In honor of my debut novel, The Purple Nightgown, that is set to release March 1, 2021, I want to share my top three favorite books in the True Colors series so far. I haven’t read all of them yet, but I’m working on it. That being said, this list may change as time goes on. I’ll also drop a cover image for The Purple Nightgown at the bottom, so you can share in my excitement!
Stories in the True Colors series follow historical true crimes, so if history and killing is your thing, this series would be a perfect choice. I had the honor of writing a book based on a blog post I wrote in January. Here’s the web address in case you’re interested in a little research before diving in.
In Boston, 1886, Harriet Peters commissions Sarah Jane Robinson to make her a new dress. Both widows are struggling to make ends meet, and they strike up a quick friendship. Harriet feels sorry for Sarah Jane, who has suffered so much loss in her life. But Harriet’s friend, Dr. Michael Wheaton, has concerns that death seems to follow Sarah Jane in mysterious ways Still, Harriet can’t imagine any deceit in her friend, who she comforts through the deaths of her daughter and nephew.
Will Harriet’s trusting nature lead to her own demise as a persistent stomachache starts to plague her?
2. The White City by Grace Hitchcock
While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.
Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim?
The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock
On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.
With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?
At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?
And here is the cover image for The Purple Nightgown. It was a blast to write, and I’m hoping you enjoy it. 🙂
I’m so excited to have my lovely friend, Shaen here for an interview! She’s one of the sweetest, most encouraging people I know, and her cozy mysteries are amazing! Seriously, check them out. You’ll thank me later. 🙂
After the interview, I’ll give you a few ways to connect with Shaen and purchase her upcoming release. There may or may not be a drawing for one of her mysteries down there too.
We’ve all had funny experiences, and that’s no different for a writer. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever had happen to you as a writer?
I don’t know if this one is funny, or just a near miss! Last summer, I was asked to take part in a suspense anthology with quite a few well-known authors. I was the new kid on the block and had never written suspense before. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated. I went over my story with a fine tooth comb, yet the day before I was supposed to submit it, I realized that one of the other author’s stories featured a main character with the same name as one of mine. I felt like I needed to change it so there wouldn’t be any overlap, and in my panic to find the right name, I ended up mistakenly changing my villain’s name to my editor’s! Luckily, I caught my slip up right before I was sending the email to my editor and changed it again. I can only imagine he wouldn’t have appreciated me immortalizing him as a killer in my story, after all his hard work beating my manuscript into submission, lol!
Oh, my goodness! Keeping fictional characters names from being offensive to a friend or acquaintance can get a bit hairy sometimes. Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Kind of? This is just something I’ve started doing recently, but painted fingernails help me be more productive! Seriously, I know you’re laughing, but for me, it’s the equivalent of Jo (from Little Women) and her askew writing cap. I can look down and see my hands on the keyboard and just feel more professional and put together.
Maybe my chipped nail polish explains my writer’s block. Need to paint my nails tonight. In the Bible, do you have a “life verse” that’s significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?
I do! Like a lot of authors, I write about what I’m trying to learn myself, and a verse I often explore, over and over again, from different angles, is Romans 8:28… “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
In Waves of Doubt, Priscilla has to learn to trust God’s plans and stop doubting His prompting. In A Slowly Developing Story, as a mystery falls together at a frustratingly slow pace, Elizabeth learns to rest in God’s provision. In Bird’s Eye View (my most recent cozy mystery release from Guideposts), Martha discovers her impatience and desire to control her situation don’t serve her well. It’s only when she lets go and submits to God’s overarching plan for her life that the mystery falls into place. I hope everyone who reads my books can take comfort in that truth: God is good and in control, even when things look like they’re falling apart.
In the times we’re in, it’s a comfort to know that God’s in control. That’s one of my favorite themes to read, for sure. Which part of the book creation process do you like best– brainstorming, writing, editing, marketing?
This is going to sound bad coming from a writer, but I actually enjoy the marketing part most! Is that a shocker? Let me clarify by saying that, of course, I enjoy the other parts of the process, too– I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t like writing! But crafting the actual book is often an arduous process for me. I’m super detail oriented and have to fight tooth and nail with my tendency to over-work a document. Marketing doesn’t have the same pressure associated with it… I guess it’s like birthing a baby versus sending out birth announcements!
Interesting! But it makes sense. How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
Hmm, this is an interesting question… I think I’ve found my unique writing voice more as I’ve gotten older, probably because I’ve gotten to know my own self better. My natural voice (which I sometimes adapt based on the genre in which I’m writing) is very focused on crafting beautiful language– a holdover from my days writing poetry in college. When I was younger, I didn’t cultivate this part of my style as much, but now, it’s the part of writing that brings me the most joy 😊
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and giving us a peek into your process!
Here is the blurb for Shaen’s upcoming release.
Silent Night, Deadly Night. Welcome to a Killer Christmas!
Danger and suspense await you this Christmas season in Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection featuring 10 individual novellas of suspense from some of today’s most talented Christian Suspense authors.
Come with us on a heart-racing journey through the holidays as USA Today, Christian Booksellers Association, and ECPA Bestselling authors Mary Alford, Adam Blumer, Liz Bradford, Vicki Hinze, Shaen Layle, Loree Lough, Nancy Mehl, Cara Putman, Lynn Shannon, and Virginia Vaughan, weave tales of suspense that will have you flipping pages well into the new year.
I’m a USA Today Bestselling author who writes inspirational cozy mystery from my home in the Midwest, where I live with my artist husband, Danny, and our two rambunctious, but adorable, little boys. Trained as a literary novelist and with a decade of librarianship under my belt, I love discussing all things bookish with my readers on my website and on social media.
I want to give one of you lucky duckies a copy of A Slowly Developing Story. It’s a fabulous cozy mystery that I’m sure you’ll love! Comment below to be entered in the drawing. I’ll contact the winner on September 10th.
“I don’t have to explain anything.” The marshal crosses his arms and sinks into his seat beside Mara. “You’re looking for someone to blame. No matter what I say, you’re ready to believe I’m guilty.”
He’s right. Suspicion has clouded your vision. Best to keep looking for Sam Collison, since Archer implicated him. You pull out your phone. There must be some way to learn the identity of Sam Collison. After opening your Banter app, you type ‘Sam Collison’ into the search bar. Three pages of search results populate. How will you ever narrow that down?
An idea picks at your brain like buzzards on a fresh carcass. Claire Wilson and Jessica’s sister Tawny were married to the same man, now both are dead. There has to be a deeper connection there. It was too circumstantial these two women should be on the same plane.
You turn to the flight attendant. “Jessica. Was your sister’s husband ever charged with her murder? Did the case go to trial?”
“There was a bail hearing.” Her jaw hardened. “But the DA dropped the charges when he found out the evidence was obtained by unlawful seizure. Without being able to use the evidence against Rick, there was no chance at a conviction anyway.”
And Claire Wilson’s killer was still free, no evidence linked anyone to her crime scene. But Angie had witnessed an argument between her husband and Claire. How did that compute? What if the man who had been married to both Tawny and Claire was involved with Angie as well?
“Angie.” You glance over your shoulder. The dark-haired woman steps into the aisle and moves toward you, Devon close behind her. She meets Mara’s gaze, bites her lip, and looks at the floor. “What did your husband do for a living?”
“He was in sales.” Her answer is clipped.
“Did he travel for work?”
What are the odds all these domestic violence cases are tied to the man lying dead on the restroom floor? But the women tied to these abusive relationships were all married to men with different names. How could–
You scan the flight manifest until your gaze snags on the name ‘Jeff Archer.’ His seat is J3. When you find the his assigned seat number, you pop open the overhead bin. You pull out a black backpack. “Does this belong to anyone here?”
A teenage boy claims it.
Next, you drag out a gray duffel. When you ask who it belongs to, the passengers in row J shake their heads. You pull the zipper. Just a bunch of socks, a few pair of underwear, and–it can’t be. A stack of passports are shoved in and inside pocket. You flip through them. Some contain unfamiliar names, others names you recognize. But the photo is the same in each, and all the pictures match the face of the dead man in the bathroom. You stack the known names into a pile. Jeff Archer, Rick Brandt, Frank Wilson had to be Claire Wilson’s husband, and Roger Garrett must be Angie’s.
The victim had at least five identities besides these. Did each come with a different wife? A fresh story of abuse? Your skin crawls. As much harm as this man has caused, maybe he got what he deserved. The justice system clearly wasn’t adequate to stop his hidden lives, to protect the women and children he was hurting.
You pull out your phone to search the names you don’t recognize. With so much commonality among the passengers, surely there must be a way to narrow down the suspects. Jeff Archer–or whoever he was–had murdered Clair Wilson and Jessica Carmichael’s sister. He had beaten both Angie Garrett and her son. Mara had mentioned killing a man after something she’d witnessed him do. You meet the convicts gaze across the aisle. She lifts her chin and raises a brow. Didn’t all that happen before the flight? Why else would she be in shackles, awaiting trial in Australia?
Unless, it was all a lie. What if Durland wasn’t a real marshal? What if the law officer/criminal relationship between him and Mara was just a ruse to keep them from being implicated in Archer’s murder?
When you open your Safari tab, your last search for Claire Wilson comes up. Her obituary sits at the top of the list. You click it and scan the text for the names of her next of kin.
“…she is survived by her mother, Mara Lynch and her brother, Sam Collison.”
Clue #8 Jeff Archer has many identities. He was married to Claire Wilson, Jessica’s sister Tawny, and Angie Garrett.
Clue #9 The convict, Mara Lynch, is Claire Wilson’s mother.
Next week all the secrets will come to light. Who do you think killed the man in the airplane bathroom?
Not sure about you, but I love a movie that leaves me guessing until the end. Here are my three favorites. Do any of these make your list of top picks?
I realize this is one of those movies you either love or hate. There is no middle ground. And many people think it’s too complicated. Well, I for one love the complexity of dreams within dreams. Even the ending with the spinning top leaves room for questions to arise.
2. Knives Out
With the mansion and house guests, this is like a modernized Clue. The story is so well-done that I was drowning in it before I knew what was happening. Yes, even though I thought I knew exactly what was going on the entire time. (I didn’t) The only thing I’d change if I could would be making Daniel Craig stick with his British accent. The Foghorn Leghorn voice doesn’t suit him at all.
Wait Until Dark
I’m going with a classic for my top pick. Audrey Hepburn does a stellar job playing a blind woman terrorized by drug traffickers. I literally screamed at a scene toward the end. If you haven’t seen this gem, I highly recommend!
What are your favorites? Maybe I’ll find some new titles to add to my list.
The marshal takes a step back. “What do you mean, I’m not on the manifest?” His brow furrows. Either there’s simple explanation, or he should get an Oscar for the innocent act he’s playing.
“Your name’s not listed.” You cut a glance at his prisoner, Mara, who keeps her eyes trained on the floor. “She is, but you’re not.” You scan the list once more. “The marshal who’s listed in the seat next to her is Toby Scott.”
Marshal Durland’s shoulders relax. He steps toward you, and you swallow the building lump in your throat. “Toby asked me to trade assignments with him at the last minute.”
But why wouldn’t they have updated the manifest? The weight in your gut says all is not well in Whoville.
“Let’s see your credentials.” Griz steps beside you, arms crossed. Thank goodness, you’re not the only one who finds this fishy as the day is long.
The marshal fumbles, then pulls out a leather wallet-looking thing. He lifts the flap. The ID looks legit enough, but as well-thought out as the murder appeared, you guess a good deal of planning went into it. If Marshal Durland–or whoever this person was–had set this scheme in motion days ago, he would’ve had time to get a phony badge made. Fourteen year-olds got fake IDs all the time, for crying out loud.
You glance at Griz. He seems level-headed, but his eyes narrow, mirroring your own suspicion. “Take a seat next to the convict, marshal.” Distrust drips from every word.
“What do you plan to do?” Durland brushes back his jacket, revealing a pistol in his shoulder holster.
The passengers let out a collective gasp.
“You threatenin’ me?” Griz takes a step forward, clearly unintimidated. The way that network of scars crisscrosses his face, he’s probably seen worse than an air marshal with a 9mm.
“Please don’t flash your weapon.” Jessica steps behind the marshal, using her most soothing flight attendant’s voice. “You’re frightening the passengers.
Durland lets his coat drop and conceal the hand gun. “I’m just doing my job. Don’t interfere.” The marshal stuffs his badge into this pocket. When he pulls his hand out, a scrap of paper flutters from his pocket to the floor. He quickly moves his foot to cover it, but Jessica beats hims to it.
She unfolds the paper, and her eyes widen.
You extend a hand, and she slips you the sheet. It’s a handwritten blueprint of the airport in LA. You tilt the map for Griz’s inspection.
The old cowboy puffs out a breath. “Looks like you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Durland.”
Clue #7- Marshal Durland has a map of the LA airport.
Well, the end is in sight! Thank you all for sticking with me. If you haven’t had a chance, comment on the older Murder at 30,000 Feet posts to be entered in the $50 Amazon gift card drawling at the end of the mystery. 🙂
As much as I love me some Criminal Minds, there are a few other television shows with detectives I love. Some a little more comical than the straight-faced Aaron Hotchner, but still a blast to watch. Hey, we can’t all be simultaneously stone-faced and amazing. And P.S. the male main character in my trilogy was definitely patterned after Hotch. Here’s my personal list of favorite television detectives.
3. Patrick Jane- The Mentalist
This man can sniff out a lie a thousand miles away, and it’s a treat to watch him in action. “Being sorry is a far worse punishment than being dead. Everybody dies. Very few people ever feel truly sorry for the bad things they’ve done.” -Patrick Jane
2. Columbo- Columbo
He’s literally the most frumpy, unassuming detective of all time. But he notices things that the garden variety detective misses. It’s safe to say he annoys suspects into confessing. “Just one more thing.” -Columbo
Adrian Monk- Monk
Not only is Adrian Monk obsessive in the extreme, he has a tragic backstory that made me want to give him a hug (which he would have hated, by the way) and root for him as he sought justice for his wife’s murder. He’s the perfect blend of aggravating and lovable. “It’s a gift, and a curse.” -Adrian Monk
There are so many other television detectives out there that I’m sure I missed your favorite. Drop your top picks in the comments below!
You step into the aisle with the marshal. He clears his throat. Passengers chatter back and forth, not seeming to notice that Durland has something to say. He raises a hand and tries again to command the crowd’s attention.
When you glance to your right at Mara who sits in wrist shackles beside Griz. The old cowboy catches your eye and raises his brows. You shrug. If the group won’t kill the noise for a law officer, no chance they’ll listen to you.
Griz stands, sticks two fingers in his mouth, and lets out a shrill whistle. The commotion dies. Marshal Durland casts a sheepish grin to Griz.
With all eyes on him, the marshal speaks. “Is there a Sam Collison here? We think he might have information on the crime and would like to speak with him. If he saw something, he could be a huge help.”
You bite your lip to mask a smile. Smooth move, Marshal. If Sam is looked at as a helper instead of a suspect, there would be less likelihood of panic, and he might be less on edge and more prone to come forward. You scan the faces in their seats. Heads shake. Passengers glance at one another with lowered brows. They seem genuinely confused. No one steps forward. Sam might be a really good actor. Or maybe he isn’t the killer at all. But what are the odds two people were out to kill the same man?
Jessica, the flight attendant steps up behind you and hands Griz a Dixie cup of something dark and fizzy.
You grip her arm. “Do you have access to the passenger manifest?”
“Sure.” She shrugs. “How else am I supposed to do my job?”
“Can I see it?” If Sam Collison is on this plane, you need to find him sooner rather than later.
“Give me a minute.” Jessica steps behind the curtain into her workspace. A minute later she returns and hands you a sheet.
A quick scan of the list yields no Sam Collison. Darting glances between the list and the people in their seats, you mentally check names off the list.
Everyone accounted for.
Someone’s missing. Your heart and stomach switch places.
You glance at Marshal Durland.
He raises a brow. “What’s that look for?”
“Your name’s not on the manifest.”
Clue #6- Marshal Durland isn’t listed on the passenger manifest.
Hmmm. What do you think that means? Does the marshal have a link to Jeff Archer?
Ever watch a scary movie and feel a wash of relief when it’s over, because it was nothing but a made-up story written by someone with a tortured mind. Well, let me pop that balloon of optimism for you. Not all scary movies are completely unfounded.
Ed Gein, a.k.a. The Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul has given me the willies for years. Turns out some of the most well-known psychological thrillers are rooted in his heinous crimes. I’ll give you three, but there are more in case you’re interested in a deep dive into psychopathy.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Although Leatherface is only loosely based off Ed Gein, the skin mask that the chainsaw wielding maniac wears is a nod to Gein. As are the body parts that decorate Leatherface’s home. HGTV had no hand in the killer’s decor, but Ed would have approved.
2. Silence of the Lambs
The serial killer, Buffalo Bill’s obsession with making suits out of his victims’ skin was taken from a page in Gein’s playbook.
Norman Bates’ twisted infatuation with his mother was patterned after Gein. When Gein’s mother passed away, her influence and tight laced ways remained cemented in his mind. Whenever a woman tempted him to step off the path of morality his mother had set him on, he killed her. Not sure if mommy would have approved of murder though.
From grave robbing to recycling human body parts, Ed Gein was one creepy dude. But his crimes show that sometimes fact is more unsettling than fiction.
You step into the restroom. The sight of the body on the floor turns your stomach. What could you possibly find that Marshal Durland didn’t notice. He’s the professional, after all.
The marshal hands you a pair of latex gloves, and you stretch them on. Carefully, so as not to contaminate the scene, you check the breast pocket of Archer’s suit coat. The gash on his neck has stained the material, but you shove that nasty detail into a mental box for later processing.
Nothing in the pocket. You check his pants. At first his pockets feel empty, but a folded slip of paper grazes your fingers. You pull it out and smooth the creases.
You scan the sheet. What on earth?
“It’s his will.” You glance up at the marshal then read Archer’s final wishes aloud.
“If you’re reading this, my lies have finally caught up with me, and he decided to hold me accountable. I’d like my assets to be divided evenly between my children. Their names and addresses are locked in the safe at my house in Bakersfield. Each of my wives can have the houses where they currently live.
All I ask of the person who finds my body is to have the police check into Sam Collison. He’s threatened me many times, and I wouldn’t put it past him to make good on his threats.”
Jeff had signed and dated at the bottom of the page. According to the date, he’d penned these requests just last week.
“Is there a passenger on the plane named Sam Collison?” You hand the document to the marshal.
A line forms between his brows. “Not sure. But we haven’t talked to everyone yet.”
“I think Sam’s the man we should be looking for.”
Clue #5 Jeff Archer’s will implicates Sam Collison.
Thank you all for joining me for week six! Do you think they’ll find Sam on the plane?
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge Criminal Minds fan. The show is amazing on so many levels. One thing I love about it is the way they delve into what makes the murderers tick. Some of the UNSUBs have left a permanent imprint on my mind for one reason or another. Here are my top three.
3. The Inbred- Blood Relations
As far as I know, the inbred is the only UNSUB on Criminal Minds that never had a name. That in itself sets him apart. But at the end of the episode, he escapes and kills a couple in a cabin. They never return to this storyline, so we can only assume he’s still at large in TV Land. Yikes!
2. Billy Flynn- Our Darkest Hour
First off, those teeth make my want to floss immediately. Also, I don’t look at people who own campers the way I used to. They really are homicide vans on wheels.
Floyd Feylinn Ferell- Lucky
The cannibal on this episode gave me the creepy crawlies for days. And that smile when the truth came out was chilling. Would not want to run into a guy like him … ever.
It was beyond difficult narrowing this down to three (four if you count the honorable mention.) Which UNSUBs stand out to you?
Also, now that Criminal Minds is over, do you have any recommendations for comparable shows to take its place?