Friday, March 28, 2014

Blog Tour: A Death in the Family by Marlene Bateman

Book Description:

Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.

A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.

Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.

Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.


“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”

“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.

Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”

There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”

“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.

Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”

Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath. 

Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”

“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.

Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”

Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.

After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”

The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.

There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”

“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?”


You began by writing nonfiction—Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, then a 3-book series about true angelic experiences, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visits from Beyond the Veil, and By the Ministering of Angels, and then last year, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and Heroes of Faith. What made you turn to fiction?

I started out writing magazine articles when my children were little because that’s the only writing I had time for. From that, my writing evolved into nonfiction.  I longed to write fiction, but didn’t think I could write novels. But I wised up and at some point realized that non-fiction writers are just as talented as fiction writers. So I finally decided to write a novel. It was hard but very rewarding. I kept working at it for three years, then sent it into a publisher, who accepted Light on Fire Island, which turned out to be a bestseller. Yay!

Does music help you or distract you while you are writing? If you like to listen to music while you write, what is a favorite selection?

I don’t generally listen to music as I write.  However, once in a while I’ll slip in a CD, but it is something simple and soothing, like “Sounds of the Forest” or “Rain” or “Sounds of Nature.” I don’t listen to anything with lyrics (except at Christmas time) so I don’t get distracted.

Who is your favorite author? Can you name a favorite book?

One of my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy.  I love her writing; she has a way of getting you so involved in her characters.  She writes about Ireland and it’s so interesting. I just finished Minding Frankie, which is good.  Glass Lake is amazing, as is Firefly Summer.  I’ve read everything she’s written.

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

In Jr. High. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a writer. In high school I made a time line of my goals in life, which included having five books published by the time I was thirty!   I didn’t quite make that because when I was in college, I got married and when children came along, I put my dream of writing on the back burner until they got older. 

Were you ever discouraged as you tried to become published? If so, how did you deal with it?

I started out by writing for magazines, which was very discouraging, because it’s a tough field and involves a lot of rejection.  Looking back, I think part of my discouragement came from not having much time to write. Also, I never did develop a thick skin. Despite feeling discouraged, I kept telling myself to persevere and each time I got rejected, I would redo the article and send it to another magazine.

Where do your ideas for mysteries come from?  

Mostly my ideas come from other books.  I pay attention to novels I read and often when I’m done with a book I like, I write up a short summary and file it away. Then, when it’s time to come up with a new idea for a book, I read through all of my summaries, do a lot of thinking and pondering, and eventually come up with an idea for a new plot. 

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?

I get my names from two sources. First, I can look online. I found a great website that lists names according to year. This way, if I have an older character, I can type in their birth year and have a long list of names from that era to pick from.  Second, I save names from the sports pages of my local newspaper when they list all-star football and basketball teams.  I clip out the entire page and file it away for when I need some current popular names. Each page has dozens of cool names.

As for the place names in my books, they are all 100% accurate. For A Death in the Family, my husband and I drove to Oregon, rented a car and drove all over Florence and Lake Oswego. When I describe the Sea Lion Caves and how the gift shop and caves are laid out, it’s all accurate, as is the descriptions of the beach, Heceta Head lighthouse, the  historic Siuslaw Bridge, Charl’s Restaurant, etc. Everything, including the church house and stores in historic Florence are as described. I take great pride in going to each and every setting I write about, taking tons of pictures and notes, so that everything is accurate.

About the Author:

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children. 

Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading.  Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith.  Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.

Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.

Title: A Death in the Family
Author: Marlene Bateman
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published: February 2014
ISBN: 1621085732

Purchase: Amazon | Kindle | Deseret Book | Seagull Book

Available online and at LDS bookstores