Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Q and A about Valentine's Day is Murder - What to Expect

Imagine this…the sun warming your face, the ocean breeze through your hair, and your toes in the sand. Your sun-kissed skin and the smell of coconut oil and salt water fill the air. Immerse yourself further with the sights of a break-taking beach and crystal blue water that stretches to the horizon. Sip on a fresh piña colada as you lounge by the pool. Be tantalized by the aroma of cooked garlic shrimp and fine dining. Listen to the chirping of the birds and tree frogs. Inhale the lush vegetation of paradise. Interact with the hard-working, beautiful people of this island who have the attitude of “no worries, be happy,” and where everything is “no problem.”

Yet, here in the middle of paradise, your sweetheart vanishes without a trace. You are left all alone thousands of miles from home, in an unfamiliar country.

This is what happened to Meredith. She took a chance on finding love with Jimmy, a friend of Sean and Sara McKinley, but he disappeared at dinner. With nowhere else to turn, she calls the McKinleys for help, figuring that if anyone can find Jimmy, it’s them.

This sets the stage for my upcoming release, Valentine’s Day is Murder.

Why did I choose Ocho Rios, Jamaica?

I wanted to base the book in a location I had visited myself. Although, it was years ago—I was a teenager—I still remember it clearly. I recall the smells, the scenery, and sounds. I can still conjure up the feeling of the country. Combining this real-life experience with Google Earth, I realized that my memories of the terrain were spot on.

The restaurant where Jimmy disappears was based on one we dined at. I smile at those happy memories. Our waiter introduced himself as Paul, adding that it was a Bible name. My mother found it beautiful that he added that, seeing as most people in America would never add such a comment. I still find amusement at a comment my father said to the waiter about the moon. It was a very dark night and we couldn’t see it. My dad was joking when he said to the server, “Do you have a moon in Jamaica?” You should have seen the man’s expression.

During our visit, a cruise ship was docked and my mother wanted to take a tour. We weren’t allowed due to the risk of castaways, but it never hurts to ask.

To Jamaicans, we are all rich. A woman and her daughter befriended us and I remember they were carrying on about how wealthy we must have been. My mother corrected her to say that wasn’t true. The Jamaican woman said, “Do you have a house?” My mother said, “Yes.” “Do you have a car?” “Yes.” “Then you are very rich.”  It put things into perspective.

We took a trip down one of the rivers on a wooden raft and I remember a young boy who swam out to try and sell something he or his family made. There’s a funny story in this outing too. Well, maybe not funny for my dad, although, he saw humor in it later on.

For this trip, my mother, sister, and I were on one raft with a guide, while my dad, another tourist man, and their guide were on another. They were in the lead. We went through a small patch of rougher water…and really it wasn’t that big or that rough, but it was enough for the raft my father was on. It busted apart!

My father, the tourist, and the guide went flying into the water. My father sort of leaped because he didn’t want to land on the other men. It was funnier to watch—at the time—than it was to my dad, of this I am sure. But no one was hurt and they got another boat. Still smiling at this memory now. Thank you, Dad.

Mom and Dad paid for my sister and I to get our hair braided. The process wasn’t a fun one, but the result most certainly is—tight braids, colored beads, and a piece of island flair. The only drawback was the sunburned sculpt and the chlorine of the pool. Still, it was a process I repeated as an adult in ’99 in the Dominican Republic.

As for the cooked garlic shrimp mentioned at the beginning of the post, it was a weakness of ours when we were there. They were delicious! I’d love to know if the guy or his family is still selling this on the beach. They were hot and succulent. The fact that they were left for the consumer to peel was all part of the experience. We couldn’t get enough of them. If I inhale deeply enough…aaah.

What were some challenges I faced writing the novella?

I’d say the largest challenge was keeping this novella PG-rated. I want the McKinley novellas to also appeal to the Christian market. Without any foul language or graphic violence, the series is already at an advantage in this regard. But with adding in a love interest for Jimmy and a getaway to a tropical island, well, I had to be careful. I changed things up so that there is no mention of premarital sex. In fact, Jimmy and his friend Meredith, although interested in each other romantically, stayed in separate rooms.

What can readers expect when they read this novella?

Throw in gold coins and talk of pirates—“ARGH Matey”—you have a clean mystery with action and adventure overtures.

Must I read the others in the series before this one?

No, although, of course, I’d love you to. But to understand the storyline and the characters, you can start with this novella and go back. Each episode in the McKinley Mystery series stands alone.

Where can I get a copy?

Valentine’s Day is Murder is available from the following retailers. It is available in eBook and print formats.


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