I’m so excited to be a stop on the blog tour for author Zara Keane and her new book Deadline With Death. This is the first book in her A Time-Slip Mystery Series.
Deadline with Death (Time-Slip Mysteries)
1st in Series
Beaverstone Press (June 21, 2019)
Number of Pages: ~ 320
Dee Flanagan loves Irish history, bad rom-coms, and red lipstick. Dead clowns, injured time travelers, and shootouts don’t make it onto the small town reporter’s Top Ten list. After the bullets stop flying in Dunleagh Castle’s courtyard, it’s up to Dee to convince people she didn’t imagine a gunfight played out between two centuries. With the body count rising, and no one willing to believe Dee’s time travel theory, she’s forced to team up with a man who’s either a bona fide fruit cake or a police officer from the year 1919. Using her expert knowledge of the Irish War of Independence, Dee sets out to solve a century-old crime, plus a modern-day murder.
The morning the clown croaked at my feet began with a cockfight and ended with a corpse. Neither covering the fight nor discovering the body was on my ToDo list. After five months of juggling my job at the Dunleagh Chronicle, a volunteer position at the museum, my history video blog, and looking after my grandmother, I finally had a free day.
Until I didn’t.
Courtesy of a virus sweeping through our offices, two of the Chronicle’s reporters were out sick. With press day looming, my penny-pinching editor was desperate enough to pay me time-and-a-half, and with a mountain of bills on my nightstand, I was desperate enough to agree. I swapped my cozy bed for Mavis, my scarlet scooter, and faced the elements of an Irish winter morning.
Under different circumstances, a spin through the countryside might have been pleasant. Today’s ride was anything but. I steered Mavis through driving rain, gale-force wind, and potholes the size of mainland Europe. The crowning glory was a near collision with a herd of cattle who’d taken up residence in the middle of the road. I seriously should have held out for double pay.
By the time I pulled up outside the tumbledown farm where the cockfight was being held, the organiser had got wind that the cops were on the way. In a spectacle of flying feathers and bouncing beer bellies, both the contestants and the spectators were fleeing the coop. I dry-heaved my way through the stench of birds and unwashed men, snapped a few shots of the mayhem, and hopped back onto my scooter. I now had less than an hour to reach my desk and write an embellished account of the non-event, and Mavis and I broke several rules of the road on our return journey.
The clock in the town square chimed ten as I hung a right and chugged up the steep road that led to Dunleagh Castle. In fifteen minutes the Chronicle’s grumpy sub-editor would emerge from his lair, demanding to know why my article wasn’t on his desk. I swore under my breath and pressed hard on the Mavis’s sluggish accelerator.
At the top of the hill, the castle loomed, dark and magnificent against the stormy sky. The sight of its grey walls and tall towers never failed to thrill my inner historian, even when I was in a hurry. From its clifftop perch, Dunleagh Castle had cast a menacing glare over the harbor for the last six centuries. While most of its original outer wall was gone, and the outer courtyard had been repurposed as a parking lot, both the castle itself and its generous gardens remained intact. Today, it housed the newspaper, the mayor’s office, the museum, a small café, and several lovingly restored rooms that were open to the public. Working for a penny-pinched weekly rag wasn’t the glamorous career I’d envisioned at university, but it paid the bills—well, some of them—and I had the privilege of working within the castle walls four days a week.
I wasn’t alone in my admiration for the castle. It had earned a well-deserved place as one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions. Even at low season, buses braved the steep incline and disgorged tour groups in front of the wooden drawbridge.
One such bus spluttered its way up the road in front of me, moving at a painful pace. I swerved to overtake it, and narrowly missed mowing down a man who was crossing the street. He leaped sideways to avoid me, and landed in a puddle.
“Hey,” he roared, glowering at me under bushy red eyebrows, “watch where you’re going.”
“Sorry,” I said on autopilot.
The word caught in my throat when I recognised the guy I’d almost rendered road kill. Charles O’Rourke, better known as Mr. Chuckles, was a popular street performer whose clown routine delighted children and tourists alike. He was also the dude I’d kneed in the nuts the previous month. I doubted I’d make it onto his Christmas card list, but then, he wouldn’t make it onto mine.
Ignoring Mr. Chuckles’s squawks about my reckless driving and general tendency to harm his person, I zoomed into the parking lot and deposited Mavis in a free space. I pulled off my helmet and yanked up the hood of my jacket. The downpour was turning into a deluge, and the brief moment between removing my helmet and getting my hood in place was all it took to turn my hair into a sodden mess.
As I exited the parking lot, my phone vibrated with an incoming call. My hand went to my pocket on reflex, but I pulled it back and kept moving. It was wet and I was late. Whoever was calling me could wait.
Before I stepped onto the road, a second tour bus pulled up to the kerb opposite. If I wanted to dodge a swarm of geriatrics, I needed to pick up my pace. I speed walked across the road and then broke into a run. With a wave of greeting to the guard on duty, I bounded over the castle’s wooden drawbridge and entered the courtyard. The cobblestoned ground was slick with rain, and puddles formed in patches where the stones needed to be replaced. Standing beside one such puddle was none other than my good pal, Mr. Chuckles. I swallowed a groan. He must have reached the courtyard just before me. Seriously, why couldn’t I catch a break this morning? With my deadline imminent, the last thing I needed was an argument with the clown.
I surveyed my surroundings. A gaggle of elderly tourists huddled in front of the castle’s main entrance, all wearing bright orange raincoats emblazoned with the name of their nursing home. If I zigzagged past them, and ran the rest of the way, I’d be at my desk in five.
In spite of the slippery surface, I accelerated into a sprint. I’d almost reached the door when the clown stepped in front of me, forcing me to stagger to a standstill. He was dressed in his full clown regalia: baggy polka dotted pants, luminous green shirt, wide yellow sash, fire-engine red wig, and a shiny red plastic nose. The addition of a leopard print rain poncho completed the look. I tried to dodge the guy, but at that moment, the second influx of tourists trundled over the drawbridge and swarmed into the courtyard en masse, nixing the option for me to sidestep my adversary. Before I’d had time to react, Mr. Chuckles was up in my face, yelling and shaking a fist.
To the casual observer, we must have appeared a comical pair. Last time I’d checked, the average Irish male stood five-feet-nine-inches tall. I barely missed the six-feet mark. I’d inherited my considerable height, sturdy build, and masses of blonde hair from my father, an American with Swedish roots. The clown, in contrast, must have been descended from leprechauns.
The little man gesticulated wildly, jumping up and down to emphasise his points, none of which were flattering, and several of which would have required a bleep censor.
“You came through the incident unscathed.” My gaze dropped to his mud-strewn legs. “Apart from your pants.”
“I ought to call the cops on you, Flanagan,” he snarled, eye level with my chest. “You’re a menace, on and off the roads.”
A hushed silence fell over the elderly tourists and I sensed several pairs of eyes upon me. I ignored them and focused on the clown. “Calling the cops didn’t work out so well for you the last time. As I recall, the encounter ended with you receiving a formal warning for sexual harassment.”
A gasp of excitement rose from our audience but the clown appeared to be oblivious to the onlookers. “That cop is your friend,” he muttered. “She’d believe any pack of lies you fed her.”
I rolled my eyes. “Dude, there was CCTV footage of you groping my butt before I kneed you in the groin. Sergeant Healey didn’t have to take my word for it.”
The clown moved closer and my stomach roiled. Everything about this creep made my skin crawl. I took a step back to regain some semblance of personal space and sought an escape route. The old folks spilling over the drawbridge surged toward the main door. Unless I wanted to shove octogenarians out of my way, my best bet was to take a detour via the museum and use their stairs to reach the corridor that connected the museum to the main castle and the offices of the Dunleagh Chronicle. First, I had to get the clown to back down and let me past.
“Look, I’m in a rush…” I tried to push past but he blocked my attempt and jabbed me in the chest with a chubby finger.
“If Dunleagh had a proper cop in charge,” he snarled, “you’d have been arrested for assault.”
“If by ‘proper’ you mean ‘male’, I doubt even the most chauvinistic man on the force could ignore the evidence on the tape.”
A churning panic warred with my rising anger, but the sneer that stretched his painted lips tipped the balance. I gritted my teeth and cast an exaggerated glance at my watch.
“Fun though this has been, I gotta get to work. Unless you want a replay of last month’s nut-crushing incident, you’d better let me past.”
Red-hot rage flickered across his face and the knuckles of his fists turned white. The misogynistic pig would love to hit me, but he didn’t have the guts to do it in front of witnesses. What he did have the guts to do was to keep blocking my way.
I bit back an oath and thought fast. In a flash, I opened my backpack and extracted a small can, being careful to conceal the logo. “Well, now, would you look at that. Is this pepper spray lurking in my bag?”
My words had an instant effect. The clown’s beady eyes widened. He leaped back, colliding with a group of tourists.
“Why don’t you juggle a few balls for our visitors?” I winked at the open-mouthed seniors. “No pun intended.”
Giving the clown a look laced with contempt, I squeezed past. This time, he didn’t try to stop me.
USA Today bestselling author Zara Keane grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but spent her summers in a small town very similar to the fictional Ballybeg and Smuggler’s Cove.
She currently lives in Switzerland with her family. When she’s not writing or wrestling small people, she drinks far too much coffee, and tries – with occasional success – to resist the siren call of Swiss chocolate.
My Website: https://zarakeane.com/
My Newsletter: https://zarakeane.com/newsletter/
Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ballybegbelles/
When did you know that you wanted to be an author? What things, if any, influenced that decision?
I’ve loved writing since I was a child, but I didn’t seriously consider trying to get published until I was a stay-at-home mum with two small kids. I needed a creative outlet. In November 2009, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge and completed the first draft of a truly terrible book. On the plus side, it got me into a writing routine, and I never looked back.
With so many cozies being written today, what makes your books stand out from the crowd?
They have my voice and sense of humour, plus an Irish setting. I’m Irish and I love bringing my home to life for others.
Do you work from an outline or plot or do you just see where the characters take you?
I start with a rough outline for the entire book and detailed notes for Act I. Once I finish writing Act I (roughly 20% of the book), I stop, revise what I’ve written, and tweak my outline. Then I write detailed scene notes for the next act and rinse and repeat until I reach the end. This gives me the reassurance of having an idea of where I’m going with the story but also the freedom to make changes as inspiration hits. I find that the magic—the bits in the story that elevate it from okay to great—always come to me while I’m writing.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you do anything special to get those reviews?
I read my reviews, but I pick my moment to do so. ☺ Unless a reader emails me with a review, I don’t respond to reviews. Reviews are fabulous for helping readers to decide which books to buy, and they’re written for readers, not authors. Before I was published, I had a review blog for several years. I noticed that when an author commented on a review it pretty much ended the discussion. (Unless, of course, the author said something outrageous that got everyone riled up, but that’s definitely NOT what I want to do!)
I have a small review team and I send them review copies of my books. I occasionally use Netgalley. Blog tours are another great way to get reviews.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t confuse your goals with other people’s.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in someone buying your book(s)? Who designs your book covers?
Definitely. A cover needs to convey the genre and tone of the book. I’ve used several cover designers for my various series. For the Time-Slip Mysteries, I came up with the concept and a graphic designer friend helped me to make it a reality.
Please give us an insight into your main characters. What do you think makes them special?
In Deadline with Death, Dee is torn between her sense of duty and her longing for adventure. She tells herself she wants a steady job, marriage, and a home of her own, yet convention bores her. What she needs is a healthy combination of growing roots and excitement, but she feels life can only be one or the other. In the Time-Slip Mysteries, Dee’s expert knowledge on the Irish War of Independence makes her the ideal person to team up with her time traveller sidekick.
What have you learned about yourselves since becoming an author?
My mood affects my writing, and the emotions I write about affect my mood. If I’m having a stressful day, it’s an ideal time to write a tense scene, even if it’s out of order. And if I want to end my day on a happy note, I write a comedic scene.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Part-time at the moment, but full-time is the dream!
What do your plans for future projects include?
I’m currently working on the sixth book in the Movie Club Mysteries. Once that’s finished, I’ll write Fatal Front Page, the second book in the Time-Slip Mysteries.
What do you think the hardest part of writing is? What is the easiest?
The hardest part of writing is getting new words on the page, especially at the start of a book. That’s the time my inner editor comes out to play and second guesses every word I write. I have to push through this phase and trust that it’ll pass. It always does. The easiest part for me is the revision phase. I revising a story and polishing it until it shines.
What type of books do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love all types of crime fiction. Also historical fiction, women’s fiction, sagas, and some fantasy. My favourite authors include Mary Stewart (she wrote fab romantic suspense back in the Fifties and Sixties), Agatha Christie, Val McDermid, Adrian McKinty, Jana DeLeon, and Rhys Bowen.
What is the one thing you would like your readers to know about you?
My lipstick collection rivals Dee’s in Deadline with Death.
Do you have anything specific you would like to say to your readers?
If you’d like to read the complete Chapter One of Deadline with Death, I’ve posted it on my website: https://zarakeane.com/deadline-with-death/
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ballybegbelles/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Zara-Keane/e/B00KEA23XS/
Thanks so much for having me on your blog!
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