The Showcase is a special feature of the Author's Spotlight. It is designed to highlight Spotlight author's NEW releases and their soon to be released novels.
The HBS Author's Spotlight SHOWCASES Ellen Collier's New Book:
BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS
Cozy Mystery Book Tours Presents:
BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS
Author: Ellen Mansoor Collier
Barnes and Noble
It’s 1927 in Galveston, Texas—the “Sin City of the Southwest.” Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross is an ambitious 21-year-old society reporter for the Galveston Gazette who tries to be taken seriously by the good-old-boy staff, but the editors only assign her fluffy puff pieces, like writing profiles of bathing beauties. The last thing Jazz wants to do is compare make-up tips with ditzy dames competing in the Miss Universe contest, known as the “International Pageant of Pulchritude and Bathing Girl Revue.”
She’d rather help solve the murders of young prostitutes who turn up all over town, but city officials insist on burying the stories during Splash Day festivities. After Jazz gets to know the bathing beauties, she realizes there’s a lot more to them than just pretty faces and figures. Jazz becomes suspicious when she finds out the contest is also sponsored by the Maceos, aspiring Beach Gang leaders and co-owners of the Hollywood Dinner Club, where the girls will perform before the parade and pageant.
Worse, her half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis, a speakeasy on a rival gang’s turf, asks her to call in a favor from handsome Prohibition Agent James Burton—an impossible request that could compromise both of their jobs and budding romance. While Agent Burton gives her the cold shoulder, she fends off advances from Colin Ferris, an attractive but dangerous gangster who threatens Sammy as well as Burton. In the end, she must risk it all to save her friends from a violent killer hell-bent on revenge. Inspired by actual events.
Sammy appeared, looking dishevelled and rumpled, his shirt half-buttoned and dark hair curlier than usual. “What happened to you?” I asked, stifling a laugh.
“All those dames!” He gasped for breath. “Get a few drinks in ‘em and they turn into vultures!
They were all over me!”
“I noticed. So what are you complaining about?” I teased him. “I thought you liked having a fan club around.”
“I do, but…” He looked down, smoothing out his shirt, then buttoned it back up. “I just feel so bad. I don’t know what to do…” His mood turned somber.
“About what? Amanda?” No secret my best friend had a big crush on my handsome half-brother.
“About everything…” He paced the tiny office, rubbing his unshaven face, as if trying to think.
“I’m in a jam and I don’t know how to get out.”
“What kind of jam?” I could tell Sammy was stalling for time, so I went over to him and shook his arm, to stop his pacing. “Sammy, tell me what’s wrong.”
“It’s about the gangs. Their turf wars.”
“What else is new?” Galveston gangs had a long-standing rivalry, and it didn’t take much to set things off. Broadway served as the boundary separating the two gangs, and it was no-holdsbarred if and when that line was crossed—the Beach Gang’s turf was located north of Broadway, and the Downtown Gang was south.
Naturally Sammy wanted to stay on good terms with both gangs, who controlled the flow of booze on the Island. Agent Burton had tried, but failed, to shut down their operations, but he did manage to cut off a few sources, including a dangerous bootlegger, for a while—with our help.
“What’s the latest feud about?” Word was, Ollie Quinn had set his sights on the Downtown Gang’s turf, and with his reckless wheeling and dealing, Johnny Jack seemed ripe for a coup.
“Let’s just say the Maceos don’t always see eye-to-eye with Ollie or Dutch Voight. They want to get out of the prostitution racket, but Ollie wants to line up houses all over the island, even set up shop in the clubs.” Sammy took out a Camel cigarette and lit it, avoiding my gaze.
I’d heard similar stories and Mack, our top reporter, confirmed several rumors in a hard-hitting series for the Gazette describing the turf wars, a string of eye-opening articles the gangs didn’t appreciate. In his latest piece, Mack quoted anonymous sources who claimed the Maceos were trying to oust Quinn and Voight, vying for the top spots in the Beach Gang.
“You don’t say. How does that affect you?”
“Word is, the Maceos want to break away from the Beach Gang, branch out onto new turf, start their own operation.” Sammy puffed away, hiding behind a cloud of smoke. “Johnny Jack knows we’re friends, and he didn’t care as long as they kept out of his way and left Market Street alone. But after the ice man hit, all hell broke loose. Now Johnny Jack wants to stop the Maceos cold before they muscle in on his territory.”
“How does he plan to do that?” After a string of recent killings, I saw first-hand how vicious the Galveston gangs could be if you double-crossed them.
Finally Sammy quit pacing and plopped down in his worn banker’s chair. “Jazz, you’ve got to help me. I need a favor, a big favor. ”
“What kind of favor?” I eyed him, skeptical. Sammy always made it clear that I was supposed to stay out of his business, for my own safety, but now he wanted my help?
“Remember the night I spent in jail? Somehow Johnny Jack got the idea that your Prohibition friend bailed me out. So now he thinks we’re best buddies.”
“That’s not true.” I bit my lip, feeling guilty, since I’d asked Agent Burton to get involved, to help get Sammy out of jail. Fortunately he’d managed just fine on his own.
“I just tolerate the guy ‘cause of you. But now I need his help.” Sammy leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Johnny Jack’s putting the squeeze on me. He threatened to tell everyone in the Downtown Gang that I’m Agent Burton’s squealer if I don’t do what he wants.”
“His informant? Bunk! What does he expect you to do?”
His shoulders slumped. “He wants me to convince Burton to raid the Hollywood Dinner Club and shut it down—during the bathing beauty dance routine this Friday night.”
Mystery, Historical Fiction, New Adult
A jazz age Mystery Series - Ellen Mansoor Collier
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Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in several national magazines including: FAMILY CIRCLE, MODERN BRIDE, FIRST, GLAMOUR, BIOGRAPHY, COSMOPOLITAN, COUNTRY ACCENTS, PLAYGIRL, etc. Several of her short stories have appeared in WOMAN'S WORLD.
A flapper at heart, she's the owner of DECODAME, specializing in Deco to retro vintage items (www.art-decodame.com).
Formerly she's worked as a magazine editor, and in advertising/marketing and public relations. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism. BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS is the sequel to FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY, her first novel.
"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."
SHOWCASE Questions and Answers with the Author
What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Taking a breather now, but I do have a few more ideas for the “Jazz Age” series. The 1920s are ripe with story ideas so I’ll keep you posted!
Please visit my website for the latest news:
How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
Thanks for calling my novels a success! lol So far I’ve resisted joining Twitter but my friends’ tweets do seem to help. The truth is, I’m easily distracted and it’s often hard to focus on my writing.
Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
Now I only have e-books available, but I may change the covers to photographs for a print version later this year. I did have some biz cards printed out with the cover and info that I hand out to people who seem interested. My friends with retail and antique shops display them for me on their counters—free advertising! (Gotprint.com) Great quality and price with nice, glossy covers—you can’t beat it!
You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
Thanks! That’s one benefit of being an indie—I get to pick and choose my cover artwork and typefaces. I thought this Deco illustration fit the story in a whimsical and colorful way, yet the two bathing beauties looked mysterious, like they were keeping a secret. Luckily my brother, Jeff J. Mansoor, is a talented graphic artist and pulled it all together for me in an attractive cover. I’m very visual and enjoy the process of designing my own covers.
What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I’m fortunate that two of my friends work as professional editors and act as my beta readers. They read my ms. in various stages and offer feedback on plot, flow and storyline, etc. I have a background as a magazine editor, but I’m a bit rusty so they catch mistakes I don’t even notice when I’m in writing mode. I’ve found writer’s groups can be helpful for support, but there are often too many conflicting opinions. From my experience, the meetings can become purely social and/or counterproductive, especially in a roomful of people who write in different genres.
Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?
I love the feedback and interaction with readers and bloggers. Also I like the immediacy of publishing online, especially if you want to change or correct something later. In my English and journalism classes, I was taught the old-school way of writing—by mail and print—and this is such a refreshing change of pace. I do want a hard copy of my mysteries, so I still plan to make print copies available, unless St. Martin’s contacts me first. lol
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I’ve only done a few giveaways and usually never hear back from the winner. I find people are more vested in your book if they want to spend money on it, and they tend to “try before they buy,” like most of us do. Everyone loves freebies, but they may not bother to read samples of your work to see if it’s their cup of tea.
Have you ever done a book tour? If so, did it contribute to the success of your book sales?
Yes, but many tours tend to be more general and may not focus on your genre. I think specialized book tours (like this cozy mystery tour) are better at attracting your target market. Hard to say if they help much, but they do spread the word. You just have to find the right tour and tour host who is genuinely interested in helping promote your book. Review their polices, research their blog hosts and read their tweets to find the right match. Ask your writer friends about tours and hosts to see which ones worked best for them, if any, before you commit.
How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?
Oh no! Maybe I should, but let’s just say I’m technically challenged. I tend to keep everything in my head as I go, but I have a general idea of the plot before I start. I try to plan the next chapter or two in advance and always write a few words at the end of each chapter to get me going.
I’ll often get ideas when I’m out and about and jot them down on paper as I go. I heard Hemingway liked to stop in the middle of a chapter to get his juices flowing again, but I haven’t tried that trick. I usually try to end each chapter with a twist or “cliffhanger” (as my friends like to say) so it forces me to resolve that tension.
Being a self-publisher myself, I have to ask this question. How does doing everything yourself work out? Do you outsource much of the process?
I’m lucky to have a group of creative friends and family who are a big help. I’ve used a formatter before, but my husband Gary did a better job. Of course I’d love to find a marketing genius who can put my “Jazz Age” series on the best-selling lists~! Who wouldn’t? lol
Thanks for the interview and good luck with your own mysteries, James!
Author's Book List
Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play
"Boardwalk Empire" meets "Midnight in Paris" in this soft-boiled historical mystery, inspired by actual events. Rival gangs fight over booze and bars during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston: the "Sin City of the Southwest."
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. During a night out with her best friend, Jazz witnesses a bar fight at the Oasis--a speakeasy secretly owned by her black-sheep half-brother, Sammy Cook. But when a big-shot banker with a hidden past collapses there and later dies, she 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 talk. Suspicious, he pursues Jazz, but despite her mixed feelings she refuses to rat on Sammy. As turf wars escalate between two real-life rival 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.
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