Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Novel Magic: Death By Sample Size

Do you keep a journal? Author Susie Black tells how her journal became the spark for a mystery series.

How a Daily Journal Became a Novel

by Susie Black

Before I became an author, I was a sales exec in the ladies’ swimwear industry. During my career, I kept a daily journal. I documented all the quirky, interesting, and yes, sometimes quite challenging people I encountered and the zany situations I often found myself in. The daily journal is the foundation of all my writing. I have often been asked if my writing style is that of a plotter or a pantser. In other words, do I plan the whole story out or do I write it with no game plan in mind just by the seat of my pants? My answer is neither. My writing style is a hybrid. I plot the beginning and the end of the story, but I give the characters free rein in the middle and let them take the plot wherever they want to get to the end. The result is I often end up with a story quite different than the one I originally envisioned. The characters and I often disagree with one another, but I’ve learned to listen to them, as much to my chagrin, they are usually right.

No matter what genre an author writes in, rule number one rule is to write what you know. If you don’t know it, either learn it or don’t write it, because a reader can spot a phony less than two paragraphs into a story and never finish the book. I have also been asked why I write in the genre I do. The answer is surprisingly easy. I love solving puzzles and I love to laugh, so naturally, writing in the humorous cozy mystery genre was a no-brainer choice for me to make. All my characters and plots are based on real people and situations, with poetic license taken, of course. Writing the cozy mystery is quite cathartic. I get to knock off characters who are based on people in real life I wouldn’t have minded eliminating and I don’t end up in prison wearing horizontal stripes that would cut me in half!

Death by Sample Size is the first book in the Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series. The story takes place in the heart of the Los Angeles garment center. Interspersed between uncovering the clues to solve the mystery of who killed nasty buying office big wig Bunny Frank, the audience gets the inside scoop on how the latest and greatest fashion trends go from the designer’s imagination to the rack at the reader’s favorite store. What sets Death by Sample Size apart from many other mysteries that take place in the fashion industry and the reason I wrote the book is that the main characters, the heroines as well as the villains, are all strong females who have successfully broken many glass ceilings in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?

“The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer.  Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent for revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.”

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When the elevator doors opened, I had to stop myself short not to step on her. There was Bunny Frank-the buying office big shot-lying diagonally across the car. Her legs were splayed out and her back was propped against the corner. Her sightless eyes were wide open and her arms reached out in a come-to-me baby pose. She was trussed up with shipping tape like a dressed Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven with a bikini stuffed in her mouth. A Gotham Swimwear hangtag drooped off her lower lip like a toe tag gone lost. Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Before you label me incredibly weird or stone-cold, let me say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my Nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

I craned my neck like a tortoise and checked around. Then I clamped a fist over my mouth. Cripes, how could I possibly explain my guffaws with Bunny lying there? The disappointment was simultaneously mixed with relief when there was no one else in the parking lot. Where was security when you needed them?

I toed the elevator door open and bent over Bunny. I’d seen enough CSI episodes to know not to touch her. She was stiff as a board and I attributed the bluish tinge of her skin to the bikini crammed down her throat. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need an MD after my name to make this diagnosis. Bunny Frank was dead as the proverbial doorknob.

It was no surprise Bunny Frank had finally pushed someone beyond their limits. The only surprise was it had taken so long. The question wasn’t who wanted Bunny Frank dead. The question was who didn’t?

Meet Susie Black

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

Looking for more? Reach her at

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