Welcome, Sharon Farrow–and a Giveaway

thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3Our month of giveaways continues! Today, our guest Sharon Farrow offers up a copy of her new book, Dying for Strawberries, the first in the Berry Basket Mystery series. Friend of the blog, Mark Baker, over at Carstairs Considers says, “If you are looking for a delicious new series, look no further…”

To be entered to win, leave a comment on the post. Winners for the week will be announced in a special blog post on Sunday.

Take it away, Sharon!

 

RESORT RETAIL

saugatuckMost picturesque coastal towns no longer regard fishing as their main source of income. Instead, tourism drives the local economy. The heroine of my Berry Basket series, Marlee Jacob, is fortunate to live in a beautiful lakeshore town in western Michigan. Filled with galleries, boutiques, and one of a kind shops, Oriole Point also boasts a splendid view of Lake Michigan – sandy beaches and lighthouse included.

I, too, live in a scenic village nestled along my favorite Great Lake. Over the years, I have worked at various galleries and shops in town. This has given me a special insight as to what my heroine is likely to encounter on a daily basis at her berry themed store called The Berry Basket.

Questions, Questions, Questions

It’s only natural that tourists ask shopkeepers a constant stream of questions. Where is the best place to go for a lake perch dinner? How do we buy tickets for the dune buggy rides? What is the current musical playing at the local theater? And, of course, where is the nearest public rest room? There are important questions they never think to ask, but should: Where are the local speed traps? What should I do if I get caught in a rip tide? What local rivers should you NOT eat the fish from?

Given that my series is set along the Lake Michigan shore, tourists would ask Marlee all of the above questions. But most of all, they’d ask about the weather; by that, I mean the winter weather. Even though visitors usually come here for summer beach vacations and leaf peeping in autumn, our lake winters appear to weigh heavily on them. “What do you do here all winter?” they ask in a tone suggesting I live in a remote Yukon outpost. I remind them that a forty minute drive takes me to the second largest city in Michigan. Ten minutes away is a town boasting everything from Target and Barnes & Noble to Buffalo Wild Wings. And two hours south lies Chicago.

That answer leads to the next most asked question from tourists, ”How much snow do you get here?” Like me, Marlee would reply, “Not as much as everyone thinks.” Yes, we have lake effect snow, but we’re not buried in the white stuff all winter, like the intrepid residents of Buffalo, New York. And lake effect snow is usually over by mid-January when Lake Michigan finally freezes. Tourists are either disappointed by this answer, or don’t believe it. Somehow, they prefer to think of my fellow villagers and me snowed in and isolated like the unlucky family in The Shining.

Resort shopkeepers are accustomed to playing weather forecaster, tour guide, and restaurant reviewer. We know where to rent kayaks, who serves the best omelette in town, how to recognize rare types of beach glass, and which businesses keep dog treats behind the counter. However, some questions do surprise me, like the confused tourists who ask if the small bayou in the Kalamazoo River is Lake Michigan. Uh, no. When I worked in a local art gallery, a woman flung open the door one afternoon and pushed her way through a crowd of customers until she reached me. “I need your help,” she said in an urgent voice. “Where’s the closest place to buy authentic Mexican vanilla?” I usually have a ready answer for any tourist question, but this one left me stumped. A friend of mine later said, “I hope you told her ‘Mexico’.”

THE HONOR SYSTEM

With only 1,500 full-time residents, crime is rare in our town. The police force is small, with half the force part-time. I made Oriole Point twice as large as my village, but their local police would still have little experience handling serious crime. Which is why Marlee takes it upon herself to track down the killer in Dying for Strawberries. Indeed, most residents in Oriole Point (and my village) never lock their cars or worry about leaving purses unattended. This trusting attitude spills over to the shopkeepers.

The store I work at has a bench, a wooden slat chair, and a lovely old rocker on the sidewalk out front. On balmy days, those of us who work on that side of the street can be found lounging on those chairs as we talk for hours. It’s customary for us to greet customers as they enter our respective shops, reminding them to give a holler if they need assistance or have a question. It is possible one of those customers may have pocketed something they shouldn’t. If so, it was never apparent afterwards. And as one of the shop owners told me, “If they need something so bad they have to steal it, then let them.”

I have a friend who designs silk flower wreaths, which he sells in a local home décor store. This shop hangs some of his wreaths outside. They are clearly marked for sale – and at a hefty price – yet in all the years I have lived and worked here, not one of his floral creations has been stolen after hours. It’s as if the honor system so prevalent among the shopkeepers has rubbed off on our visitors. Although once in a great while, that trust is breached.

Recently, a customer in a gallery took a fancy to a small oil painting, prompting the gallery owner to tell her about the artwork. Holding the piece in her hands, she continued to browse. Ten minutes later, her hands were empty. And the painting was nowhere to be seen. However, the customer carried a large shoulder bag, where no doubt the painting was now tucked away. The owner chose not to confront her; no one was likely to be at the police station at that hour anyway. But he did follow her out the door and watched as she drove off in a brand new Mercedes. If she made a habit of stealing artwork, it could explain how she was able to afford the Mercedes.

I felt frustrated that this woman got away with her theft – which may have been repeated in other businesses in town. But I take comfort in the fact that if a customer pulls this in Marlee’s Berry Basket shop, there will be consequences. The local police might find a Mercedes abandoned just outside the town limits. And there on the front seat would be the stolen painting. With the dead body of the woman beside it. Life may be stranger than fiction, but fiction can be a lot more unforgiving.

spisacretacameraSharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series, and is the editor of the travel site lakeeffectliving.com. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries. Visit Sharon at sharonfarrowauthor.com, on Facebook @SharonFarrowAuthor, or Twitter @SharonFarrowBB.

Back Cover Copy – Dying for Strawberries

dyingfor-strawberriesWith seasonal crowds flocking to its sandy beaches, lively downtown shops, and The Berry Basket, a berry emporium with something for everyone, the lakeshore village of Oriole Point is ripe for summer fun—and murder.
 
Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan. Between running The Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town’s first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the thirty-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York . . .

But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own. First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream. Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business. Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash. When she discovers a dead body, Marlee realizes she’ll have to foil a killer’s plot herself—before the past permanently stains her future.

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121 Thoughts

  1. Congratulations, Sharon! The new series sounds really fun. I’m partial to mysteries set in the Midwest, too. ;^) Lake Michigan is impressive – beaches, waves, the works. Do you ever feel like you’re at the ocean, minus the salt?

  2. Thanks Sharon for writing Dying for Strawberries. I am looking forward to reading this new book. Congratulations, Maureen

  3. I was very impressed with Lake Michigan when we drove partially around it – I thought I was beside the ocean. The series sounds good too.

    1. My sister lives in California and every time she visits, she is amazed at how big Lake Michigan is. When you’re standing on the shore and see nothing but water stretching into the distance, it does feel like you’re at the ocean.

  4. Congrats Sharon, on the new release, I can’t wait to read it! Your post really got me thinking about those tourist towns, you are so right. I have a cousin who lives in a Pacific coast town and I am sure many of those queries would be familiar. Thanks for the chance to win!

  5. Sounds like a great new series- added to my to-be-read list!

    I have also wanted to live in a small community like that- where I could walk everywhere and know everyone. It’s sounds so idyllic!

    And as for that thief, I firmly believe in karma. Hopefully, that fancy car broke down on her way out of town, leaving her stranded! 🙂

  6. i can’t wait to get this! i love our summers in a small town by lake erie…i’ve never been to lake michigan.

  7. Wonderful blog, and sounds like your new series is a great read! Having lived just outside Newport, RI for eight years, (and having a ton of houseguests visiting us there), your description of small town living really resonates!

  8. I am looking forward to starting this new series. I am a life-long resident of Texas but I love books set in Michigan! My cousin lives in the UP, and I love visiting his family.

  9. Absolutely love that it’s based in Michigan. Being from Illinois, that’s a favorite little getaway for us. Congrats on your first in a new series.

  10. Right now we are dying for strawberries in my house. The prices have jumped and they are harder to find in the Fruit and Veggie Markets (no I refuse to buy frozen). My wife goes thru 2 or 3 boxes a week using them in her breakfast.

    I love the cover of this new book and would be thrilled to win it. Small town based stories are always the most fun to read.

    1. Yes, out of season strawberries are so challenging. That’s one of the reasons my husband and I like going to Key West in the winter. We get two strawberry seasons. Berries from Homestead in the end of January and berries in Maine at the end of June.

  11. What a great list of questions tourists would ask and a crazy mystery with the painting and the women who stole it! Sounds like lots of fun to read about! I love how there is the trust of leaving a purse in the car and doors unlocked. Sounds like a great book/series.

    1. It’s rare to find a locked car or house here. I’m probably one of the few people who locks my house when I leave it. When we first moved here, my daughter’s friends in high school thought it was so funny that we locked our door.s Then again, they’ve never lived in a large metropolitan area as we had.

  12. This series sounds just perfect. We have not been to Michigan in awhile so revisiting in this series will be an excellent way to have a bit of our memory lane travels. I love starting series with book as soon as they are released so thank you for the chance of winning a copy.
    Cynthia B

  13. I’m interested! You got me, now I really want to read this book! I live in a city of 3500 people, so it’s small and I don’t worry about my purse in my car unlocked or being robbed! So this story intrigues me! Northern Wisconsin is where I am.

    1. Yep. We small town people have the pleasure of living in a place where we trust everyone. And while I do lock the house at night, I often leave my purse unlocked in my car when I’m making a lot of quick stops for errands. However I don’t leave my purse in the car during the summer when the area is packed with tourists.

  14. I love new to me authors and first in series. Throw in strawberries and some great little business’ I’m ready to move. My small town struggles as our main street is a State Highway and the railroad runs right through the middle of town and the big box store was the reason so many of our little stores closed.

    1. That’s too bad. We’re fortunate to be right along the shores of Lake Michigan. Saugatuck-Douglas has been a vacation spot for Chicagoans since the 19th century, and our beautiful sandy beaches keep the tourists coming.

  15. I don’t think I could handle the snow, even the small amount you get. But I would love to spend summers in a town like this for sure.

    And this is a fantastic debut! (Thanks for plugging my review.)

  16. Small towns fascinate me. Growing up in urban So. CA, these places are worlds away from what I know. Definitely another add to my reading list!

  17. I’m really looking forward to reading this book! I think it will be a Christmas gift for a friend this year too. She’ll love it!

  18. Congrats on the new series! This book sounds great. And I love the color, but yellow is my favorite color. I like how all of the yellow really pops!!! Thanks for having the giveaway!

    harnessrose(at)yahoo(dot)com

  19. Congratulations on the new book and what a yummy title. Now I am hungry for those little red berries. Thank you for the chance and please enter me. I am grateful for strawberries.

  20. Sounds like the start to a great new series. I like that the book takes place on the shores of Lake Michigan. I know from having lived in that part of Michigan that there is nothing better than getting strawberries right from the strawberry fields. Can’t wait to read “Dying for Strawberries”.

    1. Since you’ve lived here, you know this is Michigan’s fruit belt. And I must confess that as much as I like strawberries, my favorite has always been blueberries. And the closest blueberry farm is only three minutes from my house!

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