Death by Trombone

Today I welcome mystery author, Rebecca M. Douglass, to talk about Death by Trombone, the second installment in her Pismawallops PTA mystery series. Welcome, photo

Why do you write cozy mysteries?

I have been reading cozy mysteries for years, so when I set out to write a mystery it was natural that it would be a cozy. That also fits with my sense of humor — I just can’t take things too seriously, so I wasn’t likely to pull off a thriller or even a good police procedural. I like to keep the tone light, and I like reading books where the setting, people, and community are as important as the mystery, so that’s the kind of book I try to write.

Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
Death By Trombone is the second book in the Pismawallops PTA mystery series, so the main characters and setting were developed with Death By Ice Cream. Writing about a PTA was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer to the constant advice to “write what you know,” as at that time I was fully immersed in running a PTA (a task for which I’m not really any better suited than JJ MacGregor is). Pismawallops Island is in part based on Vashon Island, the Puget Sound “Rock” where I grew up.
The idea for DBT came from the title, which I’m pretty sure I selected just because it was a bit absurd. Having the title, I simply went looking around my brain for a trombonist, and the rest followed! JJ struggles with her impulse to investigate, because she knows it can be dangerous, and she’s a single mom. She is also at least half in love with the police chief, so if she forgets she shouldn’t be interfering, he’s always willing to remind her. But as she herself would say, things just happen to her, and she can’t ignore them, can she?

Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
I don’t think I have an ideal reader in mind, exactly. I do keep a certain type of audience in mind, as much as anything to keep me from wandering too far into non-cozy situations (violence, cursing, or sex). My mom (I admit it!) is in many ways that audience, and I sometimes run things by her to see if I’ve gone too far. Because this is a series about a PTA, I’m also thinking of the PTA parents who often share the same frustrations as JJ and her friend Kitty: the difficulty of finding volunteers, too many expectations, and the way that kind of work can keep drawing you in deeper. On reflection, that pretty much explains how JJ got started sleuthing, too!

Please describe your writing routine.
I wish! On an ideal day (I’m pretty sure I’ve had one of those, sometime), I would see the kid out the door at about 7:20, finish my breakfast and read the paper, and at 8:00 start working. I’d work for 2-3 hours, break for a workout and lunch, and then go to my job at the library. Evenings are for social media.
What really happens is that I have to run to the grocery store after breakfast, and then I just have to peek at Facebook, and someone wrote a great trip report on the backpacking forum where I hang out, and I need to run a load of laundry and bake some bread and… I do usually try to work for 1-2 hours each morning on writing or editing, and to spend some time at Goodreads and reading and commenting on other people’s blogs each day.

What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Read. Read, read, read! And write. If you haven’t internalized English grammar, read more, and study it, because having the mechanics come without thinking really helps. Read in your genre and in others, including at least some of the time in genres you don’t really like. Pick a book in your genre that you like and dissect it — re-read, listen to the audio, figure out why you like it, and what works or doesn’t work. And write a lot. Don’t expect your first novel to be any good, but do finish and revise it. That’s all part of learning the craft. Finally, if you don’t enjoy the process, and I mean most of it (we all have something we struggle over), then it probably isn’t for you. Writing is unlikely to make you rich, so you need to love it.

More about Death by Trombone:
JJ MacGregor’s very bad day has just gotten a lot worse.
cover artJJ thought starting the day without coffee was a disaster, but now there’s a dead musician behind the Pismawallops High School gym. His trombone is missing, and something about the scene is off key. JJ and Police Chief Ron Karlson are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, but will they be able to work harmoniously or will discord ruin the investigation? With the music teacher as the prime suspect, JJ could be left to conduct the band, and then graduation might truly end in a death by trombone, or at least the murder of Pomp and Circumstance!

Grab your copy here: [amazon text=Amazon&asin=B019HK8VI6]

How to connect with Rebecca:
Email address:
Twitter: Douglass_RM

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Gone By Midnight by Joyce and Jim Lavene

header for Gone by MidnightToday, I welcome Joyce and Jim Lavene to talk about their collection of mystery short stories, Gone by Midnight. Take it away, Jim!
Author photo for Gone by MidnightWhy do you write fiction?
I wrote for a local newspaper, that was a format that was “Just the facts.” I’m an avid reader of fiction of many genres. The idea of just writing non-fiction was kind of boring. I wanted to write something like my favorite authors: Carole Nelson Douglas and others like her.

Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this book?
This book is a collection of short stories that my wife Joyce and I wrote over the years. Most of them are in the fantasy genre. I guess the inspiration would be some of the fantasy books we read by various authors.

Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
I think every author has an image of an ideal reader. It would be someone who loves to read all genres like we write and can’t wait to read the next one.

Please describe your writing routine.
First thing I do when I get up is review what I’ve written the day before, adding to it to stay focused for the day. Then I take the grandkids to school. I come back and make a latte then start writing again until lunch. After lunch I edit and do promo work. That pretty much sums it up.

What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Write what you really care about and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be written like you want to do it. The next thing is persistence. Keep after your goal.

More about Gone by Midnight:

Fans of Joyce and Jim Lavene will thrill at this collection of thirteen short stories. Many are set in the worlds of their national bestselling mystery series, including the Missing Pieces Mysteries, the Renaissance Faire Mysteries, the Retired Witches Mysteries, and an upcoming mystery novel!
Cover art for Gone by MidnightThese stories contain the elements of mystery and fantasy the Lavenes are famous for, as well as some new things their readers have never seen. Several stories feature characters interacting with ghosts, magic, and the supernatural—the healing woman in “Courtship;” the Civil War widow in “One with the Darkness;” the city girl who summons a wizard from the past in “The Magician and the Sorceress/Accountant;” and the young introvert in “Aunt Edna” who finds her calling with help from a ghostly visitor.
Poignant, charming, and captivating, Joyce and Jim Lavene bring their characteristic wit and heart to these stories and introduce each one with a passage about its origin or how it ties into the universe they’ve created. Gone by Midnight is a treasury of tales that will delight the mind and touch the heart from one of the most prolific writing duos of our time.

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.

How to contact them:

Amazon –