The Beautiful Ozarks

When I travel, I’m often asked “What’s it like to live in the Ozarks?” Borrowing a Native American phrase I like to say that to live among these hills is to “walk in beauty.” You needn’t take my word for it, though. Here’s a slideshow of photographs taken by Arkansas photographer David Dedman:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These photographs capture the beauty of our region with its clear waters, deep forests, rugged hillsides and deep valleys. This is the landscape of my mystery series. That landscape is at risk in book #2 when land swindlers and greedy developers set their sights on Hogan County. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want–even if that means murder. When you read the book, I hope you’ll think of David’s photographs and understand what the good people of Hogan County are fighting to preserve.

*

David Dedman Photography is on Facebook. His work is for sale on the Fine Art America website. Click on any photo on that site and a page appears showing you the myriad media available (acrylic, framed print, canvas, etc.) You can enjoy his work on throw pillows, tote bags, greeting cards, and more.

Leave a comment and let us know which is your favorite among these beautiful photographs!

My Writing Process (A Blog Hop)

Susan Holmes Author Photo 300dpi

I’ve been tagged!  Tagged, that is, to participate in a blog hop for writers. My thanks to C. A. Newsome and Corrie Fischer for inviting me to play along!

Every Monday authors blog about their own writing process, using a standard format and answering the same questions.  This is definitely a multi-genre hop; I’ve seen mystery, paranormal, young adult, and romance. Follow the links to “meet” more writers.

What am I working on?

I’m writing Death Tracks, the second in the Waterside Kennels mystery series. This one picks up soon after the events of the summer chronicled in Deadly Ties. After the trouble she had over the summer, all Maggie Porter wants to do is run her boarding kennel and training business. And she wants to spend time with her own dogs—an aging Cocker Spaniel, a champion Labrador Retriever and a Beagle retired from federal service.

Alas, a quiet life is not to be. First, an abrasive community member launches a campaign to enact a “dangerous dog” ordinance which could force Maggie out of business—or into jail. When he’s found dead near the kennel, some in the community have their own reasons for wanting to pin the murder on Maggie herself. Under a cloud of suspicion and with her home and business at risk, she sets out to clear her name and finds herself caught in a murderous land feud that could tear the mountain community apart.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

You’ll find elements of the traditional cozy mystery in my work: an amateur sleuth, a small community, connections to local law enforcement, and a mystery my sleuth is motivated to solve. There’s an eclectic group of characters, a hint of romance, and plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing.

You won’t find vulgar language or graphic violence in my books. I do push the traditional definition of a cozy, though, by introducing a bit more suspense, a bit more trouble than you might see in a typical light-hearted, whimsical romp. My characters—including the dogs!—are good, bad, and sometimes both. That might be why my work has been called “a cozy with an edge.”  Still, they’re the sort you finish with a sense of satisfaction. Mystery solved, justice served, the villains get their comeuppance, and you’re not left with violent images to disturb your sleep!

Why do I write what I do?

I like puzzles. I like writing about ordinary people in challenging situations. If my sleuth gets into trouble, she’s smart enough to figure a way out. She’s loyal and willing to stand up for what she thinks is right.

I write about the Ozarks because I love the region. I want readers to see beyond the stereotype and appreciate the beauty of the place and its people. I’m fascinated by Ozark myths and legends, and by the family stories handed down from one generation to the next.

How does my writing process work?

I start with a “What if …?” and tinker until I can see how the pieces fit together. Then it’s time for research. I won’t start writing until I know the end of the story. From there I work backward to identify key plot points, character actions, and major scenes. I’ve tried various software programs but eventually go back to what works best for me—sticky notes I can move around on a board.

For many years I wrote with my beloved spaniel, Alix, at my feet. Now I have a rescue kitty, Buddy, who keeps me company. He prefers to supervise me in my office, where he’ll watch my progress from the comfort of a window seat. When he thinks I’ve worked long enough, he strolls across the desk and stands on my keyboard.

Somewhere around the third or fourth draft (I’m a serial reviser), I’ll send bits to my beta readers. I work with three or four beta readers, each with a specific focus. One, for example, is an expert dog trainer. If she says something won’t work, out it goes and I’ll revise until she’s satisfied.  Another is a mystery writer, who is wonderful at spotting plot issues and talking through scenes. A third is an English professor and avid reader who understands the writing process, has a keen eye, and is a wonderful listener. And so it goes, until the book is the best it can be.

Keep on Hopping!

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out author Corrie Fischer’s post from last week. And on March 10th, look for new blog hop posts by authors Rae DaviesGeorge Jackson, and L. A. Remenicky.

In search of treasure

Researching my new book Deadly Ties turned out to be a lot of fun—and a bit more exciting than I expected!

I knew I needed some extensive research in order to create the story I wanted to write.  That desire led me out into the woods and deep into caves on the trail of Ozark legends. Now, I admit I was skeptical when I heard some of these treasure stories. In fact, one of the characters in my book feels the same way! But after meeting Phillip Steele and reading his stories, I was hooked. That might explain how I ended up far underground in a place called the Old Spanish Treasure Cave in Benton County, Arkansas.

Well, one memorable day a guide had taken a couple of us through the cave. (A cool place to visit, by the way.) We happened to be the last through and had reached the bottom when the lights went off!  Imagine absolute blackness and complete silence, and you’ll have an idea of what that cave was like.  Now imagine tons of rock over your head, and nothing but a skinny passage way leading you to the surface, and you can probably appreciate that I was breathing just a tad faster than usual!

We made our way slowly upwards and emerged (relatively) unscathed. We later learned an employee had turned off the generator which powered the cave lights, not knowing anybody was still down below.  (Bet he didn’t do that again!)

But the story has a happy ending. We got out safely and I got some terrific material for a book!

You can read more about the background of the book at my website https://dogmysteries.com/

What about you? What sort of treasure do you seek? And how far are you willing to go in search of that treasure?