Monday, January 23, 2017



Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman… alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.


Getting The Details Right In Fiction

One of the trickiest things about writing fiction is getting details correct, especially in areas where the writer doesn’t have personal experience. For example, I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve also never found a dead body or investigated a homicide. This makes it tough to accurately portray a killer, a witness, or a detective.

And in my fiction, I do all three.

So what’s a writer to do?

In my experience, it’s a combination of research and common sense.

A writer also has to be prepared to have experts point out mistakes in their published novels and be gracious about it. It will be tempting to correct their grammar while they do so, but bite your tongue, smile, and say thank you.

For research, I love to read nonfiction in the subjects pertaining to a specific manuscript. Whether it’s cheating at cards or narcissistic personality disorder, there are plenty of great resources out there written by experts. I read about areas I know I’ll need help with before I start a manuscript.

Once I start writing the manuscript, I continue to do research, either online or in nonfiction books. I also keep a running list of questions for an expert.

After I’ve written the first solid draft—my writing process includes a lot of rewriting as I go, so “first draft” is a bit misleading—I contact experts in the various disciplines explored in the work.

This is my favorite part about being a writer. Experts love to talk about the things they are passionate about. I have gotten to tour through a working glass factory, gone on rides with the fire department, and have a long-standing relationship with a homicide detective.

I’ve also interviewed veterans about PTSD, spoken with beekeepers about colony collapse disorder, and spent time with people at a mental health facility. These experiences stay with me and dictate not just the words I put on the page, but also how I see the world.

Talking with experts is the best way I know how to sprinkle my fiction with real-world jargon, specific details, and accurate depictions. It’s also a great way to figure out plot points and actions that might not otherwise occur to me. The opening to the second book in my series, Two Heads Are Deader Than One, completely changed after a conversation with my expert in homicide detection. Without talking to him, I might never have figured out a great way to get my protagonist into trouble in the first place.

Then comes the common sense part. This is hard because you don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes I get information wrong because I never knew to ask a certain question. So the first thing a writer has to develop is a keen sense of “why do I think that?”

If the answer is, because that’s how I’ve seen it portrayed over and over again on TV and in the movies, a red flag should be going up.

From homicide investigation tactics, to weapons, to medical emergencies, the public has been fed a steady stream of inaccurate depictions of crime and the people who deal with it on a daily basis.

One of the things I include with my questions for my experts are all the details I think I have correct. So, in addition to asking “how would you…” I also say, “I believe the following is true…” and make sure I verify what I think I know with someone who actually does.

Truth is stranger than fiction. It’s also important to people. Getting things “right” in your fiction shows readers you care about the characters you write and the world they live in. It also shows you care about the world you live in. With the recent explosion of fake news and a lack of respect for what’s true, fiction writers have an even greater duty to “get things right.”

The bottom line? Do the best you can, your readers will forgive your human errors and appreciate how hard you try. Own your mistakes and move on.


After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduces Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct,” by author Peter Clines, I’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”

In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.

When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs.” Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

Connect with Elena:
Webpage  |   Blog   |   Facebook  |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Pinterest   

Buy the book:
Amazon   |   B&N   |  iTunes  |  kobo 


Tuesday, January 17, 2017



Before Las Vegas, Galveston, Texas was called the “Sin City of the Southwest.” Real-life rival gangs fight over booze and bars during Prohibition in this soft-boiled Jazz Age mystery, inspired by actual events. Jasmine Cross, a 21-year-old society reporter, feels caught between two clashing cultures: the seedy speakeasy underworld and the snooty social circles she covers in the Galveston Gazette. After a big-shot banker with a hidden past collapses at the Oasis—a speakeasy secretly owned by her black-sheep half-brother, Sammy Cook—Jazz suspects foul play. Was it an accident or a mob hit? Soon handsome young Prohibition Agent James Burton raids the Oasis, threatening to shut it down if Sammy doesn’t cooperate. Suspicious, he pursues Jazz, hoping for information and more, but despite her mixed feelings she refuses to rat on Sammy. As turf wars escalate between the Downtown and Beach gangs, Sammy is accused of murder. To find the killer, Jazz must risk her life and career, exposing the dark side of Galveston’s glittering society.


Outside, I felt safe among the throng of people and automobiles passing by in a rush.
“How was lunch?” In broad daylight, Prohibition Agent James Burton didn’t seem quite as menacing or intimidating. A group of nosy reporters peered out the newsroom, ogling us like we were a penny arcade peep show.

“Fine.” I crossed my arms, partly to cover my growling stomach.

“Sorry to barge in.” He tugged on his hat. “But I had to get your attention. You wouldn’t give me the time of day the other night.”

“Can you blame me? A raid isn’t exactly the best way to meet new people.”

“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” Burton stuck his hands in his pockets, jingling some change. “Perhaps we can talk over dinner, instead of standing out here on the sidewalk?”

Was he serious? “Dinner? Just like that?” I snapped my fingers. “You waltz in as if you owned the place—like you did at the Oasis—and expect me to dine out with you, a total stranger, because of your badge? You’ve got a lot of nerve, mister.”

“I wouldn’t be a Prohibition agent if I didn’t.” He looked smug. “How about tonight?”

“Tonight? I usually work late.”

“Every night? Don’t they let you off for good behavior?”

“For starters, I hardly know you and what I do know, I don’t like at all.” I squinted in the sun. “And I don’t appreciate the way you bullied us at the Oasis that night. I thought people were innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.”  I wasn’t usually so bold and blunt with strangers, especially lawmen. Maybe it was his youth, or maybe I’d finally found my moxie.

“You must mean Sammy. Fair enough.” He held up his hands. “If it makes you feel any better, my gun wasn’t loaded that night.”

“Small comfort now, after you scared everyone half to death.”



I’ll admit, I was never much of a history buff in high school or college. What did Ancient Egypt or the Civil War have to do with my daily life of classes, jobs,  Student Council, football games, parties or dances? Although my mother was a World History teacher, I wasn’t at all interested until I managed an antiques shop after college between journalism jobs.

My bosses were two antiques dealers and decorators who took me on buying trips and taught me about different styles and period design. Antiques gave me a visual peek into the past: I could see the way people lived, touch their clothing, furniture, understand their habits and trends. Suddenly, for me, history came alive.

That glimpse led to a fascination with the Roaring Twenties. I loved almost everything about the 1920s:  the style, the carefree spirit, interior design, the flowing flapper clothes and jewelry, the lingo, the music. Not only did the right to vote in 1920 allow women’s emancipation, the “Dry Decade” became an era of invention and innovation, the “flaming youth’s” rebellion against the stuffy old Victorian mores, leading to the giddy excitement of the Jazz Age.

I tried to convey that sense of freedom and “anything goes” attitude in my soft-boiled Jazz Age mystery series, through the POV of my main character Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross, a society reporter who longs to cover hard news in a male-dominated world. Her ambition is thwarted by her old-fashioned editors, yet she’s determined to find ways around the newspaper’s rules and restrictions. I created Jazz as a flapper version of real-life Victorian journalist Nellie Bly, and set the novels during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, Texas, interweaving actual gangsters, events and local landmarks into the plots. 

While researching Flappers, I became intrigued when I found out that Al Capone tried to muscle in on Galveston’s rival gangs, the Beach and Downtown gangs. I included this fun fact in the preface to show the powerful reach and reputation of Galveston’s gangsters, little known outside of Texas.

As a journalist, I prefer reality-based stories because I feel like I’m learning something new while I’m reading and researching. I enjoyed watching old silent movies, period dramas and documentaries, especially noir films featuring gangsters and mobsters, noting the settings (furniture, lamps, clothing, music, etc.) and jotted down expressions and bits of conversation.  (True, I’m guilty of overusing Jazz Age sayings so I included a glossary of slang in the back of my novels.)

Since I wrote about real people, politicians (and gangsters), I had to be careful not to include anything too offensive or incriminating since much of the information was based on legend and largely undocumented.

What’s interesting is that the gangsters and bootleggers of yesteryear mirror today’s drug dealers, gangs and cartels. Still, I learned a lot about organized crime, politics and Prohibition, and how often their worlds intermingled.

History may repeat itself, but fiction makes it fresh and new. Enjoy!


Happy New Year! To celebrate, I've just released a newly-revised version of Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play, the first novel in my Jazz Age series, originally published in 2012. It's only $2.99 this week–regularly $4.99. Enjoy!


Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor whose articles, essays and short stories have been published in a variety of national magazines. She's interviewed Suze Orman and Nancy Brinker and several unsung heroines for Biography and Family Circle magazines. In the 1990s, she reviewed mysteries for The Houston Chronicle, which was like a crash course in writing novels. 

A flapper at heart, she's worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). Between journalism jobs, she managed an antiques shop, leading to a fascination with the 1920s and Art Deco design. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and once served as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries. 

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and was an editor/writer on UTmost, the college magazine. During her senior year, she served as the president of WICI (Women in Communications). 

Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play
is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets, released in 2013. Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns came out in May 2014, followed by Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville In 2015. 

Collier lives in Houston with her engineer husband and hyperactive Chow/Shepherd mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible. 
"When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s."

Connect with Ellen:

Website  |  Etsy  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads 

Buy the books: 

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble 

Sunday, January 15, 2017



Savannah Reynier isn’t sure how she should classify her relationship with Craig Pieters.  They’re not dating but she’s keen to spend as much time with him as possible.  As she learns about his beliefs, that desire increases.

November proves to be a busy month at work for Savannah.  The days fly by as she celebrates the Melbourne Cup, deals with a damaging storm and turns a year older.  All the while Savannah is learning more about horses and breeding; more about the South African man who has come into her life.

As Craig helps her to increase her horse knowledge and challenges her to live out her faith, Savannah finds herself wanting more than friendship.  But after Jackson, is she willing to make herself vulnerable again?


Christine, what's your favorite thing about the writing process?

That some characters and scenes just come to life in my mind so quickly, they seem to write themselves!

Do you write every day?
No, I don’t!  But there generally isn’t a day when I am not plotting something for one of my stories!  I just don’t always have the opportunity to get those ideas down in written form.  (But I do go over the scenes and dialogues in my head many times so I don’t forget them.)

What books do you currently have published?
2016 was a big year for me!  I released 6 books including 2 non-fiction.  I now have:

-    Horse Country – A World of Horses
-    B and B  I love that cover!
-    The Free Rein series books 1 – 6
-    The Thoroughbred Breeders series books 1 – 3
-    Equine Passive Income Streams (non-fiction)
-    52 Steps to Kick-Start Your Equine Career (non-fiction)

Wow! Is writing your dream job?
Actually, it is!  But I still desire to have land and set up a horse business so I can get back to hands on work with horses.

How often do you tweet?
Daily!  But I am able to do that because I schedule tweets a month in advance.

Smart. Would you make a good character in a book?
That depends on your idea of good!  I have traveled, survived a kick to the head by a horse, gotten married, have two children, and dream of doing a lot more with my time on earth!

What five things would you never want to live without?

My bible, a notepad, pen, a cup of tea, and music.

What do you love about where you live?
Many things!  I am in North East Victoria, Australia.  It’s an area that is surrounded by horses, many touristy areas, it is a small regional town (less than 30,000 people), it’s less than 10 minutes to most places, it’s not an expensive place to live!

What’s your favorite fast food?
KFC is something we regularly have as a family to celebrate birthdays.

As a Kentuckian, I have to say that's an excellent choice! What’s your favorite beverage?
Tea!  In particular Irish Breakfast tea.


Christine Meunier considers herself introduced to the wonderful world of horses at the late age of 13 when her parents agreed to lease a horse for her. She started experiencing horses via books from a young age and continues to do so, but recognises that horses cannot be learnt solely from books.
She has been studying horses from age 16, starting with the Certificate II in Horse Studies and she completed the Bachelor of Equine Science in 2016.
Christine has worked at numerous thoroughbred studs in Australia as well as overseas in Ireland for a breeding season.
She then gained experience in a couple of Melbourne based horse riding schools, instructing at a basic level before heading off overseas again, this time to South Africa to spend hours in the saddle of endurance and trail horses on the Wild Coast.
She writes a blog about equine education which you can view at

Connect with Christine:

Website  |  
Blog  |  
Facebook  |  Twitter  |  

Buy the book:

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Blogs are a great way to spread the word about a book, and A Blue Million Books is now taking requests for author features. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016


Craving For Cozies 2017 – Reading Challenge


Cozy mysteries
, also referred to simply as “cozies,” are a sub-genre of crime fiction mysteries in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The crime solver is an amateur sleuth, usually but not always a woman, who is thrust into the aftermath of the murder. The protagonist frequently has an occupation or hobby that brings appealing information to the reader.

The challenge runs from January 1, 2017 and ends December 31, 2017


1. Choose the level you wish to participate:

  • Peckish – 1 – 10 Cozy Mysteries
  • Famished – 11 – 20 Cozy Mysteries
  • Yearning – 21 – 40 Cozy Mysteries
  • Starving  – 41 – 60 Cozy Mysteries
  • Ravenous – 61 – 80 Cozy Mysteries
  • Voracious – 81 – 100 Cozy Mysteries 
  • Completely Satiated – 101 or more

2. You can Feed Your Need To Read with print, digital or audio books.

3. You do not have to post a review, but the authors would appreciate it if you did. If you need help just let Dollycas or me know.

4. You do not need to have a blog to participate.

Just keep track any way you wish and enter a link below or sign up in the comment section. You can even set up a special shelf on to help you keep track! Your can also participate via Facebook. You can find the Craving for Cozies Facebook Group here.


  If you do have a blog, take the button above, put it on your blog and post about the challenge.

6. Follow Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book for cozy giveaways and reviews.

7. There is also Craving for Cozies Facebook Group. Everyone can share and discuss the cozies we are reading. Just click here to join.  Dollycas will also host some pop-up giveaways during the year.

8. Please share with us the books you are reading all year long by leaving comments on this page, on Escape With Dollycas, or on the Event page on Facebook.

9. No matter how you enter or keep track, when you complete this challenge please FILL OUT THIS FORM no later than January 15, 2018.

10. HAVE FUN!!