Monday, March 18, 2019

"Death by Association" by Paula Darnell

Death by Association
(DIY Diva Mystery Book 1)
by Paula Darnell

Death by Association (DIY Diva Mystery Book 1) by Paula Darnell

Death by Association by Paula Darnell is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

DIY Diva Laurel McMillan learns that the high walls and guarded gates of Hawkeye Haven can't protect her community.
When Laurel takes her pampered, chocolate Labrador retriever, Bear, for an early morning walk, she finds her friend, security guard Bessie, bleeding and unconscious at her guardhouse post. If the attack on Bessie isn't enough to set the residents' nerves on edge, the murder of Victor Eberhart, the unpopular president of the powerful homeowners' association, certainly does the trick.
Despite teaching DIY classes and writing project instructions for her latest book, DIY for Dog Lovers, Laurel manages to squeeze in time for some DIY detective work. But as she gets closer to the truth, Victor's killer would like nothing better than for the DIY Diva to take a dive.

Excerpt from Chapter 1
“Bear, no!” I warned, as my chocolate Labrador retriever lunged toward a rabbit that had suddenly popped out from under a leafy bush and landed on the sidewalk just a few feet ahead of us. “Stay here, boy.” Bear wanted to chase the bunny, but I grabbed his collar, holding him back until the little rabbit hopped away, across the street and onto the manicured, green fairway of Hawkeye Haven’s golf course, which meandered through our walled, guard-gated community.
Although Bear would have liked nothing better than to follow the bunny and have a chance to explore the verdant expanse of the golf course, if I were seen walking my dog there, I’d be slapped with a huge fine by Hawkeye Haven’s aggressive homeowners’ association.
The golf course was reserved strictly for players, so neither residents nor their dogs were allowed to walk there. (HOA Regulation 101 states that “only golf course employees and golfers cleared through the golf course pro shop or starter station are allowed on the course, and all others are in violation and will be subject to fines and penalties or arrest for trespassing.”) Although we were banned from walking on the golf course, and we always walked on the sidewalk, rather than on the neighborhood front lawns, at least Bear could enjoy the grass in our backyard, where he loved to romp and play fetch.
Bear stared longingly at the rabbit as it stopped and, teasing, looked back at him before bouncing away across the golf course.
“Come on, Bear,” I urged, releasing his collar while keeping a tight grip on his leash, and we resumed our walk. When the rabbit’s appearance had startled us, I’d been thinking about the do-it-yourself jewelry class that I’d be teaching later in the morning.
The rabbit forgotten, Bear trotted happily along while I mentally reviewed the project that I would present to my DIY Crystal Necklace class later at the community center. Although the project was a relatively simple one, the crystal necklaces that the students—all residents of Hawkeye Haven—would be making qualified as true dazzlers with plenty of sparkle. Each student would be stringing three strands of faceted Swarovski crystal beads to make a necklace in the color of her choice, each necklace featuring a large crystal pendant in the center. When I previewed the project, there had been plenty of oohs and aahs, and I’d been sure that the women in the class would be well pleased with their showy necklaces.
I had accidentally stumbled into my job by turning the DIY craft, fashion, and home dec projects that I loved to design into cash, first with a blog, which had attracted a book editor’s attention, and then with a series of books, each with a different DIY theme. I supplemented my writing income with design jobs for crafts’ manufacturers, and now that I was teaching DIY classes at Hawkeye Haven, I had the perfect way to test my projects and instructions by presenting them to my students, who just happened to fit the profile of my books’ readers.
Bear’s ears perked up as a dog, sensing Bear’s presence in his home territory, began to bark frantically in a neighbor’s backyard as we passed by on the front sidewalk. Bear acknowledged the other pet with a short courtesy “woof” and continued on his way, unperturbed.
Much as I hated to rouse the neighborhood with our early morning walks, dawn remained the best time of the day for a big furry dog like Bear to take a walk in the summer. Even though the humid heat of late August would soon fade into more tolerable autumn weather, we were experiencing record-breaking high temperatures, and the hot spell was forecast to last several more days.
Sometimes I couldn’t quite believe that I had chosen to live in the central Iowa town of Center City and in a guard-gated community to boot. The summer sunshine would burn my pale skin to a lobster red if I weren’t so diligent about constantly applying sunscreen before I ventured outdoors, and I never had become accustomed to the high humidity that usually accompanied the summer heat. Iowa winters, with lots of snow and frigid weather, were even worse than the summers. I had traded the mild climate of Seattle for the more extreme weather of Iowa.
My cousin Tracey, my best friend from the time we were toddlers, had moved to Hawkeye Haven on the outskirts of Center City a few years before I had because a new job opportunity had come her way. After my husband was killed in an auto accident, everything about Seattle reminded me of him and our life together. Tracey convinced me that a change of scenery would do me good. Since I could work anywhere, I had decided that she was right, so three years ago I had moved, too. Still, at times, I missed the misty rains and moderate weather of Seattle, where I had lived the first thirty-five years of my life.
By now, we’d come about a mile from home. Normally, Bear and I would have encountered at least a couple other pet parents walking their dogs, but it was unusually quiet, especially for a garbage-collection day, when a lot of residents set out their trash early in the morning. (HOA Regulation 34 states that “trash containers shall not be put out for collection more than twelve hours before scheduled collection time and shall be removed out of sight no more than twelve hours after collection time.”)
As we turned right at the next intersection, Bear began pulling on his leash, and I knew the reason. On weekdays, our route took us to the back gate of Hawkeye Haven, where Bessie, the daytime security guard, worked during the week, and Bessie always had a homemade treat, shaped like a dog bone, waiting for Bear when we stopped by the guard’s station, which stood on a wide median between the lanes leading in and out of Hawkeye Haven. On weekends, when Bessie didn’t work, I took a different route so that Bear wouldn’t anticipate receiving a treat during his walk, although I always had a snack waiting for him at home so that he wouldn’t be disappointed.
As we approached the guardhouse, I saw that the side door was open, inviting us to join Bessie inside, where a large desk and control panel took up most of the front of the small room. Usually Bessie was outside or at the desk when we arrived each morning, and although I didn’t see her there today, Bear and I both spotted his treat waiting for him on a paper towel at the edge of the desk. Without further ado, Bear took the snack gently, almost delicately, in his soft Lab’s mouth and then chomped it with relish.
“Bear,” I scolded, “you’re supposed to wait for Bessie to give you your treat.”
I looked toward the back of the guard house, down a short, narrow hallway that led to two smaller rooms—a restroom and a tiny kitchen that contained only a microwave, a dorm-sized refrigerator, and a coffee maker.
That’s when I saw her.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“This book has great characterization, a community of characters you enjoy, and involvement in the main characters lifestyle. If you are also a dog lover, you will relate to Laurel's devotion to her dog. The author gives you some great recipes for dog biscuits, like pumpkin, and peanut butter at the end of the book. I highly recommend this as an enjoyable read.” ~ Katherine E. Black
“This book is a must read - it has quirky characters and an adorable, large dog. Without giving away too much, the title ends up being very appropriate for the plot, and very clever as well. There are some recipes for pups. I made the pumpkin snacks and my own dogs loved them …” ~ Blue Valentine
“This book combines a top-notch cozy mystery with a stinging rebuke of the oppressive doings of the arrogant HOA officials in charge of the community in which the main character lives. The setting is refreshing, the characters are intriguing, the crimes are compelling, and the sleuthing by the DIY Diva is splendid! Highly recommend!” ~ Andrea Wilder
“Fun and interesting characters, an original setting in a gated community (Oh, the trials of an HOA), Bear the dog, and great writing all make Death By Association a story worth reading, and a great debut for Darnell.” ~ Lisa Ks Book Reviews

Guest Post by the Author
The DIY Diva in Death by Association
Have you ever dreamed of turning your hobby into your full-time job?
The first book of the DIY Diva Mystery series, Death by Association, features Laurel McMillan, and that's exactly how she becomes the DIY Diva.
The same benefits that make the idea appealing - the ability to control your business rather than having to report to a supervisor, the enjoyment of working with the hobby you love, and the flexibility of setting your own hours - also appealed to me, as a writer, when I created the main character, Laurel McMillan, in my new cozy mystery series. 
The first book of the DIY Diva Mystery series, Death by Association, features Laurel, who's known as the DIY Diva because she follows the path from hobbyist to full-time entrepreneur. In the book, Laurel makes her living by writing DIY books, teaching DIY classes, and designing DIY projects. Because she's self-employed, she has great flexibility in her schedule, a definite advantage when she switches from DIY Diva to DIY detective as the story progresses.
Laurel teaches jewelry-making classes at the community center of Hawkeye Haven, where she lives. In the second book of the DIY Diva Mystery series, Death by Design, to be released this summer, she will be teaching how to make perfect pillows. Each book in the series will feature a different craft and include projects with instructions at the back of the book. As a teacher, Laurel is a trusted, well-known member of her community and has the opportunity to interact with many residents and to learn valuable information from her friends and neighbors.
I thought it would be fun for Laurel to be working on a new DIY book in Death by Association and then make some of her projects available in the back of the book. Since Laurel's devoted to Bear, her lovable chocolate Labrador retriever, I decided she'd write DIY for Dog Lovers. Because Laurel's not much of a cook, she asked her friends and relatives for dog treat recipes, but she designed the fringed dog scarf and the dog bed mentioned in the book with a little help from her author, whose real-life dog Rocky enjoyed sampling all the goodies as she developed the dog treat recipes.
Because I enjoy DIY craft, sewing, and art projects myself, I was able to use some of my own experiences to create a character with whom I could identify. I've taught jewelry-making, sewing, and fashion design classes myself and designed numerous projects, some of which I've written about in national magazines and online. I also sell some of my jewelry, hair accessories, and textile artwork in my Etsy shop, PaulaDJewelry. Take a peek, and don't forget to read Death by Association!

About the Author
Paula Darnell
An instructor at five colleges over the years, Paula Darnell most often taught the dreaded first-year English composition classes, but she's also been happy to teach some fun classes, such as fashion design, sewing, and jewelry making. Paula has a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and a Master's degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Like Laurel, the main character in Death by Association, Paula enjoys all kinds of arts and crafts. Some of her memorable projects include making a hat and a cape to wear to Royal Ascot, sewing wedding gowns for both her daughters, exhibiting her textile and mixed-media artwork in juried art shows, and having one of her jewelry projects accepted for inclusion in Leather Jewelry, published by Lark Books. She sells some of her jewelry and hair accessories in her Etsy shop, PaulaDJewelry.
Paula's interest in DIY craft projects and fashion led to her writing hundreds of articles for print and online national publications.
Living in a guard-gated community governed by a homeowners' association gave Paula the idea for the setting of Death by Association. She finds that residing in an HOA community can be both a blessing and a curse. A Happy-New-Year greeting from her community association called on residents to “start the new year by reviewing your Rules and Regulations booklet”, something unlikely to top anyone's list of New Year's resolutions.
Paula lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband Gary and their 110-pound dog Rocky, whose favorite pastime is lurking in the kitchen, hoping for a handout

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of Death by Association by Paula Darnell (US only).

Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)

Books featured in this post: