by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the first book in a brand new series, Canter with a Killer by Amber Camp, along with an interesting interview with Amber. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Mallory has fulfilled a lifelong dream of operating a horse rescue—and one donkey who acts as her alarm system when anyone arrives. It’s not exactly solvent so the next step is to add riding lessons, an idea not met with enthusiasm by her nearest neighbor, Albert Cunningham.
When Albert turns up dead in his stables, Mallory is a suspect since he’d called her the day before in a screaming tantrum. Given his personality, or lack of one, there were bound to be any number of suspects. However, the local police focus on her because of a threat Albert issued during their call—one she swears she never heard.
The Sheriff is an old friend, but you couldn’t tell it from the way he keeps after her about her statements, her motives, and her lack of an alibi. Townspeople, she thought would believe her, are now the biggest gossips about her guilt. There’s nothing to do but investigate on her own.
It’s lucky she has a few supporters like Lanie, her best friend, and surprisingly, her ex-husband, Ethan. Albert’s son is sure of her innocence and even escorts her to Albert’s memorial service to prove it.
Phillip is a troublemaker, a sneak who files lawsuits he never wins, and spreads gossip. Mallory would love for him to be the culprit. Or maybe the woman who was living with Albert or the owner of the organic farm who complained the horses contaminated the water sources and hurt her business. Mallory is fortunate to find a local lawyer who’s willing to protect her rights in the investigation. Will he be able to protect her when the threats are closer to home?
This is the first in a new series. Mallory is a great character although she does take risks she shouldn’t. Her volunteers, Tyler and Ashley, are a great addition to the story as well as her BFF, Lanie. Biscuit, the donkey, steals every scene he can, being an attention hog and funny as well. Banjo, her dog, only feels the need to do minimal dog things, like one bark to announce a visitor.
With twists and turns, red herrings, and cleverly subtle clues, this is a great beginning to a new series. I look forward to book two and beyond.
Interview with Amber Camp:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
AMBER: I wrote my first full-length novel when I was sixteen, but writing has been a passion for as long as I can remember. My mother kept volumes of little folded paper “books” I made as a kid. I used to just write in fits and spurts when I had some extra time, but I lost my job in 2020 with Covid cutbacks in my company. I used the time to focus entirely on writing, and now it’s a major focus and priority for me.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
AMBER: Canter with a Killer is my debut novel that came out October 11, 2022. It’s a cozy mystery set in Northwest Arkansas. It centers around a former nurse, Mallory Martin, who moves back home to pursue her lifelong dream of running a horse rescue. That’s all threatened when she finds herself the prime suspect in the murder of her cantankerous neighbor.
AMBER: I’ve always been a huge fan of cozy mysteries and thrillers, but Canter with a Killer is the first mystery I’ve written. I’ve always previously leaned toward urban fantasy and horror.
KRL: I didn’t realize this was your first publisher book congrats! Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Do you have a background in working with horses?
AMBER: They always say, “write what you know,” so I chose Northwest Arkansas for the setting. I absolutely love living here and I thought it would be the perfect cozy setting. As for the characters, I just wrote people I would like to know or love to hate, as the case may be. I don’t have a formal background working with horses, but we’ve always had horses and I spent a lot of time with my aunt and uncle who raised and trained Quarter Horses on their cattle ranch. While I don’t run an official shelter, we currently have several rescue horses that we pulled out of the slaughter pipeline.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
AMBER: I primarily write to entertain. If someone finds something that speaks to them in my work, that’s just icing on the cake!
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
AMBER: I don’t really have a schedule for anything, LOL. I fly by the seat of my pants more often than not.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
AMBER: If I could pick the perfect time, it would be early in the morning before everyone wakes up when it’s just me, my coffee, and my computer. Those are magic hours. Honestly though, I enjoy writing whenever I get the chance.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
AMBER: I don’t do a formal outline. I have a loose outline, usually scrawled in a notebook somewhere, of the basic plot points I want to include and then I flesh them out as I go. I also keep a notebook of details for each book I’m writing that includes maps, physical descriptions, character photos or renderings, and any other tidbits I want to remember.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published?
AMBER: When I first got serious about trying to break into traditional publishing, I was completely clueless. I drafted a horrible query for a book that wasn’t really even ready to submit. I racked up rejections pretty fast. Thankfully, the Facebook advertising algorithm worked for me and an ad for How to Get Published popped up in my feed.
I took the free course, found it immensely helpful, and then signed up for the paid course. It certainly isn’t required to pay anyone to learn the fine art of querying, but it definitely helped me. It also helped that I scrapped my manuscript, wrote Canter with a Killer, and polished my work before sending it out into the world. If there are any agents reading this that I queried with that first urban fantasy, I just want to take the opportunity to apologize.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
AMBER: I think it’s really important for writers to make sure their critique partners are a good fit for their book. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like I was in the beginning! I was just so grateful that someone was willing to spend the time to read my book and offer advice that I didn’t stop to think about whether that advice would be valuable or not.
My favorite acceptance story is, of course, when I signed with my amazing agent, Jill Marsal. When I got The Call, I’m pretty sure I babbled like a moron for about ten minutes, and she still offered to represent me. I don’t even remember what I babbled about I will just always remember that overwhelming feeling of finally getting over the representation hurdle.
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
AMBER: I really hope I am able to write The Horse Rescue Mystery series for a long time. I enjoy that world and those characters and I love spending time with them. I am also hoping to break into paranormal cozy mysteries at some point with a second series. Eventually, I would love to publish romance. Just writing as much as I can, that’s really my only goal.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
AMBER: I have always admired Nora Roberts’s work ethic and productivity and I hope someday I can aspire to a fraction of her output. I also admire Ellery Adams because her work, especially in the Secret, Book, & Scone Society series, is just so beautifully done.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
AMBER: I am so blessed to live in a time when the world is at your fingertips. Most of my research is done online, either by Google search or in various forums. When online research fails me, I have a great network of friends in law enforcement, medicine, and rescue work that are willing to put up with incessant questioning.
KRL: What do you like to read?
AMBER: My tastes are varied. I love cozy mysteries, thrillers, especially domestic thrillers, horror, romance, fantasy, and light sci-fi.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
AMBER: My current favorite TV shows are Ghosts, Law & Order, and reruns of The Office. My guilty pleasure is watching “bad” movies along the lines of Sharknado or Frankenfish, the cheesier the better and bad acting is just the cherry on top.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
AMBER: So many new writers get bombarded with the tried-and-true advice, “show, don’t tell” and that can be absolutely paralyzing when you’re starting out. In reality, you are going to have to “tell” some in order to have a readable story. You have to find a balance and know when to tell and when to show. That is why it’s really important to have a writing group that includes some veteran writers. I would still be spinning my wheels trying to “show” everything if not for the advice of an experienced writer.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
AMBER: Probably that my mother and I lived off-grid for most of my childhood. We lived in a tiny, one-room cabin with no electricity or running water. There wasn’t even a road to the cabin, we had to hike in. My mother supported us with her art, and we grew and raised our own food.
KRL: Do you have any pets?
AMBER: We currently have 2 dogs, 3 cats, 12 chickens, a hamster, 5 non-rescue horses, and 7 rescue horses, as of this writing. It changes frequently with the addition of fosters and rescues.
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
AMBER: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.
KRL: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us!
Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?
To enter to win a copy of Canter with a Killer, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “canter,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 12, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.
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