Just prior to the pandemic, I decided to write a series of stories about an art center in a small town. It’s not surprising since I’d recently toured the art center in our small town of Monmouth, Illinois. It had lots of nooks and crannies, and a basement that had great murder victim potential. The first book of the trilogy came out in 2022, and the third will launch in a few weeks in early July. One book per year. Each book in the series has a theme. In all three cases, Level Best Books designed three covers for each book, and I chose the cover I liked the best. I must say I’ve enjoyed seeing how Shawn Simmons, one of the owners of the publishing company, took my story and turned it into book covers.

Drawing of the book cover that includes the title of the book, author, and a canvas with dirty paint brushes.The first book, Death in a Pale Hue, introduces the characters. Jill Madison, oil painter, is executive director of the art center. She has two vastly different brothers, Detective Tom Madison, and Andy Madison, who owns a gift store and plays in a rock band. Besides her brothers, Jill’s best friend since grade school, Angie Madison, is her sidekick in planning slightly illegal actions they hope Tom will never discover. The family is still reeling from the death of their parents in a tragic car accident. This event follows them throughout the arc of the trilogy. The theme of this story is Family.

I love the final cover of this book because it contains art supplies and implements, but a knife with blood on it seems to coexist with those items. The colors of the cover are very pale, like the book title. The absolute best part is that the actual cover looks like it is made of brush strokes applied over canvas.


The second book, Death in a Bygone Hue—as its name implies—has its origins in the past. Jill Madison is shocked when her mentor, a retired judge, is murdered. He and his wife were friends of the Madison parents, and with his death (his wife died much earlier), Jill loses one of her few contacts with stories about her parents and their past. Why would anyone murder a man who was so revered and loved in the community? As the name implies, this story began long ago. As Jill digs into this senseless murder, she uncovers a secret about her family’s past that has the potential to shatter her world. The theme of the second book is Second Chances.

This cover matches the first in its look of paint canvas and brush strokes in cool colors, my favorites. Again, the art implements are joined by yet another dangerous-looking murder weapon—a hypodermic needle. Egad! Both the first two covers have traces and drops of blood. This differentiates my books from other cozies—they’re less about knitting, recipes, bookstores, and pets, and more about traditional murders with cozy elements.


The third book, Death in a Ghostly Hue, fits clearly into the series but also contains a paranormal element. This time the man who killed the Madison parents returns to Apple Grove looking for redemption after six years in prison. The Madisons are not the only people whose lives he annihilated. I can almost imagine someone taking odds on how long he’ll last in this town with an excellent memory. To make matters worse, someone Jill loves threatened the former prisoner, Quinn Parsons, in front of a large section of the town.

One of my choices for covers involved artist tools again, but I chose to go in a totally different direction. I think I kinda fell in love with a character. This time the cover contains a gentleman in vintage clothing with a look of long ago. He’s rather a romantic figure, with facial hair that suggests he’s from an earlier century. He is. As the title indicates, a ghost is at large in the art center, and he’s charming and filled with stories about his earlier life. But why is he stuck in the art center? And why does he choose to make himself known now? These are mysteries whose answers you’ll discover when you read the book. Jill and Angie, plus a ghost, make for some humorous situations. The theme of this book is Forgiveness.


Unlike my Endurance series, which I continue to write, I planned these three books together so I could introduce themes and character arcs that would connect the three books. It’s been an interesting way to plan mysteries, and I learned a great deal from this structure.

Death in a Ghostly Hue will be out July 2, so mark your calendars. Shortly, it will be up on Amazon with a pre-order link.