There is a group of wonderful writers on Instagram who put together a writing challenge every few months. The February 2022 #RockTheTurvy challenge was too good to pass up. I am in!
#RockTheTurvy Writing Challenge Details
Here are the details as presented by writer T.L. Brown:
“🎵 *flicking through radio stations* Writers, have we got a new #WritingChallenge for you! We’re twisting the Turvy in February and bringing you: #RockTheTurvy!
The #RockTheTurvy runs Feb. 1–28 & is hosted by: 🎸 @brasingtonbooks –Writes the 2 unconventional romance series, Raven Song Series & Stillwaters Series 🏫 @jodimay15 –Writes the gripping Hillside Academy Young Adult Series 👻 @saffron.amatti –Writes the spooky Lucas Rathbone Mysteries Series 🎩 @writertracybrown –Writes the quirky Door to Door Paranormal Mystery Series + upcoming Bellerose Witchline Series
Many of you use music for inspiration. Many even develop fantasy soundtracks to go with your WIPs / books. This challenge is DEFINITELY for YOU!”
The past weekend found me immersed in writing up to 2200 character (not words) short stories for each of the prompts. Music has been assigned to each story to bring it all together.
Marnie Reilly, Detective Danny Gregg, Detective Tom Keller and Tater Border Collie are all participating – whether they wanted to join or not. Follow me on Instagram and join us for this crazy ride!
If you are an Instagram author/writer and want to get it in on the fun, just follow hosts as listed above and use the hashtags to join the #RockTheTurvey #writingchallenge. Don’t forget to the tag the hosts (listed above) in your posts.
Beef stew and pot roast are two of Marnie Reilly’s most requested dinners. Detective Tom Keller and Carl Parkins are particularly fond of her pot roast – and raspberry pie (recipe coming soon). As it happens, both dishes (and raspberry pie) are some of my favorite comfort foods.
I have never seen this specific recipe written down – but this is loosely how my parents ( and Marnie’s parents) made pot roast and beef stew. Over the years, I have adjusted the recipe to my taste; and I have added in the extra garlic, the celery and mushrooms.
Beef Stew / Pot Roast Ingredients
1 medium yellow or red onion – chopped 1 celery stalk – chopped 3-6 cloves of garlic, crushed (this will depend on how much you like garlic – I use 6 cloves) 8 ounces fresh mushrooms (optional) 1 Tablespoon olive oil 4 Tablespoons butter (divided) 3 Tablespoons flour 1 teaspoon of sea salt ½ teaspoon celery salt 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves (optional) 3-5 pound chuck roast (leave whole for pot roast / cut into 1-inch cubes for stew 1 10 oz can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup 10 oz of water (use the soup can to measure 2 cups of beef stock 8 baby potatoes, halved 10-12 ounces baby carrots
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add the flour, salt, pepper and thyme leaves to a zip-lock bag. Close bag and shake to mix. Unzip bag and add the whole chuck roast or beef cubes pending pot roast or stew preference. Zip the bag, and shake to coat beef with flour mixture.
Add olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of butter to a 5 quart Dutch oven (with cover). Melt butter over medium heat. Add beef and turn to brown on all sides. Remove beef to a bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir until melted – scraping up browned bits from the beef. Add onions and garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Add mushrooms. Cook 8 minutes – stirring occasionally. Add beef and juices back to pan and stir to mix thoroughly.
In the bowl you used for the beef, mix together cream of mushroom soup and 1 can of water. Add to Dutch oven when thoroughly mixed. Add beef stock, baby potatoes and carrots. Cover and place in oven for 2-3 hours (or until meat easily pulls apart).
You can also place is a slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours.
It’s difficult to write a sequel worthy of a great first book, but Shari T. Mitchell did just that with the latest installment of the Marnie Reilly Mysteries, Torn Veil.
In this book, the reader is treated to so many layers building a strong plot. How did the author keep track of them all? Luckily for readers Mitchell manages this well, creating an intricate storyline with many moving parts while not losing the reader for a minute.
This time around we join a main character (Marnie Reilly) who is more willing to accept help as her life is turned upside down once again with the discovery of a dead body. She’s still tough, she’s still smart, and she’s definitely confident – but we’re diving into a complex character. Marnie’s not superwoman and she has fears, too. There’s also the matter of a blockage of sorts with her sixth sense. This limitation puts her at risk even more. We also find a Marnie who must work out which players are her friends, and who is the fraud. Author Mitchell does an EXCELLENT job of keeping the reader guessing.
Mitchell is a master of bringing in the bits: Here’s a character – let’s allow her to brush by – this will be important later. Or, here’s a snippet of conversation that will eventually point to a big piece of the puzzle. (Did you catch it, reader?) That’s part of the magic happening when you read a book by Shari T. Mitchell: you develop a habit of noting everything because it just might be important later and you are rewarded with an “aha!” moment. And again, the author delivers it in such a way that you are not lost.
It seems that author Mitchell is building a family for Marnie in Torn Veil – which really feels good. Marnie has been through so much already. This eclectic family-building isn’t just a safe haven for Marnie’s mental well-being, it’s a comfort for the reader as we become further invested in her story. We’re scared for Marnie more than once, and we hold onto the belief that the love surrounding her will provide the much-needed safety net when the time comes.
Returning readers to this series will recognize a favorite cast of supporting characters: the lovable and loyal Detective Tom Keller, and of course, the sexy, strong, and supportive Detective Danny Gregg. It may be getting colder outside, but it’s heating up between Marnie and Danny. This developing relationship is such a nice side story that does not overwhelm the drama and mystery. Other familiar – and new faces – fill in the population of Creekwood. We’re also glad to see Tater, Marnie’s beloved border collie, playing with some new pals.
The paranormal is definitely present in this latest installment, and we get some peeks into a darker side of people who operate in this world. And yet, Mitchell uses her characters to remind us that some evil only has power if you give up yours. How the paranormal is related to the events in the book – or not – is quite clever. There are some solid twists that make so much sense when all is revealed!
Torn Veil is crafted in such a way that you want to try and figure out who is who, and what is really at play. How did I do? I had my ideas, but ultimately Mitchell dished out some big surprises. There were a few things I did not see coming but worked perfectly with the storyline. That’s so much fun for a mystery reader!
Marnie Reilly Mysteries
If you haven’t yet started the Marnie Reilly Mystery Series, don’t wait a second longer. This is the perfect season to get familiar with Mitchell’s bunch! Fatal Vow, the third book in the Marnie Reilly Mysteries, is due out in 2022. I’m on pins and needles waiting for it. I know I’ll definitely be ordering the book as soon as it’s available for pre-sale. I. Can’t. Wait!
T.L. Brown (Writer Tracy Brown) is the author of the Door to Door Paranormal Mystery Series. She was born in snowy Western New York where she developed a love of reading and writing – her mother never denied her request for a book. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh in History – Political Science.
After college she moved to Rochester and began to create a story about an average thirty-year-old who was caught between two worlds: the known one and a new, often dangerous place known as the Empire. That character became Emily Swift.
Tracy now lives in the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York State dreaming up new stories and quirky characters that make life all the more interesting. She believes magic still exists, you just need to look in the right places.
That’s right! Murder mystery, Torn Veil was sent off to the editor on Friday. That’s excellent news for readers because that means we are one step closer to release. November 2020 is just around the corner. And it’s excellent news for me because I can now start pouring my energy into the third book in the series.
As I read through Torn Veil for the fifth time, I picked out a few passages that resonate with me. Does that sound strange? Shouldn’t they all resonate? Perhaps, and the paragraphs, dialogue and chapters do, but there are moments when I write and I don’t remember typing specific sections of text. Something takes over and the words appear on the screen in front of me. It’s kind of like auto-pilot I suppose. Then again, I wrote a story that has been played out in my head for the better part of 5 years – I suppose I was on auto-pilot. The fact that I love my characters probably has something to do with it too. I do love my characters. Even the bad ones.
The character interaction is so much fun. I have conversations in my head about how they will discuss a certain subject or how Marnie will react to something Danny has done or something silly Tom has said. Their chatter is in my head when I fall asleep, brush my teeth, have a shower, cook dinner… They are with me a lot! Writing dialogue between Danny, Marnie, Tom, Carl and Tater is a breeze because of this. And the characters are bits and pieces of the many people I have met throughout my life. My characters are pieces of friends, relatives, acquaintances and of course, some people I don’t particularly like.
Adding new characters, one with a pronounced stutter and one with a Southern drawl, gave way for interesting interactions. And of course, writing for Gram is a heap of fun. Researching her Irish brogue and the colloquialisms of the Emerald Isle delivers better dialogue for her character. Watching a bit of ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys’ was great inspiration too.
Writing Tater’s actions and behavior is such a joy for me. Tater is a cross between my first border collie, Murphy, and my second border collie, Finnegan. There are also a few character traits from my current border collies, Dougal and Callee, as well. Border Collies are such intelligent cheeky dogs. I do love writing Tater. He is my favorite character after all – and then Tom.
And then there is the genre… Having been introduced to mysteries at a young age, murder mysteries are my favorite genre to read and write. Starting with Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, then moving on to Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Ruth Rendell and so many others, I have consumed mystery novels for over four decades. It’s the same when it comes to television and movies. Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Mystery 101, Murder 101… you name it, I will watch it. I love figuring out the mystery before the end.
With all of that said and/or written, I better get back to focusing my energy on Fatal Vow – the third in the series.
Torn Veil is just a bit darker than Divine Guidance. We dive into occult practices and the seedy underbelly of Creekwood, NY, a fictional town located along the Hudson River somewhere between the Adirondack Mountains and Hudson, NY.
Why somewhere? Because reading fiction is all about using your imagination. Every writer hopes their description of a place, person or thing helps the reader see what they see. I know what Creekwood looks like – I see it in my imagination every time I write about the quaint little town. Hopefully, readers do to.
I try to do the same with characters. Gram for instance – I don’t give too much detail about her physical appearance because readers should visualize her in their own imagination. A few characters’ physical appearances are explained in detail – like Marnie, Tater, Danny, Tom and Carl. A few are not. What they look like is up to the reader.
Speaking of characters… Torn Veil has a host of intriguing characters – good, quirky, bad and pure evil. I love writing all of them – but it is so much fun to write the dialogue and the thoughts of a nasty, vile, psychotic and evil character. It’s like therapy – you get to take your evil twin out for a stroll.
Anyway, I better get back to work. I’m still fiddling with few final changes to chapters. Why? Because my proofreaders ask a lot of questions. If a vital bit isn’t as clear as I thought and two or three proofreaders ask the same question, I make a tweak to ensure clarity. Sometimes the clarity is already there and just one of the proofreaders missed it. It’s a balancing act, folks.