The 1960s were turbulent and passionate and colorful. Since the first time I put pen to paper, about thirteen years ago, I’ve wanted to write a story set in those vibrant days. But until recently, every time I tried, my efforts seemed weak and whimsical at best. And then I visited a town I’d all but forgotten about.
In the Black Hills of central Arizona (yes, I said Arizona), Jerome hangs on the side of a mountain as it has since the mining days of the 1800s. Once known as the wickedest town in the west, Jerome all but died out in the 1950s. The population dipped to under 100 people. Then the hippies discovered the abandoned homes and buildings and settled in to create a ghost town full of art and wine. No new buildings are allowed within the city limits unless they are constructed on existing foundations and must resemble the surrounding buildings. Jerome looks much like it did in the 1920s.
Me in a haunted hotel in Jerome
I love this place. Jerome became my fictional Joshua. The inspiration came alive for me, and The MacKenzie Chronicles resulted.
In the pages of the first book, Secrets of the Ravine, I was able to tell a 1960s story of those early hippie settlers that has an impact on the mystery that unfolds in today’s world. Each of the three books will tell the story of one of the MacKenzie siblings whose parents met in the 60s hippie heyday, stayed in Joshua, and raised Magpie Muse MacKenzie, Harlan Muse MacKenzie, and Elidor Muse MacKenzie. Dad Frank Harlan MacKenzie is an artist of metal and wood. Mom Susie Muse is a mystic, empath, aura reader, with all of the wonderful mind-expanding fascinations of the 60s. Their children have inherited both artistic abilities and mystical talents in varying degrees. Those gifts will help them solve murder and mystery in each book.
Do you believe in intuition? Empathic vibrations? How about clairsentience (“clear feeling,” describes someone who receives intuitive or psychic information through their tactile sense and emotions)? I do and have had some real-life experiences. Care to share yours with us? Please do. We’d love to hear.
Give me a one or two-sentence review right here, and I’ll enter you in a drawing to receive an eBook. No matter what you think, you have a chance to win. Let’s leave it open for a week, and I’ll draw a winner on October 5th out of those who comment about the first chapter.
Secrets of the Ravine
When a ringer for her long-dead love walks into her life the same day skeletal remains are found at the edge of town, Magpie MacKenzie can’t ignore what the universe is telling her…solve the mystery, or become the next victim.
Lawyer Zack Peartree’s life is orderly and entanglement-free until he visits purportedly haunted Joshua, Arizona, and meets free-wheeling shopkeeper Magpie. Despite experiencing troubling visions and odd moments of déjà vu, Zack’s instantly drawn to Magpie and to the unsolved murder which troubles her so.
Using clues from her father’s past and Zack’s déjà vu moments, Magpie and Zack race to solve the mystery, avoid a murderous fate, and to discover their future…together.
Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure stories with a touch of romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart, splitting their time between Central Arizona and the RV life. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes.
Thank you, Delilah, for hosting me on your blog today. I’m very excited to be here.
One question I get asked a lot is how I come up with my story ideas.Some are based on experiences, things I see or read, and some are based on my family.
I was so excited when my first book was published. I had worked hard on it with my editor. It was a very proud moment when I saw it on Amazon. It was a time travel romance with a handsome druid knight and modern history professor. Everyone loved the book except one reviewer. I read and re-read the critique and finally realized only a small part of the review was about the story, the rest was a personal attack. Devastated, I spoke to a good friend. A day later I had an email from a very well-published author who talked to me about reviews.
How did I turn that into a story? I used some of that review in the opening to my book Happily Ever After. Well-published author Beth Alexander has fallen off all the list and blames it on a bad review that has gone viral and the new author JD Watson, who has replaced her. She has no idea JD is the man romance covers are made of. He may have been the cause of her fall from literary stardom but only until he became her salvation!
One of my stories is about my brother and his wife. They had been married for ten years when they discovered their marriage had never been registered. Their second wedding was wonderful, but it got me thinking about what I could do with that storyline. You can find Alan and Eloise’s story—yes, I used their real first names—in How to Marry a Stuart Brother.
My most recent story, Heart of the Matter, also comes from a family incident. My mother left me her small bible that was handed down in the family. It had a beautiful mother of pearl cover. I was looking through it and found a letter. It was addressed to my mother but wasn’t in my father’s distinctive handwriting.
This was a story begging to be written. This is truly a love story that just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Heart of the Matter
Digging into the past can be murder…
Addison Moore, a well-known psychiatrist, is having difficulty coming to terms with the death of her grandmother Cookie. The woman was everything to her after her parents died in the plane crash over Lockerbie, Scotland. Little did Addy know that an old picture, tucked away in the family bible of Cookie with a handsome stranger would lead her to a discovery for which she is little prepared.
Ethan Taylor is an art historian. He’s lived with his Great Uncle Ben for a long time and would do anything for him. He never anticipated that Ben’s dying wish would introduce him to Ben’s biggest sacrifice.
Neither Addy nor Ethan are prepared for the lengths at which their families went through to keep Cookie and Ben apart. As they try to put the pieces together, they uncover a decade’s old unsolved murder implicating Cookie and Ben. Will Addy and Ethan’s blossoming love be able to stand the strain of finding the truth? Will they be able to overcome their own matters of the heart?
Excerpt from Heart of the Matter
Havenport, Rhode Island
The dull thud of earth hitting the casket again and again tore at Addy’s heart. Generations of Foxes filled the small family cemetery. Some died well into their old age while others died much before they ever lived, the youngest only nineteen days. Addison Moore looked out over the low wall surrounding the family graves, past the cliff, to the ocean beyond. The beauty of the day and the sailboats gliding across the water was lost on her. Addy gaped at the shovel in her hand then the half-covered casket. A movement to her right made her turn. She faced a lone man standing across the grave, bowed in reverence. She didn’t want to interrupt but couldn’t pull her gaze away. He straightened, raised his head, and she stared into the most compelling gray eyes she’d ever seen. The mingled expression of eagerness and tenderness momentarily blurred her pain, but nothing could ease her grief. Her chest tightened. She struggled for breath against lungs unwilling to operate. Beads of sweat dampened her forehead. Her pounding heart echoed in her ears. Again, she tried to take a breath. Nothing.
“Stay calm. Open your mouth,” the man demanded.
But nothing went in or came out. Breathe, damn it! The silent scream echoed in her head. Her lungs burned for air.
Her eyes flew open. Her breath stuttered. One gasp followed another. Addy gaped at the book in her hand, not quite comprehending what she held. A quick glance at the room and the cobwebs cleared. She was alone. Her body sank deeper into the overstuffed chair. Her tension eased. She took a calming breath and let the life-giving air fill her lungs. Home. Her panic subsided and details of the library came into view. The safety of her family’s old Victorian house, Fox Hole Manor, held her close.
The memory faded until it became a lost dream. Only fragments of the disconnected emotional panic permeated her psyche. She rose and put the psychology book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, in one of the many boxes scattered around the room. The bookcase with several empty shelves stared back at her like a boxer’s smile with several missing teeth. She made progress, slow, but progress nonetheless.
The hint of ginger floating on the dusty air made her turn toward the hall. A smile spread across her face. Her grandmother. Many people would expect a robust woman with gray hair, and perhaps an apron and the aroma of freshly baked apple pie coming from the kitchen. Not Addy’s grandmother, who stood tall, sleek, a well-dressed woman with short light auburn hair streaked with silver, and sporting only a touch of make-up.
“Make sure the shelves are dusted and the floor swept. I don’t want the historical society to think I didn’t keep a clean house. Besides, you never know when company may arrive.”
Everything had a place in Cookie’s house, including the twist ties lined up in the kitchen drawer. The woman kept every book, note, piece of paper, everything. Cookie considered herself organized, not compulsive. More often than not, their ongoing discussion, with examples, brought them both to tears.
Fox Hole Manor was one of the oldest homes on Manor Road, an area where the old guard lived in their grand mansions, an extension of the magnificent estates across the causeway in Newport. The children of each generation found a closeness and a tie that lasted a lifetime. They were civic-minded and politically active, with Havenport at the heart and soul of it all.
All those years ago, Edythe Emerson, of the annual Halloween Masquerade Ball fame, and Cookie rallied the other residents on Manor Road and established the Manor Road Christmas Cookie Exchange. One hundred percent of the proceeds went to the Havenport Historical Society.
Nothing was done small on Manor Road, not even the annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. Cookie and Edythe decided on the themes for their houses and each year added touches and refined the décor. The Emersons decided on an elegant Victorian Christmas. Her grandmother branded her event Cups and Cookies at Cookie’s, which brought peals of laughter from everyone. Her grandmother put her heart and soul into decorating the house and handled this event with the same attention. Each meticulously decorated room on the tour represented a different faith’s winter celebration.
Hot chocolate with a dash of cinnamon and pungent ginger cookies greeted each visitor entering the Garden Room. The cups and cookies were always arranged on the table with precision. Yes. Everything had its place. No one would ever accuse her grandmother of a messy house.
The outside of the house, with its welcoming front porch and strategically placed flowerpots in place of railings, was just as important to Cookie as the inside and made Fox Hole Manor at Christmas a mecca for tourists. A must-see stop during the holidays. People came to watch the live deer that magically stayed on the lawn, the 1936 red Cadillac convertible filled with wrapped gifts parked outside the front door in the circular drive, and hear holiday music playing from strategically hidden speakers.
“I’ll make sure everything is neat and clean,” Addy said. “Is there anything else?”
“Concerning yesterday,” Cookie said.
She gave her grandmother a withering glance.
“There’s a finality in shoveling dirt onto the casket. The task takes a lot of love. I’m proud of you. All-in-all, the funeral was well-attended.”
Addy shuddered and searched for her cup of tea without success. “Please find another topic. This one creeps me out.”
Cookie raised a finely shaped eyebrow. “Should we discuss you finding a husband?”
Addy’s eyes welled up.
“So you made a bad choice. Live and learn. I think you should have waited. Neither of you knew each other very long.”
“We lived together for two years. I thought we knew each other very well.”
Another of Cookie’s stares meant to intimidate almost comforted her.
“You came to your senses before the wedding.”
Addie came to her senses a year ago. Her grandmother had it right, as usual. Don’t settle. Wait for the right man.
“It’s time for you to move on. Find your destiny.” Cookie leaned against the door frame. “What’s-his-name was an okay guy. I even liked him until you rushed here and cried in my arms. Afterwards, I pretty much hated him. Has he stopped calling you?”
“Yes,” Addy lied.
Cookie gave her a stink eye.
“Why the evil eye?” she asked, sounding like a high school teenager.
“You are aware Kenneth doesn’t believe the two of you are over. He doesn’t think sleeping with his secretary for the last year of your relationship has anything to do with you. The very obtuse boy thinks you have cold feet, not a cold heart, and doesn’t believe you’ll ever find a better man than him.” Her grandmother’s voice was quiet, but deadly. “I’m holding you to your promise. You’ll wait for the right man. Are you listening to me? Not just any man, not an okay man. The right man. Your destiny.”
Addy nodded. The words were etched in her brain, Cookie said them so often, even well before Kenneth Kendall made it into her diary.
“Was Grandpa Sky the right man?” She could play the deflect game, too.
Cookie smiled one of those wistful smiles loaded with silent meaning, said nothing and headed down the hall.
Addy followed, intent on getting an answer. She entered the kitchen. Empty. Her heart sank. Last Friday’s paper sat on the table next to her cold half-empty cup of tea.
“This is the story of Dr. Jessica Fox Jordan. Jessica was a wonderful woman who was loved, is missed, and will always be cherished. Called “Cookie,” by her only granddaughter, Addison Moore and a privileged few close friends, “Honey,” by her husband Skylar, and Jessie to everyone else, was an amazing wife, mother, grandmother, psychiatrist, and baker of the most amazing cookies. No one could bake a better ginger cookie than Jessica. Attendance at Fox Hole Manor for the Manor Road Christmas Cookie Exchange proves my point. Jessica Fox Jordan was the only child of Madison and Mildred Fox. Madison Fox was the colorful and flamboyant founder of the privately-owned Fox Brewery. Jessica is predeceased by her husband, Skylar; her daughter, Agatha Jordan Moore; and son-in-law, Phillip Moore. She is survived by her granddaughter, Addison Moore.”
The sense of loss hit her hard all over again.
“I miss you, Cookie.” A nervous laugh sounding more like a croak escaped her lips. “I’m not ready to let you go.”
When I began writing in the Brotherhood Protectors World last year, I wanted to create characters and stories that would cross over into my cozy mystery series and yet still be romantic suspense.
So I came up with the concept of creating a case of younger characters who are related in some way, fashion or form to the older characters in my cozy mystery series.
I thought this would be a good way to create great romantic suspense stories that might bring readers over to my mystery series out of curiosity to find out more about the town of Mercy, Mississippi — and the quirky characters who live there.
My first book in the Brotherhood Protectors World, Persuading Piper, features Ian “Hawkeye” Elliott, who is the son of the real estate agent in the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery series. He’s come back to Mercy, Mississippi to conduct undercover protection for the town mayor. Trouble is, Piper, the daughter of the mayor, is his high school sweetheart and the one woman he could never forget.
My second book in the Brotherhood Protectors World, Handling Harley Ann, just came out. In this book, Harley Ann is the great-niece of Miss Edna — the eighty-year-old town busybody in the Lily Gayle Lambert mystery series. In this book, Harley Ann’s criminal past comes back to haunt her. And, Jesse “Bird Dog” Miller just happens to be in town visiting his buddy Ian. Jesse won’t stand for any craziness going on around the lady he’s just discovered he might be falling for.
It’s been great fun to write a romantic suspense series that crosses over into my mystery series and yet appeals to a broad audience. I plan to continue to weave the two series together in the future and give readers a birds-eye view into multiple generations in a small town.
About the Author
Susan Boles is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery series and a contributing author to Elle James’ Brotherhood Protectors World.
A lifelong love of all things mysterious led Susan to write mystery and suspense stories. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were the first to show her that girls can be crime solvers, Agatha Christie showed her that even small towns have big secrets, and Phryne Fisher showed the that lady detectives can be outrageously individual. Combining romance with the mystery is just the cherry on top of the writing cake!
She lives in Mississippi with her rescue mini dachshund, Lucy and her rescue cat of no particular breed, Zimba.
When I started writing CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery I had a picture in mind for an adult version of Goldie Locks, based on the fairytale character, with long flowing blonde locks and an impulsiveness that gets her in constant trouble. But finding just the right hero proved harder.
Would her perfect happily ever after be with Beau White or Jack B. Nimble?
Beau White checks all the boy-next-door boxes. While being the fairest man in all the land, he loves Goldie beyond compare, and even had earned the respect of the Bears, her adoptive parents.
Though her history with the tarnished Jack B. Nimble, as well as his bad boy looks, made him a dark horse. Whereas he professes his desire for her, can Goldie trust a man who spent the last fifteen years of his life running cons across all five kingdoms? After all, he’s had one too many faked spills down hills for Goldie’s peace of mind.
If only I had a fairy godmother like that snobby Cinderella to help me choose…
Which romantic hero appeals to you most?
The Boy-Next-Door or the Bad Boy?
Detective Goldie Locks isn’t looking for just the right bed. Or any bed for that matter.
She’s on the hunt for a killer.
When she discovers the fingerprints of a once-upon-a-time lover, a man who jumped over a candlestick and out a window to leave her facing some serious trespassing trouble alone, at a crime scene, she vows to see him in handcuffs.
Jack B. Nimble has other ideas.
He threatens her adoptive family if Goldie doesn’t help him clear his villainous name, much to the chagrin of her current boyfriend and quite possibly the next mayor, Beau White, the fairest man in all the land.
Trying to prove his innocence turns out to be harder than she expected, especially when Jack refuses to aid in his defense, and instead, starts a campaign to ‘win’ her back. Goldie might be a blond, but she’s far from dumb enough to fall for his charms a second time.
Or so she tells herself every time his lips meet hers.
The deeper she plows into the rabbit hole and Jack’s soul, the more she learns about his motives for returning to the city—Destroying her perfectly crafted life.
About the Author
J.A. Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. When she isn’t looking for a place to hide the bodies, she devotes her time to playing with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplants. She spent a few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 15 titles. Visit her website at jakazimer.com and sign up for her THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MURDER Newsletter.
How do you build your characters? Most people develop character charts. Others use tarot cards or enneagrams. I decided to go back to astrology signs for my WIP to cause more conflict. What I’ve done for many of my books I do a chart; Heroine – her characteristics. Then I draw a line down the middle of the page and on the other side of the page I do my Hero’s characteristics and I try to make them conflict with the heroine’s characteristics. As I write the story, I solve one conflict at a time.
For example: Carly is a strong, intelligent woman, who runs a large company. On the other side, Link Stone is a strong man who doesn’t like strong women or being told what to do by a woman. That’s one conflict they have to work out in The Fourth Victim.
The Fourth Victim – Sara’s Story
Sara’s emotionally abusive husband dies unexpectedly. She’s struggling to reclaim the intelligent, independent person she was before she married. She vows never to let a man take over her life again. Now she’s part of a special team, training to help other women and on the track of a serial killer.
Mac is been responsible for training women in special ops techniques, so they are prepared when they are challenged to save other women. When he meets Sara, sparks fly between them. He wants her to quit the training and let him take care of her.
Can Mac step back and trust her in a dangerous situation? Can Sara and Mac resolve their issues, or will they go in opposite directions?
Murder, mystery and romance fills award-winning, Canadian author and blogger, Beverley Bateman’s life. She loves to plot, kill and hopefully baffle the reader. Her nursing and public health nursing background helps with some details and administering a community care facility program had her investigating and directing investigations into irregularities and sometimes a death. She even has court experience.
She began writing in her preteens and loved to write locked room mysteries. Reading Nancy Drew helped her figure out plots. Facing breast cancer, she decided she needed to do what she’d always wanted and began to write. She completed her first romantic suspense novel and hasn’t stopped writing since. She recently moved and now lives among ranches and wheat fields in southern Alberta, with her husband and Shiba Inu dog.
I first visited Amelia Island to attend the Amelia Island Book Festival, and was struck by the crazy quilt of events it had witnessed. Known as the Isle of Eight Flags, it had seen wave after wave of conquering armies, some big—like the Spanish, and some tiny—like the Patriots of Amelia Island, who mustered nine gunboats and maybe a hundred men. Timucuan Indians, French, Spanish, pirates, Scots mercenaries, Confederate and Union soldiers—all occupied the tiny island at one point or another. It also has a sizable Geechee (Gullah) community. Faced with a setting like that, who wouldn’t want to craft a nice little murder mystery?
The main town, Fernandina Beach, contains several historical buildings, a marina, and Fort Clinch. Built in 1847 by the US, the fort sits on the northern corner of the island, protecting the entrance to the Amelia River. South of it is Egan’s Creek, a marshy area. In Flotsam & Jetsam, four bodies are discovered, ranging from north of the fort all the way to Egan’s Marsh. While Ellie and Simon investigate the deaths, they have to draw on much of Amelia Island’s colorful history. I hope readers find it as fascinating as I do.
Flotsam and Jetsam: The Amelia Island Affair
Who’s littering the park with corpses?
State Park Rangers Simon Ribault and Ellie Ironstone are used to dealing with messy campers and ravaging raccoons, but when three bodies wash up on the beach, they mobilize all their powers of deduction. Who are they and how did they get to the shore of Amelia Island? Are they connected to the secretive League of the Green Cross? Or linked to a mysterious Jamaican drug ring?
Ellie, new to Amelia Island, must penetrate a close-knit community if she wants to find answers to the mystery, all while deciding between two rivals for her affection: Thad, the handsome local idol, and Simon, the clever, quirky bookworm.
Simon, for his part, will have to call on his not-so-well-honed romantic prowess to lure Ellie away from Thad and at the same time use his wide-ranging research skills to solve the case.
Excerpt: First Kiss
The magic word. He walked the finger up her arm, circled her neck, and brought her lips to his. The kiss lingered, but not enough to satisfy him. He had adored this little creature for so long—since she arrived at the fort in fact, in a crisp new uniform, her campaign hat still unfaded, her expression a mix of terror and determination. He had fallen like a shooting star and could still feel the burn marks. But he had never in his wildest dreams thought she might feel the same way. He sat back, letting his hand fall.
She pulled him toward her and kissed him again. As the kiss wound down, they heard a tapping on the window. Georgia stood on the sidewalk grinning. “There’s a hotel around the corner, you know.”
Simon swiveled to look at Ellie and found himself the butt of a furious, hissing face. “You.”
“Me? What are you talking about?”
“Two-faced, two-timing, two-dollar bill. Or should I say multiple timing. How many other women do you have hidden in island nooks and crannies—this island which you know so well?”
“Huh?” This isn’t going as swimmingly as I thought. “I…uh.”
“Take me home. Now.”
When they rolled up in front of Ellie’s house, a cheery yellow bungalow on Fletcher Avenue with a wide porch and hanging geraniums, a silver sports car sat at the curb. Oh great, the mighty Thad.
Simon’s nemesis disentangled himself from the wheel. Slowly, as if for maximum effect, he unfurled his powerful body, planting his size fourteen shoes solidly on the ground. A beefy hand languidly brushed the sandy hair from his forehead. Strapping shoulders squared, he loped over.
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents,the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. She has two grown children and a perfect granddaughter. Ms. Spencer has published twelve mystery/romantic suspense novels, and currently divides her time between Florida and Maine.
A big shout out of thanks to Delilah for having me on her blog. This time of year, I’m all about Halloween… and of course murder…and well doughnuts…and vodka. My newest book is a novella about all those things!
Murder and Treats
Lila Maxwell is coaxed into attending All Treats, a Halloween speed dating event by her best friend. Instead of the soul mate promised one Halloween ghoul after another appears at her door until Cowboy Bill.
Jax Carlson has spent the last year focusing all of his attention on starting his own business. Hiring Lila Maxell over the Internet as his project manager was the final piece to his prefect plan. Set to open for business in three days, Jax plans on spending a couple of days on his boat relaxing. However, his friend Erik has a different idea – a speed dating Halloween party.
Jax has spent the night plotting the best revenge possible for Erik until Sally opens the door. The woman dressed in the pale lavender Harem costume ignites a fire that Jax thought was impossible without the aid of his formulated dating list.
After a night of mind-blowing sex, Lila sneaks out before they exchange real names believing it was no more than a one-night stand.
Lila’s first day is full of surprises, the biggest being Cowboy Bill is actually her new boss, Jax Carlson. She thinks keeping her hormones in check while convincing Jax that love doesn’t follow a formula is complication enough until she learns the participants of the All Treats speed dating event are being killed.
My favorite Halloween doughnut trick is…insert vamp teeth into a sugar doughnut. Drizzle red frosting for blood, or have gummy worms crawling out of the mouth, or decorate with gummy boogers.
My favorite Halloween drink is the wicked witch… it’s caramel vodka, apple vodka, and whip cream vodka all equal parts mixed with apple cider. Sooo good and so wicked.
And just a peek…
Walking into her bedroom, Lila froze mid-stride. On her bed was a knife coated with blood and small plastic number five. The glass slipped from her hand and fell to the floor, spraying her foot and leg with red wine.