This is my post during the blog tour for Copper Waters by Marlene M. Bell. In Copper Waters a rural New Zealand vacation turns poisonous.
This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours and the tour runs from 2 till 15 January. You can see the tour schedule here.
Copper Waters (Annalisse Series #4)
By Marlene M. Bell
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
Age category: Adult
Release Date: 5 December 2022
A rural New Zealand vacation turns poisonous.
Antiquities expert Annalisse Drury and tycoon Alec Zavos are at an impasse in their relationship when Alec refuses to clear up a paternity issue with an ex-lover.
Frustrated with his avoidance when their future is at stake, Annalisse accepts an invitation from an acquaintance to fly to New Zealand—hoping to escape the recent turbulence in her life.
But even Annalisse’s cottage idyll on the family sheep farm isn’t immune to intrigue.
Alec sends a mutual friend and detective, Bill Drake, to follow her, and a local resident who accompanies them from the Christchurch airport dies mysteriously soon after. A second violent death finds Annalisse and Bill at odds with the official investigations.
The local police want to close both cases as quickly as possible—without unearthing the town’s dirty secrets.
As she and Bill pursue their own leads at serious cost, the dual mysteries force Annalisse to question everything she thought she knew about family ties, politics, and the art of small-town betrayal.
Today we’re on the way to Woolcombe Station and in livestock country big time. I’ve researched the current sheep population at almost thirty million, at a rate of about five sheep for every person in New Zealand. Sheep and lamb numbers continue to drop due to loss of the land needed to produce meat and wool. Raising vineyards for wine grapes has become popular, and many farmers have turned to dairy farms, not to mention the urban development to house an increase in the country’s overall population. In the past twenty years, New Zealand has gained two million residents. What began as seventy million sheep in 1982 has rapidly been on the decline.
The animal kingdom still dominates this nation. From the moment we hop in our SUV and hit the main route toward Woolcombe Station, the hillsides’ deep crevices spill into miles upon miles of rocky pastures less suitable for humans but more to grazing animals like sheep and crossbred cattle. I don’t recognize any single cattle breed except perhaps black Angus. Cows of mixed colors and shapes, some with horns, most without, support a hearty gene pool of four-legged critters, with ancestors that made ship voyages as far back as the 1800s. In addition to the one hundred thousand indigenous Māori population, first New Zealand settlers were convicts from penal colonies in Australia, or they traveled over three months on the ocean, seeking seals and whales for fur, fat, and lamp oil.
Out my window, red-roofed homesteads nestle at the base of taller peaks, surrounded by large, natural Totara shade trees, owner-operator granaries, woolsheds, and cooking stations. Bunkhouses for workers and shearers are rough and unpainted, broken down from age—a throwback from the war years when the world began to hum back to life in the 1970s after Vietnam. Those wars include Aussies and Kiwis fighting alongside the United States against aggressors pushing communism on a gullible public.
Bill and I drive past a smaller station, paddocks and chutes sporting little white bodies awaiting the shearers. I hope Bill will get to see how shearing is undertaken while we’re visiting, or Ethan can show us another station with shearers at work. I’d like to photograph them in action.
“This is going to sound like a stupid question, but what exactly is a sheep station?” Bill asks. “We have farmers raising sheep in our country, but I’ve never heard anyone call them stations. What am I missing?”
I smile. “Kate says there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and she’s right. A sheep station is their terminology for sheep farms in Australia and New Zealand. We’re going to see how farmers and ranchers make a living in rough, mountainous country. Their livelihoods depend totally on their sheep and cattle management.”
“With sheep, there’s more labor involved because of the shearing. Most breeds grow fleece that have to be shorn at least once a year. A few breeds in the US no longer grow fleece because the farmer wants to concentrate on a meat market. They’re called hair sheep. Small amounts of wool grow but shed off on their own, leaving hair on the hides. In the US, we don’t wear as much wool clothing as we did in the 1700s and 1800s. Our founders raised sheep because woolens were in demand for warmth and military uniforms. The price for wool was high back then because it was needed in society.”
“If there’s wool in the cloth, I run the other way. It’s too scratchy for me,” Bill says.
“Mills have an answer to that. It’s called worsted wool. It’s stronger, finer, and smoother than regular wool that’s rough and scratchy. Men’s and women’s suits are usually made with worsted wool because it has a softer feel. Your short lesson on wool for today.” I laugh softly. “New Zealand sheep stations take the all-of-the-above approach. Stations employ sheep shearers and rouseabouts, sell the wool, and raise lambs for meat. Much of that is exported around the world.” I change the subject. “Are you okay with going to the police station first? If you think it’s better that we go in together, I can put off the station visit until this afternoon.”
I have a guilty conscience about sending Bill Drake to the wolves once he takes me to the station.
“It’s best that I test the water with the police. See Ethan and meet his family.”
Marlene M. Bell is an eclectic mystery writer, artist, photographer, and she raises sheep in beautiful East Texas with her husband, Gregg, three cats and a flock of horned Dorset sheep.
The Annalisse series has received numerous honors including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery (Spent Identity,) and FAPA— Florida Author’s President’s Gold Award for two other installments, (Stolen Obsession and Scattered Legacy.) Her mysteries with a touch of romance are found at marlenembell.com. She also offers the first of her children’s picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! Based on true events from the Bell’s ranch. The simple text and illustrations are a touching tribute of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb.
What was your inspiration for writing Copper Waters?
In the Annalisse series, my main character has a longing to be close to nature and animals, especially sheep. Since I have extensive background raising them, it was easy to have Annalisse land in a situation with sheep in another country to make the story an enjoyable learning experience, while the reader soaks up the flavor of living abroad. A place where I use some of my own training with animal husbandry. In Copper Waters, I built the story around a short getaway to allow Annalisse’s personal problems with her love interest, Alec Zavos to settle from the previous book, Scattered Legacy. Copper Waters is a natural progression into Anna and Alec’s ongoing relationship.
Talk about your favorite kind of character to write about.
Expecting my female protagonist, Annalisse Drury to become my favorite series character, I inadvertently created a male sideline player with a quiet past who resonates stronger with me as well as some of my readers.
Bill Drake, the fireman-turned-detective friend of Alec’s, is introduced in the second installment, Spent Identity. He’s been involved in each subsequent book since his introduction in a fact-finding role—since Anna finds herself steeped in so many mysteries and murders. Readers, (and my editors) have expressed a fondness for Bill’s likeable personality. Because of this, I’m considering an off-shoot detective series with him in the future. Bill Drake is a friend to both Alec and Anna subtly reminding them they belong together while remaining in the background to help Anna solve unusual crimes. Bill has fewer flaws than my main characters have. Perhaps because he feels more grounded and realistic. Nice people are easier to write than complicated individuals who carry many sides to their personalities.
Talk about your least favorite kind of character to write about.
Characters who lie and prove false by the story’s end are unpleasant to portray in text. I do enjoy writing conniving villains, however! When adding negative characters to a book series, I ask myself if a habitual liar will resonate with readers or make them dislike the novel so much, they’ll close the book. The dreaded DNF (did not finish) in a book review is a place no author wants to spend time with a reader.
In an early draft of my first book, Stolen Obsession, Annalisse had attached herself to a terrible, self-centered, philandering man. Fortunately, by the third draft and a new editor, she steered me on course by changing the love interest’s background, including his character name. Stefan Collier became the debonaire, Alec Zavos by fourth draft and remains a good guy throughout all of the books.
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell me something about yourself and how you became an author?
I fell into writing accidentally. Art and photography come naturally, and raising sheep gave me an outlet to take pictures of them as art subjects and paint them in oils. It wasn’t until my husband and I began selling lambs to families involved in 4H clubs, that a nagging interest in helping the kids bubbled up. So many families weren’t getting the detailed guidance with their sheep projects. Parents asked me to write a book on sheep.
After three years as a 4H community leader, I added a section on how to raise sheep on our Dorset sheep and sheep gifts website, and later published a little non-fiction book that’s no longer in print. I loved the experience so much that writing fiction became my next goal.
Eight long years and nine drafts later, the first Annalisse book awakened my imagination, begging me to research other cultures in countries I’d never visited. In my novels, I try to paint vivid pictures for the reader as a means to put them into the scene, experiencing exactly what Annalisse does in her adventures.
In 2020, I wrote a children’s book, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team as the result of the one and only time we ever raised a lamb inside our home. The true story of Natalie—and how she fit into our family for thirteen years.
How did you come up with the name of this book?
My books are outlined on 3 x 5 cards before I begin the actual writing process, but I rarely have the final title in the beginning. It’s not until I know where the story is headed that I consider a possible title for the book. Copper Waters plays off several events taking place during the New Zealand mystery.
An intriguing brass key cover that doesn’t exactly match the title is another added feature to this fourth installment. Creating a question mark for the prospective reader is known to drive a buyer to make the purchase and jump into a series. Copper Waters breaks with the previous series titles in style and substance. Let’s just say, I’m experimenting by choosing this particular title. In several months I’ll know whether or not the gamble has paid off.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must-read.
Copper Waters is about the human condition, considering the possible ways to work through relationship problems. How making snap judgements isn’t always the best solution, and taking the procrastination route, although easier, can make matters worse. It’s all about balance.
The Annalisse series books are for those who long for an escape into romance, international travel, and love a good mystery, keeping the reader guessing long enough to solve it at the very end. Each installment has enough backstory from previous Annalisse books so that the reader doesn’t become lost or confused. Pick up Copper Waters and be hooked into starting the series from the beginning!
– Gold Dust Editing & Book Promotions – Excerpt
– Book Reviews and More – Review
– All the Ups and Downs – Guest post and excerpt
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Copper Waters. This giveaway is open to domestic USA residents only. One winner wins a prize package containing:
– An autographed copy of Copper Waters
– A New Zealand black-tipped wool throw
– Hammered copper tea kettle
– a $50 VISA card
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway