Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, Guest Post, Monday, mystery on April 11, 2016

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Death By Trombone (Pismawallops PTA Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Self Published
Publication Date: January 8, 2016
Print Length: 228 pages


JJ MacGregor’s very bad day has just gotten a lot worse.

JJ thought starting the day without coffee was a disaster, but now there’s a dead musician behind the Pismawallops High School gym. His trombone is missing, and something about the scene is off key. JJ and Police Chief Ron Karlson are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, but will they be able to work harmoniously or will discord ruin the investigation? With the music teacher as the prime suspect, JJ could be left to conduct the band, and then Graduation might truly end in a death by trombone, or at least the murder of Pomp and Circumstance!


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Guest Post

Hi, I’m the author of the Pismawallops PTA mysteries, and I want to thank Leslie here at Storeybook Reviews for inviting me in to chat! She said I could talk about anything I want, and since I’ve heard a lot of people wonder about the setting of my PTA mysteries, I thought I’d talk a bit about Pismawallops Island.

Some writers like to use real places for their stories, but I enjoy inventing my own. My Ninja Librarian series is set in the highly mythical town of Skunk Corners. Some stories need to be set somewhere no one can double-check for accuracy! Likewise, I consider Pismawallops Island (like Lillian Jackson Braun’s Moose County which is “400 miles north of everywhere,” or Lake Wobegone, lost in the surveyors’ errors) to be just a bit out of reach of reality.

I grew up on an island in Puget Sound—Vashon Island, which stretches between Seattle and Tacoma. Though both are accessible only by ferry, Pismawallops is a lot smaller and more isolated than Vashon. That makes it more fun as a setting for my mysteries—it’s a small town, with some interesting constraints on it due to limited access and sharply defined boundaries. Because Pismawallops is so small and isolated, it often feels more like the Vashon of my childhood (a few decades back, and no, I’m not going to say how many!) than like anyplace in 2016.

The gradual development of the setting is part of the fun of writing a series. In the first book, with so many characters to introduce, only a few places became real. The school was the focus of that book, so Pismawallops High is the main place that gets developed. With Death By Trombone, the second in the series, I got to develop the town that’s grown up around the ferry landing. I haven’t drawn a map of the island, though, mostly because I’m hopeless at that. So sooner or later I’m sure I’ll made a huge mistake! I do keep careful notes, and though I can’t draw a map, the island is getting more and more clearly laid out in my mind. In this day and age, it’s nice to own some real estate.

In Death By Ice Cream, JJ MacGregor says that she believes the name “Pismawallops” is an Indian word meaning “useless hunk of glacial detritus in the water,” or something along those lines. And, like most of the islands in the Sound, it’s all of that—a gravelly ridge, or moraine, left behind when the ice-age glaciers retreated. But JJ loves it, just like we all secretly loved “The Rock” we couldn’t wait to get off when we were in high school. Being in her 40s instead of 16, JJ has enough sense to know when she has it good. She’s staying, whatever it takes.

A word about that name, by the way. I made it up, but I figure Washington State gives me the right: any state that has places called Dosewallops, Puyallup, and Humptulips (seriously) is just crying for a Pismawallops. I consider it was a public service to provide it. Maybe someday my old home state will properly appreciate what I have done for them.

In the mean time, Pismawallops Island is my own private playground. With each story, I have developed it a bit more, pulling bits from my own history and the Vashon of my childhood, and making up the geography as needed (the flora and fauna, however, are pure Vashon). I’ve tried to people the island with characters (that to say, the sort of people of whom we say, “He’s a real character,” meaning “what an odd sort of fellow”), because places like that seem to attract people like that (or possibly to grow them. I’ve never been sure)  (Note: My mother was born on Vashon Island. I grew up there. Not sure I dare go any farther with this “islands and odd characters” business). I hope you enjoy them all as much as I do!

Thanks again, Leslie, for letting me come talk to your readers!

Thank you Rebecca for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

About the Author

rebecca douglassRebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  Her books include the tall tales for all ages, The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners, middle-grade fantasyHalitor the Hero, and the first Pismawallops PTA mystery, Death By Ice Cream.  Rebecca likes to spend her time outdoors, when not writing or working to make the schools the best they can be.  She spends her free time bicycling and running, and her vacations hiking, camping and backpacking.


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