I am thrilled to announce the release of my latest book in the Darla Kelly series, MAZE OF DEADLY DECEPTION. I truly hope you enjoy it, and if so, will tell your friends or leave a review. And I'd also like to share with my readers a fun anecdote that few know, unless you tend to read "acknowledgments" first. Even then, you'd miss the fun details about how the cover photo was created.
One afternoon, as I was struggling to present the concept I had in mind for my new book's cover, my sour verbal notes floated, then crashed into another room of the house where my husband, Tom, was busily working on his own project. Maybe it was because he's a good guy, or maybe it was out of his desire for peace and quiet, that he suggested he could make something that could convey my idea to use for my cover photo. Let's just say, I was more than a little skeptical, especially when I heard the word "styrofoam" muttered, followed by "blow torch" as he left for his workshop. I didn't know whether to be curious or alarmed. I turned back to the computer.
Until about a half hour later. Something was burning.
With phone in hand ready to call for emergency back-up, Tom came through the door with his singed project. It was the most unusual tunnel I'd ever seen, complete with vice grips, duct tape, and oh yes—burnt styrofoam. He was so proud. And I was busy trying to think how not to hurt his feelings.
But when he turned on his flashlight app, I saw it, exactly as I'd pictured in my mind—the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Who knew? I'm convinced this guy can do anything. It took numerous attempts at photographing it, but at last, I was pleased (and grateful) with the unforgettable photo results he'd achieved for the cover. I loved it. The burnt smell, not so much.
With the ushering in of a new year, I have set a goal to have my next book's rough draft completed before ushering this year out. However, if I happen to have it edited and ready to publish prior to the end of 2023, I will be thrilled beyond belief! (I like to keep my goals manageable so I can feel like an overachiever if I exceed them.)
If you've enjoyed Shards of Trust and #The Cry Beyond the Door, you will definitely enjoy this book. It is the third in a series of Darla Kelly mystery/suspense/thriller books. Though currently untitled, I will update readers when I have one.
Although I was tempted to end the Dar Kelly's story with The Cry Beyond the Door, a plot began to form in my mind. If you are a writer, you know how difficult it is to let ideas go without exploring them further. Initially, those great ideas got a bit tangled along the way, but twenty-eight chapters later (and a new time/plot line), I'm all in! I can't wait to see how it ends! But of course I do know the ending, and will leave it to the reader to discover it as well.
May all your new beginnings in 2023 be followed by the happiest of endings, unless of course it's a book. Then all bets are off.
At a time when many book lovers are mourning the banning of books and fighting to retain them, there is one person in particular who has fought to preserve ALL books. Tasha Bushnell of Hyde Brothers Booksellers in Ft. Wayne, Indiana treated every book that passed through her store as a treasure to cherish. Not only did she choose to support authors of the past, but she also chose to support current authors within her community.
With her passing, I feel a great loss both personally as well as for the community. Tasha constantly strove to provide the best selection of books for each individual, even during covid. But her customers will most likely remember her illuminating smile that welcomed them whenever they entered her store.
This is why I am thrilled that Tasha's loving family has chosen to continue to carry the torch of passion she had for the bookstore, and keep the fire it lit in others to experience the joy of reading.
As I have said from the beginning of my blog posts, "Writing is a journey," and I still believe that. Yet, somehow I think that there are other writers out there who would tend to agree with me that our writing often crisscrosses with our life's journey, taking twists and turns when we least expect it. At times it can be exceedingly difficult to know which way to turn, while other times, getting off that beaten path can open up our writing to a whole new experience.
For example, as I was on the brink of releasing my second book, The Cry Beyond the Door, I experienced a family crisis, yet I released my book anyway. Bad move. I struggled to follow through with its publication, which caused me to lose focus and stumble off what I perceived as my writing path. Then when the pandemic hit, I veered even further off the path, lost amid the "coulda shoulda woulda's" (sound familiar?).
Then, the unexpected occurred. During a rare adventurous day (outside, of course) with my granddaughter, we shared the idea to write a book based on one silly saying we'd repeated over and over that day, "Maybe, just maybe." Our desire to stay connected, though we lived in adjacent states, planted the seed to begin a journey together off the beaten path.
And what a journey it's been! We've learned from each other, and laughed with each other. After co-authoring two books, we've created our own path, sharing a wonderful new experience together. I don't believe it gets much better than that.
So, in the future, when life throws me a curve that sends my writing off the beaten path, I'll try to take a moment. It might lead me down a new path, or one that will eventually lead me back to the old one, but either way, if I continue to write regardless of the journey, I can't help but move forward.
To every writer, whether you've published a million copies and written dozens of books, or whether you're working on that first big one, remember to support other writers, and/or choose to inspire a budding one along your path. It'll make both your journey and someone else's more enjoyable as well as memorable.
It's that time of year again. Time to get your scary on, starting with a collection of short stories by Hoosier authors, myself included.
Enjoy my short story, "An Eerie Bump in the Road" about a blind date to a Halloween dance. What could possibly go wrong? You might even recognize some of the settings in these stories. However, remember, it's all fiction!
Want to know more? Read on, then choose from many purchasing options.
Trick or Treats:
Tales of All Hallows’ Eve
A Speed City Crime Writers Anthology
In this eighth anthology from the Speed City (Indiana) chapter
of the international crime writing association Sisters in Crime,
sixteen authors examine the American celebration of Halloween.
Crumbling mansions and ancient cemeteries. Haunted houses
and med school dissection rooms. All are terrible places to visit on the spookiest night of the year. So, of course the authors of Speed City Sisters in Crime go there—and you can go with them! From Halloween parties to autumn festivals to trick-or-treaters, Indiana is the home of ghosts, apparitions, and in-the-flesh evil ones, in this time and yesteryear. Some authors lead you on with mischievous intent, some ply you with fright, others bring you straight up murder and mayhem, but all have produced stories you’ll regard as real treats for fans of the mystery genre.
Sixteen tales for All Hallows’ Eve, when the veil between the
afterlife and this life thins, and the night fills with wonder and
Writers I've spoken with have listed varying responses as to where their love of writing originated. For many it came from early years of reading, for others it was discovered later in life, while for others it's a question that they still ponder. Sometimes writers recall it's not one thing but many little things that lead to the desire to write. And sometimes that inspiration can start unexpectedly.
I was contemplating my own love for this art form, when I realized that quite possibly my first love for writing came from my dad. Ironically, he hated to write. But he had another gift, the gift of story-telling. He had a way of keeping his listeners hanging on his every word, wondering would happen next.
Most of Dad's stories centered around the mischief he constantly managed to get into as a kid. I loved listening to those escapades and laughing until my sides hurt. Of course Mom was always frowning in the background, fearing that one of us might try one of his pranks and plead, "But Dad did it, why can't I?" What I did, though, was far worse.
I think I was in fifth grade at the time. The class had been given a creative writing assignment, so naturally, I chose to write my version of a favorite story I'd heard Dad tell numerous times. It was about an exceptionally creative prank he had played at school, and one for which he'd never gotten caught (hence the delight in telling it). The following day, I was thrilled when my story was returned to me with a large A+ written boldly in bright red ink across the top of the first page. I couldn't wait to show my dad.
When he arrived home from work that day, I proudly shoved my paper with its glowing A+ in front of him and waited for the praise. Imagine my confusion when he was (ahem*) less than thrilled. Though I was strictly forbidden to write about any of his stories ever again, the smiles and snickers from even the sourest of nuns at school as they passed me in the hall, was priceless. Maybe not so much for my dad.
That day, the joyful seed of entertaining readers was planted in me, and has since continued to grow. My experience might also explain why I often feel compelled to include humor in my writing, no matter the genre. However, I have kept my promise that I made all those years ago to my dad, and have never again written about any of his hilarious stories. It wouldn't be the same anyway. -- M.A. Koontz
After you read a book, are you apt to leave a brief review? Probably not a priority in your busy life. However, when you do make the decision to do so, the author truly appreciates it. Most authors value your opinion, myself included. That is why I would like to provide some incentive for my readers to review #TheCryBeyondTheDoor.
If you need to purchase a book, my website, makoontz.com, lists many options for you. If you already have The Cry Beyond the Door, thank you for your purchase! I would absolutely love it if you could leave a review on amazon, goodreads, or barnes&noble, then email me at email@example.com when finished, and mention the site where you chose to write your review.
The first ten readers who do this will receive a free autographed paperback of The Cry Beyond the Door to either keep for themselves or share with a friend. I will email those ten individuals with a request for a shipping address in order to deliver the free books to them. It's as easy as that.
Trust me, it is not easy for me to ask for a favor, but I do hope you choose to take advantage of this offer! And as always, happy reading! — M.A. Koontz
I'll be the first to admit, I enjoy doing research for my books. There. I said it. I realize not everyone does, but whether it's visiting a dog kennel and speaking with its owner, or doing those Google searches that, like many mystery/suspense/thriller authors, creates a fear of ending up on the FBI's radar or worse yet, their "Most Wanted" list. I've even asked a retired agent about it, but she assured me that the FBI doesn't have time to worry about us. Good to know. They have bigger fish to fry. Actually, they would prefer to help answer writers' questions regarding FBI facts - at least the well-known authors with the big contracts. Not there yet.
In the meantime, it is surprising how generous individuals and businesses can be when it comes to sharing their knowledge with a writer. All we have to do is ask. Of course those facts are then turned into fiction, which means they might be slightly manipulated to fit the story - maybe even a lot. In the end though, the hint of truth can support a believable work of fiction.
So to all the novice and not-so-novice writers out there, dig in and start your research for that new book. There are surprising facts to be learned that just might get those creative ideas flowing even more. And all we have to do is ask! Remember to include those generous fact-sharers in your credits of appreciation to make it beneficial for them as well. Enjoy this unique step in the writing journey!
Recently, someone told me that she chooses a book by reading the ending first. If she likes it, then she'll read it, but only then. Of course, my reaction was, "WHAT??? Doesn't that ruin the surprise?" I couldn't begin to grasp why she would begin at the end. I considered the many times someone started to tell me the ending to a novel I was currently reading, and I'd interrupt with a vehement, "No-o-o-o! Don't tell me!" But here was a reader who insisted on the opposite. Her response clarified it somewhat when she confessed, "I don't like surprises."
Later, I reflected on this "read the ending first" method, especially as it would apply to various genres. For example, if I read the ending of a mystery first, there would be no point in reading chapter after chapter of puzzling clues that lead up to its resolution if I already knew it. What fun would it be if there was no surprise? The same would apply to a suspense novel, or any work of fiction, so how could she use this method and still enjoy the read?
There was one possible explanation I hadn't previously considered, one in which reading the ending of a book first would not spoil its beginning and middle. Could it be that this particular reader preferred non-fiction? I will definitely ask her if I run into her again, in order to be certain my hypothesis is correct. Then, and only then, will all be right in the world of books and their readers, especially yours truly.
Previously, I'd never put much thought into how important the main character's reaction to a mystery, one that impacted them in some way, could be to a story. It was only when I'd received a phone call from a friend with a mystery of her own, that I stopped to consider it's effect. Does it change how the reader feels about the mystery? Is it relevant? Does it give the reader insight into the protagonist's personality? Does it help the reader care about the mystery?
If you are an author, see if the following mystery compels you to take a closer look at the reaction of your MC to the presenting mystery. As a reader, did the author of the current book you're reading make the emotional impact and connection between the MC, the mystery, and yourself?
* * *
Recently, a friend phoned me, the sound of her normally calm voice shaking over an incident that she couldn't explain. Since I knew her to be a logical person, I could see where the unexplained didn't fit into her world. I asked her to start at the beginning and tell me what had happened. In short, breathless sentences she relayed a benign beginning to her morning.
After other family members had left for work and school, she'd gone outside to shovel a fresh inch of powdery snow from her driveway, sidewalk, porch, and even the welcome matt. Wonderful, I thought, knowing that mine hadn't been cleared yet, but odd that she'd mentioned the matt. I encouraged her to go on.
When she'd finished shoveling, she went inside to take a quick shower before heading out to buy groceries. As she opened the front door, though, an icy blast of wind blew black bird feathers at her and into her home. She fought to brush them out of her face and hair, and off her clothes. They were everywhere. Startled, she tried to see where they'd come from, totally expecting to see a dead bird somewhere. Instead, she saw more dark feathers of different sizes covering her welcome matt, as though frozen to it. Her voice went up a notch as she explained that they hadn't been there when she'd come in from shoveling, so how'd they get there so fast? She'd slammed the door shut before more could fly inside. Gasping, she described to me the sight of the ragged black feathers scattered haphazardly on her light hardwood floor. Never before had she experienced anything like it. She still had goosebumps.
She didn't know why her hands had shook when she picked up the mess inside, but she'd decided whatever the reason, it might help to find an explanation. She'd walked outside through the garage to examine the scene where she then searched the protected porch area and along the front of her home. She couldn't find anything - no bird or animal tracks from a possible fox or coyote. Strangely, there was no blood either. It was creepy. It made no sense. Her voice was even higher as she asked me what I thought could have happened, repeating that she didn't understand how those feathers got there. I'd considered a hawk, but with the porch covering, it seemed unlikely. Her Ring camera hadn't captured any activity either. Finally, after hearing the continued panic from her, I acknowledged that we might never know and changed the subject. Her voice eventually came down to her normal pitch, and her sentences returned to her typical slower cadence.
* * *
I now realize that if my friend had not been so obviously upset about the feathers and how they'd mysteriously appeared, I might not have cared about the mystery as much. Because it upset her enough to be able to detect it over the phone, I cared as well. It made me wonder what else she was thinking. Did she think it was a curse? Did she think someone was messing with her, either as a funny prank or some cruel joke? The possibilities are endless. I can only conclude that, yes, the main character's reaction to the mystery is vitally important, providing numerous possible connections between the MC and reader.
-- M.A. Koontz