Deacon of the Dead: A Second Chance Inn Cozy Mystery
by MJ O’Neill

About Deacon of the Dead

Deacon of the Dead: A Second Chance Inn Cozy Mystery
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Georgia
Sweet Devotions (October 10, 2023)
Print length ‏ : ‎ 274 pages
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CK6LN21S

Come Sit a Spell in Clinton, Georgia. Home to Southern Sass, Romance, Murder, and (Fake) Zombie Fun – a charming cozy mystery book series from award-winning author MJ O’Neill

Who Knew Fake Zombies Could Stir Up Such Real Trouble?
When Harmony Holt’s daddy lands in the hospital putting their family inn on the brink of foreclosure, she’s dragged back to her quirky hometown, Clinton, Georgia, with an unconventional rescue plan: zombies. Well, zombie tours to be precise. As autumn unveils its colors, she concocts a daring plan to intertwine the town’s newfound fame as film site for the hit TV show Walker, Zombie Ranger with it’s upcoming fall festival, all to save her family’s legacy—and ideally, while dodging any awkward encounters with her ex, Seth.

But when Deacon Miller, a vocal opponent of her undead tourism idea, is found murdered in the middle of her zombie-fueled grand opening, shot with her inn’s gun, no less, she’s in a heap of trouble on both fronts. Now, with her tour permit hanging by a thread, land snatchers are clamoring for a piece of her property, and the local businesses that banked on her venture are in the lurch. To top it off, she’s prime suspect in the Deacon’s murder. Her sole beacon of hope? Sheriff Seth Johnson, her ex.

Is it a Second Chance at Love or a Second Chance for Murder?
Dive into this fall treat by award-winning author MJ O’Neill, a unique blend of cozy mystery and romance, sprinkled with Southern sass and autumn charm. Can Harmony save her family legacy and find where her heart truly belongs, or are some secrets better kept whispered in regrets?


Greetings cozy mystery lovers. I asked my protagonist Harmony Holt to work with the Second Chance Inn’s chef Audrey to whip up some fun recipes for my blog tour. And if you’re looking for more yummies from Audrey’s kitchen you’ll find two additional recipes in Deacon of the Dead. I hope you enjoy them! – Best, MJ

Welcome to Harmony Holt’s Haute Haunts for Holiday Feasts!

It’s your favorite innkeeper and sleuth on the beat, serving up a double dose of devilish delight to elevate your spooky season soirées, all courteous of my awesomely outrageous chef Audrey. Whether you’re a spirited mixologist in the making or a maestro of munchies, I’ve got a couple of treats that’ll have your guests howling with joy.

First up, we’re stirring up a concoction so bewitching, it’s sure to raise spirits—and I’m not just talking about the supernatural kind. The “Zombtini” is the perfect elixir to unwind after a day of mysteries and mayhem. It’s a blend of tropical flavors with a splash of ghastly grenadine, designed to tickle the taste buds of the living and the undead alike.

And for those who prefer to sink their teeth into something a tad more tangible, fear not! The Pumpkin Cheese Ball is no ordinary spread; it’s a culinary cauldron of flavors so enchanting, it’ll put a spell on your taste buds. This adorable apparition of appetizers will be the belle of the ball—or should I say, the pumpkin of the patch?

So, gather ’round my kitchen table, where the only thing to fear is running out of these delicious delights. Let’s turn this gathering into a graveyard smash with flavors that are sure to be a dead hit!

The Zombtini

First up is something to wet the whistle of my fellow walking-weary and life-juggling zombies of the day-to-day to help you unwind when your feet are draggin’ and your spirits need a lift. It’s a cheeky concoction I like to call the Zombtini. Trust me, it’s to die for – and I mean that in the most life-affirming way possible.

You know the drill: those long hours spent chasing dreams (and sometimes literal humans, when it’s that kind of day) can leave you feeling like you’re just going through the motions. And nothing’s worse than when someone else beats you to the punch – or the human, as the case may be. But hey, no grudges here; there’s enough to go around, especially when it comes to my Zombtini.

So, what’s in this magical elixir? Glad you asked.

Here’s what you’ll need to summon the spirits:

  • 1 oz. of the Captain’s finest, that’s Captain Morgan White Rum for the uninitiated.
  • 2 oz. Dekuyper Melon Liqueur, because we like our drinks like we like our hearts – sweet and a little melon-choly.
  • 1 oz. of pineapple juice, 100% pure, like the thrill of the chase.
  • A splash (that’s 0.5 oz for you precise zombies out there) of Sprite, for that fizz that mimics the sizzle of your undead energy.
  • A dash of Grenadine – it’s the ‘blood’ that makes the whole undead thing chic.
  • Ice, because even the hottest zombie needs to keep cool.
  • And don’t forget your cocktail shaker – it’s the cauldron where the magic happens.

Now, onto the alchemy:

  1. Chuck that ice, rum, melon sweetness, and pineapple juice into your cocktail shaker. Shake it up like you’re trying to wake the dead. Which, let’s face it, sometimes we are.
  2. Strain that potion into a martini glass, filling it up to about 2/3, like the moon on a crisp autumn night.
  3. Top it up with Sprite, right to the brim, like a cup of cheer.
  4. Now, for the pièce de résistance: drizzle that grenadine right in the center. Want it layered like your complex zombie personality? Pour it over a spoon – slow and steady wins the race.

Serve that bad boy chilled, and watch as your zombie horde – or just your pals from next door – lose their minds over it. This Zombtini’s got the perfect mix of Zombie Virus zest and a touch of the ‘blood’ that keeps things interesting.

And imagine serving this up at your Halloween bash? You’ll be the talk of the tombstone town.

So there you have it – the Zombtini. Because even the undead deserve a break. Bottoms up, my friends – here’s to resting in peace, after you’ve enjoyed the party, of course.

Remember, drink responsibly, and never drink and drive – even if you’re doing it at a zombie’s pace. Cheers!

Pumpkin Cheese Ball Extravaganza

For those of you in need of a munch to crunch, the Zombtini pairs perfectly with Audrey’s pumpkin cheese ball. Autumn’s in full swing, my friends, and with it comes the season of cozy sweaters, fiery leaves, and… parties! Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Harmony, we’ve seen cheese balls, but a pumpkin-shaped one? Tell me more!” Well, buckle up, because this is no ordinary cheese ball. It’s got a dollop of charm, a pinch of whimsy, and a whole lot of flavor.

The most important thing to remember with this cheese ball is that no pumpkins were harmed in its creation. It only looks all orange and adorable.

Here’s the rundown of what you’ll need to conjure up this magical appetizer:

  • 16 ounces of cream cheese, softened to perfection (like a plush velvet sofa)
  • 1 package of fiesta ranch dip mix – it’s like a party in a packet!
  • ½ a bell pepper, diced up nice and small (keep that stem; it’s the pièce de résistance!)
  • 1 cup of sharp cheddar, shredded like the latest gossip
  • 2 green onions, chopped as fine as the line between naughty and nice
  • ¾ cup of cheddar chips or crackers, crushed to smithereens (Goldfish or Pringles work wonders)
  • Some yarn – trust me, it’s for more than knitting

Whipping Up the Magic

  1. Take all your ingredients, minus the cheddar chip crumbles, and mix ’em in a bowl like you’re stirring up a little trouble – the good kind.
  2. Once it’s all friendly and combined, shape it into a ball or, if you’re feeling fancy, a pumpkin shape. Wrap that baby up in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge until it’s as firm as my resolve to eat dessert first.
  3. When it’s good and ready, roll that cheese ball in your crushed cheddar chips until it’s completely coated and looking sharp.
  4. Pop that bell pepper stem right on top. It’s a stem. It’s a handle. It’s a stroke of genius.
  5. Now, grab your yarn. Press it gently into the cheese ball, starting at the top and going down to the bottom, making those classic pumpkin grooves. I did this four times to get that just-right pumpkin look.

Serve this bad boy with an assortment of crackers, chips, veggies – whatever floats your ghostly boat.

A Couple of Wicked Tips

  • Remember to leave time for this baby to setup.
  • If cheddar cheese Pringles have vanished into the night, nacho Doritos will do in a pinch, though they’ll give your cheese ball a different texture and an edgier look.
  • If the fiesta ranch mix is as elusive as a ghost, throw in a little cumin and a splash of salsa for some zesty flair. But if you can get your mitts on that fiesta ranch, your taste buds will be doing the monster mash.

So there you have it, a Pumpkin Cheese Ball that’ll have your guests grinning like jack-o’-lanterns. Get ready to be the talk of the town – at least until the next full moon.

Happy haunting and munching, my lovelies!

Remember, this is more than just a snack – it’s a conversation starter, a centerpiece, and a testament to your creativity. Now, go on and cast your culinary spell!

About MJ O’Neill

MJ O’Neill is an award-winning author, entrepreneur, and literacy advocate.

Her love of mysteries started as a dyslexic child who relied on Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden to get through the dreaded book report. Now, she is a fierce advocate for literacy and stands firm against literary censorship.

Her professional writing adventure began when she owned a chocolate factory where writing mysteries was a safer bet than “murdering customers”. Currently, you might spot MJ rambling around the Pacific Northwest in her jeep, with her teenager and fierce Yorkie, on the hunt for bigfoot and her next captivating tale.

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