Love a Good Cozy Mystery? Check out these deals!

Do you like cozy mysteries? I know I do! There’s something so satisfying and calming about reading them. Yes, they are not without their suspense, but you’re pretty sure no one you like is going to get killed, and all the killing is usually discreetly offstage. The fun of reading them lies in the puzzle itself, and how our intrepid amateur sleuth is going to solve it. Extra points if there’s food, craft, or pets involved. Like a paranormal twist? Cozies have those too! Your fearless sleuth might also be a witch, or a fae, or a psychic.

I’ve joined with 26 other authors to offer a promotional deal for a limited time: all you have to do is sign up for the author’s newsletter to claim your particular prize! In my case, you get the first chapter of An Embarrassment of Itches–if you enjoy it, you can grab the whole book for just 99 cents! But this deal ends in 5 days, so grab your copy now!

Bishop’s Gambit on sale for a limited time!

Hey! To celebrate the recent honors for Bishop’ Gambit, for a limited time you can grab this story for just 99 cents! Bishop’s Gambit recently placed Second in the 2021 Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and placed Second in the 2021 PRISM Awards for Light Paranormal Romance.

They’re back and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning! Join Bishop and Knight as they must pose as a married couple to root out the strange disturbances occurring in an upscale suburban neighborhood! 

Bishop’s Gambit (Redclaw Origins Book 2)

Newly-minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.

But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.

To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.

Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.

Until they lob a curveball.

Bishop’s Gambit was also named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews!

Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.”

Available from Amazon and these other retailers.

Sale ends soon so grab your copy ASAP!

What do Romances and Mysteries Have in Common?

The other evening I popped into an online book discussion group being held by the Carnegie Library, hosted by Jennie Ellis. I only found out about the book club at the last moment, and joined because while I hadn’t read the featured book, I had read other books by the author, Julia Buckley, and she was going to be present.

What ensued was a delightful hour in which Ms. Buckley described her writing process, and how she came to create her various series, including the Hungarian Tea House Mysteries. She also fielded questions about the publishing industry, her past projects, and what to expect from her in the future.

Toward the end of the discussion, the subject of cozy mysteries in general came up. I lamented that many publishing houses had dropped their cozy lines, and the consensus was this was an inexplicable decision on their part because like romance readers, cozy readers are voracious.

That got me to thinking about the other ways in which romance and mysteries have commonalities, and it occurred to me during the discussion that one of the biggest things the two genres have in common is their contract with the reader.

There’s only one hard-and-fast rule in Romance: there must be a happily ever after (HEA) or at the least, a happily for now (HFN). That means that no matter what happened during the course of the story, we should have either a declaration of commitment between the couple or some indication they are going to be together in the future. It does not mean there must be a baby in the epilogue, though this is an addendum many authors and readers enjoy. It also doesn’t mean that the entire story must be fluffy and light without any angst or difficult storylines. Sometimes the reward of the HEA is all the sweeter for the suffering that took place before reaching that point.

I was having this discussion with my husband this morning, and he brought up (on cue) Romeo and Juliet. Everyone brings up R&J! Shakespeare’s play is not a romance but a tragedy. I went on to say that one of the reasons people take exception to Nicholas Sparks’ books being labeled as romances is the frequent lack of a HEA. Romances have ONE rule.

“Okay,” my husband said, “but what if the purpose of breaking the contract is to get you to look at something from another point of view?”

“Then categorize it as something else,” I countered. “Put it like this: suppose you bought a sci-fi story based on the cover and the blurb. You had every expectation of reading a military space opera based on these things, but instead, you get a romance. You’d be disappointed, especially if you were in the mood for something different.”

“But the Murderbot books aren’t just science fiction,” he offered. “They explore relationships, what it means to have friends, to be human.”

“Themes science fiction explores all the time. Romance has one rule. HEA. How you get there can vary in a million different ways but you have to get there.”

Which brings me to the rule I believe mysteries–or at least cozy mysteries–have: justice will be served.

Like romances, the route at which you arrive at justice can take many forms. I can recall reading an old Ellery Queen novel once in which Ellery figured out who the killer was, but for various reasons, couldn’t go forward with the conviction. At the time, the ending enraged me so much, I threw the book across the room. As a much older and wiser person, I can see the ending made sense, and that the authors had not broken their contract with me, the way I thought they did when I read the story.

It was the frustration of my expectations that angered me so much when I read that story.

The contract should be sacred in my book.

In a mystery, you’re presented with a crime of some sort (not necessarily a murder, but that is often the case). There may be a romance as well–certainly I was more invested in Lord Peter Wimsey’s investigations when they included Harriet Vane–but the romance isn’t central to the story. The central story is the puzzle, the “whodunnit”, behind the shady activity. A mystery writer should make all the clues available to the reader as well, not holding back vital information that the sleuth has access to but the reader does not. It’s part of the deal: providing enough information for the reader to connect the dots while hopefully obscuring the solution until the very end. 

The one rule of mystery? The good guys win.

I think this is why the mystery genre has its devoted following. It’s the same concept as it is with romance: you have certain expectations when you enter into the story. You picked up the story because you were in the mood for something specific. Perhaps you chose a romance because needed to hear that love conquers all. Or perhaps you went with a mystery because you needed to believe that crooked bad guys would someday get their comeuppance.

When I choose to read genre fiction, I do so because I want a certain kind of story with expectations of it ending in a certain way. Let me tell you, with the stresses I’ve been under the past few years, I select my entertainment carefully these days. I don’t read as much sci-fi as I used to because the storylines are often darker and less likely to end well. Am I coddling myself a bit right now? You bet. At some point, when life doesn’t hurt so much, when my mental health is more stable, I’m sure I will go back to stories and movies with darker themes.

While I fully believe there’s a place for having your beliefs challenged, or your insight expanded, I think that can still be done within the confines of a contract if you’re writing genre fiction. Not writing genre fiction? The sky’s the limit! Torture your protagonists! Throw them off a cliff. Let the bad guys win.

But call it something other than romance if your story ends in sorrow, and something other than mystery if the murder is never solved. Your readers will thank you.

Ooops! I Accidentally Published a Book!

You may have heard that owing to a blunder on my part while trying to upload my first cozy mystery for pre-order, I accidentally launched it instead!

My mistake is your gift, however! An Embarrassment of Itches, (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) is now available for only 99 cents and also on Kindle Unlimited for a limited time.

Ginny Reese returned home to her “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small town” of Greenbrier, VA to help take care of her dying father. She’s used to seeing her share of the weird and wacky as a house-call vet, but nothing in her experience has prepared her for finding the dead body of a client floating in her pool. When she’s named the deceased’s heir, Ginny becomes the number one suspect–and must prove her innocence to the newly elected sheriff–who just happens to be her old high school boyfriend.

At least she can rely on her trusty German Shepherd, Remington!

Creating a new pen name posed some challenges for me, and I’m currently in the process of rebranding the site. My Twitter and Instagram accounts will share both information from McKenna Dean and M.K. Dean, as will my newsletter, but if you’d like to follow M.K. Dean on Amazon, Goodreads, M.K’s Facebook page, and BookBub, here are the links.

I would appreciate any follows–my new pages are so empty! 🙂

Cover Reveal: On Christmas Tree Cove by Sarah Vance-Tompkins

If you’re like me, and love Christmas stories, you probably want to start reading them as soon as there’s a chill in the air. Well, good news! You can pre-order Sarah Vance-Tomkins upcoming release and get it in October to read it!



On Christmas Tree Cove
Sarah Vance-Tompkins
Published by: Tule Publishing
Publication date: October 27th
2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Holiday, Romance

This Christmas calls for a special touch of magic…

December was always a special time for seaplane pilot Morgan Adair, but after losing her parents six years ago, the holiday is a quiet affair. When her siblings announce
plans to sell the family home, Morgan longs to experience her favorite, now-forgotten tradition one more time: a lighted tree that, for over a hundred years, has appeared floating on a boat in the harbor every Christmas Eve.

 

The Taylors were always rivals to the Adairs in the once-thriving fishing village of Christmas Tree Cove, but Jesse Taylor was much more. He wanted to be understanding
when Morgan set aside their plans to escape to Chicago in order to hold her family together, but his future as a successful freelance photographer soared on without her.

 

As Morgan dives deeper into the history of the mysterious holiday appearance, she discovers that true love has always been at the heart of the annual tradition. Can the wonder of
Christmas and a few surprises along the way rekindle that love for Morgan and Jesse too?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

 

Author Bio:

Sarah Vance-Tompkins was born in a small town in northern Michigan. She spent every
summer exploring the sugar sand beaches near Sleeping Bear National Park. She left her heart
behind when she moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. She received an MFA in Film Production and went on to work in feature film development in
Hollywood. She has worked as a reporter for a weekly entertainment trade publication, written press releases, the directions for use on personal lubricant bottles, and breathless descriptions of engagement rings for an online jewelry store. She lives in a small town north of Los Angeles with her husband and two unruly cats.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter

 

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An Embarrassment of Itches: New Cozy Mystery by M.K. Dean

It’s here! And owing to a colossal mistake, it’s live instead of only available for pre-order. Because I am SO excited about this release, An Embarrassment of Itches is only 99 cents AND available on Kindle Unlimited for the next three months!

It’s Diagnosis Murder meets All Creatures Great and Small…

As a house-call vet, Ginny Reese has seen her share of the weird and wacky. But nothing in her previous experience could have prepared her to find one of her clients floating in her own swimming pool.

Local artist Amanda Kelly was extremely wealthy with her share of secrets. By naming Ginny as her heir, not only did she make Ginny the number one suspect, but she painted a big bull’s eye on her friend’s back as well.

With her trusty German Shepherd at her side, it’s up to Ginny to find the real killer and prove her innocence to the sheriff. The new sheriff. Who happens to be her ex.

Piece of cake, right?

But I had this great launch party planned with gift baskets and prizes galore–all my pre-marketing plans for this book got scuttled with the early release. So I could really use your help in spreading the word!

Stay tuned for more information on the post-launch party and how you can get in on the fun!

Most of my social media platforms will remain the same, but if you’d like to follow the M.K. Dean Facebook page, it’s here. Also, here’s M.K. Dean on Amazon!

What’s New with McKenna Dean? EVERYTHING!

It’s been a while since I posted. Normally I post at least once a week, but I see now it’s been almost a month since I wrote anything for this blog. It’s not because I didn’t have any pointless musings to share–it’s because I’ve been so busy!

Last week, Bishop’s Gambit won second place in the Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense from the Kiss Of Death Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This was such an unexpected honor! As a matter of fact, when they called to tell me I was a finalist, I thought sure they were calling to alert me to the fact there was a problem with my entry. 🙂

 

Are you getting a lot of spam phone calls right now? I am! I’d received over 30 spam calls in a 48 hour window when I received a call from an unknown number on earlier this week. Normally, I ignore them (blocking them results in my receiving a notification I’ve received a blocked call–NOT HELPFUL, VERIZON) but for some reason I answered this one. Abruptly. With strong undertones of “What do you want??” in my voice.

Only it was a representative of the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers Chapter of RWA calling to inform me that Bishop’s Gambit was a finalist in the PRISM Awards! Boy, was my face red. That will teach me to be snippy with unknown callers!

 

But wait, there’s more! The main reason I’ve been quiet lately is that I’ve been working like mad on story in a new-to-me-genre: cozy mysteries! I’m a HUGE cozy fan. I love picking up a book and knowing what kind of story you’re going to get, the perfect way to spend a quiet evening or a rainy afternoon–following the adventures of an intrepid heroine as she unravels a knotty puzzle and nabs the bad guy. I love the small town settings and the soothing backgrounds: baking, knitting, hiking, rescuing animals… and all the better if there is a little light romance on the side!

So it’s with great pleasure that I tell you about my new series of cozy mysteries coming your way soon under the name of M.K. Dean. My heroine, Dr. Ginny Reese, is a house-call veterinarian in the small fictional town of Greenbrier, VA. She returned home to help take care of her ailing father and has done her best to make a living in an area where it’s hard to make ends meet. But the fur flies when she discovers that her ex-high school boyfriend is the new sheriff in town–and that she’s the prime suspect in her best friend’s death! It’s up to her to clear her name and find the real killer!

I’m still expanding my platforms to include M.K. Dean but for now, you can follow this blog (link in sidebar) or my (infrequent) newsletters to keep posted. Or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook (still working on a page for M.K. Dean), and Instagram. Goodreads and Amazon pages for M.K. Dean to follow once I have a release date. Expect An Embarrassment of Itches sometime in July/August of 2021!

So lots of irons in the fire right now! Stay tuned for updates as they arrive…

 

Brushed By Betrayal by L.A. Sartor: Spotlight and Interview

Please welcome author L.A. Sartor to the blog as we showcase her upcoming release (available for pre-order) Brushed by Betrayal!

Hello! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions. 🙂  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

McKenna, thank you for having me as a return guest on your amazing blog.  Interesting questions you pose. I’ve been writing for a long time, yet only very recently discovered that I am truly a plot-driven writer. I was told this by a veteran of 40+ novels, and at first, I was insulted. Then I stepped back and looked at her criteria and realized with an enormous amount of relief that indeed I was. My stories always revolve around complex plots, at the same time I weave the theme of trust and/or finding one’s real path in life. Usually they go hand-in-hand. But I think of the creating the plot question first, then building the characters to work in it.

There is nothing wrong in either being either a plot or character driven writer, and we authors can have readers who love both. But finding my own true writer calling made a big difference. I write romance into my stories, but they are mostly not “romances.” (I do have a couple of pure romances.)

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

Colorado is now home. I was adopted in Germany as was my brother, different birth families. I’ve never thought of anyone else as my parents and haven’t been driven to locate anyone. We moved to Southern California as young children and being a stone’s throw from the ocean created a deep need to come back to it as often as possible. But while Boulder and its massive flatirons are my backbone, the ocean is my soul.

That’s so funny because I was born and raised within sight of the Appalachian mountains and I can’t imagine living anywhere else–unless it was to the Rockies!

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I started telling stories at a very young age. Mom wrote them down and I illustrated them. I still have those which are horrible, but I love them. Then in Jr. High I was writing what is now fan fiction with a friend and loving it. But an English teacher told me and my parents that I was failing because I wouldn’t learn grammar. I immediately stopped writing. I only learned about this (apparently, I totally wiped the incident from my memory) after I told mom I was going to write and book and she said, “finally”. Then revealed the story.  I’m now in the exact right spot for me.

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

This statement makes me so frustrated, both when I first heard and even now when I hear folks agonizing over it. So, I’m going to get on my soap box. We all know life’s ups/downs, celebrations/heartaches. We all have experiences. That is what we know.

But for the longest time and still today, authors and pundits say I can’t write a treasure hunting adventure or chocolate making scene or legal thriller because I’m none of those. Baloney. Research, good solid research and interviews will give us that information. Would I write a hospital driven drama, no, because I’m not interested in that kind of writing. But adventure, danger, various treasures, myths, even some courtroom scenes have all been written by me and apparently are doing well.

I agree with this whole-heartedly! I think when people say “write what you know” what they really mean is write about the forces that would drive a character to leave home and hearth to fight for all he holds dear–whether it be a Hobbit journeying to Mordor or a young man headed off to the trenches in WW1. The means by which you tell the story doesn’t matter as much as the authenticity behind the motives.

Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?

I really enjoy the self-promotion that is necessary for both the indie and the traditionally published writer to do. For instance, a blog like this is fun to write. I love to teach writing and use my books (after all I know my stories best) as examples, then see the light come on in an aspiring writer’s eyes. I love creating images or memes for my books.

I have a YouTube channel for writers, but I’m getting views from folks who want to know more about how a writer works, not be one. That’s cool!

I’ve done a lot of interviews on camera and now feel comfortable talking about me.  Now if I only weighed 25lbs. less…

It’s part of the business, so I figure I might as well enjoy it and of instead of shy away from it, embrace it.

I will definitely have to check out your YouTube Channel! I confess while I enjoy spending time on certain social media platforms, I have no real desire to get in front of a camera, and I admire anyone who does!

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Yes. At first I was scared to look at them and when I found one that was less than complimentary, I’d be totally crushed. Literally couldn’t write a new word. Then I realized a couple of things and grew up as a writer, maybe even as a person.

Sometimes people will just not like what you write. That’s okay. I may want to please everyone, but honestly know I can’t. Some people are meanspirited. I feel sorry for them. Some people think they’ll make me a better writer if they point out every flaw.

My approach to reviewing is that 90% of the time you can find some aspect of the book to talk about with positivity. You may not give it 4 or 5 stars, but why trash it? If you hated it, don’t buy another one from that author. Life is too short to be mean. Kindness is better. And maybe that’s a Pollyanna way of looking at life, and there are many times when I want to throw something at my TV screen for whatever reason, hey I’m human, but that negative emotion doesn’t go beyond my walls.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Yes and yes and yes. I spend huge amounts of time building my characters and their stories, their conflicts, their goals. Series allow me to dig deeper, put them into more revealing circumstances. For instance, in my Carswell Adventure series, I had twins, who after a tragedy became total opposites. One more meek, more comfortable by herself than out in the world. The other became an adventure junkie. Stone Of Heaven is about Tori, the city girl who keeps to herself now having to save her adventurous sister from long forgotten Maya gods. The second book Viking Gold brings in the characters again, but we focus on Abby and her quests and how it’s driving all the people she loves away. Will she survive this last treasure hunt?

What are your writing goals for 2021? Your personal goals?

I’m releasing Brushed By Betrayal May 5th. It’s the second in the Kahuna Group series. Then come Monday I’m settling down to create my new cozy mystery series. A first in many ways for me. Writing in first person. A cozy series, creating a new ski town, Angelcroft and all its peeps and fun stuff like red-herrings and most of all developing a complicated villainous character motivation. After all mystery readers like the puzzle, so …. My plan is to have that first book out this coming Fall, worst case before Christmas, since it’s set at Christmas. Then to write one or two more a year. I still have my other series…yikes, I’m going to be busy.

Personal goals, focus on the important things and say no to the rest. I don’t say no easily, but I’m learning.

That’s interesting what you say about plot-driven stories versus character driven, and how you’ve nestled into your groove as a result. And yay for a new cozy mystery series! I love the genre!

Thank you so much for dropping by for the interview and to share a little about your new release!

 

Blurb for Brushed By Betrayal

“You’re next and the circle will be complete.”

Jade Laurent, art expert and owner of the prestigious Laurent Art Brokers in Boulder, Colorado, is mourning the one-year anniversary of her father’s death when a close associate is killed and that chilling message for Jade is found by his body.

Private Investigator Malcolm Talbot is coming off his latest grueling case when he receives a request that he cannot refuse. To discover who’s put Jade’s life in jeopardy. The problem is that Jade refuses to stand by idly and let him do his job.

The last thing Malcolm needs is an amateur getting in the way and maybe getting dead. The last thing Jade needs is a professional who can’t find an ounce of compassion for her need to be involved.

While matching wits with a killer who is always one step ahead, dark secrets are revealed, putting everything Jade has believed in at risk.

If you like nail biting suspense, complicated mysteries, and characters who find their soul mates, then you’ll love L.A. Sartor’s newest story Brushed By Betrayal.

Buy it today to find new characters to love and revisit old friends from Dare to Believe.

 

Buy: Currently on Amazon  The book will go wide later in May.

 

Bio:

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study grammar.

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him, I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at https://lesliesartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com 

 

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Bishop’s Gambit a Finalist in the Carolyn Awards! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

I have a second email account that I’m bad about not checking on a regular basis, so imagine my surprise when I logged in the other day and discovered Bishop’s Gambit is a finalist in the Carolyn Awards held by North Texas Romance Writers of America!

As such, I’d like to share with you a little about this book and the Redclaw Origins series. The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the  movie theaters. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

In Bishop’s Gambit, Redclaw Origins 2, Bishop and Knight are back again and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning!

Newly minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.

But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.

To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.

Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.

Until they lob a curveball.

Bishop’s Gambit was named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews!

Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.”

Available from Amazon and these other retailers.

A short snippet: 

I gave a cursory glance into the tiny bathroom and headed to the end of the hallway for the other bedroom. As expected, boxes labeled “clothing” were stacked alongside the wall. My dresser and vanity took up the space alongside the other walls. Someone had thoughtfully put together my bed, complete with mattress and springs. All it needed was sheets and a blanket, and I could fall into it.

The sound of the front door opening and shutting sent Captain flying through the house to see who’d come in. I heard Knight grumbling at the dog as he came back toward the bedroom where I stood.

“I see she found you, rotten little beast.” Knight’s voice grew louder as he came down the hallway. “I’ve got two words for you: lizard-skin handbag. You back here, Bishop?”

“Yes.” I waited for him to join me.

“What are you—” He paused at the threshold of the door, frowning for a moment, then his brow cleared. “Ah. Looking for the bedding? I expect it’s around here somewhere.”

I placed a fist on one hip. “Is that all you have to say?”

Puzzlement wrinkled his brow again. “I don’t understand. Obviously, you found the dog. I’ll bring the luggage in while you make the bed. It’s been a long day. We should make an early night of it.”

I enunciated every word with crystal clarity. “There’s only one bed. Where precisely do you intend to sleep?”

This post is part of a blog hop, so if check out the other book hooks and teasers in the hop! 

 

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Slips of Yew by Carol Shay Hornung: A Dez Duchiene Mystery

Please welcome to the blog Carol Shay Hornung, as she shares a bit about herself and the first in a series of mysteries with Dez Duschiene and his new husband, Stevie.

Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Dez Duchiene is a hospitality professional who dabbles in politics and moves to New York City where he marries architect Stevie Langford and lives happily until a detective knocks on his door, asking about the death of a prominent conservative politician.
 

Whitney Travers was a former boss and friend, and despite their differing political views, Dez feels compelled to figure out who killed him, despite his husband’s objections. Wisconsin is trying to pass a religious freedom bill that would curtail gay rights, and Stevie is uncomfortable every minute they stay after attending the funeral.  


Coming of age during the Act 10 protests that rocked the city in 2011, Dez feels like he’s in a familiar fight, one the liberals lost all those years ago. He walks a diplomatic line between the conservatives and liberals to collect information – but can he solve the mystery and save his marriage before it’s too late?
 
Kindle and Paperback are available on Amazon.
 

 

Hello, Carol! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Carol Shay Hornung – I’m a behind-the-scenes media specialist by day – I’ve worked in radio and print advertising for … many years. I went to Ripon College and was delighted to be a part of a co-ed fraternity that condemned hazing and embraced inclusion. As a result, my stories tend to have strong bonds between friends – found family – rather than traditional family structures.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

Born in Chicago, but I’ve called Madison, Wisconsin home for most of my life. Four amazing lakes, miles of biking trails, and an inclusive, liberal brand of thinking that I find I can’t live without.  

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I’ve been a writer since I was twelve, when a movie I loved ended “badly” and I felt the need to rewrite the ending! I’m always happiest when I’m working on a project and for the last few years I’ve always had something to work on – few dry spells!

How would you characterize your stories? As romance, erotica, or something entirely different?

I write mainstream/mystery/LGBTQ/Lit … I don’t really fall in a specific category. I want to take LGBTQ characters away from the supporting roles and make them heroes, the driving forces behind the books, and there’s always a basic mystery to solve. On a mainstream level, things that happen in one book follow through to the next, an overall story arc. I have a love/hate relationship with lit – I want to employ the same craft techniques of theme and symbolism and character development, but I want to avoid the sadness, angst, and unlikeable heroes that often come along with lit. Good stuff that’s fun, with a dash of glitter. That’s my category.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

OMG. There is no one quite like Dez Duchiene. He came out of nowhere and absolutely insisted on running his first story through NaNo (National Novel Writing Month, held each November) in three weeks, then demanded a second book in December. I’ve found a voice through him that fits my heart and soul. I’ve always been drawn to writing male characters, but my critique group would say “Oh, a guy wouldn’t say/do that.” So I’d work on strong female characters. “Oh, she’s not emotional enough.” Dez came along – male presenting, with a gender neutral first name, and a husband (which fits my orientation. Stevie is damn fine) – and I’m suddenly able to do whatever I want with him since he is absolutely not constricted by pre-established gender norms. He’s smart, considerate, snarky, sometimes selfish, extroverted (I’m not), and hates Broadway musicals … and I love him.

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

Real life always factors into my stories. Each book in the Dez Duchiene series takes place in a specific city – the first is Madison, the second will be Nashville, TN, and I’m able to work in real locations to make the setting vivid. Plot-wise, I deal with real issues. In Slips of Yew, Stevie is uncomfortable in Wisconsin because he sees it as a red state and feels threatened and unwelcome by the politics. A friend of mine did, in fact say that he didn’t want to visit Wisconsin for those reasons. I also explore the psychology of conservatives and liberals interacting which has become more and more of a challenge these days. And going back to hating musicals … that came from my stylist who just groaned when I told him I was going to New York City and he said “I don’t do the Broadway thing.” What a great characteristic to help smash stereotypes! (Personally, I love musicals. But Dez doesn’t need to know that).

Editing: love it or hate it?

I delight in editing. I stress over getting the initial story written. I’m a mostly-pantser in that when I get an idea, I’ll write the first draft as simply and quickly as I can to lock down the basic story – in a way, I write a wordy outline with scenes and character development! Then I go back and flesh out the details and descriptions, enhance the subplots and make sure everything weaves together nicely. Finally, I go through and line edit the book in the extreme – I search for all those annoying crutch words and actions (look, shrug, sigh, turn, etc.) and replace them with meaningful actions and/or internalization. A few more read-throughs to make sure it’s smooth and logical (had a character put on shoes three times in one scene – that needed help!) and get it ready to be published.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

My first two books Asperger Sunset, and Ghost of Heffron College, were stand-alone books. I had little sparks of ideas for possible sequels but nothing grabbed me. I was done. The Dez Duchiene mysteries are designed to be a series, and the characters grow and change as the books progress through time. In the first book Dez and Stevie are newlyweds, by the fifth book they are approaching middle age and all the experiences that come with that. I had books 1 and 2 written, with a solid idea for book 3 and my husband and I were on vacation in downtown Chicago. We were walking along Lake Michigan and he points and says “this is where the body washes up.” By the time we reached Buckingham Fountain, I had dozens of ideas racing through my head and had to frantically type it all into my phone so I wouldn’t forget any of it! Each book is a stand-alone mystery but they will be in a specific order, with events that happen in one book informing the events in the next. I love these characters and am perfectly content to write these stories as long as I can. It’s nice knowing I don’t have to say goodbye. I would definitely miss them.

In addition to Slips of Yew, I’ve published a paranormal mystery, The Ghost of Heffron College, and a more traditional mystery with a protagonist with autism, Asperger Sunset. All three books can be ordered through your favorite local bookstore or ordered from Amazon. You can find out more on my Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Carol-Shay-Hornung/e/B00DV3VZJS/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CarolShayHornung

Blog: https://carolshayhornung.wordpress.com/

 There you have it, everyone! I can’t wait to check out Slips of Yew–I adore mysteries and I want to meet Dez for myself! Thanks for sharing with us, Carol!