Farm For Sale. 360-acre lot with ranch-style home. Refurbished barn. Corpse not included.
To find her missing aunt, she has to unearth the secrets of the past. But lies and deceit run through the very heart of their town…
What started out as a promising relationship with adventurer and tycoon Alec Zavos has fizzled into an uncertain future for antiquities expert Annalisse Drury. Returning to Walker Farm in Upstate New York to see her Aunt Kate should have been a welcome homecoming and distraction. Instead, she finds the childhood home she expected to inherit is for sale, without her permission. What’s worse, Kate’s ranch manager makes a gruesome discovery in the barn: the body of an unidentified man, dead by foul play.
Annalisse turns to Alec for help. She and her aunt shelter on his estate in the Catskills while the authorities canvass the scene. But when Kate herself disappears without a trace, Annalisse fears the worst: that one of the many secrets of her hometown has ensnared her family—a secret someone is willing to kill for to keep hidden.
Published by: Ewephoric Publishing
Publication Date: December 11th 2019
Number of Pages: 378
ISBN: 0999539426 (ISBN13: 9780999539422)
Series: Annalisse Series #2 || This is a Stand-Alone novel but the reader may gain more about the character’s past if they pick up the first book.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living, and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.
Her catalog venture, Ewephoric, began in 1985 out of her desire to locate personalized sheep stationery. She rarely found sheep products through catalogs and set out to design them herself. Order Ewephoric gifts online or request a catalog at TexasSheep.com.
Marlene and her husband, Gregg, reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.
Q&A with Marlene M. Bell
What inspired you to write SPENT IDENTITY?
When I met my husband in 1979, he was in the middle of a nasty divorce. They were in the process of selling the ranch they’d built together when oil prices were high and banks were loaning at a whopping 17% interest rate. No one could afford expensive homes in the Tracy, California area at that time. His soon-to-be-ex made outrageous personal charges, and her attorney letters were an everyday occurrence. I could write an entire novel over her accusations. It was a miserable three years for the man I dated.
When she left and filed for divorce, she also stripped their ranch of furniture and all that wasn’t tied down. Brought a moving truck home one day and took everything inside their home. A hateful thing to do. The neighbor had watched the van fill up with belongings and told my husband this happened while he remained at work.
After we married, the old ranch finally sold—with a first mortgage, a second mortgage and my husband’s ex-wife and new husband carrying back the third note. Thankfully, we were out of that arrangement living on a small ranch of our own. (They later sold that third note for cash and lost half of the value!)
After the sale, I packed the kitchen drawers at the old ranch and found something interesting. One of the bottom drawers had condolence letters inside. While my husband packed from another room, I nosed around the envelopes. It’s a terrible thing to read another person’s mail, but in this case, I made an exception. They were all addressed to my husband’s hellish ex-wife. I was surprised to find them, especially when I skimmed a few of the notes.
I asked my husband about his ex-wife’s father since the notes told of his untimely death. I was shocked to learn that he had been a successful dentist in the bay area and had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, but no one knew why. I didn’t press further, and we gathered all of the cards and letters for the burn bin. The story left me with so many questions.
About ten years later, my husband mentioned that he’d heard his ex-father-in-law had reappeared in his home town. How intriguing! Had he faked his death because of debt? Did he run away to be with another woman, or man? I have to wonder why he came back when he’d hatched the perfect escape plan. It mystifies me to this day. Read Spent Identity. My imagination comes to a conclusion on this very topic!
Does your writing draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
My writing stems from an all-of-the-above approach. Sometimes a past event comes to mind and I make a few notes in the book I carry around with me. I use the best and most juicy parts of the event, and if I need to, embellish it so that it will work for a future book. Because my current series takes place a couple of years in the past, (2016/2017,) current events typically won’t make it into the drafts. It might fool the reader into thinking about the world we live in and confuse the timeline. Nature and a walk in the woods that surround our home is also a great place to filter ideas for where a killer might hide out while waiting to spring on prey, or to imagine what might go through a killer’s head while he/she awaits.
Are characters based on people I know?
My main character, Annalisse Drury is very much like me. She’s a professional by day and animal lover after hours. Her personal experiences with livestock come from raising sheep on our ranch. These sections of her past or history are the easiest to write because I can pull from my memories to fill in the blanks.
Some minor characters may have quirky characteristics of relatives and friends that I’ve had in the past, but I take care to make any character too much like a being, alive or dead. I like to watch people and make notes when I can about their mannerisms and habits. It’s amazing how much good fiction can be found by watching people in the most mundane situations like, shopping, in restaurants, or even strolling with their dog.
What is your writing routine?
I do my best thinking and writing in the early morning hours. Some of my greatest ideas come to me while laying in bed before I begin the day. If I happen to be thinking about how to fill in the blanks on a chapter I’m working on, I always keep a notepad and pen on the nightstand. If an epiphany happens, I won’t lose the idea in the middle of the night, or while I doze off in the morning.
First thing each day, I get up and feed the inside cats their canned food, then go outdoors and feed the sheep. Coffee usually isn’t too far behind to keep my mind energized and ready to hit the manuscript at a full gallop. After about an hour on the computer, I may step away and pull out the latest mystery I’m reading by another author. Reading the words of others keeps my words flowing much better in my own work. If you’ve ever been blocked in your writing, this is the best thing to do. It jumpstarts the mind.
I typically write until lunch, take a break and start again after the noon hour. By four, I’m ready to hang up the writing for the day. In between working on the manuscript, there’s tons of email correspondence to look at and time to pick up a little news on my phone. I receive about 1,000 emails per day, so there’s usually a few that need my attention with my sheep gifts website and author site tied into me, like a chain at my waist. Email is a wonderful thing, but sorting through the junk can be a nuisance.
Tell us why we should read the Annalisse Series
My writing voice is one of the reasons the series is unique. I completely outline each one of the books before I write a single word, and layer in lots of red herrings and twists to add as much complication to the plot as possible. My goal is to keep the reader engaged in finding out who the real bad guy or woman is until the last few pages when they’re revealed.
I like to torture my readers to stay with each chapter, leaving them hanging at the end of each one. The stories are written in cozy mystery style at times, and at others, the story may turn more graphic. You won’t find a cookie cutter ending to my work. I dare the reader to figure out who the villain is at the end!
The first two books in the series, Stolen Obsession and Spent Identity, are written in third-person point of view, in multiple views. The third installment is written in first-person to give the reader a different vantage point from within the main characters, Annalisse, Alec and their detective sidekick, Bill Drake.
What’s in store next for Marlene M. Bell in 2020 and beyond?
Book three, CALICO RAVEN! The novel has a stunning cover I’ll reveal to my followers and readers in a few months. I’m one-third of the way through the first draft. I hope to have Calico out in early 2021 if all clips along at a good pace. Annalisse and Alec are drawn into a murder that takes place on Grand Cayman Island. At first, they believe the victim is random, but soon find out that Alec is tied to her by other means and Annalisse’s past is drawn into events as well.
MIA and NATTIE: One Great Team is my first picture book for children ages 3-6. This book has special meaning to me because it’s based on the true story of Natalie, the bottle lamb we raised in the laundry room. She lived with us for 13 years. It’s a heartwarming, read-aloud book for the entire family. Mia and Nattie will be available in hardbound and eBook well ahead of the 2020 holidays. The picture book will also offer the option of a plush Nattie character. It’s a welcome break from the sea of children’s books without a plot or theme.
What are you reading now?
I have three authors to read over the next couple of months in July and August. Books in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Series, and two local Texas authors, Kayla Krantz and Becki Willis. I read in the same genre that I write. (At least for now.) I used to read nothing but romance, but found the novels full of too much hyperbole to be interesting. Mystery and Suspense keeps me thinking and turning the pages.
If Spent Identity were turned into a movie dream team…
I would like to pair two unlikely directors together for Spent Identity. Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. Both are seasoned directors who excel in portraying broody mysteries and real-life drama. My lead actress to play Annalisse would be Anne Hathaway, and her love interest Alec would be played by Bradley Cooper. Alec’s mother, Generosa, would have to be Meryl Streep.
The locations in the series are international— winging to places like, Crete, Turkey, Grand Cayman, New Zealand, Sicily and Southern Italy. Home base for the movie will always be Manhattan or upstate New York where Alec’s estate is located. I’d also have James Cameron write the screenplay based on the novel. There would be big bucks involved to produce this movie!!
Your favorite leisure hobbies and favorite meal?
Food first ~ I spent a lot of time with my Italian grandparents and lived with a grandmother for seven years. Grandma Virgilio was a phenomenal cook and taught me all that she knew. My favorite foods hands down are anything made with pasta: lasagna with lamb sauce, pasta salads especially with sea food and lots of sourdough bread! Since all of that adds to the waistline, I can’t eat grains like I’d like. 😊 We weren’t as much on desserts, but give me semolina wheat and I’m in heaven!
Hobbies ~ I love to draw, paint and take pictures. Many of my photos are turned into product for my gifts business (Ewephoric) I’ve had since 1985. https://www.texassheep.com I photograph our sheep as the main subjects for beautiful Texas sunsets. We live on fifty acres of woods with a pond and an unbelievable amount of wildlife including white-tail deer.
I garden during the season, can tomatoes for homemade sauce, and I’ve just started to make punch rugs with the Oxford punch. Of course, sheep are the subject! Oh, and I write mysteries and children’s books somewhere in there also!
Catch Up With Marlene M. Bell:
MarleneMBell.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!
Read an excerpt:
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
Enter To Win!:
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Marlene M. Bell. There will be 4 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. Two (2) winners will each win a set of autographed books, a notebook, and silver jewelry. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020 and runs through September 2, 2020. Open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. Void where prohibited.