Saturday 24 June 2023

The Story Behind the Story with MJ LaBeff of Arizona.



Good news!

MJ LaBeff has a new Rachel Hood thriller and everybody’s talking about it.

MJ is a popular guest on the Scribbler and we’re happy she’s back to tell us the SBTS.

She’s been here before and if you missed the last post, take a look here.

Read on, my friends.





MJ LaBeff is an American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. MJ grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona where she lives with her husband and two dogs. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society.

Working Title: Murdered Last Summer is book #5 of my Last Cold Case and was released in April this year. 

Synopsis: I’m not invisible…

Someone is killing the most vulnerable residents of Snug Harbor, Ohio. Overdoses and murders plague the city. A serial killer prowls the streets in search of drug addicts. There are three victims in one week—a drug addiction specialist, a down-on-her-luck former teacher, a recovering drug addict. All of them are missing their eyes. Does the signature have meaning? That’s what Homicide Detective Rachel Hood, a psychic empath and FBI agent Nick Draven, an occult crimes specialist need to find out before more people die.

You look…

The killer sends a string of messages. An envelope addressed HOOD contains a picture of two boys. A detective working undercover has gone silent. Another woman is murdered.

But you don’t see me…

The last victim haunts Homicide Detective Rachel Hood. The woman’s spirit seeks forgiveness, but all she conveys to Rachel are these two words: See Me. Rachel suffers through this unidentified woman’s pain putting her through the rigors of the addict’s hell on earth that eventually led to her death.

Like so many families experiencing various addiction crises, I have a family member who struggled with drug addiction. When I set out to write a thriller around the subject, it was originally intended as a single title, stand-alone, but I soon realized this was a Last Cold Case story and featured a crime that only Homicide detective Rachel Hood and FBI agent Nick Draven could solve. 

The original story changed a lot at that point. Perhaps it happened because of two reasons: the first, because I had set out to write this fictional tale many years ago with an attempt at literary fiction (I think I’d been reading a lot by Mitch Albom at the moment); the second, because I wasn’t ready to tell it; the story was too close to home and too personal.

There were a couple of real-life incidences that inspired Murdered Last Summer. Many years ago a grade school teacher relayed a story to me about how a student brought drug paraphernalia to show and tell. I was aghast. The student was either first or second grade and had no idea what he’d brought into the classroom. Several years ago, I was watching the local news and there was a piece about a small child who ingested drugs and was removed from the home by child protective services. Like any writer, my mind began spinning with “what if”. Those two stories inspired my fictional characters Dylan and Harley and the dysfunctional Zenyatta family, including the subplot. And that’s the story behind the story!






A question before you go, MJ.


Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?

After years of writing at the kitchen table and then at a small desk located in our master-bedroom, we moved a few years ago and I finally have a lovely home office which we call the library, with a wall of built-in-bookcases and a view of the Catalina Mountains and desert. I tend to keep a neat desk with a file folder of notes and a notebook all about my work-in-progress; the file folder has quite an array of notes. Hey, when inspiration strikes I’ll make a note on darn near anything! At least, I keep a pen in my purse, gym bag, and tote bag. Music tends to distract me; I’ll wanna get up and dance or sing! I either write in total silence or with the TV on but the volume is low. Don’t ask me about what I’m viewing because I’m not paying attention. It’s background noise. I usually write at night, so there’s a chance I might have had a glass of wine before my fingertips hit the keyboard, but there’s always a Tervis tumbler filled with water on top of The Haunted Showboat Nancy Drew Mystery coaster.

Thank you so much for inviting back to the Scribbler. I always enjoy telling you and your readers about my latest book adventure and the story behind the story.




The pleasure is all ours, MJ. You’re always a welcome guest. 

Wishing you much success with the new book.



Big thanks to all you visitors and readers.

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