in two days, reading during lunch, afterschool and when I was supposed to be sleeping. 😉

I started reading mysteries then and continued as an adult. A good mystery for me has twists and turns and engaging characters. I devoured books by Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Dorothy Gilman. Lilian Jackson Braun, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Grafton.

Putting a bit of mystery in everything I write has shown me that I am a writer who has to write mystery to feel I’ve built a complete story. And that is why I write mystery books. It is what, is deep in my core. I like writing twists and turns and having justice at the end of the story.

My innate need to always write about justice or injustice has brought me to writing mysteries with Native American influences. Whether it is characters or setting. Their plight has always tugged at my conscious and now, with writing, I have a way to show they are human and viable people just like everyone else. They have been trod upon and nearly annihilated, yet because of their faith and resilience they are growing stronger and becoming a voice that needs to be heard.

Writing mysteries with Native American elements is what makes me happy. I have a couple of romance series I need to finish, and I tried. However, my heart isn’t into those at this time, so I will continue to write the stories that are calling to me.

Here is the latest release of my new Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series.

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

Book 1

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.

Universal Buy link:

https://books2read.com/u/brPxxw

The First Draft by Karen Shughart

I started writing the first draft of the third mystery in the Edmund DeCleryk series several months ago. It’s entitled Murder at Freedom Hill, and as with the first two books, the murder is linked to an historical event, this time the Abolition Movement and Underground Railroad. Both are part of the history of the village where I live in upstate New York, as are the historical backstories with the previous books, portrayed with a bit of poetic license.

When I start writing a draft, I know the setting (it’s always the fictional village of Lighthouse Cove, NY), have chosen the victim and other characters.  There will be a trip or two to Canada, it’s right across Lake Ontario from Lighthouse Cove; the communities bordering it on both sides are intricately linked by related historical events.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve contacted my technical experts with questions on investigative procedures and sentencing guidelines. I have the basic trajectory of the story in my head, and usually have identified the murderer. And I plan for the recipes that will appear at the end of the book, courtesy of Annie, Ed’s wife.

After that it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Structured chaos. The road not taken. Once the first draft is finished, I start to think about changes I want to make in the plot. Sometimes that means getting up in the middle of the night and writing down idea so that by morning they haven’t been erased by a dream or two I may have had in the interim.

I’ve been asked if I create an outline or use index cards when I’m writing a book. I don’t, although I know many authors who do. For me, it’s too confining. I’d rather go where the story leads me instead of being boxed in by my own rigid expectations. Case in point: since starting the first draft of Murder at Freedom Hill, I’ve changed the murderer three times, added a few twists and turns, and lengthened the time it takes to solve the case. It’s a true, excuse the cliché,  work in progress.

The first draft is messy and meandering, and it’s now that the hard work begins. I know I’ll need to clean it up, cut and paste, do a significant amount of wordsmithing, expand the investigation, eliminate overused words, and insert the historical backstory chronologically and strategically. I’ll also need to decide which recipes to include.

The first drafts of Murder in the Museum and Murder in the Cemetery ran about 40,000 words. My background is journalism, so I learned to write sparingly. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it, this draft ended at 55,000 words, a lot closer to my goal of 70,000+.

Writing the first draft is lots of fun, I go with the flow and see where the story takes me.  But now, the real work begins.

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….