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mystery « Sandra Brannan: Author of the Liv Bergen Mystery Series

Tag Archive for 'mystery'

A Warm Heart This Holiday Season

This holiday season I am reflecting on how I have been given so very much during this lifetime.  It’s no wonder one of my favorite bible passages is from Luke, “To whom much is given, much is required.  To whom much more is given, much more is required.”I know I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what God’s intention is for me on this earth so I keep working harder to find that story.  Before each time moving forward though, I must reflect and appreciate what He’s already shown me.  So thank you Suspense Magazine for the honor of being on the Best of 2013 List for NOAH’S RAINY DAY.  I worked hard at giving an authentic voice to those who haven’t one in that book.   And I am also grateful for NOAH being named a finalist in 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery.

If I could sing, it would be to the tune of 12 Days… Five golden sons!  Four grandkids.  Three living parents.   Two series growing.   And a spouse who still surprisingly loves meeeeeeeee!

Count your blessings this holiday season.

And God Bless… Sandra Brannan

Suspense/Thrillers Best of 2013Finalist for Mystery 2013

Book Clubs Add To Success Of Author…

Book clubs are a huge part of my success.

Ever since my debut in 2010 with IN THE BELLY OF JONAH, ABA’s Indie NextPick Notable, book clubs have been a strong influence on how I write.  The book clubs of Buffalo and Camp Crook, South Dakota were one of my first stops during my 2010 book tour.  Those three dozen ladies (and man… my cousin who didn’t have a choice but to come since I was kin) made sure to let me know how a real South Dakotan would have responded in some of the Liv Bergen key scenes.   They’re passionate response gave me an idea.  What if a book club could be my “ideal reader” as a sounding board before I turned in my manuscript to my editor?  Then it hit me.  Book Clubs are prefect as “ideal readers” or what I call my beta readers, because they 1) read alot, 2) are brutally honest, 3) can drag my finger to problems in the book that elude me, and 4) are extremely fun to get feedback from. 

Therefore, for LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM, WIDOW’S MIGHT, and NOAH’S RAINY DAY I solicted a book club’s input — expert input — before I turned the manuscript  over to my publisher.   Check out the acknowledgements.

LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM 2011- Tough Ladies of Harding County Book Clubs (Buffalo gals turned out in large numbers to tell me what it’s really like to be be terrorized by 1%er outlaw motorcycle clubs and made LOT real).  Because of you, 2011 Top 50 Women’s Mysteries on Amazon for Ebook.

WIDOW’S MIGHT 2012- The Nameless Book Club who I terrorized one night, surprising them at their living room window (Thanks Ruthie & Sarah for introducing me to Danielli, Jessica and Judy and for making the widow even stronger).  Because of you, ABA’s Indie NextList, #37 Favourite Mystery and Thriller on GoodReads Listopia.

NOAH’S RAINY DAY 2013- Ladies of the Knight and the Rambling Mustangs Book Club (Chicago’s in the house!  You nine ladies did a fabulous job heightening the tension and improving the elements of suspense.  Thanks, Denise, for introducing me to your friends).  Because of you #1 Best Books with Handicapped Hero List, #39 Favourite Mystery and Thriller on GoodReads Listopia.

Who’s going to be the beta reading book club for the fifth Liv Bergen mystery?  Is it you and your club? 

Beta Reader Book Club: Beta reading the manuscript before I turn it into my publisher takes alot of work.  First, you have to be brutally honest with me on where I dropped the ball or where I let you down as a reader.  Second, you have expectations of these characters and I want to meet your expectations.  So I appreciate your honest feedback.  The process helps fans understand where a project starts from a raw manuscript to final book published.  And I get to include your names in the acknowledgements plus I send you copies of the final autographed book  as my way to say ‘thank you’. 

Name-That-Book Book Club:  On the fifth book, I’m also looking for book clubs to help me with a name, based on a synopsis.  The book club with the winning name also receives an autographed copy of my book.    The title must fit into the series of book titles already established, must be a twist on a biblical story, and must have some connection to the story or underpinnings of the plot. 

Details To Enter Your Book Club:  By November 1st, 2013, email me if you’d like your book club to participate in Beta Reading, in Name-That-Book, or in both at Sandra@SandraBrannan.com and note in the subject line “Beta 5″, “Title 5″, or “Both 5″ to be eligible for the drawing.   The details I’ll need from you are the name of your book club, the city where you’re from, how many are in the club, and contact information for the person who will be coordinating your input and my gifts for the club.  (Oh and a promise from you to keep the story a secret, of course! shhhhhhh)   I’ll Skype or FaceTime or telephone attend with your book club in early December once you’ve had the month of November to review the manuscript. 

So grateful to all of my fans and especially the book clubs who’ve made me a better writer!


No Longer That Fat Kid…

Do you remember in the olden days when the grade school P.E. teacher used to make us climb that stupid rope?  I don’t know about you, but no matter how I tried, no matter how much spit on my hands, I couldn’t seem to get more than one or maybe two handholds up that rope before gravity pulled me right back down to the gym floor as all the other kids moaned.  In fact, I can’t recall any one of us ever able to climb that stupid rope except maybe the thin, wiry kid that everyone envied.  Unfortunately, I was not blessed with that monkey-like ability or a thin-enough physique to accomplish that impossible task that seemed only intended to demoralize.  I felt uncoordinated at best, fat and weak in reality.

If I can do it, YOU can do it!

Sometimes life feels like a series of those stupid ropes, where I find myself facing the impossible task and feeling like that fat kid again.  Getting published was most certainly one of the longest ropes to the highest tree I’d ever stood beneath.  But today, I can say I have successfully beaten the odds and published four books in only three short years.  And I’m ready to climb again and again, no longer feeling like that fat kid.

Don’t give up!  Don’t let yourself feel like that fat kid in grade school facing the rope ever again.  Take hold and climb.  If I can do it, YOU can do it!

Secret To Success…

What a wonderful country we have! 

I have met so many people across America — happy, successful people from all walks of life — since I first became published three years ago.   From 2010 to today,  I’ve met people with such colorful stories and intriguing lives that my mind is swimming with memories.  Everywhere I go, the smiles are plentiful.  

I started thinking about what all these happy, successful people have in common and I narrowed it down to three things they share as the secret to their success: 

1)  They work hard at using their God-given talents.

2)  They are overflowing with gratitude.

3)  They celebrate each day by sharing their joy and kindness with others.

To all of you who I’ve met at conferences & convention, at book signings & book clubs, and in libraries and lounges, thank you all for teaching me so much!

May Day is Loyalty Day

Everyone knows today is May Day.  But did you know it’s also National Loyalty Day, a special day designated by our Congressional leaders to remind us to reaffirm our loyalty to the United States of America? Today I will genuinely recognize my heritage to freedom as an American. Because of people like my dad and my husband, not to mention all the family, friends, and ancestors who have fought to keep us free.

My father, an 88-year-old WWII and Korean War vet, calls all his friends on this day each year to celebrate May 1st.  All of us enjoy receiving the call where he enthusiastically says “Hurray, hurray, the first of May!” He says his list is growing smaller.  Sad.  They are great Americans.

Loyalty Day reminds me why I flew half way across the world to adopt my youngest, driven to be a mother (of course) but also desirous of lifting one child from the clutches of communism to live free as a capitalist. And I have never met a more grateful, patriotic American in my life than my son!

Generations of Freedom

As a writer, thank you for giving me the power of speech. I take that right seriously and work to entertain through the stories I tell. If along the way I open some windows to a world some may not realize exist, well then fabulous!  Every time I sit at my keyboard, I reaffirm my loyalty to the heritage of American freedom.

Bottle A Mother’s Love For All Things New This Season…

Although my books have a terrifying premise, I always work toward a happy ending, finding a way to make all things new again. The Easter holiday season is about making everything new. Spring is here, grass is sprouting, flowers budding, animal babies being born.

I remind myself every year during this beautiful holiday to renew my commitment to my children, to those I love, and to my connection with a power beyond this world. To my God. Many of us become parents sometime in our lives. What a gift! Even if you’re not a Christian, the scene in The Passion of Christ where Mary watches her son suffer is a poweful testament to the bond between mother and child. The expression on this actress’s face, the raw emotion she brings to this scene, reduces me to tears every time I watch. Maybe it’s because I was blessed with the best mother in the world or that I have sons and unfortunately understand the loss of a child. But mostly, I know it’s because the bond between a mother and child is so incredibly powerful that the most horrifying gnaws to a mother’s heart is suffering inflicted on her child.

No matter your religion or spirituality, make all things new this Easter season and believe in everything beautiful. Especially you! Reach out this holiday season and hug a mother.

We could change the world if we could only bottle a mother’s love.

Graves Are An Angel’s Footprint

I lost my son 20 years ago today.

Lucky me to have met an angel on earth. My other sons gave me a personalized calendar for Christmas with a quote for each day in 2013 and knowing the week proceeding their borther’s death is difficult for me, they shared wonderful and inspirational messages for me this year, like Heny Wadsworth Longfellow’s quote, “He spake well who said that graves are the footprints of angels”.

I thank God for flicking me onto this path 20 years ago today. I know my son is safe and warm and waiting for me. I appreciate the sons I have, hug them every day, and tell them I love them every chance I get. I love life more than I ever believed possible. And I write so I can manage the monsters who haunt my nightmares. So lucky me, scaring you each day with my Liv Bergen Mystery Series and hopefully my future thriller series, should my wonderful agent John Talbot, find me a home.

The best part about giving birth to an angel? They send me beautiful sunrises on special days like today.
Hold Little Ones Near.

Have You Seen The Liv Bergen Trailers?

I remember as a kid being asked if I’d ever seen a Norwegian trailer, only to follow for minutes, thinking I was being led outside to see some innovative fifth wheel with a tow bar that was painted in really cool Nordic ice stripes. But being Norwegian and eager to trail this guy, it would be no surprise to you that I was the Norwegian trailer. Fastforward and here I was being asked by my publicity team if I wanted a trailer created for the Liv Bergen series. I bet they wondered why I dug in my heels and said, “I’m not falling for that again.” In response to my bristling, they were patient enough to explain that trailers were a wonderful way to showcase the book in a mini-movie format, designed to entice potential readers to pick up the book. (They don’t get paid enough to work with someone like me.)

So enjoy the latest “trailers” for the Liv Bergen Mystery Series:

First Book, 2010 IN THE BELLY OF JONAH
Second Book, 2011 LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM
Third Book, 2012 WIDOW’S MIGHT
Fourth Book, 9/3/2013 NOAH’S RAINY DAY

… and although Liv Bergen is Norwegian, I promise not to ask you to follow me all around the internet with no other purpose than to tease you. Unless you consider it teasing you to buy the book!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

How fun is this? A blog hop! And to think three years ago I had no clue what a blog was. As the daughter of a devout Irish woman, I thought blogging was some cool variation of clogging, which we’ve performed at family events. Thank goodness for the first Bloggers Convention in May 2010 where all these wonderfully talented bloggers explained what this world was all about.

Fast forward to January 2013… authors tag other authors to blog as a virtual event that helps readers discover new authors. The first author tags five others whose work he or she admires, then each of those authors tag five more, and so on and so on. Kinda like a 21st century version of the chain letter from when I was a kid in the sixties.

This event is already so widespread, covering so many genres and amazing authors, that I was asked to be tagged by several authors, so I’m going to mention all of them here so you can check out their wonderful work as well as adding several other authors I admire for various reasons. I am so lucky to be part of this cool movement to encourage reading!

I’ll tell you THE NEXT BIG THING in my world this week by answering the blog hop questions, then I’ll shout out the fabulous authors I have discovered in my journey who also happen to be fabulous individuals in real life. Check out their websites or those I tag for January 23rd blogs.

1: What is the working title of your book(s)?

NOAH’S RAINY DAY releasing 9/3/2013

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

My ideas largely come from issues that irritate me. For instance, IN THE BELLY OF JONAH was inspired by a very famous artist’s rendition of his nanny. The painting bothered me so much, I wrote an entire story around it. LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM was inspired by my irritation that outlaw motorcycle clubs get away with so much. I wrote about the quiet heroes who monitor the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where I live, when 500,000 bikers ascend on a town of 5,000 in South Dakota and where 10% of those bikers are gangs. WIDOW’S MIGHT arose from my anger at how so many alleged “do-gooders” take advantage of our aging population and it thrilled me to make the widow in my story the ultimate heroine. Geez, I’m generally a happy-go-lucky person so I wouldn’t want fans to think I am easily irritated.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Mystery – Gritty and Suspenseful

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ll leave that to the experts, considering I would have never cast Tom Cruise as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Being a ‘Reacher Creature’ fan since Lee started releasing the Jack Reacher series, I can honestly say I was shocked and surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie. No reason not to follow Lee’s lead and let the experts do what they do best. Look what it’s done for him? Besides, how lucky would I be if someone decided to give Liv Bergen a chance at the silver screen?

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Assuming new readers would want to start from the beginning, IN THE BELLY OF JONAH could be described as… A window cut into a woman’s body sets off a desparate search for a killer with an artistic bent.

LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM… Unlike Lot’s Wife, Liv Bergen doesn’t look back after she commits to proving her brother’s innocence, even when she herself becomes prey for those with murder on their minds. And the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a great place to hide a body or two.

WIDOW’S MIGHT…A vengeful killer with a crooked sense of justice threatens Liv Bergen and those she loves most. And who would bother to throttle an octogenarian as she lies dying in hospice anyway? I loved making this old ranch woman the hero.

But THE NEXT BIG THING? On September 3, 2013, NOAH’S RAINY DAY releases and ooh, baby, hold on through this one! A child is abducted from DIA on Christmas Eve and the only one who knows where he is can’t speak and can’t write. Meet Noah, a twelve year old with severe cerebral palsy. It’s a race against time for him to communicate what he knows… before it’s too late. And the coolest part? Rick Hoyt has endorsed the book. Check out two real heroes who are Team Hoyt.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

The Liv Bergen Series was published under a hybrid model of traditional publishing and self-publishing at Greenleaf Book Group. My new thriller series with Malarkey Carrigan is represented by an agent. And I really like him!

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote nine books before I wrote the first book in the series IN THE BELLY OF JONAH. It took me about a month to write the book after a year of thinking about it. I like to have the story pretty well thought out like a movie in my head before I start writing. I’m quirky that way. Editing is where most of my time is spent on the keyboard.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

One reviewer likened Liv Bergen, my main character, as the love child betweeen Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone. I’ve also been quite kindly compared to Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson, although I know much better since I read all four of these awesome authors. Just happy to be published and have fans write me, comment, and post reviews. Thank you!!

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I am an engineer with an MBA and work in the mining industry. But a 9th grade English teacher saw something in me that I didn’t and encouraged me to write by nominating me for a $500 creative writing scholarship. I won and spent it on engineering school. So guilt motivated me, thanks to a high school teacher.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My protagonist embodies life as a westerner living in the mountain states. She’s a miner and fans describe her as someone you want to have a beer with. But the most interesting thing is how booksellers around the country have named two of my first three books as ABA Indie NextList winners. That’s like their top twenty picks of the nearly 30,000 published in that month. I am so grateful to booksellers for that!

My 2013 release NOAH’S RAINY DAY features a wonderful tweenager hero who witnesses a crime but struggles to overcome the challenges of CP to communicate where the young boy is being imprisoned before it’s too late. Love the concept and NOAH’S RAINY DAY is my favorite book so far! Hope booksellers and fans like it as much as I do.

Meet these wonderful authors who I know personally or have met along my journey…

First, Sparkle Abbey write the Pampered Pet Mysteries which are cozies. Thanks for tagging me, ladies, and thanks for always sharing your margarittas with me! Oh and by the way? Laughed until my stomach hurt when I read DESPERATE HOUSE DOGS.

J.T. Ellison writes the Dr. Samantha Owens series and is such a great writer, fans travel across the country to see her. I know because I ran into one of them from my hometown in Rapid City, SD down at Nashville and he was there to see J.T., not me. Couldn’t hold that against him once I met J.T. She’s hillarious and doesn’t have a phony bone in her body. Check out this bestselling author.

Another author sure to rise is Jennifer Hillier. Her CREEP and FREAK are powerhouse psychological thrillers that are sure to stay with you.

Have to tell any of you who cut your teeth on Travis McGee novels that you must buy Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. He’s the quintessntial modern-day Travis who you can’t help but hate to love. But I do so love Jack Reacher. And Lee’s books are all bestsellers worldwide. By the way? Lee’s a class act, such a nice man.

Nora McFarland is the up-and-coming Janet Evanovich, but mostly I think she’s a sweetie pie and I am lucky to call her friend. Lilly Hawkins is someone you’ll want to meet, so pick up Nora’s latest GOING TO THE BAD.

Your life is simply not complete if you haven’t met C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett. C.J. writes about my neighboring state of Wyoming and I’m thinking Liv Bergen might be related to Joe Pickett. Maybe a second cousin. C.J.’s a great guy and his books are so much fun to read. Bestselling author with high APF in his stories.


1) Hilary Davidson’s DAMAGE DONE was an amazing debut and Hilary is an equally amazing woman. She is incredibly kind and full of grace and can write her toosh off. She’s most certainly one to watch as her career climbs. TAG, YOU’RE IT, HILARY!! Check out the NEXT BEST THING Ms. Davidson is working on in her January 23rd Blog Post.

2) A.J. Scudiere is one of the coolest people I’ve met in my writing journey. She’s a young, kicky go-getter and if she writes anything likes she lives, you’ll love her books to. I’ll let you in on a secret. The worst part of writing is having less time to read and some authors deserve to be read, like A.J. But I know her stories will reach through the pages and grab me once I find the time to read again because her fans call her “awesome, incredible, unafraid”. I’M TAGGING A.J. BACK BECAUSE SHE ALSO TAGGED ME. Check out her blog on her NEXT BIG THING at her Smart Chickens blog.

3) Never read Deborah Grace Staley‘s Angel Series yet, but check out her blog on January 23rd. I’ll be learning right along side of you what her series is about. It’s like tagging a kid on the playground you’ve never met before. TAG, DEBBIE! From what I hear, the Angel Ridge Series is sweet contemporary romances in the tradition of Debbie Macomber. Located in the mountains of East Tennessee, Angel Ridge is a town you want to visit often.

4) TAG, YOU’RE IT, REAVIS WORTHAM. Convince them in your blog why they should read your books, you newbie you. This guy is fabulous, another class act, and THE BURROWS was a great read. I’m hooked! Can’t wait to go back and read THE ROCK HOLE. Rev’s Red River Mysteries are making a beeline to the bestseller list, just you wait and see. Check out Reavis Wortham’s NEXT BIG THING on his blog post January 23, 2013.

And how did the last line of the old chain letters read? Something ominous like… and if you ignore this letter you will die a painful and firey death. Well in a virtual blog hop, I don’t think the same fate awaits if you don’t check out all these fabulous authors. But I can promise you that your life will be richer if you do!

The Power of Story…

Sandra Brannan with William Joyce, the brilliant creator of 2012 Oscar Winning Short Film “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”

With the release of WIDOW’S MIGHT in August, I’ve been touring across this great country of ours on weekends to say ‘hi’ to friends — old and new — who call themselves fans of the Liv Bergen Mystery Series and to thank as many of the independent booksellers for loving books so much. Because of the booksellers’ willingness to heft debut authors like myself onto their weary, yet very broad shoulders, I having been riding a wave of success so beautiful it’s almost hard to believe. I can hardly find the words to properly thank the members of the ABA Independent Booksellers Association for awarding my newest book, WIDOW’S MIGHT, the Indie NextList pick for August 2012.

I can never put in words how much the booksellers and librarians mean to me as beautifully as William Joyce said it in his Oscar winning short film, “Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by Moonbot Studios. If you haven’t watched it, please do. Indulge yourself in this 15 minute love affair between us book lovers and the incredible power of story.

So grateful to all of you for spending time with me in bookstores during my 2012 Book Tour. See you next year! (Psst… spread the word about the power of buying books)

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