Mystery Readers Only

Location, Location, Location

Nancy is a wonderful author. Even this post about about her new book is fun to read. All about Bushwhacked in the Outback is right here. Enjoy!


By Nancy Raven Smith

If you’re buying a house or opening a new business, you’ll hear location, location, location constantly. For me, it’s an important choice to consider when I write a cozy mystery. I love finding unusual, interesting sites as the stage for my characters to explore. It’s my hope that those places will make the stories more interesting for the reader.

I chose Lexi Winslow as the protagonist for my Land Sharks series. She’s a bank fraud investigator for a small private bank in Beverly Hills. When the bank’s wealthy and international traveling customers have money problems, it’s often her job to fix things. That lets me send her all over the world.

My newest book in the series, Bushwhacked in the Outback, takes Lexi to Coober Pedy in the Australian outback.

I learned about the area from my husband who’s an international jewelry design instructor and some of his friends who live and work there.

Here are some of the things that drew me to choose Coober Pedy and are included in my book. World wide, it’s considered the opal mining capital of the world. Opals can be worth more than diamonds per carat. You can even find opals on the surface of the ground. Large deposits of both gold and oil have also been discovered there recently.

The town has a population of approximately 1,762. Not a big number, but because it is a rich mining area, it includes people from over forty-four different countries.

Coober Pedy sounds like a great place to make your fortune. The only problem is that most people wouldn’t want to live there. It’s located in the middle of the continent of Australia and in the middle of the desert. It’s mid-February as I write this and the temperature is 105 degrees. Temperatures there range from 122 F to sub zero. Because of the extremes, most people choose live underground in homes called dugouts. Dugouts are literally old mines converted into homes because the median temperature underground is a steady 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit. There are even stories about people enlarging the rooms in their homes and discovering rich veins of opals.

Another problem with living in Coober Pedy are the critters. Australia is famous for its venomous animals. Many of them live in the outback. One of the biggest dangers of the Outback is venomoussnakes. Multiple snakes lurk in the desert bushes and rocky areas, including the inland taipans, Stimson’s pythons, orange-naped snakes, mulga snakes, curl snakes, desert death adders, and speckled brown snakes. Then there are the venomous spiders, etc.  

All of these things, even the snakes, made Coober Pedy a fascinating place to use as the setting for my book. If you read Bushwhacked in the Outback, I hope you’ll enjoy the location, too. 

 Bushwhacked in the Outback 

“If you can’t follow the money, follow the body.”

Lexi loves her job as a Beverly Hills bank fraud investigator. It lets her pursue scam artists and con men – known in the business as land sharks.

Sadly, one crook left her with a broken heart and a destroyed reputation. And the bank’s president is looking for any excuse to fire her.

Yet she risks everything when she follows a dead embezzler’s casket to Coober Pedy in the Australian outback. She knows it’s a gamble, but it’s her last hope to recover the bank’s stolen money. Unfortunately, she’s persona non grata in that country. She needs to get in, find the money, and get out before the Australian police discover her presence. But will the unexpected appearance of an ex-lover make her linger too long?

If you like cozy mysteries in exotic locations with deadly secrets and touches of humor, then you’ll enjoy the multi award winning Land Sharks Cozy Mystery series.

Available on at

About the Author

Nancy Raven Smith

Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia, where she ran and participated in horse sport events. On their farm, she rescued horses, dogs, and cats and is an advocate for animal rescue. Later in California, she traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays and novels have won numerous major awards. When not writing, Raven Smith enjoys her family and friends, travel, art, movies, and white water rafting. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women in Film.

Visit her at:




Buy links for

Bushwhacked in the Outback available on at

Swindle in Sumatra available on at

Writer's Notes


By Nancy Raven Smith


LS 3.8MB-1There have been lots of brick walls in my life, such as the ones I used to jump my horse over, the ones in relationships, and those on the outer walls of the house I grew up in. But let’s discuss those pesky ones that pop up when I’m writing. Especially since I’m a pantster.

As a pantster, I usually know the character, some of the major act breaks, and the ending when I start a writing project. But everything is up for change and development as I go along. Plotters/planners spend a lot of time outlining and making decisions before starting. I spend the same time tightening and rewriting after my first draft. As an explorer, some of the paths I take end in box canyons, and often the only way out is to return to the mouth of the canyon and move on. So I hit a lot of canyon walls, but I don’t count these as brick walls. More like taking the scenic route.

When a serious block appears on a project and my forward writing motion comes to a halt, I often wish that there was a magical horse that could help me leap over the problem. Sadly I haven’t found that horse yet. So in the meantime, I’ll share something that does work for me in the hope that it will help other writers with the same problem.

When I start writing, there are always scattered scenes that I see in my head. A love scene here or a bit of action there that comes late in the second act, or the ending of my project. These are scenes that I haven’t written yet because I haven’t reached them chronologically. So if I’m blocked from writing chronologically forward with the story, I’ll skip ahead and write one of those scenes. Sometimes as I write, my chronological log jam will break and when I finish the new scene, I can go back to where I was stopped. Other times not. If that happens, I’ll write another miscellaneous scene I know. If I write enough of those scenes, I’ll start connecting them and begin moving forward again.

While writing my second ever screenplay, I hit a serious wall right before the midpoint. I finally managed to keep going because I knew the ending very clearly in my mind. So I wrote the ending. When I did, I realized I knew the scene before it, and then the scene before that. As I continued writing backwards, I actually backed into the midpoint and the first half of my script. Then I smoothed, added, subtracted, and polished the screenplay during the subsequent rewrites.

Lest you think this produces a bad piece of work, that screenplay ended up in the top six out of over three thousand entries in the Disney Fellowship Competition. So I can honestly say this does work for me.

I hope this idea is a help if you get stuck somewhere, and I’d love to hear if anyone else has an unusual way of addressing the challenges they run into when brick walls stop their writing.



In Land Sharks, Lexi Winslow is a fraud investigator at a private Beverly Hills bank. As a favor to her boss, she’s sent to fetch home the daughter of the bank’s biggest client.
So she’s off to Sumatra, where the wayward daughter and her latest boyfriend were last seen. She has the added complication of having to take the boss’ inexperienced son along for training.

Once Lexi arrives at an isolated resort carved out of the remote Sumatran jungle, she discovers there are more deadly dangers inside the hotel than the crocodiles and head hunters outside. It is a hotel where women check in, but most don’t check out.

And of all the places in the world, Lexi runs into her ex-lover, who not only conned his way into her heart, but is always conning someone somewhere. Lexi is determined to find out what is going on and to get everyone out alive.



HeadShotNancy LS Banner2Nancy Raven Smith grew up in the Virginia horse country near Washington D.C. where she was an active member of the equestrian community. She also rescued and retrained former racehorses as well as cats and dogs for over twenty years. Raven Smith was a contributing writer and cartoonist for several sports magazines such as The Chronicle of the Horse and Practical Horseman and her screenplays have won multiple awards.

Raven Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Women in Film, Romance Writers of America, & Mystery Writers of America. Her debut novel, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra, was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Selection Winner.
Reluctant Farmer on Amazon –
Land Sharks on Amazon –

Writer's Notes

Writers’ Notes: Hitting That Brick Wall

By Thonie Hevron

Everybody's a critic
Everybody’s a critic.

Everyone has time when they come across a barrier to their progress. It happened often when I first learned how to ride horses. All the videos, books, advice and trainers’ lessons barraged my consciousness while I was trying to effectively steer a 1300-pound animal with a brain the size of a walnut. [To be painfully accurate: The problem is the cerebrum, the thinking part, is only slightly larger than a walnut. The rest–all 1.5 to 2 lbs. of it–is  cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls gross muscle coordination, balance and body functions.]

The one thing that got me on track was a trainer saying, “If it’s not working, go back to basics.” Start from the beginning and work up until you work though the barrier. Usually by the time I did all that, the barrier had dropped. To borrow from Horse Listening, a wonderful training site, I’ve para-phrased the popular equine rider training blog (dated originally 2/24/2013) and applied them to the writing craft: 10 Tips for the Average Rider.

1. Find a good teacher-whether it’s a night class, an MFA, a mentor or a critique group, find someone who will urge you on, teach you new things, and maybe find another way to look at the same old issue.

2. Be patient-no way around this.

3. Practice-write every day, even if it’s journaling, blogging, marketing text. Just practice.

4. Accept your limitations-okay, I know I’ll never write the great American Literary Novel. But I can put out a pretty darn good mystery/thriller!

5. Find your comfort/un-comfort-whether it’s writing a love or action scene/making a speech or putting your work out there (in all probability to be dismissed by agents, publishers, etc.), learn to do it. Baby steps, practice all come into play here.

6. Enjoy the moment-this refers to when a horse does all the things your fingers, hands, back, butt and legs are telling him to do—at the same time. There’s no better feeling than the gliding on air of sinewy suspension, unless it’s getting an ovation after a talk or class you’ve given. Maybe your first fan mail. Enjoy it, savor the feeling. This is what can keep you going.

7. Set goal-short term (500 words today), long term (a completed manuscript by May 2018) and/or marketing plan. My publisher required me to do one for each book and they are invaluable.

8. Persevere-if you quit, it’s a sure thing you will fail. So, don’t.

9. Read, watch, imitate-Read craft books, watch your favorite author’s marketing technique/website and imitate!

10. Keep practicing-develop a routine so there’s no wiggle room to say, “Ooh, I don’t feel like writing today.”
monitorSee how this applies to writing? There are some days when I sit and stare at my blank page. The characters are revolting, the story arc fell flat, dialog is stilted. Okay, start at the beginning. Write one sentence. Don’t like it? Tough. Delete it tomorrow. Write another sentence, put some dialog in it. Throw in a twist that you didn’t plan. Write another sentence.

Pretty soon a whole scene will lay before you. If you don’t like it, wait until tomorrow to delete it. Give it some time to percolate in your imagination. Maybe losing it is what needs to happen; maybe this little side-trip is what you needed to jump-start your creativity.
I cannot buy into writer’s block—for me. I can only speak for myself. When I decided to make writing a professional enterprise, my husband and I decided it needed to treat it like a job. And it is. During my law enforcement career, I went to work every day. The boss wouldn’t have kept paying me if I’d said, “I’m not coming in today. My muse is on vacation.”

When I write, I apply the same principle. My writing routine varies with the seasons, family needs and activities. And, I may not work on my current novel. I have an active blog with two posts a week, a website, marketing and appearances to prepare. There is always something to do to further my writing.

Other ideas to move me through a rough patch:
• Go back to my initial inspiration for the story and review. See if I can capture the spirit of it.
• I go for a walk or hike; a trip to the beach. Sometimes, getting away from that blank page can refresh my creativity.
• I’m an inveterate note-taker. Often reviewing these scribbles can nudge me back to where I need to go.


Marni K Graff Hdshot
Marni Graff

The upcoming Fridays in November, you will find three other authors’ perspective on how they re-start their muse. If you’re like me, you’ll find something to help you over that hurdle. Marni Graff will appear on November 10th, Nancy Raven Smith on November 17th, and Pamela Beason is the final post on November 24th.



Don’t forget to check out the Sunday posts from the law enforcement veterans, Hal Collier, Mikey, and Ed Meckle (all retired LAPD), and retired California Corrections Officer John Schick. Their stories will make you laugh, cry, cringe or all the above!


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