About McKenna Dean

from shifters to 1950s paranormal investigators to contemporary love stories, romance lives here.

A Series of Small Doors Closing

TW: Pet loss/grief

A stranger on the internet is grieving the unexpected loss of her elderly cat right now.

So many times, my social media feeds share these bright pinpricks of sorrow, and I’m often at a loss as to how to respond. As an empathetic person, it’s easier for me to be weighed down by posts where someone shares heartbreak than I am buoyed by people’s happy stories. Many times I respond with sympathetic words. Sometimes, for the sake of my own mental health, I scroll by without replying, especially if the person grieving is someone I really don’t know at all.

This particular person is so bereft that I want to make things better for her and yet words are inadequate. Grief must be processed. First it overwhelms you. There’s shock, loss, and the crushing pain of knowing someone or something that you loved will never be there again. You may be the type to rage against it. To fall into despair. Eventually, it recedes. Other traumas occur. Happy events occur. We aren’t designed for sustained grief any more than we’re designed for sustained stress. Our mind will do its best to pretend it’s not there after a while.

I often say animals are the perfect vessels for our affection because they give so much of themselves and love us unconditionally in a way few things on this planet can do. Losing that kind of love, the kind that is glad to see you simply because you walked through the door (and have opposable thumbs to open cans of food), is brutal. If you’ve loved an animal for a long time, it’s been through the good times and the bad times with you. It’s not just a dog or cat. It’s the purring cat who settles on your chest when you’re reading a book, or stretches out a paw just to touch you. It’s the dog who rests his head in your lap at the end of a bad day. It’s the animal who follows you into the next room simply to be where you are. It’s the thousands of photos on your camera roll and all the memories that go with them. It’s a vessel of love that taught you the meaning of joy and how to live in the moment. To have that ripped away–regardless if you saw it coming or not–that’s losing the best part of yourself. 

The path you walk with grief isn’t linear, however. Nor is it the same for everyone. People talk about the five stages of grief but no one really seems to mention that you can skip stages or revisit stages more than once. To me, grief is not a stage but a creature that haunts your footsteps as you walk a trail that has entered a darker section of woods. The sun struggles to break through the trees. The path ahead isn’t clear, and it branches in different directions, sometimes even doubling back on itself. There’s a way out, but you have no idea how long it’s going to take, and you’re walking it alone now, alone except for this sense of something tracking you.

At first, even walking seems impossible. You’re stumbling over roots, or your boots become mired in mud. Breathing hurts. This does get better with time, but just how long it will be before the path evens out again depends on so many things: where you are in your stage of life, what kind of support system you do or do not have. Eventually, that grief creature feels less threatening. You’re never exactly friends with it–but there comes a time when you can nod at it in passing and keep going. There are other times when Grief will nod back with a smile, and then just as you come abreast, it will sucker punch you in the gut and laugh because you didn’t see it coming–six weeks, six months, six years later. Grief doesn’t care. It’s both durable and patient. It can’t be rushed.

As I’m getting older, there’s a new element to my grief: the shutting of small doors.

My friends and I are all getting up there in age. We’re reaching a point in our lives where we have to consider the wisdom and logistics of another pet. More and more of my friends are choosing to remain petless now. I don’t want to think about this stage of my life. My animals have been my chosen family for most of my adult life. I wouldn’t be here now without them. The idea of not having a pet in my life is devastating, and yet at some point, my hand may be forced and another door in my life will close.

I went through an incredible period of loss from 2017-2018. During that time, I lost four cats (two elderly house cats, and two ferals that I loved just the same), my beloved dog, my mother, my uncle, my brother, and my first horse, whom I’d had for 30 years. The punches came so hard and fast I didn’t have time to process one before the next one knocked me flat. 2019 gave me a breather and then we all know what happened starting early in 2020, ha-ha thank you very much, pandemic. In 2021, I lost my last horse, and another door shut for good. I didn’t process grief. I walled it up inside me. I don’t recommend doing this, by the way. It has a terrible way of damaging the foundations, leaking toxic material into the framework and rotting the floors. I walk around in a state of self-protection, closing out those I love in an attempt to prevent any more pain. Don’t do that. Don’t miss out on the joy of what you do have for fear of losing it. That path means you lose it twice. I’m working on dealing with it now that I’m no longer in survival mode. But I suspect healing is going to take rebreaking of metaphorical bones that didn’t heal right in the first place.

Last week, I euthanized my last elderly cat. He’d been doing well with kidney and heart disease right up until the point that he wasn’t anymore. It was the right decision. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier, however. So the pain of some random stranger on the internet is really biting me hard today. I’ve had cats since my freshman year of college. I’ve been incredibly fortunate because my dogs and cats have always gotten along. But my current young dog, a marshmallow in so many ways, discovered a nest of baby bunnies last summer, and since then, he looks at young cats with a whole different gleam in his eye. I’ve decided not to risk introducing another cat–and potential tragedy–into the house at this time. I’m looking at being catless for the foreseeable future, and it’s with tears that I shut another door.

I don’t know what this internet stranger’s circumstances might be. I don’t know if it is possible for her to ever get another cat or if she even would consider one at some point down the road. Some people run out and get another pet right away. Some people know they need more time to process and plan for another pet at some point in the future, and knowing there will be another pet brings them comfort now. Some people decide there will not be any more. Some say there will not be another–and then the right animal, one that needs them as much as they are needed–shows up at the right time. Like navigating grief, choosing to open up your heart again to something whose life is much shorter than ours is an individual decision. Sometimes Grief says one thing, and two weeks later you feel differently. I just know she’s hurting and she’s reached out to the internet for help in how to navigate this pain. Some kind people have shared that they still feel the loss of a beloved pet and that she’s not alone in her grief. Others have made gentle suggestions of things she can do to help her find solace. (One troll suggested they enjoyed having a clean house and being able to vacation whenever they wanted but clearly this person is being a vicious little guttersnipe on purpose, so I hope no one gives them the attention they clearly desire)

I had words to say, but didn’t feel I could adequately convey what I wanted in 240 characters on Twitter. I started to send her this link, but that felt intrusive, so I told her the post existed if she wanted to read it at a time when she was ready. I hope she realizes her cat knows she was loved and treasured, and that is not a small thing. We don’t get enough of that in this world. Choosing to love another pet won’t diminish the presence of Grief shadowing you on that path, but it does mean you won’t walk it alone.

And I hope she can take some small comfort in these words, should she come across them.



The Possibility of a TikTok Ban is real…

Most of you know I fell in love with TikTok a few years ago, and abandoned almost every other social media platform in its favor. I have so much FUN on the clock app. I get more engagement there than on any other platform. A Facebook page is of no use to me if only a fraction of my followers see my posts. I’ve met so many wonderful indie authors and discovered so many amazing books. TikTok allowed me to tap into a long-dormant flare for the dramatic that brought joy back into creating posts.

@mckennadeanfiction #booktok #cozymystery #cozymysteryseries #ginnyreesemysteries #mkdean #cozymysterybooktok โ™ฌ original sound – Josh Patton

Come on! It’s funny! And I love the versatility of the filters to allow me to change my look on a dime, become different characters for silly little skits, and so on. Did I sell many books? Hard to say, though I’ll share one stat with you:

Last year, I did a stacked free promotion of An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1). A few days before the Big Promotion, word of the free status of the book got out on a Facebook group. I got about 200 downloads. Everyone advised me to push through with announcing the special discount since the cat was already out of the bag. So I sent the word out through my newsletter: another couple hundred downloads. I posted to Facebook, Instagram, and what used to be Twitter: another couple of hundred downloads. I posted to TikTok: THREE THOUSAND DOWNLOADS IN 24 HOURS. The day of the promotion, I got another 4 K downloads. I’d given away free books before, and had not seen nearly the same success. The only difference is sharing about the promo on TikTok. And yes, that was a freebie, but I garnered more than 300 reviews from that free promotion, and many readers went on to get the next books in the series as well.

The proposal to ban TikTok has come up before, and like most users, I tuned into the hearings. Frankly, I was appalled at the lack of courtesy, respect, and basic understanding of the app shown by the members of Congress toward the CEO of TikTok’s parent company. I also felt like the objections Congress had against TikTok applied to ALL social media apps, including Facebook (and yet no one seems to wish to challenge FB on that…). TikTok denies data sharing with the Chinese government. Nothing seemed to come of it, and the furor died down.

I’ll be perfectly honest, when Live Journal moved all its operations to Russia, I refused to sign the new TOS for over a year, and then only agreed to the terms so I could delete my account. I firmly believe our personal thoughts, opinions, and passions have been combed by the Russian government to use against their opponents in widespread disinformation campaigns. I also believe Facebook’s love of the almighty dollar has done irreparable damage to the US political system by allowing the spread of misinformation go unchecked. So I can understand the concerns. Especially when China is one of the largest holders of the US debt, with something like 868 billion out of a 7 trillion debt.

But now the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a rare bi-partisan action, voted unanimously to bring a bill to the House floor that would require ByteDance to sell off TikTok or face a nationwide US ban. This suggests to me there is a perceived (and serious) security risk by both parties.

But is it really? Or is that many of the creators on the app raise uncomfortable questions about Gaza, women’s rights, or any of a dozen or more causes I can name? Twitter used to be such a platform, and what happened? It was bought by Elon Musk and became largely a conservative echo chamber, and another pay-to-play platform, thus silencing voices with the most to lose and the least ability to pay to be heard. 

Maybe I’m just upset because one of the few spaces I enjoy being online has become threatened with extinction, along with my ability as a no-name indie author to get word about my stories out there without spending money I don’t have. Maybe I’m just exhausted by the thought of trying to resurrect engagement on platforms that weren’t servicing me well in the past. Maybe the notion of getting on such platforms during an election year and seeing nothing but negative news and false information makes me want to pull my hair out. Or perhaps I’m sad at the thought of losing touch with the friends I’ve made. It’s no good saying I can do the same in other platforms: I can’t. The tools and engagement simply aren’t there. Not for someone like me, who isn’t young, beautiful, and thin.

So maybe I am defending my favorite platform out of a misguided assessment of any security risks it may pose. Those risks don’t seem any greater than any other SM platform that DOES sell our data and relentlessly pushes tailored ads in our direction. Or maybe I’m horribly wrong, and for the sake of national security, the app really should be banned.

I don’t know.

But I have to say, it’s starting to feel like the time for small creators of all kinds is over. Next up, AI replaces us all.

The Chaotic Hype Awards: Good Clean Fun… Mostly.

If you didn’t already know, I’m spending most of my social media time on TikTok these days. There’s something about the platform that appeals to the actor in me, and I have more fun on that platform than any other.

Right now, I’ve been nominated for the Chaotic Hype Awards! This is a crazy annual awards event hosted by BookTokker @chaosandbooktalk. I’m in two categories: Best Mystery Author (as McKenna Dean) and Most Likely to have an Alphabet Agency Watching Them (as MK Dean). The competition is FIERCE and needs to be thinned out. Help a mystery writer out? You can vote in the awards here (and not just mystery: romance, voice actors, reviewers and more)! 

Here’s a little sample of the fun we’ve been having…


@mk_dean_author The Chaotic Hype Book Awards will be announced a week from today: February 10th at 7 pm EST with @Chaos and Booktalk ๐Ÿ“š You can only vote once so choose wisely! Lynx to the voting can be found in the clicky place in my personal biography! #mysterywriter #mysterytok #ginnyreesemysteries #chaotichypeawards2024 #chaotichypeawards #dundundun #bookbesties #hypegirlsquad โ™ฌ original sound – MK Dean Cozy Mystery Author

Barking All the Way (A Ginny Reese Holiday Novella) is now available!

It’s here! Barking All the Way (A Ginny Reese Holiday Novella) is now available!

The bummer is that, at the moment, Amazon is not showing Barking All the Way either by title search, author name, or series name. The only way you can find it is with a direct link. I would LOVE it if you could help me spread the word! Drop me a comment here below telling me where you’ve shared the link and I will pick 3 people at random to win a $10 Amazon GC!

House-call veterinarian, Ginny Reese, is determined to embrace the spirit of the season this year. Maybe it’s because she’s lost a good friend, or because fate has been kind to her, and she wants to give back to the community. Maybe it’s because spending more time with Sheriff Joe Donegan, her ex-boyfriend, has her feeling like she’s living in a Hallmark movie. Either way, she’s planning to get into the holiday spirit if it kills her.

And it just might. There’s a Grinch in town, committing petty robberies and vandalism, but the crimes seem to be escalating. Can Ginny, with the help of her trusty German Shepherd, Remington, nab a thief in time to save Christmas for everyone, including herself?

Recipes included! (I know, I’m not a great cook, but trust me, these are tested and proven recipes!) Look, I made these! Aren’t they adorable? The recipe is in the book!

Melting Snowmen Cookies

Contest ends December 12, 2023. Winners announced here!

Halloween fun: Help me name the next Ginny Reese Mystery!

This past weekend, I participated in an outdoor book signing at a dog agility trial. Makes sense, right? Dog lovers will adore the Ginny Reese Mysteries! As a matter of fact one competitor advised a buyer not to start reading An Embarrassment of Itches until after the event was over because she’d started it the night before and stayed up far too late to be at her best for the competition. What better endorsement than that? Even though I did feel a little guilty…

All weekend long, I was fanning myself in 80 degree weather and slathering on sunscreen, but now, only forty-eight hours later, it’s only 43 degrees and we’re under a freeze warning for tonight. I made bread and potato soup this morning, have a fake fireplace playing on YouTube, and some light jazz playing in the background while I work on a Ginny Reese holiday novella. I still need a title for it, so I thought we could play a little game.

This pet and holiday themed mystery features a Secret Santa mixup and is focused on a Christmas caper as opposed to murder. Drop your suggestion in the comments and if I select it, you’ll receive an acknowledgement as well as a little gift package from me. I’ll also choose three people at random from the comments to win a $10 Amazon gift card–and we can all use that for the holidays, right? Contest ends Nov 15th because I have to have a title by then! Be sure to share this with your cozy mystery loving–and dog loving–friends!



June is Audiobook Month! Celebrate with a Chance at a Gift Card!

Did you know June was audiobook month? I didn’t until recently! I love audiobooks–the right pairing between narrator and story is magical. All this month, N.N. Light’s Book Heaven is celebrating audiobook month by spotlighting a series of authors (including me) who have audiobooks out. You can enter to win a chance at a $75 Amazon gift card! You’ll find the entire schedule at the link above.


Check out the link here and be sure to check daily for the featured spotlight. You may just find something you have to have! An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) narrated by Jillian Yetter, will be spotlighted on June 26th, so keep your eye out for that. But you don’t have to wait until then to start collecting entries toward the grand prize. Go check it out now! 

A Corpse in the Condo (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book3) Coming Soon!

If you follow my newsletter (on the rare occasions I send one out), you know that I’ve made changes to my brand, streamlining it to my paranormal romance/mysteries and cozy mystery. I did this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that when most people think “paranormal romance”, they think powerful alpha male and fated mates, that sort of thing. I get it–but that’s not exactly what I write. It’s more Bringing up Baby meets WH-13. Peggy Carter meets Q and works at The X-Files.

My first love has always been cozy mysteries (which is why all of my romances have some sort of mystery as a subplot), but up until recently, I didn’t think I was capable of writing a clever, funny cozy. The enthusiastic response An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) received convinced me to keep writing, and now cozy mystery is my main jam. It doesn’t mean I won’t finish the Bishop’s Origin series (I adore these characters and I want to see their arc through), but it does mean the Redclaw Security series has been shelved, and there are no current plans to expand that part of the universe for now.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce the upcoming release of A Corpse in the Condo on June 1st! (There’s been a slip up and the print version is already available if you absolutely cannot wait) Ginny finds out the hard way that trying to pair a business trip with patching up a relationship with a snarky sister can rapidly go south–especially when they find a corpse in the condo Ginny has inherited. With a fortune in artwork gone missing, and a hurricane bearing down, it’s up to Ginny, Joe, Liz, and of course, Remy, to solve the crimes before all the evidence is washed away.

Does the Dog Live? I need to know!

I don’t know about you, but I always get a little anxious about books and movies that have animals in them. It’s the one time I’ll skim ahead in my reading: to make sure an animal sidekick is still alive at the end of the book. There are books and series I’ve had to stop watching because of the emotional punch of losing a pet.

I make heavy use of the website doesthedogdie.com to screen my entertainment because that particular kind of loss is triggering for me. The website describes itself as “crowdsourced emotional spoilers for movies, TV, books, and more”. It even has a subcategory rating for when things look bad for the animal companion but turns out okay. I get my friends and family to screen material for me as well. I have an emotionally demanding day job; I don’t need to be crushed by my entertainment too!

Which is why I am so pleased to be part of this promotion: The Dog Lives! 24 mystery and crime fiction stories where the animal sidekick, furry or feathered, is guaranteed to survive! As soon as I heard about it, I knew it was the perfect promotion to join!

I’m offering The Dog Days of Murder (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 2) as a runup to the release of A Corpse in the Condo on June 1, 2023! You can pre-order Corpse now!

While you’re at it, in order to take advantage of many of the author services on BookBub, I need hit 1 K followers. My M.K. Dean account could use some love! Follow me there? If you’re an author, I’ll follow back!

In the meantime, grab your free mysteries and enjoy this spring weather!

Why I’m not at Malice Domestic…

I’m sad to say that after planning over six months for this weekend: timing a new book release, ordering and making swag, purchasing table display setups for book signings, taking time off work, making travel arrangements, and in general looking forward to this weekend SO MUCH… at the last second, I had to cancel.

About 48 hours prior to leaving for Malice Domestic, I began getting sick. First time in three years. I still mask in public. I was one of the last holdouts to stop masking at work. Even though I tested negative for Covid/Flu/Strep, I had a wicked sore throat and cough. This wasn’t something I wanted to give to anyone else. The responsible thing to do was cancel the trip.

Man, did that sting. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to attending my first Malice! To meet up with my cozy mystery peeps! Connecting with online friends, meeting fans, promoting the new book. Heck, getting out of the same old, same old routine. Going someplace different and having some new experiences. I needed to get away.

But I wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone else, so I canceled. About the time I would have been on the road driving to Malice, I developed some worrisome symptoms and had to make a second trip to the doctor. According to the doc, the symptoms are not that uncommon with Covid, and there’s a possibility of a false negative test. So yeah, doubly glad I stayed home.

I’ll confess, I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. I had this lovely weekend planned that I was desperately looking forward to and now I’m sitting in a bathrobe with a cup of hot tea waiting until it’s time to take my next round of cough medicine. A Corpse in the Condo (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 3) is slated to come out June 1, and I’d intended to make myself known to a whole host of new fans. I’d decided to host some lives on TikTok to make up for missing out on Malice, and then I turned out to be too sick for that too.

But there’s always next year for Malice Domestic, and in the meantime, A Corpse in the Condo is available for pre-order. Also, apparently, I can’t take advantage of certain BookBub features until I reach at least 1K followers, and my M.K. Dean account could use some love. Follow me there? If you’re a fellow author, I’ll follow back!


Pre-order the new Ginny Reese Mystery: A Corpse in the Condo!

When I came here to make this post, I was shocked (and embarrassed) to realize I hadn’t made a single post this year!

We’ll have to do better than that. Though, to be fair, when you’re flat out working as hard as you can at the day job, trying to finish a new book in a series, attempting to keep up with social media, learning how to do marketing campaigns and advertising, and so on and so on… yeah. Some things fall through the cracks. Particularly when it doesn’t feel as though you have anything new to say!

But it looks like I neglected to tell everyone that An Embarrassment of Itches won a Best Indie Book Award for Cozy Mystery! I can’t believe I forgot to post about that here. I certainly posted enough about it on my TikTok account! (Edit: I found mention of it in my last post just before Christmas, but it doesn’t come up on a website search for some reason, so I’m leaving this mini-brag in…)

I’m also thrilled to announce that the newest Ginny Reese Mystery, A Corpse in the Condo, is now available for pre-order on Amazon and at these retailers! Release date June 1, 2023.

Blurb: Vacations are supposed to be fun, but when veterinarian Ginny Reese combines a trip to a coastal island to check out an inherited property with patching up her relationship with her sister, things quickly get out of control.

First thereโ€™s a corpse in the condo. Then a fortune in artwork goes missing. The lead investigator is a publicity hound, and thereโ€™s a hurricane bearing down. To top it off, Ginnyโ€™s former boyfriend, Joe Donegan, believes the police are looking at her for insurance fraud and murder.

With the help of her friends and her trusty dog, Remington, itโ€™s up to Ginny to find the paintings and the killer before the storm wipes everything away.

I’m really looking forward to this release! Stay tuned, as I have more news to announce and will be planning some giveaways as the release date gets closer…