I am so excited to introduce my new series featuring a writer’s retreat set on Gull Island off the South Carolina Coast. It will publish May 1 and is a spinoff of sorts from Treasure in Paradise which will publish April 11. Treasure in Paradise is a Tj Jensen mystery and the Writer’s Retreat series will not mention or refer to Tj in anyway, but the location and local characters introduced in Treasure in Paradise will carry over to the new series.
So here is the setup.
Jillian Hanford is a investigative reporter working for the New York Times. Her world comes crashing down around her when she decides to use an unverified tip she received at the last minute and her intel turns out not to be true. Jillian is fired as a means of pacifying the target of her story and finds herself unemployed and unenthused. It is shortly after this that she receives a phone call from a half brother she never knew existed inviting her to come to Gull Island. It seems that her brother has had a stroke and is no longer able to run the island resort he owns. He asks Jillian (Jill) if she would be willing to move to the island and take over the management. She agrees to this at least for on a temporary basis while she figures out a way to get her life back.
After she arrives on the island she decides to try her hand at writing a novel which gives her the idea to run the resort as a writers retreat. She contacts Charles Baxter, a mystery writer and old friend of her brother, and asks him if he would like to move to the island on a permanent basis and help her run things. He agrees and the pair line up several other authors who want to live there as well.
Jillian (Jill) Hanford
Jillian is a dark haired, dark eyed, never married thirty eight year old newspaper reporter who moved to Gull Island after her much older brother, Garrett Hanson, had a stroke and was no longer able to run the resort he’d inherited. Jillian had suffered a personal setback and needed a change in lifestyle, so she decided to run the resort as a writers retreat while she waited for an opportunity to work her way back into her old life. In order to help make ends meet, she takes on freelance work which allows her to maintain her ties to the news industry. Jillian shares her life with her partner in mystery solving, an ornery parrot with an uncanny ability to communicate named Blackbeard.
Jackson (Jack) Jones
Jack is a dark haired, blue eyed, never married forty-two year old nationally acclaimed author of hard core mysteries and thrillers, who is as famous for his good looks and boyish charm as he is for the stories he pens. In spite of his success as a novelist, he’d always dreamed of writing for a newspaper, so he gave up his penthouse apartment and bought the failing Gull Island News. He lives in an oceanfront mansion which he pays for with income from the novels he continues to write.
George is a sixty eight year old writer of traditional whodunit type mysteries. He’d been a friend of Garrett’s since they were boys and spent many winters at the resort penning his next novel. When he heard that the oceanfront resort was going to be used as a writers retreat, he was one of the first to climb on board. George is a distinguished looking man with gray hair, dark green eyes, and a certain sense of old fashion style that many admire.
Clara is a sixty- two year old self-proclaimed psychic who writes fantasy and paranormal mysteries. She wears her long gray hair in a practical braid and favors long peasant style skirts and blouses. Clara decided to move to the retreat after she had a vision that she would find her soulmate living within its walls. So far the only soulmate she has stumbled onto is a cat named Agatha, but it does seem that romance is in the air so she may yet find the man she has envisioned.
Alex is a twenty eight year old fun and flirty millennial who made his first million writing science fiction when he was just twenty-two. He is the light hearted jokester of the group who uses his blond haired blue-eyed good looks to participate in serial dating. He has the means to live anywhere but the thought of a writers retreat seemed quaint and retro so he decided to expand his base of experience and moved in.
Brit is George’s twenty six year old niece. A petite blond haired pixie, she decided to make the trip east to live with her uncle after deciding to quit her job and pursue her dream of writing. She is a MIT graduate who decided that her real love was writing.
Victoria is a thirty-seven year old romance author who lives the life she writes about in her steamy novels. She travels the world and does what she wants to, to whomever she wants to, without ever making an emotional connection. Her raven black hair accentuates her pale skin and bright green eyes. She is the woman every man fantasizes about but none can ever conquer. When she isn’t traveling the world she is Jillian’s best friend, which is why when Jillian needed her, she gave up her penthouse apartment overlooking central park to move into the dilapidated island retreat.
http://amzn.to/2l1BNrT – Kindle
http://bit.ly/2llQaZo – Nook
First Case opens with the group being asked to help Jill figure out a mystery for a freelance article she has been asked to write.
Here is the (unedited) opening scene:
The fact that Katrina Pomeroy had been murdered was in and of itself a newsworthy event. The fact that she had been murdered on Friday October 13th exactly eleven years after she’d been one of five teenagers to survive the Friday The 13th Massacre, made her passing worthy of notice by the national news agencies I used to work for. When an old editor of mine offered me the chance to write a human interest piece about Katrina’s life and subsequent death, I jumped at the chance. An article such as this had all the makings to become the exposé I’d need to relaunch my currently defunct career. Of course in order to make the sort of impact I was after, I’d not only need to write about Katrina’s unusual life, but I’d need to answer the question of who was responsible for her death.
I knew I’d need help to accomplish my goal, so I gathered my friends on a dark and stormy night, and with the help of fellow writer George Baxter, presented a proposal.
“Rayleen Oswald was the first to die.” George shared in a raspy voice as thunder rumbled in the distance. “She was stabbed thirteen times and then propped against a tree, which eerily enough, would be struck by lightning before the horrific night had come to an end.”
A flash of light pierced the sky causing everyone gathered in the three story home we shared to gasp as they waited for the clap of thunder we knew would follow. The house, which was part of the rundown resort I had temporarily taken management of, shook as the wind battered the island from the south causing the tension in the room to intensify.
George continued. “Most felt that as the first victim, Rayleen, was the killer’s intended target, while the others who died, merely victims of circumstance. I’m not sure we can ever know what was in the killers mind and heart, but in spite of the killer’s motive, or lack thereof, two more died before the sun rose in the morning sky.”
Rain streamed down the windows creating a feel of isolation in the dark room which was illuminated by only the light from the nearby fire and a few flickering candles we’d set around the room to offset the inky darkness created when the electricity had flickered and then gone out. It wasn’t uncommon for strong storms to batter the small island off the South Carolina Coast, but I was new to the area and had yet to develop the backbone needed to easily weather such a storm.
“Why were the kids on the island in the first place?” Clara Kline, a sixty-two year old self-proclaimed psychic and paranormal mystery writer, asked her traditional mystery counterpart.
George took a puff from his pipe before he continued. “The day had started off sunny and mild. A group of teens from the local high school decided to cut class and go sailing in spite of the prediction by the local weather service that a major storm would blow in by mid-afternoon. Now the kids, having grown up on the island, were familiar with local weather patterns, and most were excellent sailors, but for reasons that have never been fully understood, the students neglected to return to the marina before the tropical storm rolled into the area. When the teens realized they weren’t going to make it back to Gull Island, they decided to take shelter in one of the abandoned structures on Waverly Island.”
“Waverly Island?” Asked Brit Baxter, George’s twenty-six year old niece and the newest member of our group.
“It’s about fifteen miles north of us,” I answered in George’s stead.
Brit was not only new to the group but she was new to the writers retreat and to Gull Island so I wasn’t surprised that she was unfamiliar with small settlement on the nearby island that had been occupied a half a century ago but had been destroyed in a hurricane and never rebuilt. I glanced at Blackbeard, the outspoken parrot I’d inherited when I took over as manager for the resort my half-brother Garrett Hanford owned. It appeared that he was listening intently to the story which sort of crept me out since he was, after all, a bird. Blackbeard nodded in my direction which caused me to flinch. It had occurred to me on more than one occasion that, the assertion by Clara that the large tropical transplant was really an apparition in disguise, might just not be as wild a claim as I had originally believed.
“So eight teenagers took refuge on a deserted island in the midst of a tropical storm…” Alex Cole, a fun and flirty millennial who made his first million writing science fiction when he was just twenty-two trailed off, thereby encouraging George to continue.
“I think it is important at this point to emphasize that the storm was really more of a hurricane, and the shelter where the teens sought refuge, was within the walls of a structure that had already been destroyed by a hurricane more than thirty years prior. But yes, in answer to your unspoken question, according to the testimony of the survivors, as reported to the local newspaper, the eight teenagers managed to land on the island and find a building which remained at least somewhat intact. They built a fire for warmth and decided to wait out the storm. At some point after they settled in, Rayleen and her boyfriend Troy got into a fight. Rayleen stormed off and the next time anyone saw her she had been stabbed thirteen times and was left leaning against a tree that had just been struck by lightning. The specifics of this case are complex,” George warned. “I am going to suggest that we keep to an overview this evening and then begin to examine the bones of the mystery at a later date.”
“Sounds fine by me,” Brit answered. “But I still want to hear the end of the story.”
“Very well.” Charles refilled his glass of brandy from the bottle on the table.
If you want the rest of the story you’ll need to buy the book. I know, mean right!
The series is a bit more mainstream mystery than most of my cozies. It is about 25% longer than my cozies and it will not contain recipes. (I don’t think. I might change my mind by the time it publishes.)
The series will still is focus on friendships and there are several romances developing between the various characters. It is also still clean and wholesome so anyone can be comfortable reading it but the storyline is more about the mystery and less about cozy elements such as cooking and animals.
Book 2 in the series will involve one of the writers and their connection to a cold case and will publish in July.
At this point I do not plan to put this series in Kindle Unlimited so that I can offer it for Nook, Kobo, and iBooks as well as Kindle. It will also be available in paperback.
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