MJ LaBeff is an American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. (quoted from MJ’s website – mjlabeff.com)
The Scribbler is beyond happy to have MJ as this week’s guest. An accomplished and award-winning author. She also goes “above and beyond” sharing other people’s work and accomplishments, an author’s best friend. She has generously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from one of her novels.
***Since MJ and I put together her interview and Excerpt, MJ received the fantastic news that her novel Last Fall’s Hunted (Book 2 in the series) is the winner in the 2019 American Fiction Awards.
Thanks for inviting me to join your blog today! It’s always fun chatting writing and books with a fellow author.
My bio is on my website mjlabeff.com along with other fun tidbits about me and also included in all of my books. You captured most of it nicely in your fantastic introduction. Basically this is a snapshot of moi: MJ LaBeff grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona over two decades ago where she lives with her husband and three dogs. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications-English from Gannon University in Erie, PA and currently works in the financial services industry. MJ says, “I play with numbers all day and words all night.” Although she’s a morning person, night time is her time when it comes to writing her next thriller.
4Q: Before we chat about your books, please tell us what draws you to Suspense novels, the kind you like to write.
4Q: Your website tells us that you’ve written two romantic suspense novels and the Last Cold Case series. Tell us about series.
MJ: The series is best described as the TV shows Criminal Minds meets Ghostly Encounters with the romantic pull of Castle happening between Homicide detective Rachel Hood and FBI agent Nick Draven. Each story has a current case linked to a cold case. Rachel’s dad is a retired detective and in the first two books the cold case she inherits were originally unsolved by her dad.
Last Summer’s Evil book 1 opens with Rachel searching for her missing sister Amy who has been missing for the last four years. She’s tracking a serial killer who strikes every year during the summer solstice. Each summer one woman disappears and another is brutally murdered and left clutching a ragdoll made of the previous deceases victim’s clothes. Rachel’s pushed to the brink searching for this elusive serial killer and hoping to find her sister alive.
In Last Fall’s Hunted book 2 Rachel is drawn into a hunt for a deranged serial killer harvesting kidneys from his victims’ corpses during the fall equinox. A dismembered body is found in Kill Buck Wildlife area in Snug Harbor, Ohio, and the discovery of two more victims within a twelve mile radius suggests a sadistic killer's return.
This brings us to Last Winter’s Taken book 3. It’s a chilling tale about a sociopath, who murders expectant mothers and abducts infants during the winter solstice. The murder of Willow Danby, a married woman and expectant mother, thrusts Homicide Detective Rachel Hood into a murder investigation and missing person’s case as she searches for the baby ripped from Willow’s body. The mysterious undertone surrounding the current investigation forces Rachel to reopen a similar cold case.
4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.
MJ: I grew up on a small town in northeastern Ohio. When I was a little girl my dad owned a Ford dealership. The local radio station WWOW was doing a promo and put me on the air. I said, “Come buy a car from my daddy because I need a new pair of shoes!”
4Q: Many authors have the “special place” where they feel most creative. Please tell us about yours and your writing habits.
MJ: Since I work fulltime, my writing day looks like a notebook and pen that sits next to my desk at work, just in case an idea sparks to move my current work in progress forward. My job requires my full attention but having a pen and paper helps to jot something down. So, I’m a night writer.
My desk has two computers on it. An old trusty Asus netbook for writing and an HP laptop that’s 4 or 5 years old for editing, research and social media. However, I really use my iPhone for posting on FB and Instagram and tweeting on Twitter. I also have a couple of paperweights, several rocks from the shores of Lake Erie, including a piece of quartz from Arizona, small writing pads, a file for my current work in progress, and a wooden caddy for pens, bills and more paper. Sometimes, I like to get away from my desk so I’ll take my netbook out to my dining room, light a candle and write there.
4Q: What’s next for MJ LaBeff, the author?
MJ: I have a few books that are unpublished. I’m concentrating on finding a literary agent and hope to connect with someone who is interested in the books I write and can connect me with an editor at a larger
The next novel in the Last Cold Case series, Last Spring’s Stranger has been with my current publisher Muse It Publishing for over a year and I’m not-so-patiently waiting for edits, HaHaHa! The wheels of publishing move slowly at times and one of my editors at Muse recently left to care for her health and family. I wish her the very best. As they say, “Life happens”. Being a writer is a job. So I keep writing and searching for traditional publishing avenues to share my work.
Thank you again for inviting me to be part of your blog and for the opportunity to share more about the books I write. This has been fun. If people would like to connect with me, please visit my website mjlabeff.com. There are links to my books and social media; I’m on FB, Twitter and Instagram.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
MJ: Here’s a sneak peek at Last Spring’s Stranger book 4 in the Last Cold Case series. This book will have readers questioning everything they thought they knew about Homicide Detective Rachel Hood!
Secrets can have deadly and life altering consequences. The legend of Verch’s Hollow has intrigued the residents of Snug Harbor, Ohio for generations. Myths about the abandoned property abound.
When a teenage girl is murdered in the Hollow, her gruesome death threatens to expose a secret from Homicide Detective Rachel Hood’s past. Forced to face the truth of her deception, she reopens a cold case that could jeopardize her career. A victim of adolescent cyber bullying, messages fill her personal inbox with threatening undertones from years ago. Do keep evidence and share it with an authority. Enter FBI Agent Nick Draven an occult crimes specialist and Hood’s fiancé. As they delve deeper into the sender’s motive, Rachel has to confront the harsh reality she left behind over twelve years ago: a murdered friend, Tina; a glimpse of the killer at the scene of the crime, but she can’t identify the person despite her psychic empathy; and her own involvement with the evening’s sinister events.
I’m delighted to share a short Excerpt from my book Last Winter’s Taken. Book 3 of the Last Cold Case thriller series. It’s hard to believe the book released over a year ago on May 15, 2018. I hope this piques readers’ interest in this story and encourages them to check out the other books too.
“I’d like to contact someone at the historical museum to exam the swatch,” Nadia said. “As I said before, this textile is not a modern fabric. I’m hoping to find an expert to help me determine its origin.”
“Would you mind if we went to the lab and you can show us the fabric under a microscope?” Rachel asked.
“Not at all.” Nadia flattened her hands on the top of her desk but didn’t push herself up from behind the desk. “But, first tell me what brings you by.” She peered beneath her glasses to the bag near Rachel’s feet.
“The only rings we have are her wedding rings.”
Rachel looked over at Nick. “Maybe our killer took a souvenir after all.”
She turned her attention back to Nadia. “Second, I need you to check this wine bottle and these glasses for any foreign substances.” She picked up the bag and set it on top of the desk. “One of the neighbors, Paisley Reed, paid Tyson a visit last night. I think she might have drugged him. Enter this into evidence under her name. We’re in the middle of a double homicide. Reed was killed in a car accident last night. We suspect foul play. The fuse for her emergency contact system was pulled.”
Nadia stared at the bag. “I’ll rush this and let you know what I find.”
She entered the items into an evidence log then pushed her chair back from the desk and picked up the bag. Rachel and Nick followed her to the door. Nadia waited for them to exit, locked her office, and then led them to the lab.
With a plethora of possible cross-contaminates the three of them donned blue gowns, matching blue booties and caps to cover their heads. Next, they snapped on gloves. Nadia escorted them into the lab. Other scientists worked in silence with their heads bent over microscopes and other devices used to analyze evidence.
She fished in her lab coat for a set of keys. The swatch of fabric was pressed beneath several glass slides. Carefully, she exchanged the bag containing the wine bottle and glasses for the tray of slides and then locked the evidence in the cabinet.
“We’ll need to use the scope over here,” Nadia said.
She placed the first slide beneath the microscope and peered down at it, making some adjustments for their viewing pleasure.
Rachel stepped up and bent over the microscope. She squeezed her left eye into a permanent wink and squinted into the lens with her right eye. All she could see was a bunch of squiggly lines which meant absolutely nothing to her.
“You did keep the main sample intact, didn’t you?” she asked Nadia.
“Of course, this is a tiny cross section.”
Nadia walked back to the locked evidence case and came back with the swatch of fabric. It was exactly as Rachel had remembered it except now the blood that had saturated the fabric had dried. She extended her hand, and Nadia handed the bag to her. She lifted the bag, scrutinizing the hardened swatch.
“I haven’t found any other biological evidence. The blood is the victim’s.”
Rachel nodded. “I’m not surprised. It was placed beneath her pelvis after she was probably dead. Even if she was still clinging to life, it’s unlikely she could have struggled with her attacker.”
“The sample you were looking at are strands of dark black hair, not threads,” Nadia said.
Rachel lowered the evidence bag to her side and bent over the microscope again, pressing her eyeball against the lens.
“When I first discovered the strands of hair I thought we might have recovered hair from the perpetrator or victim but upon closer examination it was clear the hair had been woven into the fabric. To be certain I removed two cross sections. As I mentioned, the weave is not from a modern textile. That much I do know. That’s why I’m hoping someone from the historical museum can identify what time period the fabric came from.”
Rachel’s eye strained. The sample beneath the microscope lens danced. She blinked and readjusted her position to gain a better view of the sample. Squinting harder, she tried to focus on the image. The black strands climbed up and swirled around her, taunting her. A mist formed before her open eye peering down through the magnifying lens.
A pair of hands rose up from the mist, reaching for her. She gasped but before she could look away the hands opened, revealing a bloody, fleshy, wriggling mass. The mist evaporated. A woman appeared. She walked toward Rachel with outstretched arms. She drew closer and in her upturned hands was a baby.
The woman’s face with glowing eyes jumped out at her.
“Thou shall not conceive and deceive!”
Her face withered from Rachel’s vision, behind her stood a weeping woman. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Faint sobs and ragged breathing grew louder, louder, louder. Her sorrowful cries shattered Rachel’s heart, pulling her emotionally closer to the woman. The weeping woman drew in a deep breath. She blew out a mist of black haze in Rachel’s face.
“Give me my baby,” she pleaded, and then broke into the most terrifying cry Rachel had ever heard.
The weeping woman’s shrill shrieks pierced Rachel ears. She dropped the evidence bag and fell to her knees, hands cupping each ear in an attempt to drown out the weeping woman’s words and sobs that echoed like unwanted ringing.
A huge thank you to you MJ for being our guest this week. Wishing you all the best in your future writing.
It was my pleasure and greatly appreciated. Wishing you the same with your writing and books!
***For those of you wanting to discover more about our talented guest, please follow MJ’s links below.
Links to my latest release Last Winter’s Taken: http://getbook.at/LWT
Watch the book trailer: https://youtu.be/Cj5KdOGcIe4