Thursday, January 9, 2014

Writing What You Know, Zero-Degree Murder, A Giveaway

Note: The winner of this giveaway is Sharon B. Congratulations, Sharon and thanks to all those who entered this giveaway.

With the chilling temperatures blanketing most of the U.S. this week, it’s a perfect time to participate in author M.L. Rowland’s blog tour for ZERO-DEGREE MURDER, the first installment in her new Search and Rescue Mystery series.

ZERO-DEGREE MURDER (Berkley Prime Crime Mass Zero Degree Murder coverMarket; $7.99; 978-0-425-26366-2; January 7, 2014) is the first in a new cozy mystery series by M.L. featuring a search and rescue expert! Thanks to M.L. and the lovely Danielle at Penguin Group, I have a copy of this intriguing new series to giveaway to a lucky visitor to this post to celebrate the book’s release this week. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details.

Here a brief look at the book: 

Search and rescue expert Gracie Kinkaid risks her life on a daily basis to save strangers. But going up against a coldhearted murderer is one kind of danger she’s not prepared for…         As a volunteer for Timber Creek Search and Rescue, missing out on holiday festivities is nothing new to Gracie. After all, disasters don’t stop happening because of a cooked turkey. So when Gracie is called out on Thanksgiving for four hikers missing in the wilderness of Southern California, she packs up her gear and heads out to find them.
        The mission quickly goes from routine to deadly. An early season blizzard sets in. The one missing person the team does find, famous actor Rob Christian, remembers being attacked by someone else on the trail, someone trying to kill him. And Gracie’s partner leaves to get backup, taking the radio—their only link to the outside world—with him.
        Alone in the mountains, Gracie will have to use all her expertise to keep Rob alive. But with an unknown killer lurking somewhere in the dark, even that might not be enough to save them…

M.L. joins us today to talk about writing what you know – in this case it’s search and rescue procedures. In addition, I’ll share my thoughts on this tantalizing new book.

Welcome, M.L.

I spent almost a dozen years as a very active volunteer on a very active Search and Rescue team in the mountains of southern California. So, following the classic advice to write what I know, I did! 

Because I participated in hundreds of missions and trainings (including jumping out of a helicopter into the snow on the side of a mountain and overnighting in the snow with only a sleeping bag), I had to do very little traditional research for ZERO-DEGREE MURDER. Much of what’s described in the book, from the setting to Search and Rescue (SAR) procedures and protocol to some of the events, is drawn from personal knowledge and experience--my own and that of other SAR members. 

For instance, ZERO-DEGREE MURDER heroine, Gracie Kinkaid’s tumble down a steep, snow-covered mountainside was “borrowed” from my husband, Mark’s, winter mountaineering accident where he slid/tumbled/fell over 400 feet, hitting rocks and trees along the way, all the while trying to use his ice axe to stop himself (‘self-arrest’). (Luckily, he finally did. His ice axe and crampons were dented, and his helmet was cracked, but he walked away with only bruises--no broken bones!)

A woman operating in what’s traditionally been a man’s world makes for interesting dynamics and occasionally humorous situations. For a long stretch--many, many months--I was the only woman on our team. In ZERO-DEGREE MURDER, Gracie is the only woman on Timber Creek Search and Rescue. “Ordinarily ten men to one woman might be a to-die-for ratio. But more often than not, Gracie found working in close proximity with so many Manly Men for so many hours, often days at a time, took its toll on her. She could take only so much crotch arranging, and fart and blonde jokes before she began to crave a bubble bath or painting her toenails petunia pink.”

ZERO-DEGREE MURDER readers can be confident that what they’re reading represents an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be on Search and Rescue team. A friend of mine who read the book said to me, “So that’s what happens when you get called out on a search. I always wondered.”

What I describe in my books regarding Timber Creek SAR’s procedures and protocol is based upon my own experience as a member of a small, all-volunteer team with a very small population base from which to draw its members, and with very limited resources and finances. Not every SAR team is the same. Some are all-volunteer; some are paid. Some specialize in urban environments, some in desert, some alpine. Some comprise only a handful of members operating on a shoestring. Some are large with fifty or more members and lots of equipment, money and resources at their disposal. 

I’ve had people from large urban teams tell me, ‘that would never happen,’ or ‘that’s not how it is.’ But on some teams, that’s how it is, because that’s how it was on ours. And, therefore, that’s how it is on Gracie’s.
M.L., thanks so much for joining us today and sharing your experience with us here and through Gracie’s action. I think those who volunteer for search and rescue units deserve our support and gratitude.


Born, raised and, except for one year of high school in Hawaii, schooled kindergarten through college in the Midwest, M.L. comes by her adventurous spirit honestly. Her mother pioneered for women’s rights in the early 1960’s. Her father—a neurosurgeon and marine scientist—was a world traveler and member of The Explorer’s Club. After college, M.L. lived and worked in Florida, Missouri, Connecticut and New York City, finally settling in the mountains of southern California where she joined the local Search and Rescue (SAR) team. 

During her almost twelve years on Search and Rescue, M.L. participated in hundreds of search and rescue missions and trainings, including technical ropes rescues, helicopter insertions and evacuations, and searches for lost children, hikers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and criminal evidence, in mountain, desert and urban environments. She served as the team’s Training Officer and participated in community events and public speaking engagements. Trained in land navigation, and desert and winter survival, including avalanche awareness and self-arrest, she holds a certification in tracking from the State of California. 

M.L. is an avid political activist, naturalist and environmentalist. She is an accomplished painter and loves to snorkel. She has traveled to all fifty United States and throughout the world, including a rustic camping safari in Kenya. As often as possible, she hikes and explores the slot canyons of Utah. 

M.L. lives with her husband and their chocolate lab at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado.

For more on M.L. and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.


Making the reader feel like they are in the middle of the action is a sure-fired way to draw them in and make them want to read more.

Author M.L. Rowland does an excellent job of this in the first installment in her new Search and Rescue Mystery series. ZERO-DEGREE MURDER grabs the reader and holds their attention until the very end.

Search and rescue expert Gracie Kinkaid is familiar with working on holidays as a volunteer for Timber Creek Search and Rescue. When four hikers are reported missing on Thanksgiving, Gracie and her partner, Steve, gear up and head out.

An early season blizzard makes the search more difficult. They finally locate one of the missing group, famous actor Rob Christian. All Christian recalls is being attacked by someone. Steve goes to get backup taking their only radio and leaving Gracie to care for the injured Christian. Gracie has to use her expertise to keep them both alive as she comes to realize there really is a killer lurking somewhere on the mountain with them.

Rowland, using her extensive rescue background and an eye for details, brings the scene to life. Readers can feel the cold, isolation and terror as the story unfolds. The story flows smoothly with twists and turns keeping on the edge of your seat guessing what will happen next.

The characters are well-balanced, likable and very realistic. The protagonist is spunky and fearless when needed, but with her own flaws. The interaction among the search and rescue group plays out well and gives the story depth.

ZERO-DEGREE MURDER is a tantalizing debut for a stunning new series providing readers with information and entertainment values. Gracie is a courageous protagonist you’ll want to see again and again.

Zero-Degree Murder by M.L. Rowland, A Search and Rescue Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2013, ISBN: 978-0425263662, Paperback, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.


This giveaway is for one copy of ZERO-DEGREE MURDER and the contest is open to residents of the U.S. only.

To enter, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Zero-Degree Murder.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of ZERO-DEGREE MURDER is 8 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, Jan. 18.

To read more about M.L. and her debut mystery, check out the other blog participating in the tour:

01/01/14 (Wednesday) - Eclectic Passions
01/03/14 (Friday) - Dru’s Book Musing
01/06/14 (Monday) – BookLoons
01/07/14 (Tuesday) - Socrates’ Book Reviews
01/08/14 (Wednesday) - Lesa’s Book Critiques
01/10/14 (Friday) - Debbie’s Book Bag

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have you ever participated in a search and rescue unit or known someone who has? Have you ever needed the help of a search and rescue unit?

1 comment:

  1. Mason - Thanks for hosting M.L.

    M.L. - Thanks for sharing your background. Search and rescue work is so important, and of course it can be dirty, dangerous and a lot of other things. It's a credit to you and others that you've done it on a volunteer basis. I wish you success with your new series.


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