Schooled in Murder Book 1
Cozy Mystery/Light Romantic Suspense
Murder is the new mascot at Ellington High...
A murdered coach and a missing counselor has thrown the school into a foreign curriculum of anger,
fear, and suspicion. English teacher Emily Taylor is determined to prove that her missing friend is not a murderer. But if she's not, then who is? And where could her friend be? Against the advice of fellow math teacher and former crush Tad, Emily and her
best friend Gabby dig into the dead coach's past. But someone doesn't want Emily unearthing their secrets and is determined to see that she gets a failing grade in the sleuthing department. Soon, Emily finds herself scrambling for a new lesson plan to solve
the murder...before the killer sets his own deadline!
The clack of Emily Taylor's high heels echoed hollowly in the deserted high school hallway. Normally, she loved the sound her heels made on the tile floor. Her obsession with high heels
began when her height topped off at a gargantuan five foot one inch, and their authoritative tapping sound typically made her feel confident and in charge. But not this morning. The click-clack reverberating off the rows of metal lockers seemed ominous, a
warning of some kind.
Letting herself into her classroom, she decided that the school seemed somewhat sinister because she was unused to being there that early. Her
great love affair with her snooze button meant that getting to school before it was filled with a mass of hormone-fueled teenagers was a rarity for her, but she had needed to get in early today in order to prep for a special before-school meeting with a student's
mother. Stevie Davis was new to Ellington High and was really struggling in Emily's junior-level English class.
Something about Stevie tugged at Emily. He usually
hid his eyes behind his fringe of bangs, causing Emily to fight the urge to grab her scissors and hack away at his curtain of hair so that she could see what was going on behind it. The few times he had tossed his hair back with the irritated shrug that was
his typical answer to any question, his eyes had seemed sad, lost, or…something. Emily wasn't sure what that something was, but she was hoping that this meeting with his mother would shed some light on his issues.
Her cantankerous old computer whined to life as Emily flipped on her desk light. Dark, swollen clouds crowded the sky, swallowing her early morning classroom in shadows. Emily felt jumpy and spooked, as if those dark clouds were
pressing down on her, enshrouding her in their gloom. Must be an allergy medicine-induced hangover making her feel strange this morning. Nothing like fall to get her sinuses going. As soon as she got her notes together for her meeting, she'd grab a cold shot
of caffeine from the stash of sodas she kept in the teachers' lounge fridge. That would help clear her head. Or at least it would if Tad, the conference-hour-sharing, next-door math teacher and fellow soda junkie, hadn't depleted her supply.
As she pulled out samples of Stevie's writing and wrestled her computer into spitting out a copy of his grade report, the lights flickered. Glancing out the back wall of windows, Emily
watched the increasing wind whip the trees into a frenzy. Multicolored fall leaves rained down like confetti. She usually loved the electric feel in the air before a good thunderstorm, but a loss of power would ruin her day's plans. Figuring she better make
her copies before the ancient, temperamental copy machine went on the fritz, she began sorting through the piles on her desk for the paper she needed. They were organized piles, of course. Oh, who was she kidding? Trying to find the one thing she needed on
her messy desk was like trying to isolate a single snowflake during a blizzard. Shuffling papers and files, Emily jumped at the first boom of thunder. The accompanying flash of lightning happened to spotlight the copy of the quiz for which she was searching.
Hoping to entice Stevie into becoming more involved in class discussions, she was starting a unit on mythology since he had shown some interest in legends. Today's quiz was over the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, or it would be if she got her copies
made in time.
Tucking all of her information for the meeting with Stevie's mother into a stray file folder, Emily grabbed up a fresh legal pad and pen and headed
out the door. Halfway there, she turned on her heel to go back for the quiz she needed to copy. Yep, she definitely needed that soda. A glance at her vintage Strawberry Shortcake watch showed she was, as usual, cutting it close on time. But first things first.
Popping the top on the last soda in the fridge, Emily silently thanked whoever was the God of caffeine for their nectar as she took her first icy sip of the sugar-laden soda.
No diet drinks for her, no sir, as the extra ten pounds on her hips could attest. Tad had tried to hide the last can behind a pitcher of green tea, knowing Emily would never touch that, even if it might benefit her hips. She, however, was on to his nefarious
ways. Practicing her evil victory laugh, she click-clacked her way to the copy room to get her copies started before the meeting. Another crashing boom of thunder rattled the windows as Emily threw the door wide, propping it open with those cursed hips while
she flipped the light switch. Nothing. Scanning the hallway confirmed her suspicions. The power was out. She took a step backward, thinking she would head downstairs to consult with Principal Matthews. Rain began to lash the windows over the stairwell, making
the darkness of the hall seem even more complete. She fumbled her way a few feet down the hallway until the lights flickered back on again. Not wanting to waste a second in case the power decided to blink off again, Emily dashed back to the partially open
copy room door. Hitting the light switch again with one hand, she rushed toward the hulking machine on the far wall. That was when papers went flying and sticky, syrupy soda sprayed everything in its path. Emily went airborne. Throwing her hands out in front
of her to break her fall, Emily winced as they skidded through sticky wetness. The picture of grace she was not, so finding herself flat on her face was actually not uncommon for Emily. She could trip on a completely flat surface. The lights flickered again
as she clambered to her feet, worrying about getting the sticky mess cleaned up before someone else slipped. Glancing down at her hands, she was busy cursing her lost lifeline, her last caffeine hit, when she realized that the sticky substance covering her
hands was not soda. It was something thicker, and redder. Finally looking back to see what she had tripped over, Emily saw what appeared to be a head protruding from behind an office chair. Taking a cautious step closer, she could see that the head was surrounded
by what looked like a puddle of congealing blood and was, thankfully, attached to a body. Unfortunately, it appeared to be a dead body. And that's when Emily began to scream and scream.
About the author
Tracy Comstock is a small-town girl from Missouri. She lives in a home where she is outnumbered 3:1 by the males in her life: her husband and their two extremely adorable, but terrifyingly ornery sons. She has no pets as all living things,
besides humans, of course, come to her house to die, including the victims in her books. All her life Tracy devoured books. Her parents' most effective punishment was grounding her from reading. Although she has a B.S. in Education and a Masters in Literature,
she was nudged down the path to publication by encouraging (and sometimes threatening!) family, friends, professors, and students. When not working on Emily's adventures, Tracy is an adjunct instructor for several local colleges, where she gets to teach others
about her greatest passion: writing.
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Can you tell us what prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I remember writing my first short story in the 4th grade. I
had ordered a book from a book order, and I just couldn’t wait for it to get here, so I decided to write my own story based on the front cover and the book blurb. I think my story was like 10 pages long. I called it “Merrie on the Mayflower.” My teacher was so impressed with it, she had me read it aloud to the class. I was totally bitten by the writing bug.
Can you summarize your latest work in just a few words?
A high school English teacher becomes an amateur sleuth when she finds the body of the football coach in the teacher’s lounge.
What was the inspiration for this book?
The idea occurred to me when I was teaching at a small school at the beginning of my teaching career. I had worked really late as I had to help chaperone a dance later that
evening at the adjoining middle school. By the time I left my room, I was the only one left in this dark building. The school seemed to take on a very sinister cloak at night, without any students roaming the halls. As I made my way down the darkened stairs, I thought, this would be the perfect setting for a murder mystery. And the story was born.
you do any research for this book?
I spoke with an EMT and a high school resource officer to make
sure I got all the details right about medical and police procedures.
What does a typical writing
day involve for you?
I teach for two different colleges, so I work 13-hour days, counting my commutes. I dictate while I drive, then I try to write at night when I get home. I spend a lot of time writing on the weekends, but I probably look like a deranged woman,
sitting in whatever room my family is hanging out in, talking to myself as I try to both write and fit in family time.
How you decide on the names for your characters?
I actually started this story back in 2002 and named the main characters then. I think at the time I was going for classic names, but also names that did
not already belong to one of my students! That can be a hard task, as evidenced when we tried to name our sons!
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
All of the cozy/chick lit mysteries I read have influenced me—especially Gemma Halliday, Laura Childs, Nancy Atherton, Jenn McKinlay, Ellery Adams, and Virginia Lowell.
What are you working on next? Do you have a WIP?
I am currently halfway through my second Schooled in Murder mystery, tentatively titled School Days, Cruel Days. I am also working on a tie-in short story, also.
What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
The best part of writing is that I love seeing the characters take shape
in my mind. Once I know them, they start acting out their lives, with all the ensuing drama and joy, and it is my job to put those lives down on paper. The worst part of the writing process is finding extended periods of time to write where I can just get lost in the story I’m trying to tell. Sometimes my
OCD takes over and I get too caught up in revising as I go, and then I lose the thread of the story and have a hard time getting back into the groove again.
Tell us about your travels.
The farthest I have traveled is to London as a chaperone on a school trip. I would love to go back. My
husband and I love to travel, and we have been to Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan, Texas, Alabama, and Florida. I’ve been to Washington state and Victoria B.C. to visit where my
maternal grandmother grew up. If I didn’t live in Missouri, I would definitely choose Washington state. Growing
up, my family traveled quite a bit also. With them, I’ve been to Tennessee, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, and up into Canada.
Tell us about your childhood.
I had an idyllic childhood. I have a younger brother, and I would say we were, and still are, pretty close. We loved taking family vacations, and it just seemed like we were always doing
something fun as a family. I grew up across the street from where I was born, and I still live in the same town today, although my brother and his family have moved away. My parents have been married for 39 years and have been a beautiful example of true love to us. They always supported me in chasing my dreams. My mom is my best friend. Growing up, we were always reading books together. She really
fostered my love of both reading and writing. She is a very talented writer herself.
Most writers have some quirks—what
As I said, I am a very OCD person. I feel lost without an outline. I write a pretty extensive outline before I ever start the
actual writing process. I also write journal entries in the voices of each of my characters, especially the murderer’s, so that I know their unique voice and their motivations.
Do you plot your novels or allow them to develop as you write?
out all of my novels beforehand.
Have you taken any creative writing courses and would you recommend
I did not take any writing courses until I went back for my masters in literature. One of my professors could tell by a few of
my journal entries for class that I had a strong desire to write fiction. She asked me to write something for her, but I was too afraid. To get around my reticence, she changed one of
our assignments to a creative piece. When she read mine (a piece written in the style of Flannery O’Connor), she enrolled me in a creative writing class. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and even had a piece win a women’s writing contest and another published in the school literary magazine. I would definitely
recommend creative writing courses, and in fact, I have to several of my students who want to pursue a career in writing. I think the courses are invaluable for teaching you how to take
critiques and use them to your benefit.
What book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I just finished reading Jennifer Fischetto’s One Garish Ghost and Blueberry Peach Jam, as well as the Cozy Christmas Capers by 19 of the authors from Gemma Halliday Publishing. I am currently reading Ritter Ames’ Organized for Homicide and The Great Gatsby (for the umpteenth time) because I am teaching it this semester.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take three books with you, what would they be and why?
1) Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace because it was one of my favorite books growing up. In that book, I felt I traveled the whole world. I still periodically read it because of the cozy, nostalgic feel it gives me.
2) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë because it’s one of my all-time favorite books. I could read it over and over.
3) The Bible because I would be completely lost without it.
17. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Never give up on your dream. Keep looking for ways to get your work out there. I would never have believed that this dream of mine could come true, but it did! Keep writing!!
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