Death by Proxy


Death by Proxy

With preparations for her upcoming wedding to handsome Wes Wesson, a Center City police lieutenant, on track and her DIY Bridal Crafts class at Hawkeye Haven's community center wrapped up, DIY Diva Laurel McMillan looks forward to a calm pre-nuptial week to finalize her wedding plans. 

There's only one problem: the week turns out to be anything but calm. Laurel and Wes narrowly escape being run down in the parking lot of their favorite restaurant. Laurel's bridal shower is interrupted by a mysterious stranger who sends Laurel's lovable chocolate Labrador retriever Bear into a frenzy, and when Laurel and Wes go to meet Lisa, their real estate agent, at a house she promised to show them, they discover Lisa's sister's body floating in the pool. 

Strangely, Lisa seems more concerned with selling houses than she does with her sister's death. After Lisa's mother inadvertently reveals family secrets, Laurel wonders whether Lisa could have killed her own sister. Will the mayhem and murder stop before Laurel discovers the key to the killer's game plan?

Includes recipes and project instructions for a birdcage veil and a dog's bow tie.

This is the third book in the DIY Diva Mystery series.


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Vanished into Plein Air

Vanished into Plein Air

Book 2 in A Fine Art Mystery Series


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What's It All About?

Who wouldn't want to make a living from her favorite pastime?

Although sometimes self-doubt creeps in along the way, artist Amanda Trent has been striving to do just that, ever since her ex-husband dumped her for a younger woman and she moved to Lonesome Valley, Arizona, to start a new life. So when her friends from the Roadrunner Gallery urge her to join them and world-renown artist Ulysses Durand in a plein air paint-out, she hesitates, fearing that she might not be able to complete a painting in the four-hour time limit.

But everything goes smoothly at the public open-air event—until Ulysses's wife goes missing and he asks Amanda for her help. Has his past come back to haunt the famous artist? With a little help from her nemesis, cranky Lieutenant Belmont, the support of her friends, and the companionship of her furry feline Mona Lisa and her lovable golden retriever Laddie, Amanda tracks a killer who's determined to strike again unless Amanda can save the day.



 Read an Excerpt from Chapter One

 Look at the crowd, Emma! Brooks made such a big deal that he was inviting only a few people to the private pre-opening of his new gallery, but it seems like half the town is here.”

“Sure does,” my daughter agreed. “Do you think they'll serve champagne?”

“I'm sure there'll be plenty. Now that you're twenty-one, you're entitled,” I said. with a wan smile.

My daughter and I had celebrated our respective birthdays a couple of weeks earlier, just days apart. Unfortunately, I'd now hit the mid-century mark, and I wasn't too thrilled about it.

“Are you OK, Mom?”

“Oh, sure. Just thinking about that zero in my age now. It makes me feel so old.”

“Honestly, Mom, you look way younger than fifty. You look like you're forty—really you do.”

“That's always good to hear.”

A year ago, my daughter wouldn't have been able to say the same. I'd still been in shock after my husband unexpectedly divorced me and married his twenty-five-year-old assistant, who was only a few years older than Emma.

What a difference a year made. I'd moved to a new town in a new state, turned my part-time art hobby into a full-time business, and bought the house, with its own attached art studio, that I'd rented when I'd first moved to Lonesome Valley, Arizona, from Kansas City.

“Hey, beautiful! You didn't tell me you were coming to the opening.”

I turned to see Chip, a young artist who flirted with me every time he saw me, although he was only a few years older than Emma.

“Hi, Chip,” I said, ignoring the compliment. I'd learned that it was best not to take his flirtatious ways too seriously. “Did Susan come with you?”

“She's right over there.” He pointed to a boutique a few doors down from the gallery.

I spotted her checking out the shop's window display. When she looked our way, she waved and hurried over.

“Lonesome Valley Resort's mall is really something,” she said after we exchanged a hug. “I don't know why I've never shopped here before. I'm surprised Brooks didn't move his gallery sooner.”

“I guess he's turning over a whole new leaf. He has a year's worth of shows by other artists already scheduled, from what I understand, but none for himself.”

“Sounds like a smart move to me. His artwork's not very good, to put it kindly.”

“What a crush,” I said as we slowly made our way toward the door of the new Brooks Miller Gallery.

“Mom, they're having people show their invitations at the door to get in.”

“I have mine in my bag. Good thing I remembered to bring it,” I said, pulling the elegant, gold-trimmed card from my purse.

“Aunt Susan?” Chip asked.

“I have mine, too.”

“Well, I didn't bring my invitation, but I can be your plus one, I suppose,” Chip said.

“Sure, that'll work. It looks like most of the crowd is here to listen to the string quartet,” Susan observed, pointing to a group of musicians who were setting up in front of the gallery.

Susan and I handed our invitations to the young woman who greeted us at the door, and we filed in. We'd been invited to a “private pre-opening showing of paintings by world-renown artist Ulysses Durand,” and, evidently “private” meant just that.

Although we'd left the crowd behind outside, we could hear the quartet tuning up before they began playing a sprightly number. Brooks, who managed the Lonesome Valley Resort, owned by his family trust, had undoubtedly arranged for the musicians.

Ulysses Durand's paintings reminded me of Ralph Anderson's, with their precise details and sweeping views of Western landscapes. Ralph, now in his mid-eighties, had been one of the founders of the Roadrunner Gallery, an artists' cooperative on Main Street I'd joined a few months after my arrival in town. That's where I'd met Susan, Chip, Ralph, and lots of other members artists, and the gallery had become my home away from home.

“How about some champagne, Auntie?” Chip offered.

“Don't call me Auntie,” Susan said automatically, for all the good it would do her to object, since Chip never tired of teasing her. “And, yes, I'd love some.”


“Sure. Thanks, Chip.”

Chip was about to head toward the bar set up in a corner of the gallery when Emma asked, “Aren't you going to offer to bring me champagne?”

“Sorry, Emma. Are you sure you're old enough to handle it?”

“Very funny.”

“Don't mind Chip, Emma,” Susan advised. “He's always kidding around.”

“I noticed.”

Just then, a distinguished-looking man, impeccably dressed in a suit and tie, entered the gallery, and Brooks, looking equally distinguished in his own bespoke attire, rushed over to greet him. When I heard Brooks call the man “senator,” I nudged Susan. “Isn't that Senator Hastings?” I asked her.

“It sure is,” she confirmed. “I guess we're in good company.”

We gathered in front of a large oil painting of the Grand Canyon, so that we'd be out of the way. While Susan and I examined the brushwork, Emma surveyed the guests.

“Mom, Anne Robinson and Terry Snyder are here,” she said excitedly.


“You really don't know?”

“No clue.”

“They're only the hottest new Hollywood power couple ever. Oh, I can't believe it!”

“Believe what, Emma?” Chip asked as he returned with four glasses of champagne neatly arranged on a silver tray.

When Emma told him, his eyes widened.

“I'm impressed,” he muttered as he stared at the movie stars. “Looks like Brooks pulled out all the stops.”

Chip held out the tray, and after we'd each taken a glass, he offered a toast to the Roadrunner.

“To the Roadrunner!” we said in unison as we clinked glasses.

“Another celebrity,” Chip said, motioning toward the door where Brooks was greeting a lanky man who towered over his petite wife. In her sparkling red, sequined cocktail dress, she was garnering as much attention as her husband.

“Is he a basketball player?” Susan asked Chip.

“Is he! He's the star of the Phoenix Suns.”

“I wonder how Brooks was able to entice the celebrities to attend,” Susan said, “but, I guess if you have enough money, anything's possible.”

“He probably comped them suites for the weekend here at the resort,” Chip guessed. “But where's the star of the show? We haven't seen Ulysses Durand yet.”

“Probably around the corner in the back room,” I surmised.

Like the Roadrunner, Brooks's new gallery had a free-standing wall in the center, which partially divided the space, providing more display areas for paintings.

“Shall we?” Chip asked. “I'd like to meet him.”

Susan and I agreed, but Emma hung back.

“Later, Mom? I'm going to try to talk to Anne and Terry. Maybe I can take a selfie with them.”

“OK, Emma. Good luck!”

Chip, Susan, and I rounded the corner into the back room of the gallery, where several people had gathered around the famous artist. There didn't appear to be an opening to join the group, so we bided our time by looking at the paintings until Ulysses Durand left his admirers and began making his way around the room, greeting guests as he went. We held our ground and as soon as he came to us, we quickly introduced ourselves and let him know how much we enjoyed his artwork.

“It's great to have some other artists here,” Ulysses said genially. He was a short man of about sixty with gray hair who wouldn't normally stand out in a crowd. “I know a couple of local artists. I hope they'll be here tonight.”

He looked past us and broke into a smile.

“Here's one of them now. Please excuse me.”

We turned to see our friend Ralph leaning heavily on a cane.

“His arthritis must really be bothering him,” Susan said. “I've never seen him use a cane before.”

We were surprised when Ulysses embraced the old man. Ralph didn't seem quite as enthusiastic in his greeting as Ulysses had been, but that wasn't unusual since Ralph tended to be reserved.

The two stood in front of the largest painting in the room, discussing it, until a new group of guests came into the back space, and Ulysses moved on to talk to them.

Ralph spotted us and motioned us to come over

“Sorry. I don't mean to be rude,” he apologized, “but my knee's killing me today.”

“Let me find you a chair,” Chip offered. “There must be one around here somewhere.”

“No, no,” Ralph protested. “I don't want to be a nuisance. I'm all right standing here. Funny thing is the knee wasn't even bothering me yesterday. Unfortunately, it would have to kick up a storm today.”

“Aren't you scheduled to work in the gallery tomorrow?” Susan asked. “I can fill in for you, if you like.”

“I just may take you up on that. Can I let you know in the morning?”

“Sure. No problem.”

I was glad that Susan had volunteered because I couldn't. Tomorrow Emma would be returning to college in Southern California, and we were planning on leaving for Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix at nine in the morning, the same time the gallery would be opening for the day.

“I take it you know Ulysses Durand,” Chip said to Ralph.

“Yes. I do. Thirty years ago, he was my star student.”

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Hemlock for the Holidays

 Coming Summer 2021!

 Hemlock for the Holidays

Book 3 


A Fine Art Mystery Series 

Artistic License to Kill

Available Now!

  Artistic License to Kill, the first book in Paula Darnell's new cozy series, A Fine Art Mystery, is now available! 
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Special Introductory Price - Just 99 cents! 
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 What's it all about?
Artist Amanda Trent, accompanied by her beloved golden retriever Laddie and her persnickety calico cat Mona Lisa, is determined to start a new life after her husband divorces her to marry a younger woman, but it isn't easy.

After a disastrous interview at the prestigious Roadrunner Gallery in Lonesome Valley, Arizona, far away from her previous home in Kansas City, Amanda's afraid that she'll fail at her new career. But her prospects begin to improve when she's accepted as the newest member of the cooperative gallery.

Then, on her very first day, she discovers Janice, the stern director, has been murdered right in the art gallery, and the Roadrunner's members, including Amanda herself, become suspects. Which gallery member murdered the unpopular director? Or was the killer an outsider with an ax to grind? 

Read an Excerpt from Chapter One
I squirmed in the hard metal chair as the three committee members examined the paintings I'd brought for their review.
    The cordial, collegial chat I'd imagined when I'd applied to join the Roadrunner, a cooperative art gallery, had never happened. Instead, the director, a tall woman with cropped salt-and-pepper hair, had greeted me with a frown as I'd set up my canvases on the easels she'd provided.
    The other two committee members—Travis Baxter, a wiry young man with long blond hair, and Pamela Smith, a tiny bird-like woman with sharp features—hadn't been any friendlier than the director. After glancing at my artist's statement and resumé, they'd peppered me with pointed questions that seemed framed to put me on the defensive. If that was their strategy, they'd succeeded.
    As the three of them examined my paintings in silence, I clasped my hands firmly together so they wouldn't notice that I was trembling. Finally, the long-haired man cleared his throat and looked at the two women. They all returned to their seats behind a long table and looked at me solemnly.
    Janice Warren, the gallery director, informed me that they'd take my application for membership under advisement and that I'd be notified by mail as to whether or not I'd been approved to join the cooperative artists' group that ran the Roadrunner Gallery.
    I managed to stammer a thank-you before I began gathering my canvases. I felt like running out of the gallery, but I restrained myself, knowing that I had to make two trips to my SUV to stow my paintings in the back.
    The three committee members watched as I toted my canvases from the gallery's meeting room. Nobody offered to help me carry them. Nobody smiled at me.
    As soon as I'd secured the last two paintings in my Toyota, I started the engine and peeled away from the curb. I couldn't wait to escape.
    As I sped down Main Street, not bothering to glance in my rear view mirror, I heard the wail of a siren behind me. My tires screeched as I braked a little too hard.
    A police car came alongside me, and the officer signaled me to pull over. Groaning, I slowly moved to the nearest parking space and stopped my SUV. It was still early in the morning, and the shops weren't open yet, so the street was nearly deserted.
    While the police car parked in back of me, I reached into my purse and took out my Missouri driver's license; then I dug around inside the console next to me until I found my auto registration card. I put my window down and braced for a stern lecture.
    “License and registration, please, ma'am.”
    I handed them to him. At least he'd said “please.” Although I didn't much like being called “ma'am,” since I would be reaching the big mid-century mark on my next birthday, I guessed it wouldn't be the last time it would happen.
    “You must be in a big hurry to get back to Kansas City,” he commented, staring at my license.
    “Well, no. I'm sorry. I was upset, and I just wanted to put some distance between myself and the gallery.”
    “I, uh, I applied to become a member, and I just had my interview there. It didn't go very well.”
    “You must live here now if you're joining the co-op.”
    I could have kicked myself for saying too much. Now, he'd probably cite me for not having an Arizona driver's license and not registering my SUV in my new state.
    “Yes, I do. I moved here a few months ago.” Again, too much information. I couldn't seem to stop babbling.
    “If that's a permanent move, you should get your Arizona license and registration right away.”
    Great, I thought. Could this day get any worse? 
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DIY Diva Cozy Mystery Series

Books in the DIY Diva Mystery Series

Crafty DIY Diva Laurel McMillan turns DIY detective when a murder happens in her "safe" guard-gated community. 

DIY Diva Laurel McMillan learns just how deadly a design can be when her student's husband is smothered with a prize-winning pillow.

Death by Proxy

With her wedding to handsome Center City Police detective Wes Wesson only days away, will Laurel be too distracted by wedding plans to unmask a killer?

The DIY Diva Mystery Series is published by Cozy Cat Press.

Free Books: How to Request Your Library Obtain a Book You Want to Read

We often hear about a book we'd like to read, but, on checking our local library catalog, we find that it's not available in the collection. Most people assume that's the end of the story, but it doesn't have to be.

Did you know that most public libraries in the United States welcome requests from their patrons, and many of them buy a book a patron has requested and place it in the library collection? Although there's no guarantee that your local library will obtain a book you'd like to read, many will. Some libraries wait until they have several requests for a book before adding it to the collection.

It's a simple process to request a book that usually only takes a few minutes. Gather some basic information about the book: author, title, and ISBN (International Standard Book Number). You can usually find what you need quickly by searching for the book's title on Google, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. With this information, librarians can easily locate the book in their suppliers' catalog. 

To request your library get an ebook, go to Overdrive, search for the book, and make a request right there (you'll need your library card number). If you encounter problems, ask for assistance from your local librarian so that your request can be processed.

To request a print book, check your library's website for a request form. Frequently, it will appear under Contact Us. It may say something like "how to suggest a title you think would be good for the library to have." If your library provides an online form, fill it out completely and submit it. If not, ask any librarian how to request a book. Sometimes, a verbal request is all that is needed.

Remember that this process takes some patience, but it can be especially rewarding when the book you're requesting is a pricey hardback or a special type of book, such as large print.

Speaking of large print books, two of my books are available in large print: The Six-Week Solution, a historical mystery, and Artistic License to Kill, the first in my new cozy mystery series, A Fine Art Mystery. If either of these novels appeals to you, I hope you'll request it at your local library! Of course, they're available for sale also, but at $36.95 each (by the way, your library gets a big discount on the print books it buys), you might prefer to read them free.

One last tip: if your library doesn't have the book you're looking for but another library does own it, you might be able to put in a request for it through the Interlibrary Loan system. Check your local library for details.

Artistic License to Kill

Author: Paula Darnell

ISBN for large print hardcover:




Halloween-Themed Cozy Mysteries

Ten Halloween-Themed Cozy Mysteries

There are lots of Halloween-themed cozy mystery books available. Here are ten that have come out in the last three years. The first five have been published in 2020. Just click each title to learn more about each book.

by Christin Brecher

by Addison Moore and Bellamy Bloom

by Laurien Berenson

by Kirsten Weiss

by Kathi Daley

The Inn at Holiday Bay: Haunting in the Hallway 

by Kathi Daley


Swamp Spook (A Miss Fortune Mystery Book 13)

by Jana DeLeon  





Haunted House Ghost: Death At The Fall Festival (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 5)  

by James J. Cudney



The Halloween House: A Cozy Mystery (A Tess and Tilly Cozy Mystery Book 4)

by Kathi Daley




Sugared Demise: A Pumpkin Hollow Mystery, Book 5

by Kathleen Suzette


Ten Cozy Mystery Series Featuring Teachers

 School days, school days . . . for students much of the year involves time spent in the classroom, and who do they spend it with? Their teachers, of course! Mystery writers have found that teachers are curious (or just plain nosy) people who make great amateur sleuths. Whether they're active or retired, teaching kindergarten or college classes, these mystery buffs just can't resist solving the latest crime, on or off campus.

Here are ten cozy mystery series, listed in alphabetical order by series title, featuring mystery-solving teachers:

DIY Diva Cozy Mystery Series by Paula Darnell

Protagonist DIY Diva Laurel McMillan not only writes books about craft and sewing projects, but she also teaches craft and sewing classes at her local Hawkeye Haven Community Center, where she often picks up tidbits about Hawkeye Haven residents, both victims and suspects.

Bonus: recipes and project instructions.


Downward Dog Mystery Series by Tracy Weber

Seattle yoga instructor is on the case with Bella, her German shepherd canine companion.

Available in paperback format.

Ellie Kent Mystery Series by Alice K. Boatwright

Life brings the skeptical Ellie Kent from her academic job in California to a village in the Cotswolds as the vicar’s new wife; but death keeps her guessing how long she will be there.

The third book, In the Life Ever After, is due to be published in late 2020.


Family Skeleton Mystery Series by Leigh Perry 

English professor
Georgia Thackery gets more than she bargained for with she moves back into her parents' house with her teenaged daughter. Sid, the family skeleton, provides a paranormal element to this cozy mystery series.


Joanne Kilbourne Mystery Series by Gail Bowen 

Joanne Kilbourne, amateur sleuth and widow of a politician, takes the stage in this eighteen-book series. Joanne is a politican science professor, and the action takes place in Canada.

Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series by Cynthia Kuhn

English professor Lila Maclean is thrilled about her new job at prestigious Stonedale University, until she finds one of her colleagues dead in the series starter to this five-book series.

Melanie Travis Mystery Series by Laurien Berenson 

Melanie Travis teaches in a private school, but everything's gone to the dogs in this twenty-five-book series, which focuses on the world of dog shows. Great for cozy mystery fans who love dogs, especially poodles.


Murder 101 Mystery Series by Maggie Barbieri

An English professor at a small college in the Bronx plays amateur detective when campus life and life outside the classroom turn out to be less than tranquil.


Murder She Wrote by Donald Bain (and later others)

Based on the popular Murder She Wrote television series starring Angela Lansbury, the Murder She Wrote book series now boasts fifty-three books. Jessica Fletcher, writer and retired high school English teaches finds murder and mayhem in her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine, and around the world. The TV show helped make the cozy mystery genre popular in the 1990s.

TJ Jansen Paradise Lake Mystery Series by Kathi Daley

High school teacher TJ Jansen becomes embroiled in mysteries and investigates to solve the cases in this series, which often features a holiday theme as well.




2021 Update

I'm honored to have received another book award for The Six-Week Solution. This one comes from the National Federation of Press Women for a novel over 40,000 words, awarded in March 2020 in NFPW's annual at-large communications contest.  

From Teri Ehresman, NFPW contest director:

"Congratulations. you won second place honors in an extremely
competitive book category."

From the judge: "What an original premise, setting a murder mystery
around the mid-century phenomenon of Nevada 'divorce ranches' where wealthy women lived for six weeks in order to establish the Nevada residency needed for a quick divorce!"

Thank you, NFPW!

Book Awards in 2020

I am honored to have won two book awards in 2020 for two of my mystery novels.

The first is from the National Federation of Press Women for a novel over 40,000 words awarded in March 2020 in NFPW's annual at-large communications contest. This is for my cozy mystery Death by Association. According to NFPW contest director Teri Ehresman: "This is a huge accomplishment."  

Thank you, NFPW!


 In July 2020, I received an award from the Public Safety Writers Association for second place in the published fiction book category of the organization's annual writing competition. This award is for my historical mystery The Six-Week Solution. According to Barbara M. Hodges, PSWA board member and competition coordinator, there was "stiff competition" in the published fiction book category, so I am especially pleased.

Thank you, PSWA!