Guest Blogger ~ Sharon Marchisello

Setting a Mystery in the Galapagos

When my husband and I took our bucket-list vacation to the Galapagos in 2014, I had no idea I’d set a book there; otherwise, I’d have written off the trip on my taxes. (If you’re looking for the Galapagos on the map, it’s a group of  islands straddling the equator, approximately 600 miles off the Pacific Coast of Ecuador.) But I didn’t get the idea until six months later, when something triggered an experience from our cruise that I thought would make a great opening scene for a mystery.

Normally, the guides were conscientious about counting heads and watching over all the passengers in their charge whenever we were away from the ship. In an archipelago comprising 97% national park containing flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth, tourists must be carefully supervised. But one day, my husband and I left another activity to join a snorkeling excursion already in progress, so neither of the guides assumed responsibility for us.

We were swimming along, marveling at the vast array of colorful underwater life, when I surfaced to see both Zodiac boats motoring back to the ship—without us! I can still feel the panic of being left alone in the middle of the ocean, treading water off the shore of an island populated only by sea lions and blue-footed boobies.

I waved and screamed, popping up and down like a cork, and fortunately, someone spotted me. One of the boats turned around and came back to pick me up. I didn’t see my husband right away but told the guide he was still out there. In a moment, he’d swum up and climbed aboard. All was well.

But what if…. What if my protagonist’s companion didn’t get picked up? And what if the person was left behind on purpose?

When Secrets of the Galapagos begins, my heroine, Giovanna Rogers, is snorkeling with her new friend, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo. The two get separated from the group, and Laurel disappears. And then no one on the ship will acknowledge that Laurel didn’t make it back.

Trying to determine a motive, I recalled a conversation I’d had with one of our guides during a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, the largest town on Santa Cruz (one of only four inhabited islands in the chain). “I know a secret about Lonesome George,” he said. “But if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” Lonesome George was a Galapagos giant tortoise made famous for being the sole survivor of the Pinta Island species. Unfortunately, efforts to breed George were unsuccessful, and the ancient tortoise passed away in 2012 without an heir.

But what if someone discovered another giant tortoise from a different subspecies also thought to be extinct? And then a tortoise researcher unearthed some information about the animal that certain individuals in the tourist industry didn’t want released?

You’ll have to read Secrets of the Galapagos to find out what happens next.

Shattered by a broken engagement and a business venture derailed by Jerome Haddad, her unscrupulous partner, Giovanna Rogers goes on a luxury Galapagos cruise with her grandmother to decompress. At least that’s what her grandmother thinks. Giovanna is determined to make Jerome pay for what he’s done, and she has a tip he’s headed for the Galapagos.

While snorkeling in Gardner Bay off the coast of Española Island, Giovanna and another cruise passenger, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo, become separated from the group, and Laurel is left behind. No one on the ship will acknowledge Laurel is missing, and Giovanna suspects a cover-up.

When the police come on board to investigate a death, Giovanna assumes the victim is Laurel. She’s anxious to give her testimony to the attractive local detective assigned to the case. Instead, she learns someone else is dead, and she’s a person of interest.

Resolved to keep searching for Laurel and make sense of her disappearance, Giovanna learns several people on board the ship have reasons to want Laurel gone. One is a scam involving Tio Armando, the famous Galapagos giant tortoise and a major tourist attraction in the archipelago. And Jerome Haddad has a hand in it. Thinking she’s the cat in this game, Giovanna gets too involved and becomes the mouse, putting her life in jeopardy. But if she doesn’t stop him, Jerome will go on to ruin others.

Buy links:

https://www.amazon.com/Sharon-Marchisello/e/B00NH6N4WK

https://www.sunburypress.com/collections/sharon-marchisello

Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press—Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). She has written short stories, nonfiction, training manuals, screenplays, a blog, and book reviews. She earned a Master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and has been an active member of Sisters in Crime since 1995, currently serving as treasurer of the Atlanta chapter. Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, she now lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, and volunteers for the Fayette Humane Society.

Website: sharonmarchisello.com (https://smarchisello.wordpress.com/)

Social Media Links:

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https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4297807.Sharon_Marchisello

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Photos source: Sharon Marchisello

WHY KEEP WRITING?

Reasons for me not to write any more:

  1. Reached retirement age long ago.
  2. I’ve never been a best-seller.
  3. If I didn’t write I’d have more time to enjoy life, family and friends.

Despite the three reasons I listed, I still have  a need to write the last Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. She’s retired now and I want to send her off into a happy future and tie up a few loose ends for her and her husband. I’ve been hanging out with them both for so long, it is hard to say, “goodbye.”

I did manage to end my Rocky Bluff P.D. series (written under the name of F. M. Meredith) with Reversal of Fortune.

In case you might wonder if I have plans for another series, the answer is probably not.

I do want to write another mystery, a young adult set in Los Angeles during World War II. Why, you might ask. Because that’s where and when I grew up. It was a different time in so many ways and I have some great memories of what went on: Air raid drills at home and at school, Block warden meetings where the kids had a great time playing in the dark while the grown up learned to roll bandages and other tasks, victory gardens, food and gas rationing, being free to go wherever I wanted all day as long as I was home in time for dinner, and telling my friends wild stories like what I said was the truth.

Not sure if it will interest anyone, but I plan to write it anyway.

Marilyn

Guest Blogger ~ Lois Winston

Truth, Lies, and Fiction

My plots have always been influenced by real-life crimes and human-interest stories. However, with Guilty as Framed, my latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, the story is more than influenced by an actual crime; it incorporates that crime, one that has fascinated me for decades, into the story. This, of course, posed various challenges, especially since it involved a cold case that was rife with lies, misdirection, and botched investigations.

The crime in question was the 1990 burglary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, considered the largest art heist in history. The theft consisted of priceless masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and others. It involved such disparate characters as a pot-smoking security guard, the Irish mob, and even the Pope. It included the unsolved murders of some of the suspects and as the years passed, the deaths of most of the persons of interest.

There were sworn statements by mob relatives and associates claiming to have seen some of the missing paintings over the years, as well as speculation that the artworks are in Saudi Arabia. And in what must be one of the oddest law enforcement press conferences on record, thirteen years after the robbery, the head of the Boston FBI announced the crime had been solved, although he presented none of the missing artworks nor announced any arrests. He then ended with a plea to the public for help in solving the case.

True crime and cozy mystery are two distinct genres. One is fiction; the other is not. But in weaving a true crime into my fiction, I wanted to hone as closely as possible to the actual events of the case. To do so, I had to take some creative liberties. I decided to focus my story around one specific incident that involved a mob associate and his wife, weaving that aspect of the actual investigation into my plot.

Even though these people have since died, I changed their names and the names of other suspects and persons of interest who I incorporated into my story. (When dealing with members of organized crime, even ones long dead, it’s best to play it safe!) I also created additional characters, thus enabling me to weave a thirty-two-year-old Boston cold case into a series that takes place in present-day New Jersey.

Guilty as Framed is the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. In each book I’ve challenged myself to create stories unlike my previous ones. No reader wants to read a book where only the names and places (and possibly the murder weapon) differ from other books in the series. This current book was my greatest creative leap to date. I’m hoping readers find the book as enjoyable to read as I did to write.

Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

Buy Links

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3QLEYU5

Hardcover: https://amzn.to/3Ans5s6

Kindle: https://amzn.to/3tLnT3d

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/guilty-as-framed

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/guilty-as-framed/id6442846272

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guilty-as-framed-lois-winston/1141500980?ean=2940185728703

USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Words are Power by Paty Jager

When I looked up the word “limbo” to make sure I was using it correctly, I found more than one meaning! That is what I love about words and using them to make stories. If you use a word one way it means one thing and the same word can mean something else when used in a different sentence.

The mystery of words has always fascinated me. When my, by one year, older than me brother started reading, I peered over his shoulder, capturing the words and discovering the sounds letters made if they were placed with this letter or a different letter.

Who came up with that? I mean over the centuries the various cultures and people came up with their own set of marks that made sense to them. But how did they distinguish the sounds each mark or letter made? How did they decide which letters together made which sounds?

For my Spotted Pony Casino mystery books, I’ve been incorporating Umatilla language words into the story. It helps to show the culture and bring a little more Indigenous feel to my characters who are Umatilla. I’ve listened to Youtube videos where they speak the language. It sounds so different from the words that are spelled out with unique characters.

The Indigenous languages were spoken long before the Anglo people arrived with their alphabet. How did they, the Indigenous people decide which of the Anglo alphabet worked for their words? I’ll have to ask a Umatilla linguist I know and see if he can help me with this, one of many question that stir around in my head at 2 AM the nights my brain won’t shut down.

Words are so useful and yet can also destroy a relationship, a person, even a country. Knowing the right words to string together is powerful. Or it can be destructive. Words are power!

Book three in the Spotted Pony Casino mysteries will be released in ebook and the following week in print.

Double Down

A donkey, a three-legged dog, and a war-scarred veteran outwit the killer.

Dela Alvaro is the main suspect in the stabbing death of a man she stopped from beating his wife to death.  The detective she abhors is ready to toss her in jail and not look for any other suspects. When FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce is called in and Tribal Officer Heath Seaver is forbidden to work the case, Dela decides to find the killer.

Was it the wife, the drug dealer, or the man wanting to take over the victim’s business? Dela and Heath ask questions and work to prove her innocence. If she is found guilty not only will she lose her life but she’ll never be able to solve the secret of her father.  

Universal Buy Link:

https://books2read.com/u/4D6Wa7

WHEN AGING IS A CRIME? by J.L. Greger

The sale of anti-aging products in the U.S. is estimated to about $12 billion annually. The worldwide market may be four times at large. Not surprisingly, mislabeling and false claims for these products are rampant.

Although there is no doubt that injections of BOTOX and other botulinum products are effective in reducing the signs of aging (i.e. reducing crow’s feet around the eyes, laugh lines, and wrinkles on the brow), many doubt the wisdom of—but not the profits from—BOTOX parties. At these events, women receive injections of botulinum toxin at multiple sites in a party environment in someone’s home with plenty of food and alcohol. Nevada has now banned these at-home parties. Many states require that injections at these parties be made by a physician or nurse. However, basic safety requirements are more difficult to maintain at these parties than in a clinic.

In the U.S., the FDA is the chief agency monitoring the safety of cosmetic products and assessing the veracity of the claims. Many Americans don’t realize FDA can not only fine but also incarcerate manufacturers and spa/store owners that knowingly produce, advertise and sell dangerous or mislabeled items.

I like to describe the situation in the cosmetic industry this way: those who try to make the public believe it is a crime to look old are sometimes committing crimes. That’s a basic premise in my new mystery.

In FAIR COMPROMISES, twenty residents in New Mexico come into clinics and doctors’ offices complaining of double or blurred vision, sagging eyelids, and headaches the day after a political rally. Public health workers quickly hypothesize the cause was botulism toxin in improperly home canned food served at the rally. Unfortunately, one individual’s symptoms are much more severe. If her muscle paralysis continues unchecked, she will die. New Mexico health officials contact the FBI because that patient is a candidate for the U.S. Senate and they fear she may have been targeted.

The mystery turns from being the analysis of a severe food safety breach to the investigation of a diabolical murder attempt using “cosmetic” botulism toxin when scientist Sara Almquist with the help of a talented FBI lab crew discover a more sinister source of the toxin at a health and beauty spa in Santa Fe. FDA officials then help the FBI solve this case and seek justice for the victims.

FAIR COMPROMISES has message: It’s not a crime to show your age and the relentless search for youthful beauty can be dangerous.

Now you’re ready for some fun. Read FAIR COMPROMISES and see what happens to a politician who tried too hard to look young.

Fair Compromises

In FAIR COMPROMISES, Sara Almquist and her FBI colleagues rush to find who endangered the lives of a hundreds at a political rally by poisoning the food with botulism toxin. The poisoners’ target was a woman candidate for the U.S. Senate; the rest were just collateral damage. As these agents track clues from a veterans’ hall in Clovis to health spas of Santa Fe, they must make a multitude of personal and professional (perhaps too many) compromises.

https://www.amazon.com/Fair-Compromises-Science-Traveler-Greger/dp/1735421421

J.L. Greger is a scientist turned novelist. She includes science and international travel in her award-winning mysteries and thrillers: The Flu Is Coming, Games for Couples; Dirty Holy Water, Fair Compromises, and seven others. https://www.jlgreger.com