Karen C. Whalen is the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Moran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America.
Whalen worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado, and was a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. Whalen loves to host dinner clubs, entertain friends, ride bicycles, hike in the mountains, and read cozy murder mysteries.
Toes on the Dash – Shoe-a-holic Delaney Morran inherits a tow truck business from her absent dad. The dead body of her ex-boyfriend is discovered in the trunk of her first towed vehicle. She must solve the crime and toughen up to make the business a success and feel the father-daughter connection she seeks.
Many authors count among my favorites, but three stand out the most. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Erma Bombeck.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her life as a homesteader’s daughter and wife during the years 1870 through 1890. I started reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea, published over fifty years ago. Then I read through her five volumes of diaries and letters covering 1922 through 1944. Erma Bombeck wrote a newspaper column and humorous books about her life between 1965 and 1996. There are four things these writers have in common, which are also the reasons they are my favorites: they wrote about a very specific time period, they wrote about their own lives, they wrote with a strong sense of place (Laura the prairie, Anne the ocean, and Erma the suburbs) and they were talented women writers.
Lucky for them, they lived in exciting times and places. Also, they had interesting lives and a whole bunch of talent.
Erma Bombeck is the only one of the three whose life span overlapped with mine. I sent her a letter right before she died and she wrote me back. I keep that letter on my desk and look at it every day.
These women writers inspired me to write. First, I wrote a column for a paralegal magazine (paralegal being my original career). Erma Bombeck also wrote a column, and I’m proud to be remembered as a columnist, too. When I progressed to writing novels, I set my books in Colorado, an evocative western setting. My books are not memoirs, however; they are murder mysteries. My tow truck mystery series is a mash up of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels and Gemma Halliday’s High Heel Mysteries. So, all right, Janet Evanovich and Gemma Halliday are my favorite authors, too.
I will be forever thankful to the woman writers who have gone before me and inspired me. Because of them, I was able to achieve my own dream of becoming a published author. As Laura Ingalls Wilder is quoted as saying, “No one has ever achieved anything from the smallest to the greatest unless the dream was dreamed first.”
Thank you, Laura, Anne, and Erma, for daring to dream first.
These are Karen’s social media links:
These are Karen’s buy links:
Barnes & Nobel: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toes-on-the-dash-karen-c-whalen/1140989970?ean=2940160712291
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/toes-on-the-dash/id1609810860
I’m Darlene Dziomba. I’ve been working in Fiscal Operations and Financial Planning for the University of Pennsylvania for over thirty years. I’m an animal lover. My parents always joked that from the time I learned to walk, I could not pass a dog without wanting to pet it.
Pre COVID, I volunteered at the Animal Welfare Association, a local New Jersey animal shelter. I hope to return to it when the virus dissipates. I miss the staff and the dogs. I had an idea for a book where the amateur sleuth worked at an animal shelter, and the Lily Dreyfus series was born. I have one dog, Billie, an irresistible terrier mix I adopted from AWA.
I had an idea for a book where the amateur sleuth worked at an animal shelter, and the Lily Dreyfus series was born. I have one dog, Billie, an irresistible terrier mix I adopted from AWA.
Clues From The Canines – Lily, an Adoption Coordinator at Forever Friends animal shelter, learns her boyfriend is dead via a dog surrender. Her pack rallies to sniff out the killer.
What brought you to writing? I was in Toronto, attending Bouchercon, and listening to a panel of writers who all had protagonists in animal-related professions. I thought to myself, “I’ve never read a book with an animal shelter employee as the protagonist. I wonder if I could write that?”
I had never attempted to write a book and had a lot to learn. I joined a Writers Workshop, took numerous online classes, and found a coach to assist me. I’m proud of myself for having brought this idea to fruition.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I work a full-time job besides my writing job. It is challenging to manage writing, editing, revising, maintaining a blog, maintaining a social media presence, promotions, getting enough sleep, exercising, and long walks with Billie.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Yes. I am a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and two regional SinC groups, SinC Fl Gulf Coast and SinC Grand Canyon Writers.
I am extremely grateful for the internet and Zoom. I’ve attended informative talks, taken craft classes, built a network, and found professional service providers.
How long did it take you to write your first book? How long to get it published? It took two and half years to have a fully written, well-crafted book. I queried agents for two years without much success. I was reluctant to self-publish because I knew an agent would be able to advise me and help me achieve the most success.
The pandemic influenced my decision to self-publish. More than anything else, I wanted my parents to be able to hold a book in their hands with my name on the cover. They are in their eighties, so I didn’t feel I could wait however many years it would take to find the agent and publisher willing to accept my work and decided to self-publish.
From start to finish, it took four and a half years to bring Clues From the Canines to fruition.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Most of my characters are based on real people. My protagonist is not. Friends ask if Lily represents me and seem surprised when I say no.
The character of Martin is based on the person who was my supervisor at the animal shelter. He was quite the character, and we engaged in a lot of pithy exchanges. Ironically, I had to tone down Martin’s personality. He offended every single beta reader.
I had one friend point blank ask for a character. She plays a major role in the sequel Up Close And Pawsonal.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am not sure “outline” adequately describes what I do. There are psychologists who would love to study my need for the obsessive detail of my plotting template.
I took a course called “Plot Thickeners” with Simon Wood. He showed me a phenomenal plotting method. Then I added to it.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Once the world has conquered COVID, I hope to travel again, and eventually, I will retire from my day job and write full time.
As far as writing, I will keep producing Lily Dreyfus books as long as I can continue to come up with creative plots. For now, getting the first book launched is so exciting. I am basking in being proud of this accomplishment.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Be open-minded. My coach likes to say that she enjoys working with me, “Because you’re smart enough to realize that you need help.” It was important for the process to have beta readers who would be critical and push me to make the book better. One doesn’t need to change their base story, but new writers should toy with the ideas that are offered to them and see if they would enhance the story.
How do our readers contact you?
Thank you very much for hosting me today.
Ana Manwaring is a former newspaper lifestyle columnist. Her poetry, personal narratives, book reviews, and short stories have appeared in diverse publications, including the California Quarterly, KRCB Radio, Morning Haiku, and Mystery Readers Journal.
A graduate of the University of Denver (B.A.) and Sonoma State University (M.A.), Ana teaches creative writing, produces the monthly North Bay Poetics poetry event on Zoom, and operates her editing company, JAM Manuscript Consulting—“Spread Excellence.” She’s also the 2022 SinC-NorCal programs chair. In her “past life,” she has prepared taxes, taught ESL, worked for a PI, consulted brujos and out-run gun totin’ maniacs on lonely Mexican highways—the inspiration for the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures.
Ana, husband David, ace gopher hunter Alison, and a host of birds, opossums, skunks, deer, fox, coyotes, and occasionally the neighboring goats co-habitat an acre of Northern California.
After earning her M.A., Ana finally answered her mother’s question, “What are you planning to do with that expensive education?” Be a paperback writer. (ebook and audiobook, too!)
The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures: A missing persons case to locate an American gone missing in the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo turns investigator JadeAnne Stone’s life into a nightmare of secrets, betrayals, and pursuit as she and her dog are ensnared in a web of trafficking. Who will she trust as loyalties shift and greed rules?
JadeAnne and I are thrilled to be back on George’s blog. Since our first visit, we’ve published books two and three of the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. And now we’re unpublishing them. Why on earth? Because I’ve been picked up by Indies United Publishing House who is re-releasing second editions of all three books and publishing the 4th this year. An Ambitious publishing schedule, but penance for taking 28 years from being threatened on a lonely stretch of the Pan American Highway in Michoacán (the inspiration and inciting incident) to publication of Book 1, Set Up. I’m paying my dues now with the new covers, more revision, and editing, as well as finishing Coyote—Pursuit and Terror Across the Border (there’s going to be an exciting chase, shoot-out, and lots of suspense), which will release in November.
Set Up re-released February 16, 2022.
People ask about my writing process. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at discipline and routine. The most challenging part of the process is getting myself to sit down at the computer to write. I always find pressing things to accomplish first. Today it was weeding. But I’m really fortunate to be blessed with a large, light-filled writing studio on the second story of a barn behind my house. I look into oaks and eucalyptus and can watch the birds, the play of light and shadow through the leaves, listen to the soft susurrus of the breeze off the coast, and, when I’m not distracted, write. I’m making good use of our wonderful Sisters in Crime write-ins (I attend 1 Pm and 10 Pm currently) and my M/W/F Study Hall with my writing students. I use the social writing time for outlining, revision, poetry writing, blogging, or brainstorming character names, which often come through reading my mail. In book 4, we’re going to have two new bad guys: Denver “Zeke” Stoner and Slim Killins. I have no idea who they are or what parts they’ll play yet, but when I went to mark my mail-in Recall ballot in the California recall election, there they were. The good news, I get to my desk every day since COVID and sometimes three times, even if I’m not specifically writing, but I’m most productive with high-intensity writing stints like NaNoWriMo.
A huge help in launching my writing career (besides retiring in January) is Sisters in Crime NorCal. I can’t stress enough how beneficial professional organizations and conferences can be to your development as a writer, marketer, and speaker. I’ve met many wonderful writers and readers who’ve helped me, taught me, and encouraged me. I’m a member of several branches of SINC, MWA NorCal, California Writers Club, and a Left Coast Crime attendee and participant. I’m looking forward to our LCC after two years without a conference. I’m excited about Albuquerque, too. The big chase scene culminating in the climax of Coyote will take place between Albuquerque and Denver, and I’m going to take a few days while I’m in the “area” to scout out locations. I try to experience my settings whenever I can. However, I’ll leave the shoot-out to vicarious experience and my imagination—but I’ll know what the air feels like and how the trees smell!
I write in more than one genre. I’m currently completing a memoir of my years in Mexico, and occasionally I write book reviews and short personal essays. I have two poetry chapbooks published, and I’m working on a third of “found” poems on climate change. I’m also writing the great American dysfunctional family novel told in three voices: the dying matriarch with dementia, the elder daughter who is deceased, and the resentful second daughter. Luckily the dead sister is pretty funny.
Two events brought me to writing: I’ve always loved reading stories and wrote a short story entitled “Me and My Dinosaur” instead of writing my third-grade dinosaur report. My teacher Mrs. Clancy loved it, and I got to read it to the class. (This trick worked again in Medieval History at University—I wrote a short story instead of writing a term paper, Another A, but no public reading). The second push toward writing was when I was 11 or 12, and a palm reader predicted I’d be a bestseller by the time I was 50. Isn’t 70 the new fifty?
I’m on my way! Set Up released on 2/16, The Hydra Effect releases 5/18, Nothing Comes After Z 8/17, and Coyote 11/16.
Find me at:
Alec Peche is the California author of nineteen mystery and thriller novels. She writes the Jill Quint Forensic Pathologist series (13 books), the Damian Green Mystery Series (4 books), and the Michelle Watson Thriller Series (2 books). She is also the treasurer of the Sisters in Crime Coastal Cruisers Chapter and a member of the 20Books to 50K Indie Author FB group.
A wedding and . . . a murder an elevator pitch:
I had reader feedback that they wanted to see my protagonist and her partner marry in the 13th book in this series. Since I write murder mysteries, there had to be a murder, right?
ASHES TO MURDER is Book 13 in the Jill Quint, MD Forensic Pathologist series. The story is set in Asheville, North Carolina. It was released just a few days ago. Here’s the blurb:
A wedding night interrupted by murder. . . .
Jill and Nathan are in Asheville, North Carolina, for his wine label business. Jill is a part-time vintner and consulting Forensic Pathologist, while Nathan is a world-renowned wine label designer. He proposes and they organize a wedding in an old church ruin in just four days.
After their guests leave and they’re making the final sweep of their location, the property owner notifies Jill that their officiant is lying in the attached vineyard and is unresponsive to his voice. Jill rushes over and checks the woman to find her cold and pulseless. The police arrive, and their officiant is transported to Charlotte for forensic examination.
Jill can’t help as she’s a suspect, right? Fortunately, her friends who help her with cases are nearby having witnessed their nuptials. The team goes to work on her wedding night to solve the mystery of the woman’s death.
Romance is not my area of comfort or writing skill, but I had to dig deep to cover romance because how could you have a wedding without a bit of romance in your story. The two characters have been a couple for twelve books and about three years of chronological time. I was likely content to let them stand as partners and lovers, but I bow to my readers’ wishes. In truth, marriage hadn’t crossed my mind at all.
The series features Jill Quint, MD, forensic pathologist, vintner, and private detective. She solves murder mysteries using her forensic and detective skill sets and surrounds herself with a group of girlfriends who bring their own skills to any investigation. While Jill and Nathan live in California, the cases are set around the globe.
My writing process: I’m a scary mix of pantser and procrastinator. I have a one-sentence idea of what the story is about. I pick a title and have my cover artist design the cover. That makes the book feel real.
I like to write in my office whenever possible. I can use Dragon dictation, and I have a big screen. Occasionally, I write on my MAC laptop when I’m going to have time to kill away from home.
Once I reach 10,000 words of the manuscript, I’ll make the book available for pre-order by setting a publication date on Amazon. This forces me to write when I can find a thousand better things to do, like pull weeds, lol. I then notify my two editors with an estimate of when the book is coming their way, which is usually a month before publication. I then tend to do my best imitation of a sloth. I wonder if the book is any good and why I’m wasting time writing it. Then in the two weeks, before the book is due, I’m in a real panic, and I start cranking out 4,000 words a day. I’ve always made it by the deadline, but sometimes with as little as ninety minutes to spare – that is the procrastinator part. Sadly, the more books I write, the worse this behavior seems to be getting.
With this 18th book, I also started writing the 19th and 20th books that belong to my other two series. I thought that having the other books would allow me to write faster by feeling refreshed, moving from story to story. Well, I’m at 3,000 words with one story and 4,000 with the other, and it didn’t go as planned. Still, I have the titles, and the book covers ready to go. I hope to finish both books by summer’s end.
After I finish the publishing process, I like to spend some concentrated time on marketing between books. When you’re an indie author, everything is changeable. Sometimes I’ll update book blurbs, book categories, and keywords. Usually, I spend time creating new ads for Amazon, FB, and Bookbub.
I’m also a voracious reader and audiobook lover. Someone else’s great story will slow down my writing. I read mystery and thriller stories primarily. I’m currently listening to A Place to Bury Strangers. I also like urban fantasy (I’m reading the Exceptional Sophia Beaufont) and Lit-RPG (role-playing games). If you’ve never heard of Lit-RPG, you’re not alone. Basically, they are very long books in which humans get dumped into an alien world and have to level up their skills in order to survive and thrive. It’s a cross between reading a book and a video game. They are clearly written for a younger audience than me, but I enjoy these characters’ journeys. I’m currently listening to the He who fights with Monsters series.
How Do Readers Contact You and Locate Your Books:
They can contact me directly at Alec@alecPecheBooks.com or at my website, www.AlecPecheBooks.com
Readers can find Ashes to Murder at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09QMQ3W1J
Maddie Day pens the Country Store Mysteries and Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. As Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell, she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and short crime fiction. Day/Maxwell lives with her beau north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook.
Batter Off Dead, out on February 22, is the tenth Country Store Mystery. After a summer evening’s fireworks end in South Lick, Indiana, a senior citizen knitter is found dead, a puncture wound in her neck. The woman’s death echoes that of a decades-old unsolved homicide. To help find the killer, Robbie Jordan has to untangle the knotty relationships deep in the victim’s past.
Do you write in more than one genre? I write contemporary cozy mysteries and also have seven books in my historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries. All my books have a female amateur sleuth for the protagonist.
What brought you to writing? I wrote lots of fiction as a child and then had several careers writing different kinds of non-fiction. I didn’t get back to fiction in a serious way until I was laid off from a hi-tech job in the fall of 2008, and I’m so glad I did. I found another job for the next five years, but I was already hooked on writing mysteries. My first book, Speaking of Murder, came out in 2012, and Batter Off Dead is #27!
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have a lovely second-floor home office in our antique home. It has a door that shuts, and I’m working by seven each morning. I stand at my desk and often take little walks around the room as I think. I also monitor the walkers and delivery vehicles on the quiet street outside the windows. I try for hour-long sprints of writing (or revising) because if I wander onto the internet, it could be a long time before I’m back. I never listen to music while I work, but sometimes the next thing on my daily to-do list distracts me.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m a write-into-the-headlines type of gal, but I do submit a synopsis of each book to my editor before I start writing. It acts as a kind of road map, albeit a fuzzy one. And it changes as I follow my characters around and write down what they do and think.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? All of my contemporary mysteries take place in fictional towns. Some are modeled on real places. The town of South Lick, where Robbie Jordan has her country store restaurant Pans ‘N Pancakes, came entirely out of my imagination. That said, it’s nestled in the very real Brown County, Indiana, a lovely hilly place filled with artists and nature.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m delighted to share that the Country Store Mysteries have been renewed through book #13. I also write the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. #4, Murder in a Cape Cottage, releases in September. I have a new historical novel out with an editor, and I’m working on a proposal for a new cozy series set in a small town in my home state of California. Never a dull moment!
Find her at EdithMaxwell.com, wickedauthors.com, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen,
and on social media: Twitter – Facebook – Instagram