Monday, September 25, 2023

Keep Writing by Mary Cunningham


Please welcome Mary Cunningham to Discover... Muse Monday. Aren't we glad she never gave up?

Andi Anna Jones, mediocre travel agent, with an inferiority complex about her job, her looks, and her single status, discovers her “inner sleuth” in Andi Anna Jones Mysteries.

I began writing at the age of seven. I assumed my poetry was excellent since my parents kept every misspelled stanza for me to discover (many) decades later. First lines like, Christmas, Christmas, lovely Christmas and When it snows, the cold wind blows, or my personal favorite, When I was a little girl like you, I went up in Sputnik number two. A budding Edna St. Vincent Millay, don’t you think? <snort>

Amazing I ever continued writing.

My third grade teacher must’ve seen something in my ability to put words together because the last day of school she said, “Mary, whatever you do, keep writing.” My high school freshman English teacher said, pretty much the same thing. And, I took their advice! Around age 50 I wrote my first book. Okay, so I’m a procrastinator. However, I’m still writing books, twenty-five years later.

Keeping with another piece of advice, to “write what you know’, the main character, Andi Anna Jones, is loosely based on a horrifying stint I had in North Miami Beach as a travel agent. I was truly awful and would duck behind my computer whenever a customer came through the door. (Yes, I really did that!)

Fortunately, I had a fantastic co-worker who pitched in when I got in a jam. Ellen recognized my fear from the first day, and graciously helped when I got stuck. So, if you haven’t guessed already, the protagonist in my series is based on my unpleasant experiences. Her sidekick, Ellie, is, of course, Ellen in the series, one of the best travel agents this side of the Mississippi.

Struggles aside, I made it through one whole year before we made the decision to move from the east coast of Florida to the west. I’m not sure who celebrated more when I walked out that agency door for the last time; me or that saint of a travel agency owner, Patty.

Writing the series about Andi, her competent assistant, Ellie, and the rest of the quirky cast, helped exorcise the experience from my memory by giving Andi a positive outlet for her curiosity and love of a good mystery. I’ve also shared many laughs along the way as Andi stumbles and crashes her way through danger, intrigue, romance, frustration, and closure.

So, dear reader, please be kind when you judge Andi’s incompetence and lack of confidence. She’s doing her best, as am I.

In an ironic turn of events, I taught travel and tourism in Fort Myers, Florida. Loved the job and was good at it! Go figure. 

Blurb: Sazerac, Sleuth & Slay, An Andi Anna Jones Mystery, Book 2 

It’s gonna be a great day! Or, so she thought.

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent, amateur sleuth, doesn’t suspect her least favorite client, Stewart (The Pain) Payne, will set off circumstances that lead to disappearance and death.

After his wife is a no-show for a convention in New Orleans, his threat to sue Graves Travel for “ten times more than it’s worth”, and Andi’s wish to honor one of her late dad's requests, leads her to The Big Easy in search of Grace Payne.

Five unsolved murders, a body caught in a crawfish cage, and a mysterious candle, magic, and incense shop, takes Andi deep into the bayou on a hunt for clues.

Will another victim be added to a serial killer’s list, or is the main suspect closer to Andi than she thinks?


Somewhere in the Bayou Luther woke up raring to go for a change. Wasn’t sure why, ’cause he hated, hated the job! It was nasty. He stunk to high heaven by mid-morning. Hells Bells! Sweat had already collected on strands of hair stuck to his grimy forehead. He adjusted the straps of his faded bibs so they fit snug to his shoulders. Couldn’t have a strap fall down and pin his arm at the wrong time. More than once, he’d lost his catch cause of a careless slip.

He reckoned the only thing that got him up and moving, so all-fired early, was because today was Friday, and he figured on adding enough money to finally take Marlene out for a real dinner and some Zydeco music and dancing afterwards. And, no, those nasty mini lobsters he depended on for his livelihood wouldn’t be on their plates—leastways, not his!

His toes squirmed in those hot rubber boots, but the alternative meant sloshing around barefoot through the rice fields bordering the briny water. He’d sooner have hot feet than grimy ones. “Lawdy, Luther, you’re all fish-smellin’,” his going-on-four-years gal complained on more than one occasion. “Don’t you even think ’bout walkin’ ’cross my clean floor ’til you wash those feet!” The boots he could just kick off outside and hose down, so he put up with the discomfort. He carried an extra trap on this trip in case the one he’d left the night before was full. Wishful thinkin’ probly.

The fresh dry dog food he used for bait, he’d had to sneak out of Molly’s bag when she wasn’t looking, or she’d snap at him for stealing her dinner. Smart dog, that one. Ornery as an old mule, though. The darkening sky spit rain by the time he got to the lake, but the clouds didn’t look angry; just mischievous enough to make the morning miserable and the swamp bank, slippery. He’d have to be careful he didn’t end up in the water with the critters.

Locating the trap line, he carefully tied it to a cypress tree, and pulled…and pulled. Something flashed in the sunlight, just below the surface of the water. “Son of a biscuit eater! Must be snagged on a branch.” Or maybe he’d caught the mother of all crawfish! Sure, Luther. Dream on. He moved sideways toward a large log, anchored his foot for leverage, and pulled again. The trap loosened and moved through the water, but something still dragged it down. “Dadgummit!”

He secured the rope and pulled off his boots. No choice but to wade in to see what was holding his “bounty” hostage. His toes squished in soggy mud about four feet offshore. Hoped he didn’t step on a sharp rock, or worse. Three months back, Luther’d almost lost a toe to an irritable snapping turtle. One vicious pull and the trap sprang free. A mass of Spanish moss came with it. “Now what? This ain’t my day.” Luther would never be mistaken for a NASA engineer, but his ability to process the scene was slow, even for him. “Dammitall, dat ain’t moss. Wuz a wig doin’ in da lake?” People had no sense of decency when it came to littering. What next? A voodoo mask and top hat? Grabbing the cage with his fingers, he gave one last tug and yelped with the same intensity as Molly that time she ran under a storage shed and met the business end of a skunk. The sight before him, bobbing with the current, sent him reeling backwards into the murky water.

Mary Cunningham – Author Bio 

Author, Mary Cunningham, grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad's original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun "yarn."

Through the author's horrifying stint as a travel agent, Andi Anna Jones sprang to life. The adult/mystery series gives extra meaning to the phrase, "Write what you know." Cunningham has several books published, including Cynthia's Attic series, a five-book middle-grade fantasy, and women’s lifestyle/humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty.

She is a member of National Sisters In Crime, Sisters In Crime, Atlanta Chapter, International Thriller Writers, Inc., and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming, and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry son, Murphy. 

Find Mary Cunningham on Social Media: 



Facebook author page:

Amazon Author Page:



Instagram: Author Mary Cunningham (@marycunningham2604) • Instagram photos and videos 

Universal Buy Link: Sazerac, Sleuth & Slay:


Friday, September 22, 2023

Be Fearless, Be Free by AK Nevermore


Please welcome AK to Fearless Friday on Discover... What a great post with a lesson for us all. Be sure to read to the end for a free novella! And now I'm humming Janis all day. 

My senior year of high school we were all required to choose a quote to go beside our picture in the yearbook. It seemed a momentous decision. At that stage in my life, I was dancing at the edge of my small town’s accepted society and staring into the mists of the future with no clue what would happen next. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I was going to graduate. 

And it was more than lacking a plan for after I left those hated halls. In a fit of teenaged angst, I’d moved from home at sixteen and fallen into an alternate lifestyle. To look back on it now with a writer’s eye, I cringe at how well it fit the “good girl falls for the bad boy and has a self-awakening” trope. Spoiler, that chapter of my life didn’t have a happy ending and went on for way too long. 

But be that as it may, an inkling of my awareness-to-come echoed in the Janis Joplin quote I ultimately chose: 

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” 

To this day, I still get an unsettled feeling when Bobby McGee pops up on Spotify. A resonance in my soul. Ethereal fingers strumming the golden tethers of what matters in my life. My family, husband, and children. A roof over my head. Not having to rob Peter to pay Paul every time a bill comes due. 

I have things to lose. 

Yet, those same things I eschewed until my twenty-somethings now define and strengthen me. 

They also terrify me. 

The fear of “what now” has been replaced with anxiety over “what if.” And you know, I have to laugh sometimes. My kids think I’m the most boring person ever. That I never take a risk, always am thinking about the consequences, avoiding danger. “Who cares if you don’t know what the parking situation is?” and “Do you really have to wait for me outside the bathroom?” 

I care, and yes, I do. 

When you love something, I think it’s ingrained in our DNA to hold on, to protect. You want to keep it safe, to succumb to this primal urge to lock out all the potential ugly. The issue then becomes your daughter leaving the house in a fit a teenaged angst when she’s sixteen. 

And yes, I’ve apologized for that. My parents handled the situation with more grace than I would have been able to. Them letting go when I didn’t want to be held allowed me the freedom to discover what truly matters when you have nothing left to lose. 

Letting go. There’s freedom in that, too, but it’s terrifying to give into the winds of fate, allowing them to buffet you. Especially when it’s something you care deeply about…but that axiom about it coming back if it’s meant to be? 

I’m a believer. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an author. So, several years ago, I made an intentional choice to pursue my dream seriously. I took the classes, followed the rules. Checked all the boxes— And got nowhere. 

My frustration was palatable. I didn’t want to mess it up by not following the formula…but when had my life not been messy? It might sound odd, but the realization that I’d found myself in a cage of my own making, once again, with nothing left to lose, was liberating. 

And pulling myself up by my bootstraps is kind of my thing. 

This time, instead of packing my bags, I opened a blank document. The words that had been self-censored after months of academia flowed. I laughed, teared up, and was satisfied when I typed “The End.” 

I didn’t think that manuscript would amount to anything aside from cathartic release, but I let it go, out into the world where all the ugly was waiting for it. Hoping for the best, expecting the worst. 

And ultimately, it returned to me with a publishing contract. 

To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. That those fearless words I’d put on the page, the ones that sounded just like me, were wanted. Again, I’m laughing. Flame & Shadow, my urban fantasy born of my angst, of my truth, allowed me to achieve my dream. 

Nothing left to lose had once again given me my freedom, and opened the door to all the “what ifs.” And as I begin the next chapter in my life, I put pen to page with a new certainty. Freedom is more than nothing less to lose. Freedom is to be fearless in your uncertainty. To believe, and to own your truth. 


Flame & Shadow features Envy Starr, an emotionally stunted halfling with a drinking problem and a bad attitude, destined to die on Midsummer’s Eve. The daughter of a Daemon and a washed-up Vegas showgirl, she’s big on lamenting her fate, in particular the portion that has her dying a virgin during some crappy cult’s live-stream. With a scant month left to live, she escapes, and is thrust into her absentee father’s world of beautifully cultured cruelty.

Hit with a steep learning curve, Envy discovers everyone has an ulterior motive, including the prehistoric Fae that’s been secreted away in her chest as part of an elaborate game. Her only guide is Brennan, the Dae-licious tutor her father, Silas, has hired to make her into a Fae lady, but Brennan’s contract isn’t just with him, and he’d do anything to break it.

When he’s suspected of reneging, Envy is forced to eat some serious crow to save his life, but she’s not particularly wired for self-sacrifice, and there’s no way she’s doing it quietly, Bambi-onesie be damned—

Yeah, that happened. Stupid Fae games…

Whatever. Midsummer’s Eve is rapidly approaching, and that prehistoric pace-maker holds the cards to stopping a plot to screw over normals and Fae alike. She’ll talk, as soon as Envy agrees to let the Fae wear her like a suit.

That’s not happening, but when the moon begins to rise, Envy finds herself a game piece again, and out of options. Pushed to her limit by a squid, schnitzel, and a golden ball, she’s determined to figure out how to win on her terms, no matter how the deck is stacked against her.

Flame & Shadow releases November 13th, 2023 BUT YOU CAN PREORDER NOW.




You can read the prequel, One Night in Bliss, free: One Night in Bliss 


AK Nevermore writes science fiction and urban fantasy with spice. She enjoys operating heavy machinery, freebases coffee, and gives up sarcasm for Lent every year. Unable to ignore the voices in her head, and unwilling to become medicated, she writes about dark worlds, perversely irreverent and profound, and always entertaining. Her debut novel, Flame & Shadow comes out November 13th, 2023. 

You can find her on her website or follow her on her sadly neglected Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

New Release and Win a Book

It’s exciting! The official worldwide release of “Reading, Writing, and Murder, a Chocolate Martini Sisters’ mystery, book 2” is today.

We are giving away two copies of “Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder,” book 1, one each week of the tour. So be sure to pop in on each stop of the tour and comment and enter.

At the writers’ conference, murder tops the program. 

Aspiring mystery author Emma Banefield and travel writer Nicole Earp are excited to attend a writers’ conference during their latest sisters’ getaway. Nic’s birthday should be all about relaxation, writing, and a chocolate martini to toast another trip around the sun, but the climate at the gathering rumbles like a sudden desert thunderstorm. 

When sparks fly between the keynote speaker and her timid assistant over a handsome mystery author, the subtitle on this anticipated tranquil weekend spells drama. If a heated love triangle, bruised egos, and betrayal aren’t enough to upset the atmosphere, the conference banquet erupts into a drunken brawl and sends the place spinning. After a body is discovered, Nic and Em do what they do best—snoop—and become embroiled in a mystery that jumps off the pages of a true-crime bestseller. 

With more than enough suspects and little time, the amateur sleuths have their hands full finding the killer. But can the competitive Chocolate Martini Sisters solve the crime before the prickly chief detective does, or will a murderer outwit them all?

September 19 – Baroness Book Trove 

September 19 – My Reading Journeys 

September 20 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author 

September 20 – Maureen's Musings 

September 21 – Mystery, Thrillers and Suspense 

September 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee 

September 22 – Novels Alive 

September 22 – FUONLYKNEW 

September 23 – StoreyBook Reviews 

September 23 – Cassidy's Bookshelves 

September 24 – Celticlady's Reviews 

September 24 – Christa Reads and Writes 

September 25 – Literary Gold 

September 25 – fundinmental 

September 26 – Ascroft, eh? 

September 26 – Bea's Book Nook 

September 27 – Christy's Cozy Corners 

September 27 – Lady Hawkeye 

September 28 – Socrates Book Reviews 

September 28 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews 

September 29 – View from the Birdhouse 

September 30 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read 

September 30 – Reading Is My SuperPower 

September 30 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book 

October 1 – The Mystery Section 

October 1 – Rebecca M. Douglass, Author 

October 2 – eBook Addicts 

You can get your copies of both books here:

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Romance Can be Wickedly Funny by L.B. Joyce


Help me welcome L.B. Joyce to Wicked Wednesday with a wickedly funny scene from her book, "September’s Moonlight Serenade" Book 7 in the series.

By all appearances, Darcey Hollister is living the perfect life. VP of Marketing for Hollister Industries. A California condo overlooking the ocean. A promising future with David Hanson, a successful lawyer. But when she discovers David and her best friend in a passionate embrace, she realizes she’s been living a lie.

She receives a package, postmarked from Cleveland. Inside is a promise ring. Given to her by Jason three years ago, but lost the same day, she thought she’d never see it again. With the loss of the ring, she believed she’d also lost the promise it symbolized. But with it now back in her possession, she sees this as a second chance to make things right.

As one of Cleveland’s most talented and beloved musicians, Jason Bennett could have any woman he chose. But it was only after Darcey left that January morning, he realized the promise he made with the ring would hold forever. When she suddenly drops back into his life, he finds his mind in a battle with his heart. Yes, he knows he’s been handed a second chance, but he also wants a guarantee he won’t be hurt again.

The promise Darcey and Jason made to each other – will it still hold true? Or has too much time gone by?


Wickedly ‘Funny Excerpt - This is the first real meeting between Darcey and Jason since she left three years ago.


Her shoulders thrown back and a determined look on her face, Darcey went marching around the corner to the room designated for the band as their office and to store their equipment. 

She slipped past the partially opened door. From what she could see, there was no one was in the room. It appeared the band members had already left for the Grand Ballroom to set up for the wedding reception. 

Well, you tried.

She turned to leave when she heard music.

Guitar music…

Now, the logical thing to do would be to call out, announce her presence. But for some insane reason, she felt a sudden need to hide. So, she cautiously squeezed in between a rack loaded with the band’s costume changes and a large up-right keyboard. From there, she could see someone was in the back of the room.

It was Jason.  


Jason was restless. 

He had been feeling this way all day.

Right now, he should be in the ballroom with the rest of the guys, helping set up. But Paul had been insistent they didn’t need his help. 

Hadn’t Jason told him it was time he took on more responsibility? Well, in that case, this is what he was doing. Starting out by offering Jason this opportunity to relax. 

A bonus of sorts. This way, he would be refreshed and ready for the night ahead. 

After all, he was the star.

You’re the star? What the…?

He set his guitar on the couch. Coming to his feet, he massaged the back of his neck, a wry smile on his face.

There was no doubt about it… Paul was up to something. 


Jason’s sudden move had Darcey swiftly ducking behind the clothes rack. 

Her plan, to leave the same way she came in, never had a chance. She bumped into the keyboard. On wheels, this set it in motion, rolling across the floor. She tried to make a grab for it, but lost her balance and wound up shoving it instead.

And this, she would have to say, was when everything began to go so terribly wrong. 

The keyboard picked up speed as it began rolling across the room. Horrified, she could only watch as it crashed into the wall and toppled over, hitting the floor with a loud bang.

Now in a panic, she backed right into the clothes rack. Only to find it was also on wheels.  

The next thing she knew, she was on the floor, watching the clothes rack weaving erratically across the room. The hangers wildly swinging from side to side, sending clothes flying everywhere. 

“Oh, no, no, no…”

Now she was even more determined to get out of the room. In her attempt to scramble to her feet, she found she was at eye level with a pair of jeans-clad legs. Along with what appeared to be a very expensive and custom-made pair of leather boots.  

Jason’s jeans… Jason’s boots...

It briefly flashed through her mind, this was one of the many little things she remembered about him. He was always so well-dressed. 

But right now? This was the last thing she should even be thinking about.

She groaned, closing her eyes.

Oh my God… can you please just die? Or at least, disappear? 

Slowly sitting back on her heels, she waited. 

The series, Twelve Months, Twelve Love Stories – 

Book 1 - A Million Decembers

Book 2 - For the Love of July

Book 3 - February’s Angel

Book 4 - Promise Me November

Book 5 - An Unexpected June

Book 6 - A January to Remember

Book 7 - September’s Moonlight Serenade

Book 8 - Goodbye Heartbreak, Hello May.

Book 9 - In the works, coming soon! 

Along with the new series, Holidays in White Oaks Valley – A Grand Slam Kind of Christmas, Book1. 

About the Author -

L. B. Joyce lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. A freelance artist by day, with designing Christmas ornaments her specialty, she’s also a writer by night. She loves getting lost in a good book, has redecorated almost every room in her house more times than she’d like to admit, loves baking up a storm in her kitchen, hates housework with a passion and will drive just about anywhere because of her fear of flying. 

Social Media Tags -







Purchase Links –

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Reading and Reviews (Cooper and Winters)

I'm an author, but I'm also a reader. From time to time, I'll share my reviews of present and past reads. My available time to read is limited because I write, but I love to curl up with a paperback or an eBook at night for the last hour of my day. 

I tend to read what I write, but not exclusively. Besides Romantic Suspense, I read crime and law novels, once in a while a true story, WWII historicals, mysteries, and mainstream character driven books.

Here are some of the books I've read recently or in the not-too-distant past. Maybe you'll discover a new book or author.

After the Fact by Jeff Cooper 

When Jack Collins leaves a small Connecticut law practice to join one of the nation’s most prestigious firms, he trades a nondescript office for an elite one in a gleaming New York City skyscraper. He basks in the pride of working with people far more glamorous than those he left behind, including a famous boss, an alluring coworker, and a well-known client, Abigail Walker, the wealthy widow of a senator.

Jack thinks he’s on the path to glory, but he’s really a victim of deceit, a pawn in a game he doesn’t even know he’s playing. His new boss harbors deep secrets, his seductive coworker is not the person he thinks she is, and his new law firm is at the very center of a blackmail plot involving the widow Walker.

Blinded by the allure of wealth and power, Jack doesn’t see the danger around him. Time is running out for him to figure out the truth before he loses everything: his career, his marriage, and maybe even his life.


I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The main character, Jack Collins, isn’t a perfect human being. He’s a good man, and I routed for him, but his faults made him that much more interesting. I feared he’d succumb to the seductive coworker and ruin his marriage. I’m not saying he doesn’t…don’t want to spoil it for you. There is a villain of sorts who I was happy to see take a dive. I applaud Mr. Cooper for good characterizations. To me a good story is incomplete without standout characters. And the plot is twisty enough to keep you guessing. 



Deadly Evidence (Jessie Black Legal Thrillers book 3) by Larry A Winters 

When a massacre at an elite private high school leaves seventeen dead and a city reeling with horror, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Jessica Black will stop at nothing to find justice for the victims. But doing so will require facing an adversary even more terrifying than the teenage shooter.

Lurking in secrecy is an evil voice known only as True_Man. True_Man haunts the Internet, befriending the lonely and the frustrated, turning adolescent emotions toward destruction. Jessie believes True_Man is just as guilty of murder as the teenager he manipulated, but finding him—and proving his guilt in the courtroom—will take all of Jessie’s formidable legal skills and more. 


I’ve read several Jessie Black novels by Mr. Winters. I’ve enjoyed all of them including this one, although I don’t rank this as one of the best. Her partner, Graham, irritated me a few times with his phone. I think you’re supposed to get irritated and feel Jessie’s frustration, but it seemed a bit overdone. Jessie hunting down True_Man seemed forced at times to make it work. But don’t get me wrong. This is an entertaining novel which is the purpose and appreciated.


Monday, September 4, 2023

How I Became a Cozy Mystery Writer by Susie Black


It's so fun to have Susie Black back for Muse Monday on Discover... And has she got something special for you. Did you know there's a whole method to choosing the right swimsuit for whatever body shape you possess? No kidding! Here it is readers, in time for summer. CLICK HERE and then read on for a fun post. And thanks, Susie!

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit murder mystery series, I am a ladies’ apparel sales exec. The most critically important skill a sales exec must have to succeed is to be a good storyteller. Fortunately, I’ve been telling stories since I learned how to talk. One thing I’d been told over and over as a sales exec was to know your product inside out.  I heard the same thing when I started writing cozy mysteries: write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t dare to write it. Whether you’re an author or a sales exec, you’re selling yourself, and readers, like buyers, can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat, and then you and whatever kind of story you’re telling are toast.

I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural

next step for me to take. Since I’d never written a novel before, the only thing I knew to do was to apply the same story-telling skills I’d successfully used hawking bikinis to writing a tale. So, where did my story ideas come from? From the start of my career, I have kept a daily journal that chronicles the quirky, interesting, and often challenging people I’ve encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. The journal entries are the foundation of all my writing. With a dollop of imagination, a pinch of angst, and a decades-long career chocked to the gills with juicy characters, I had more stories itching to be told in my daily journal than time to write them.

Who could push a sales exec to dream of murder and mayhem? Who else but a buyer?  After completing a rather challenging conversation with an important, but difficult account, I imagined how good it would feel with my hands around her scrawny neck, squeezing the life out of her. While the notion of knocking off my annoying customers was wildly appealing, a horizontally striped prison uniform making my four-foot, nine-inch body look like a barbershop pole and a fire hydrant had a child wasn’t a pretty sight. The viable alternative?  Writing humorous murder mysteries set in the Los Angeles garment center. Brilliant and cathartic! In one fell swoop, eliminate a pain-in-the-patootie buyer, avoid life in prison, and still get the order. It doesn’t get any better than that.


Butch Oldham didn’t have an honest bone in his body. So, the question wasn’t who wanted the bastard dead. The question was, who didn’t. Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik finds colleague Queenie Levine standing over Mermaid CEO Butch Oldham’s bloody corpse nailed to a fabric cutting table with a big honkin’ pair of cutting shears plunged deep into his chest. When the cops discover Queenie’s blood-soaked sweater, learn about her stormy relationship with the victim, and her public threats to make Butch pay for destroying Mermaid Swimwear by stealing it blind, Holly’s colleague shoots to the top of the suspect list. When Queenie is arrested, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to flesh out the real killer. But the trail has more twists and turns than a slinky, and nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she tangles with a clever killer hellbent for revenge. 


I cracked open the forward door and stuck my head out. I scoped a one-eighty around the dock. The street lights were on, as well as the lights at the top of the gangplank. A half-dozen apartments were also lit. A single light shined inside a cabin cruiser two boats from mine. My boat seemed to be the only thing in the marina with no power.

This isn’t the first time I’d been the only one with no power. When I first bought the boat, I learned the hard way don’t let the coffee maker, microwave oven, and television run at the same time or the circuits overload. But in the middle of the night with no appliances running or an electrical storm to cause a power outage? The blood froze in my veins. The answer isn’t inside the boat. I hoisted myself over the forward deck onto the dock with my heart in my throat.

A faint hint of smoke wafted from the breaker box and power outlet as I reached the end of the dock. I yanked the damaged plug out of the outlet and threw it in the water. I blasted the dock power outlet and breaker box with the fire extinguisher and pulled the other end of the power cord out of my boat power outlet. Eight minutes after my nine-one-one call, the cavalry arrived in force and all hell broke loose.


The psychedelic light shows of the emergency vehicles flashing strobe bubbles created an eerie specter as they bounced off the walls of the apartment buildings across from the marina. While the firemen examined the breaker box, two LA County Deputy Sheriffs kept my dock neighbors at a distance from my houseboat now swathed with yellow crime scene tape.

After the Deputy Sheriffs arrived, Antonio, the security guard, called the Dockmaster to bring her up to speed. Twenty minutes later, Dock Mistress Audrey Camarillo showed up at my slip to consult with me and the first responders.

A fireman squatted in front of the breaker box and electric outlet. “See this?” Siggie sidled over next to the fireman and the nosy parker hound rested his head on the guy’s shoulder for a closer look. The fireman laughed and gave my curious canine a howdy-do scratch behind the ears.

The fireman pointed to the marine power cable connected from the outlet to my boat. The interior guts of the marine cable are covered by a protective rubber encasement. The cable was slit open, exposing the wiring inside mid-cable to the prongs of the tampered plug. Several strips of aluminum foil anchored in place by a fistful of pennies laid on the dock adjacent to the breaker box.

The fireman said, “Whoever did this is no amateur. They knew exactly what they were doing. If they hadn’t been interrupted, they would’ve jammed the pennies in the breakers and wrapped the breakers with the aluminum foil. The breaker would’ve blown and ignited a fire. With the rubber-coated power cable serving as a connector, the fiberglass boat would’ve burned to a crisp in a matter of minutes.” He stroked his gloved hand across Siggie’s head. “It’s a darned good thing Ms. Schlivnik’s dog scared them off.” He turned a one-eighty around the basin. “With all the gasoline-powered motors, they came within a hair of blowing up the dock and burning this entire basin to ashes.” The fireman shoved his helmet to the crown of his head and whistled through a gap in his front teeth. “Somebody wanted Ms. Schlivnik dead. They came mighty close to succeeding.”

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department detective turned to me and asked, “Any idea who is responsible?”

I motioned to the gate above the gangplank. “That’s a security gate. You need a key to get into the basins. Every tenant has a key to the gate and their key works on every gate in the marina. I’m not saying boaters don’t let outsiders in, because we all do. But this time of night, I doubt if a boater is still out, and if someone was, they certainly wouldn’t let a stranger in.”

Audrey shrank back in horror. “You’re saying one of our tenants is responsible?”

I nodded. “Yeah, and I’ve got a pretty good idea which one. She was aboard her boat last night.”



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Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

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