When a writer needs inspiration…

 

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The Peabody Hotel

Write what you know…is a quote usually attributed to Mark Twain. Twain might have been a great American novelist, but his advice better suits authors of the 19th century. What are authors supposed to do in the 21st century when expected to produce two or three novels a year? As books become shorter and faster-paced, some writers are releasing books faster than that. If as a full-time professional writer you only write about subjects you’re familiar or experienced with, won’t you run out of story fodder? On a personal level, how many stories about a schoolteacher, living on the edge of Amish country, who loves gardening, animals and American history will readers tolerate? Perhaps more practical advice for this day and age would be: Write about what fascinates you, or perhaps the person you hope to one day become.

I have reached the stage when retirement isn’t a distant pipedream. As much as I love Ohio, winters have grown intolerable. My husband and I are determined to live three or four months of the year in the warmer and sunnier South. Recently we’ve combined our quest for inexpensive spots to “snowbird” with my new mystery series. The setting for my first story was easy…New Orleans, a city we visited while family lived in the area and many times since. After several stays in Cajun country I was playing the washboard with spoons and cooking gumbo from a roux. My second mystery, What Happened on Beale Street, allowed me to indulge my love of the blues while researching Memphis and the Mississippi delta where rice and cotton fields stretch to the horizon. For my current work in progress, I prowled the streets of Natchez, a charming town overlooking the mighty Mississippi where the police captain turned out to be the nicest person I ever interviewed. As we check out new places to live, I’m discovering wonderful spots for fictional dead bodies to wash ashore or characters to go missing.

What Happened on Beale StreetIf you’re looking for new story ideas, why not consider places you’ve always wanted to visit? Start with research at your local library and on the internet. Then create the characters of your dreams. Maybe you can give them the talents you always longed to have. Your enthusiasm will turn your story into a page-turner readers can’t put down. And just think…when you visit the area to tweak the details, your trip becomes a tax deductible expense. Sounds like a win-win situation, no?

What Happened on Beale Street , book 2 of Secrets of the South Mysteries, releases in late March in print and April 1st in electronic versions in bookstores and online everywhere.  Book one, Midnight on the Mississippi from Harvest House Publishers is available now.

I’m back from my travels at long last

Happy Monday, readers!

The Peabody Hotel

The Peabody Hotel

Those who follow me on Facebook know I’ve been on a month long research trip and overdue family vacation. For those of you not on Facebook, I recently visited the settings I used in What Happened on Beale Street, namely Memphis and the Mississippi delta. Since blues music comes front and center in my March release, I especially enjoyed the Ground Zero Blues Club, owned by actor Morgan Freeman, in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

2015-09-22 14.50.42Then I researched in Natchez, Mississippi and Bay St. Louis, along the Gulf Coast. 2015-09-21 14.21.39Both settings are used in my current book in progress, Magnolia Moonlight, book 3 of Secrets of the South Mysteries from Harvest House Publishers. I fell in love with the Gulf of Mexico, especially Ship Island and Bay St. Louis, a small town hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, but almost fully restored. Next we visited the French Quarter of New Orleans, setting for Midnight on the Mississippi, just for fun. Finally we finished up with a week in the beautiful Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, including Balsam and Hendersonville.

Amish Christmas MemoriesWhile I was gone my publisher released a novella collection with Murray Pura and Jerry Eicher called Amish Christmas Memories. It’s available only in electronic versions at CBD, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

As much as I love researching and travel, it’s good to be back. They don’t call it home, sweet home for nothing. I hope you’re enjoying autumn wherever you live. And keep on reading! ~ Mary

We have a winner, folks! And greetings from the Gulf of Mexico!

NeverBrokenFront (1)Happy Autumn, folks! Without further ado, here’s the winner of Kathleen Fuller’s new book, Never Broken. Katy Emmert, come on down. I will send you an email and Kathy will send that right out. Thanks to everyone who left Kathy a comment.

 

Also, if you have a moment please drop by Clash of the Titles to vote for Midnight on the Mississippi as a book you would like to read. I have been selected to participate in a “clash” between titles based on the appeal of the book cover.  Thanks so much!!Midnight on the Mississippi

http://www.clashofthetitles.com/

 

12027751_1059082034136951_5804545334126511279_nThanks, readers, and have a lovely week from the Gulf of Mexico where I’m researching book 3 of Secrets of the South mysteries set in Natchez and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This photo was taken on Ship Island in the Gulf Shores National Seashore. Not so autumn-y here….

Here are the 10 winners of our newsletter contest

Happy Monday, readers,

Midnight on the MississippiWithout further ado, here are the 10 winners of a signed copy of Midnight on the Mississippi from my newsletter contest. Thanks to everyone who either signed up this time, or remains a faithful subscriber of my twice-a-year newsletter.  Those books will be mailed out tomorrow. Don’t forget, book two of the Secrets of the South Mysteries, What Happened on Beale Street releases in February.

My 10 winners: Debbie Light, Rev. Warreenactor, Linda Miller, Stacey Barbalace, Shawna Pemberton, Justin Cheeren, Donna M. Forker, Blake’s Momma, Kimi Crane, and Wag Pam. I have sent each of you an email.What Happened on Beale Street

 

 

I hope everyone is having a lovely summer. The weather is downright gorgeous is Ohio, and I am loving it!! ~ Mary Ellis

My brand new mystery is shipping into warehouses

Happy Friday, readers,

Midnight on the MississippiThe weekend is almost upon us and I have exciting news to share. The very first of my Secrets of the South mysteries is shipping into warehouses as we speak. Midnight on the Mississippi was a labor of love for me and I’m thrilled with the final product from my publisher, Harvest House. I am often asked at library events, on email and via Facebook why have you changed to writing romantic suspense. The answer is simple…I must write the stories that intrigue me, and during my many trips to New Orleans, this is the story of my heart. Here’s some other common questions about Midnight on the Mississippi:

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St. Louis Cathedral

What can you tell us about the setting of this novel? The book is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, and also in the swamps and bayous out in Lafayette and Terrebonne Parishes, about two hours away. The French Quarter is an ancient portion of the city along the Mississippi River, rich in history and architecture of a variety of cultures and traditions. It practically drips with mystery and intrigue, making it the perfect setting for romantic suspense.

Who are the main characters, and what is at stake for them in this story?

Hunter Galen is a securities broker who suspects his business partner is embezzling their clients’ money, but he’s reluctant to jeopardize their friendship. After his partner turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life. Nicki Price is a newly-minted PI who intends to solve the stockbroker’s murder and establish herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen-Nowak Investments she butts heads with Hunter’s fiancée, Ashley Menard, who recognizes exactly what a threat Nicki is. As Hunter and Nicki encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and death threats, danger swirls around them like the mysterious dark water of the bayou.

Which of the characters surprised you the most in this story, and how so? Without giving away too much of the story, it was the murderer who surprised me the most. While writing the book, I had a completely different villain in mind! But by the time I reached the end, I devised a far more satisfying conclusion to my “whodunnit.” I hope readers will be as surprised as I was.

How did the writing of this story impact you as a person or as an author? I visited New Orleans about half a dozen times to research this book before Hurricane Katrina and about a half dozen times afterward. That horrendous storm in 2005 changed both the landscape and the lives of the residents forever. Each time I return to this beautiful area of the US, I’m reminded of how resilient, brave, and generous the human spirit can be.

I’ll be sharing more photos from my research trips down the line, but here’s a link to read the first chapter.

https://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/data/files/excerpts/9780736961691_exc.pdf

Midnight on the Mississippi is on pre-sale right now in trade paperback at a great price. Here’s the link: http://www.christianbook.com/1-midnight-on-the-mississippi/mary-ellis/9780736961691/pd/961690?event=Fiction

Electronic versions in all formats will be available on August 1st if not before.

I hope you enjoy the first chapter, readers, and have a spectacular summer weekend.  ~ Mary