Brenda Donelan is a life-long resident of South Dakota. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Stanley County, attended college in Brookings, and worked in Aberdeen as a probation officer and later as a college professor. Currently, she resides in Pierre with her two Himalayan cats, Yeti and Wolfie. She loves reading, playing with her cats, and traveling.
Blood Feud is the sixth book in the University Mystery Series. Brenda is currently working on her next book. She’s always looking for new inspiration for upcoming mysteries.
The author can be reached by email at email@example.com. For more information on Brenda Donelan, books in the University Mystery Series, and tour dates, check out her website at brendadonelan.com or find her on Facebook at Brenda Donelan – Author.
I’ve loved to tell stories and write stories for as long as I can remember. As a little girl I read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and other books with strong female protagonists. I fantasized about being a detective, and as I got older, I was able to do investigative work in a number of my careers. I worked as a social worker, a probation officer, and a federal investigator for a total of 9 years before I started teaching at the university level. By then, I was over the idea of being a detective anymore, but I found that I still liked writing mysteries. After teaching sociology and criminal justice for 11 years, I decided to work full time as a writer. Of course everyone thought I was having a midlife crisis because who abandons their career as a tenured professor to become a self-published writer? Um, that would be me! I’ve been writing full time since 2013 and have written six books with the seventh installment in the University Mystery Series to be released this spring.
My first book, Day of the Dead, was inspired by actual events. In 2004 I was teaching at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota when a fellow professor was found shot to death outside the building where we both taught. The resulting investigation left us on campus with more questions than answers. Years later, I used this premise as the inspiration for my book. After writing Day of the Dead, I realized that I had tons of background information from my previous occupations I could use and, thus developed a series.
The University Mystery Series can best be characterized as cozy mysteries with an edge. They take place in the small, quirky, fictional town of Elmwood, South Dakota. My protagonist, Marlee McCabe, is a professor of criminology, struggling to figure out the politics of university life. At the same time, she’s balancing her love life, struggling with overeating, and has a bit of a drinking problem. While she’s muddling through her professional and personal struggles, she finds herself pulled into mysteries in the area.
In an attempt to avoid “Cabot Cove Syndrome,” my latest book, Blood Feud, is set in Delhi, India. This came about organically when I went on a trip to India with one of my best friends. Once I arrived and experienced the richness of the culture I knew I had to make it a setting for an upcoming book. As a university professor, my protagonist was coming up for sabbatical; a release from work duties on campus to complete research. I decided to have Marlee travel to India while she was on her sabbatical. Once there, she falls into similar academic pitfalls that beleaguered her back in Elmwood, SD. She also experiences the murder of a new friend and tries to uncover the details of his death while navigating the Indian culture.
I’m currently working on the seventh book in the University Mystery Series. As of yet, it’s untitled, so I’ve been referring to it as #7. Don’t worry, I’ll come up with a better name. After completing this book I’m excited to start on a new series. It will also be set in South Dakota, but will be a bit darker than my other books. It will still fall in the Mystery genre and can be categorized as Prairie Noir.
In my work as a probation officer and social worker, I developed a strong sense of empathy for victims of crime. Fortunately, I’ve never been a victim of a serious crime, but have worked with many people who were victimized. When I began writing Day of the Dead, I decided to begin each chapter with a sentence or two in the words of the victim. The victim’s words might be foreshadowing of events to come or a reaction to something a character said or did in the book. In Blood Feud, I began each chapter with a Hindu proverb. The book is set in India and the victim often speaks in proverb form, so it seemed fitting.
Motivation is more important than inspiration, in my opinion. If I waited for inspiration, nothing would get finished. Since 2009 I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) as a way of getting the majority of a first draft completed during the month of November. At least part of all of my books have been written during Nanowrimo. I need the challenge of meeting a daily word count and writing 50,000 words in a month. I publish a book about every ten months. This is slow compared to many authors I know who crank out four or more books a year. Could I write four books in one year? It’s doubtful, but if I did they wouldn’t be fit to read. Every writer is different and for me I need the better part of a year to work on my story plus all the revising, editing, marketing, etc. that goes along with being a self-published writer.
My best advice for aspiring or new writers is to write and keep writing. If you get stuck, give it some time. Switch to a new story or do something else creative for a short time. Don’t stop and don’t throw anything away. Also, limit the amount of time you spend reading what so-called experts have to say about writing.
When an unexpected teaching assignment whisks Marlee McCabe off to New Delhi, India, she lands right in the middle of an ongoing family dispute and an academic firestorm. Before long, Marlee is faced with the most difficult decisions of her life, causing her to choose between her life back home and a new life in India. Without the familiarity of the Midwest, she’s dependent upon the good graces of strangers. But are these new acquaintances really who they pretend to be? Sacrificing her career and her own safety, Marlee struggles to unravel the mystery of who murdered her only friend in India. Can she unmask the killer before she becomes the next victim?
Where to Buy Blood Feud
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.