Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ellen Jacobson's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Murder at the Marina (A Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery Book 1) by Ellen Jacobson

1- #TalkLikeAPirateDay International Talk Like A Pirate Day is Sept 19. Do ye 'ave a fav'rit pirate sayin', me matey?

I've always thought “shiver me timbers” was a cute expression. It's used to show shock or disbelief and means something like, “Oh my goodness!”

2- What ignited your passion for writing?

When my husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand, I decided to start blogging about our experiences getting rid of all of our stuff, moving on board, and living 24/7 on a tiny floating home. Sharing our travel adventures, sailing mishaps, liveaboard life, and other tidbits about our nomadic lifestyle turned out to be a lot of fun.

My blog readers were so supportive and encouraging which prompted me to try my hand at writing a short story for the Insecure Writer's Support Group Hero Lost anthology contest. Then, my mother suggested that I write a cozy mystery. You can't really say no to your mom, can you? My experiences publishing my debut novel, Murder at the Marina, have transformed what was more of casual interest in writing during my early blogging days into a full-blown passion.

3- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My Twitter handle is @Ellen__Jacobson. I'd love to give a shout-out to some of my wonderful beta readers and awesome writers—Tyrean Martinson (@TyreanMartinson), Elizabeth Seckman (@eseckman), and Angela Wooldridge (@angwooldridge).

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book on your sailboat?

I'm actually quite camera shy and rarely post photos of myself. However, I do have a great one of my lovely friend, Lucy from The Larks of Independence, reading Murder at the Marina on her catamaran. Our boat, Tickety Boo, is far less camera shy and asked if I'd include a picture of her too. This one is of her at anchor in the Bahamas.
Our sailboat, Tickety Boo, at anchor in the Bahamas -- Ellen Jacobson's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book
Ellen Jacobson's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book -- My friend Lucy reading Murder at the Marina on her catamaran #boating #reading

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

In the short-term, I'm focused on getting Bodies in the Boatyard, the second book in my cozy mystery series, published by the end of this year. I'm also in the midst of outlining the third book, Poisoned by the Pier, and hoping to release that one in 2019. In the long-term, I'd like to publish at least three more books in the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series. I also have an idea for another cozy series percolating away, as well as a dark fantasy series.

6- What is the best and worst local foods you've had while traveling?

Oh, this is a tough one to answer. One of the joys of traveling is eating local cuisine—so hard to pick a favorite. Eating our way through SE Asia was fabulous, our trips to Italy have always had a huge focus on food, and I have fond memories of trying yassa poulet for the first time when I was living in Senegal. We also love Ethiopian food and make it a point to seek it out in every city we visit. To date, we've dined at Ethiopian restaurants in Oslo, Rome, The Hague, London, and Toronto, as well as in several American cities.

As for the worst, there was this one time we had Chinese food in Paris. . .but I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, no one felt good later that night.
Ellen Jacobson's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book #food #travel

7- What's it like living on a sailboat?

It's a lot like living in a regular house on land, except smaller. A lot smaller. Our current boat is probably around 350 square feet. And when we're out cruising, our power comes from solar panels instead of the electric company and our water comes in 5-gallon jerry cans that we haul in our dinghy to shore to fill up. So, I guess that's a little bit different too. Did I mention the fact that we don't have a shower and that we have to manually pump our toilet into a holding tank? Sounds romantic, huh?

In all seriousness, living on a sailboat is a lot like living in an RV. It's a small, functional space that gives you the freedom to travel. One of the things we love about it is being able to take our tiny floating home to an isolated anchorage, soak up the peace and quiet, and enjoy being one with nature. It's nice to know that we can be self-sufficient and live off of the grid for periods of time.

I would add the caveat that there's no one way to live on a sailboat. What I love about the sailing community is that there are so many ways to live the cruising lifestyle. Some people go simple, have smaller boats, and live frugally (like us). Others are on the opposite end of the spectrum. But they all have an adventurous spirit.

8- Print books or ebooks: Has living on a boat influenced your preference?

I love print books, but we don't have the space on board to have many except for some reference books on really boring topics like diesel engines and a few paperbacks that we pick up at book exchanges at marinas. I originally scoffed at the idea of getting a Kindle, but now I'm a convert. It's perfect for storing lots and lots of books that I wouldn't be able to have aboard our boat otherwise.

9- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My biggest fans are my husband, mother, and sister. I think they all love my debut novel for different reasons. My mom is a big cozy mystery fan, so she loved that I wrote in that genre. I think my sister loves Mrs. Moto, the adorable Japanese bobtail cat who happens to be the best clue-finding feline in the business. And my husband enjoys how I've drawn on our experiences sailing and cruising.

10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Beta readers are hands down the best thing to have come into my writing life. I'm so fortunate to have people who are willing to read drafts of my work and give me honest feedback about what works and what doesn't. Beta readers are the best!
Ellen Jacobson's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book - Murder at the Marina #mystery #read

11- What would people be most surprised to learn about a life at sea?

I think a lot of people romanticize life on a boat. They picture tropical islands, walks on the beach, the wind ruffling your hair, sunsets at anchor etc. Sure, there are some great parts about cruising, but there are also some not-so-great parts. The lifestyle is rewarding, but it's also challenging. Things constantly break (usually at the most inconvenient time), the weather can turn on you without warning (potentially putting you and your boat in danger), simple household chores on land can take hours at sea (doesn't everyone wash their clothes in a bucket on deck?), and electric and water consumption has to be managed carefully (or else you might find that you don't have enough power to charge your Kindle or enough water to take a shower).

12- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

I have a character who is what you might call a boat bum—unemployed, always scrounging for beer money, and hoping to fix up his boat and sail off to the Caribbean one day. He fancies himself a bit of a pirate and usually is wearing a t-shirt that sports pirate-related slogans like “To err is human, to arr is pirate.”

13- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

One of my favorite authors is Octavia Butler. She was an award-winning African-American science-fiction writer whose works address issues of race, gender, and class. All of her books are compelling reads (and I've read all of them more than once), but if I had to pick a favorite, I'd go with Parable of the Sower. The main character is a young African-American woman who develops a new belief system (Earthseed), gathers followers, and prepares for the day when humanity will travel beyond Earth.

14- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

Although many people might not normally think of cozy mysteries as holding a mirror up to society (they're typically fun, light reads), many cozies do weave in societal issues. In a small way, I think my cozy series highlights an alternative lifestyle, one where people focus on a life rich in experiences, rather than full of possessions. While my main character has no plans to embrace a full-time cruising lifestyle anytime soon (she didn't even want a boat in the first place), some of the other characters have given up their 9-to-5 jobs, sold their houses, downsized, and live aboard their boats.

15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

Because book swaps are so common in the cruising community, I don't actually buy that many new books. Once I'm finished with a paperback, I put it on the book exchange shelf and pick out a new-to-me one. However, lately I've been buying books by fellow authors. It's a great way to show my support for them and I've found it fascinating to read books in genres I wouldn't normally gravitate toward.

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Probably the number of books sold is the key metric I look at. While I don't have any expectations of being a best-selling author, I would like to recoup my investment, make a little extra, and know that people around the world are enjoying my stories.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

When I first thought about writing a book, I had no idea that self-publishing was a viable option. But the more I looked into it, the more I knew that going down the traditional route wasn't for me. I'm no spring chicken and the thought of the significant time lag between writing your manuscript and (hopefully) seeing your book published was a bit off-putting. Once I had set my mind to publishing, I wanted to see my book in print sometime before I was eligible for Social Security. So I decided to go indie. I love retaining creative control, being in charge of the publication time frames, and I don't mind managing the “business” side of things. To date, I've been happy with my decision.

18- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

I have got so much to learn about book marketing! I've found this to be one of the most challenging aspects of being an author, especially since I'm quite introverted and hate self-promotion. As a result, I don't think I've found a strategy that works yet, but I am experimenting with a few things.

The most recent experiment is with Amazon ads. I don't plan on seriously advertising until I have at least three books in my series published and can leverage read-through from the first book. But I've been having fun playing around with marketing on Amazon in a limited way (less than five dollars invested) and have even sold a few books as a result.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I'd be really interested in hearing what everyone's favorite/least favorite foods on their travels have been. For authors, I'd really love to hear your ideas about book marketing in general, and Amazon ads specifically.

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I've been doing a series on my author blog where I detail the good, the bad, and the ugly of my publishing my first novel. You can find posts on a range of topics including working with a professional editor, deciding whether to go Amazon exclusive or wide, working with beta readers, formatting ebooks and paperbacks, distribution channels, and why I chose to self-publish.

If you're interested in a light-hearted, humorous cozy mystery about a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth, then check out Murder at the Marina.


A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Mollie McGhie is hoping for diamonds for her tenth wedding anniversary. Instead, her husband presents her with a dilapidated sailboat. Just one problem—she doesn’t know anything about boats, nor does she want to.

When Mollie discovers someone murdered on board, she hopes it will convince her husband that owning a boat is a bad idea. Unfortunately, he’s more determined than ever to fix the boat up and set out to sea.

Mollie finds herself drawn into the tight-knit community living at Palm Tree Marina in Coconut Cove, a small town on the Florida coast. She uncovers a crime ring dealing in stolen marine equipment, investigates an alien abduction, eats way too many chocolate bars, adopts a cat, and learns far more about sailing than she ever wanted to.

Can Mollie discover who the murderer is before her nosiness gets her killed?

A Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery #1
Ellen Jacobson's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Buy Links

Murder at the Marina—A Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery #1
Release Date: June 21, 2018
Print ISBN 978-1-7321602-1-7
eBook ISBN 978-1-7321602-0-0

Available at:

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Amazon (CA) -
Amazon (UK) -
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Author Bio & Social Media Links

Ellen Jacobson writes mystery and sci-fi/fantasy stories. She is the author of the “Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery” series. She lives on a sailboat with her husband and an imaginary cat named Simon. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she blogs about their adventures at The Cynical Sailor.

You can connect with Ellen on:

Author Website -
Author Facebook Page -
Goodreads -
The Cynical Sailor Blog -
The Cynical Sailor Facebook Page -
Twitter -
Newsletter Sign-up -
Amazon Author Page -
Google+ -

Murder at the Marina (A Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery Book 1) by Ellen Jacobson


The Cynical Sailor said...

Thanks so much for hosting me on Operation Awesome! Cheers - Ellen

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Really glad you submitted that book to the IWSG Anthology Contest - it sparked your novel career!
Pass on Chinese food in France though.

Roland Clarke said...

I'm so impressed with the way that you manage your 'off-the-grid' lifestyle, Ellen. Plus I enjoyed Murder at the Marina and will watch out for the next cozy-sailing read.

The Cynical Sailor said...

I'd highly recommend the IWSG anthology contest to anyone. Such a great way to get started and run by such a supportive group :)

The Cynical Sailor said...

Thanks so much, Roland!