Box Set Five, the final set in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Collection, will launch on February 15, 2022! Take a look at this fabulous cover by Kim Killion from The Killion Group. It reflects the book’s setting that starts out over the December holidays with the first title.
In this trio of adventures, Marla solves a murder at her day spa in the midst of the December holidays, investigates her best friend’s suspicious car accident, and enters a bake-off contest at a farm festival where she discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. She even saves a neighbor and her pet from a cat-astrophe in a bonus short story.
Tuesday, Feb. 15, 7:00 – 8:00 pm EST, Book Launch Party with Fun & Prizes at Cozy Mystery Launch Party site on Facebook – SAVE THE DATE!
Included in this Volume:
FACIALS CAN BE FATAL During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. Hoping to salvage her reputation, she determines to track down the killer. Gold Medal Winner in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards
HAIR BRAINED When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend, Tally, is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. She launches an investigation while praying for her friend’s recovery. First Place Winner in the Chanticleer International Book Awards
HAIRBALL HIJINKS (Short Story)
A cat, a crook, and a confused neighbor cause mirth in this cozy mystery short story.
TRIMMED TO DEATH Savvy hairstylist Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field.
We visited Disney World twice in December for double the pleasure. First we visited Magic Kingdom. The magic got somewhat lost on our twenty-minute trek from the parking lot back in the wilds to the ticket and transportation center. No trams meant an unexpected hike. Then more walking until you get to the actual entrance. We decided to wait in line for the Jungle Cruise ride since we hadn’t been on the latest version, but after a crowded wait where we were packed into lines with no social distancing (we wore masks), we had to leave for our lunch reservation.
We had a delicious meal at Liberty Tree Tavern that’s essentially a turkey dinner with a gooey toffee dessert. This was almost worth the angst in getting there.
After lunch, the park was getting more crowded and the skies cloudier. We quit to head back to the parking lot. Naturally the monorail wasn’t working and we had to take the ferry. Finally made it back to our parking lot in the land of the forgotten and were rained on before reaching our car. Not the most magical experience this day. I will not return here until the trams are running again or else we’ll have to pay extra for preferred parking.
Our day at Disney Springs was better. We met our kids for an anniversary lunch at Paddlefish which was very enjoyable. Here’s my clam chowder and crab cake meal.
We strolled around to view the Christmas trees. There wasn’t any defined trail like in previous years. These were scattered among the stores.
We passed a concert by a band and watched our grandson on a train ride with his mom. Not sure which one of them loved it more.
Next trip, if we care to brave the crowds, will be Epcot for the food booths at the arts festival. I’d definitely get the preferred parking although it grates on my nerves to have to pay extra when the free trams should be running. The magic isn’t what it used to be.
When you’re writing a series, how do you know what comes next? Book One lays the groundwork, introducing the setting, characters, and premise for the entire series. How can the second book build on this beginning?
That depends on if your stories are more episodic or serial in nature. For whodunits, we’re more episodic with a different murder mystery to solve in each book. The crime is the focus of the plot, like exploring a new planet on each episode of Star Trek.
But this is only your main character’s external conflict. What about their internal angst? Here’s where you can introduce a serial element. By this, I mean an overarching thread that isn’t solved in book one. This thread deals with the protagonist’s struggle to overcome obstacles to achieve her ultimate personal goal. Each book should evolve from this core inner conflict.
In my Bad Hair Day series, hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail progresses in her dating life and matures to overcome past traumas and to embrace a happy future. But once your character fulfills her destiny, you’ll have to throw in another wrench to clog the wheels. This means that when one thread is tied up, you’ll need to introduce another source. Each story should evolve from the personal issues introduced in the previous story as well as any external problems that remain.
A romance series is more likely to feature spinoffs, or a new set of protagonists per book. These stories might take place in the same town or share a theme, thus adding a commonality. i.e. A missing object must be found or something bad will happen. Each book would then focus on the protagonists revealing a new facet to this mystery, perhaps leading to another clue. It would reflect on their inner journeys as well. This is in addition to whatever external conflict is affecting their relationship.
Or in a science fiction series, perhaps the evil galactic warlord must be stopped. The heroes have many adventures along the way, making friends and enemies as they seek to end the tyranny or to prevent a worse threat from emerging.
Think of Harry Potter. Readers know he’ll have to face Lord Voldemort someday. Meanwhile, he has other villains to defeat. Along the way, he has to find the courage and power to defeat his mortal enemy.
Your cast of secondary characters can provide plenty of opportunities for sequels based on their goals and conflicts and interaction with the protagonist. Give one a prominent role in the next story and focus on this person’s problems. Your hero gets involved because she cares about this character. She’s also grappling with some aspect of her own personal struggle to overcome.
It all goes back to the writing advice that your main characters must grow and change. What would normally happen next in this person’s life?
Figuring out what to write next hasn’t been a problem for me. The biggest obstacles have been time and marketing decisions. What about you?
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King’s River Life Magazine
Leave a comment on my guest post “Keeping a Series Fresh” for a chance to win an ebook copy of STYLED FOR MURDER.
Happy New Year! At this fresh beginning, we set our goals for the coming months. As writers, we can divide these into Creative and Business Goals. The former may involve writing the next book or trying a short story, while the latter can include marketing efforts or reissuing titles in different formats.
First, let’s look back to see what I’ve accomplished in 2021. It was a productive year, coming after the pandemic started and we had a major move that sapped my creative energy through the latter half of 2020.
Last Year 2021
Wrote and Published Styled for Murder, #17 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Published Box Sets 1-4 in my mystery series
Offered a Sales Promotion for Permed to Death
Added my mystery titles to Google Play
This Year 2022
Write and Publish book #18 in my series, tentatively titled Star Tangled Murder
Publish Box Set 5 – Scheduled for Feb. 15 launch date
Revise standalone mystery Murder at Your Service
Do more audiobooks
Consider publishing romance backlist as paperback editions
Some of these choices are economical. I’d love to offer my early romances in print editions, but would enough readers buy them to offset the cost of formatting and cover design? Or should I attempt to do those myself using online tools? These are business choices I’ll have to make later.
Ditto for the audiobooks. These are very costly to produce, and I’ve only done 4 out of 17 titles. I don’t care to do royalty share, so this leaves the burden of cost up front to me. If I was sure I’d make back my investment, it would be a no-brainer, but that’s not happening. Another possibility is selling the rights to the remaining titles, if that’s even possible.
Every author likely goes through a phase when we are waiting for inspiration to strike. Or perhaps we have a plotting problem and need to find a solution. If you’ve been thinking about this issue for some time, the response will pop into your head at unexpected moments. It’s like a lightbulb turns on in your brain with just the answer you need.
It’s ironic that I was slated to speak to the Citrus Crime Writers chapter of Sisters in Crime on “Creating Settings that Sizzle.” I was struggling to figure out the setting for my next Bad Hair Day mystery.
It had been several weeks since I’d started preliminary research for this book on topics that interested me. But I still lacked the single cohesive factor I needed. In my blog post on the Five Stages of Writing, I mention Discovery as number one. This is wherein you discover the story before you begin writing. I knew the inciting incident had to take place at a fairground or a park. I had several disparate elements that I couldn’t tie together. What was I missing? The setting within a setting, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. I needed a group of people who knew each other, but I couldn’t repeat what I’ve done before. This will be my 18th book in the series, and it becomes a challenge to keep things fresh.
I sat on my couch, intending to ruminate about the plot, when EUREKA! The answer popped into my brain! It was PERFECT for what I needed!
It’s amazing how the subconscious works. This is why you need to give yourself time during this discovery phase and not rush things. Gather the story elements, let them stew in your mind, and out will come the answer you need.
I’d visited this place and wrote a blog on it. I had an album with over sixty photos. And there was even a haunted house with ghost tours on the premises! Moreover, this setting within a setting was located at a fairground and would have a built-in group of suspects.
I’d have to adjust things a bit to fit my scenario, but this idea hit the nail on the head. I even remembered an episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries that took place in a similar setting. I’ll watch it to see how they set things up. Fortunately, I have the DVD in my collection.
You never know when a research trip will pay off. As a writer, you should take notes and photos wherever you go. At some point in the future, you might need those notes to set a scene or an entire story in that place. Every site you visit becomes a potential goldmine.
Now I’m excited to bring the pieces together. I’ll have some weaving to do but I have my basis to get started. At this point, I can determine the suspects. Then it’s a matter of figuring out their secrets and interconnecting them. All of this takes place as part of the Discovery phase before writing the story. More research may be required but at least now I have a direction to follow. I’m excited to see where the trail will lead.
My fellow writers, have you ever experienced this Eureka moment? It’s a glorious feeling, isn’t it?
Enter Here to win a free book Dec. 1-18 at Booklovers Bench in our monthly giveaway.
I have some exciting news to share that just can’t wait! This has been a busy time with Thanksgiving, my birthday and the first night of Hanukkah all rolled into one weekend. Now I’m gearing up for the rest of the holidays before hopefully getting back to writing again. Meanwhile, I am thrilled to announce the items below.
STYLED FOR MURDER has been chosen as a “Best Book of 2021” in the Cozy category by Suspense Magazine. Look for a feature in the upcoming December issue. https://www.suspensemagazine.com/
I am beyond excited about this honor and want to thank my fans, friends and family who voted for my book. You guys are the best!
The Big Thrill
“Having reached Book 17 in the A Bad Hair Day Mystery series, hairstylist-slash-amateur sleuth Marla Vail is almost as familiar with murder as she is with up-dos.” Read the scoop in an exclusive author interview by Allison McKnight in the current issue of The Big Thrill from International Thriller Writers. https://www.thebigthrill.org/?p=73206
Woman’s World Magazine
STYLED FOR MURDER was featured in Woman’s World Magazine in the Book Club section on page 8 in the Nov. 29th issue.
Here is their review:
“A charmingly funny whodunit unfolds when hairstylist and savvy sleuth Marla Vail gets a frantic call from her mother saying she found a dead body in her bathroom during a remodel. The victim turns out to be the project manager, who had a reputation for shady dealings. When Marla’s stepfather, Reed, becomes a suspect, Marla digs deeper for clues. Now, she’ll have to put all the pieces together to nail down the truth!” Woman’s World Magazine, Nov. 29, 2021
Researching a book can lead authors down a proverbial rabbit hole when they stumble upon an issue of interest. Such was the case for me when I decided to look into copper thefts.
While writing Styled for Murder, my latest book, I got stuck in the middle. I needed a spark of inspiration to spur the story forward, something exciting to research. When I shared my dilemma with my critique partners, one of them mentioned copper thefts. My book involved remodeling scams and this topic came to mind.
Bingo! I’d heard of this crime, and it would fit the story perfectly. As I delved into the research, I discovered all sorts of new twists. I was off and running and didn’t stop until the end. This had been exactly the spark I’d needed. So what is this crime that can affect average residents like us?
Copper is a valuable commodity. Crooks sell it to scrap metal dealers for a high price. Construction sites are favored targets along with abandoned buildings. Crooks have plenty of time after workers leave for the day to sneak in and strip out whatever they want. They can cause a lot of harm that way.
In one instance, thieves ripped open the walls on a building scheduled for demolition. They cut out the copper pipes and wires. Unfortunately, they didn’t turn off the main water valve, and the construction company had to pay for the resultant utility bill. Builders have to balance the cost of security against the potential replacement of stolen goods along with damage repairs.
Why do bad guys target copper in particular? This metal is used in critical infrastructures such as electrical sub-stations, cell towers, phone lines and water systems. Copper provides a reliable connection and is corrosion resistant. Thieves can make thousands of dollars per month from selling copper to scrap metal dealers.
“How does this affect the homeowner?” Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, asked her friend Tally while at lunch in a restaurant.
Tally snorted. “Your central air-conditioning units may use copper piping for the water supply and refrigerant lines along with the inner coils. If the thieves take these components, you might come home one day and have no air-conditioning. The metal is also found on propane tanks. Thieves might cut the pipes at ground level near the meters and then rip away the piping. Your house would lose its gas supply, meaning you’d turn on the range and nothing would happen.”
“I’d be more afraid of a dangerous leak caused by a cut pipe. Doesn’t a security system offer protection against people stealing this stuff outside your house?” Marla asked, thinking of the video cameras and exterior lighting around her place.
“Nope. I remember reading about a case where a man took ten minutes to crawl beneath a house and cut out a hundred feet of plumbing pipes using a plumber’s tool. They’re fast, so by the time you receive an alert, they’re already gone. Nothing is ever secure to a determined criminal.”
Fortunately, new regulations have made scrap dealers more responsible, which has been helpful in preventing these thefts. Being an alert and observant neighbor is always a good idea, too.
We learn all sorts of eclectic things when researching a story. I hope this information has been as illuminating for you as it has been for me. Are you aware of any construction problems in your area?
STYLED FOR MURDER is mentioned in Woman’s World Magazine on page 8 in the Nov. 29th issue! They call it a “charmingly funny whodunit.” Get your copy NOW at your local newsstand. Last chance before the next issue comes out.
Books make great gifts for the holidays! Get one for yourself and gift another to a friend.
STYLED FOR MURDER by Nancy J. Cohen
When hairstylist and savvy sleuth, Marla Vail, gets a frantic call from her mother that there’s a dead body in her shower, Marla realizes this wasn’t part of the home renovation plans. The victim turns out to be the project manager, who had an untrustworthy reputation in town. Disgruntled customers, unpaid suppliers, and the design company’s staff are among the suspects, but Marla is more concerned about her stepfather’s connection to the victim. Can she flush out the clues and nail the killer before he strikes again? Recipes Included!
PERMED TO DEATH, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, is on sale for only99 cents! Special deal available Nov.14 – 30, so hurry and place your order now! Get one for yourself and send another as a gift to a friend.
Hairstylist Marla Shore is already having a bad hair day when one of her clients dies in the shampoo chair at her salon. Then Detective Dalton Vail accuses her of putting poison in the woman’s coffee creamer. Grumpy Bertha Kravitz might not have been Marla’s favorite customer, but she wouldn’t have murdered the lady. With her reputation at stake, Marla decides it’s up to her to unmask the killer.
Combing the woman’s privileged world for clues, Marla discovers the town is crawling with potential suspects. Bertha’s son is resentful about being written out of her will. Her shady business partner has secrets to hide, and then there’s the niece, who inherits Bertha’s fortune. But Marla might have to look closer to home for the culprit. Her janitor has vanished without a trace, and one of her stylists leads an upscale lifestyle that doesn’t match her income.
As the case grows more snarled, Marla determines to unravel the clues. She’d better hurry before the smart detective discovers her scandalous secret, or he’ll pin her with a motive and lock her away in a place where a bad hair day will become permanent.
“Marla the beautician is a delight!” Tamar Myers, author of the Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries
“Fast-paced and jaunty.” Publishers Weekly
“A plot with more tangles than an uncombed perm.” Kirkus Reviews
“Permed to Death is a beauty of a read. The characters are believable, the mystery is well-plotted, and the suspense is a real manicure-ruiner.” I Love a Mystery
“An amusing tale, buoyed by a likable amateur sleuth and enhanced by the South Florida atmosphere.” Sun-Sentinel
“Permed to Death is a good book to start reading while waiting at your favorite salon for your hair appointment.” Cozies, Capers, & Crimes
STYLED FOR MURDER, #17 in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries, is now available in print and ebook formats. Happy Book Birthday!
When hairstylist and savvy sleuth, Marla Vail, gets a frantic call from her mother that there’s a dead body in her shower, Marla realizes this wasn’t part of the home renovation plans. The victim turns out to be the project manager, who had an untrustworthy reputation in town. Disgruntled customers, unpaid suppliers, and the design company’s staff are among the suspects. Which one of them wanted the foreman to pipe down about their shady dealings?
Meanwhile, the lead investigator sets his sights on Marla’s stepfather, Reed, who’s keeping secrets from his family. Reed has a past connection to the victim and won’t come clean about what he knows. As Marla drills deeper, she’s showered with suspicions, but nobody’s willing to leak any information. She needs to hammer down the prospects, or time will drain away and the murderer will strike again.
To flush out the culprit, Marla taps into her pipeline of resources. Can she assemble the clues and demolish the alibis to nail a killer? Or has someone designed the perfect murder? Recipes Included!