Guest Post by Susan Holmes

Susan has recently released her novel Deadly Ties as an audiobook and you can win copy here on my website later in the month. To whet your appetite, I’ve asked Susan to tell us a little about her inspiration and how she came to write the novel. susan-holmes-author-photo-thumbnail              

              Set the Scene for Murder

The Golden Rule of “write what you know” served me well for years, until I had an idea for a mystery with an amateur sleuth who runs a boarding kennel. Just one problem: the only thing I knew about kennels was from the customer’s point of view. Then it hit me: the “rule” was just a starting point. And thus “write what you can know” became my mantra. There are quite a few mystery series featuring dogs, but at the time I wrote Deadly Ties, there were none set in a boarding kennel. And since my knowledge of kennels was limited to that of a customer, I had a lot of research to do.

My fictional kennel is constructed using everything I’ve learned about real kennel operations, with the addition of some nice extras. In real life, kennels are often run on shoestring budgets, while mine features many of the “bells and whistles” kennel owners had on their wish lists. The kennel owners I worked with were generous with their time and knowledge and let me follow them through their daily routines. As a result, I saw behind-the-scenes action customers wouldn’t typically see, which helped me better appreciate the hard work that goes on in a well-run boarding kennel.

The kennel is the physical “anchor” for the series, but the story plays out across the region. There’s an old folk saying about the Ozark Mountains: It’s not that the mountains are so high, it’s just that the valleys are so deep. Scattered throughout those deep valleys and across the mountains are tiny towns and isolated villages, thick woodlands, and families that have held the land for eight generations or more. It’s a region with vast swaths of untouched forests and clear streams, where a patient observer can see elk, black bear, mountain lion, and wild boar. The Ozarks are a beautiful but potentially dangerous region, where tourists tend to get lost, or fall off the bluffs, or drown in the lakes. It’s also a place where legends live on, and folktales are passed along from one generation to the next, keeping the old stories alive. I’m indebted to folklorists Phillip W. Steele and Vance Randolph for their work in capturing the magic of  the Ozarks, and to Mr. Steele in particular for sharing those Ozark tales with me. Treasure legends, ghost stories, superstitions and lore—what’s truth? What’s not? Find the right mix, and you have a story, waiting to be told.


You’ll find elements of the traditional cozy mystery in my work: an amateur sleuth, a small community, connections to local law enforcement, and a mystery my sleuth is motivated to solve. No coarse language or explicit, graphic violence here. There is an eclectic group of characters, a hint of romance, and plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing. I do push the traditional definition of a cozy, though, by introducing more suspense, more villainy than you might see in a light-hearted, whimsical romp. My characters—including the dogs!—are good, bad, and sometimes both. That might be why my work has been called “a cozy with an edge.” Whatever you call it, the book is the sort you finish with a sense of satisfaction. Mystery solved, justice served, and the villains get their comeuppance. Deadly Ties: Dogs. Family. Friends. Treasure. Stories and rumors from the past. Secrets and lies. They’re all at the heart of this story. When trouble begins at the kennel, Maggie will have to dig into the past for answers if she wants to have a future. Because her search just might lead to murder. Available now Links: Website: Amazon (US): Amazon (UK): Audible (UK): Audible (UK): Facebook Author Page: Find me on Goodreads: Follow me on Twitter: @dogmysteries

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