Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Next Big Thing Blog Hop: Laurel Highlands Mysteries

Yeah, yeah, I know. Didn't I do this already? Yes, I did here, but when Sisters in Crime Sib Annette Dashofy put out the call, how could I say no? And I've got a new book (long short story really) to talk about.

You can read all about Annette's work here.

Without further ado - round two of The Next Big Thing.


1. What is the working title of your book(s)?

This story is called "An Idyllic Place for Murder." It is the first in my Laurel Highlands Mysteries series.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

In October 2011 I attended my first "Escape to the Woods" writing retreat with the Mary Roberts Rinehart chapter of Sisters in Crime. It was my first writing retreat and I was going with a group of people who were virtually strangers (I had met two of my sibs exactly once). The retreat was held in Confluence, PA which is in the Laurel Highlands, the area that gives the name to the series. Well, we stayed in a rental house, not quite a cabin, but definitely not a hotel. As we read the guest register, there was mention of "be careful of the Creeper." Apparently, the gentleman who owned the trailer neighboring the rental property was a bit cranky. Well, I was with a group of crime writers, so of course we couldn't resist talking up the potential story lines for a character known as "the Creeper." I conceived of the victim, a woman escaping a messy divorce, and my protagonist, a PA State Trooper. And of course the suspect, a slightly crazy old man known to locals as "the Creeper." And voila! a story was born.

3. What genre does your book come under?

This one is pure crime fiction, a police procedural  (not what I intended to write, but I fell in love with my State Trooper Jim Duncan and my feisty public defender Sally Castle, so I was stuck).

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, that's easy. Jim Duncan is a younger Mark Harmon, no question. And Sally Castle looks exactly like Angie Harmon. I've known that from the minute the story was finished (as I talk about in a previous post about character love).

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Laurel Highlands become anything but idyllic for PA State Trooper Jim Duncan when the body of a young woman is found in a local rental house - but was she the victim of the crazy Creeper or someone else?

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I'm thrilled to say that the story will appear in the Spring/Summer issue of Mysterical-E, an online crime fiction magazine. Since I have more stories for these characters, I can see an anthology being published someday, probably self-published (since very few markets do reprints for this particular genre/length).

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I think it honestly took longer to plot it out than write it. After the story line and characters coalesced in my mind, I wrote the first draft in maybe 7-10 days.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think it's a pretty standard police procedural story, so maybe LJ Seller's "Detective Jackson" series or maybe Diana Stabenow's "Liam Campbell" series (not that I am comparing myself to either writer - at least not yet!).

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Well, apart from the entry in the guest book, I think I'd have to credit my sibs in the Mary Roberts Rinehard chapter. I've loved reading mysteries for as long as I can remember, and this group of fantastic "sisters" (and "misters") really taught me a lot about how to write and plot crime fiction. And I have to give thanks to Ramona Defelice Long who read an early version of the story, clued me in to the fact that I had unwittingly written a police procedural, and gave me the confidence to keep polishing and submitting it.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Aside from the crime fiction/police procedural aspect, I think anyone who is familiar with the Laurel Highlands, either from pictures or first-hand experience, would enjoy the local references. Turns out there are a lot of good places to find bodies in and around Uniontown. Who knew?


  1. Can't wait to read it! We're building a cabin in the Laurel Highlands (east of Somerset), and I plan on hosting some mini-retreats if we ever get the darn thing finished. We do have a bathroom, a bed, a fridge, a range, and a toaster oven, so it's getting there. We don't have a Creeper, though. At least not that I'm aware of!

    Just before your story is out, you should contact the Laurel Highlands Visitor's Bureau. Maybe they'd mention it in one of their e-newsletters.

    1. We never met The Creeper - of course that just adds to the mystery. LOL

      It's a beautiful area. I'd love to do a mini-retreat. And thanks for the tip about the Visitor's Bureau.