Monday, September 19, 2022

Blog Tour: Guest Post from Patricia Crisafulli, Author of The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor

Author: Patricia Crisafulli
Publisher: Woodhall Press (September 6, 2022)
Paperback: 394 pages

Amid a mountain of rain-soaked donations to the Ohnita Harbor Public Library rummage sale, Gabriela Domenici finds a small box that contains an odd-looking cross. When the carved center turns out to be ivory and a clue links the cross to Catherine of Siena, a medieval saint, Gabriela turns to her expertise as an authenticator of historic documents to lead the quest to discover the truth about this mysterious object. But the cross isn’t the only secret in town: first, a beloved Ohnita Harbor resident is found floating in the harbor and then someone else is murdered on the library lawn. As Gabriela races to solve the mystery of the cross, she discerns between infatuation and what could be the start of true love. All the while, she must stay one step ahead of the danger that slowly encircles her.

Enjoy this guest post from Patricia Crisafulli:

How a Long-Ago Poetry Class Helped Me Write Mysteries


By Patricia Crisafulli


            I am not a poet—not by a long shot. I neither think nor write in rhyme or meter. But there I was, sitting in a small classroom on the Northwestern University campus for “Poetry for Prose Writers,” a required course for the master’s in fine arts (MFA) degree program.

Dutifully, I learned rhyming couplets and composed a final project in iambic pentameter, which I enjoyed for the challenge, if nothing else. But the real value of this class was the importance choosing just the right word in each line of poetry, for sound as well as meaning.

Of course, we prose writers also pay close attention to word choice. But arguably, the stakes are even higher for poets because they put comparatively fewer words on the page. Adopting the discipline of making every word count, the professor told us, would help make us better prose writers because we would not settle for a serviceable noun, verb, or adjective when a more precise or descriptive choice could be found.

As a mystery writer, I returned to what I learned in “Poetry for Prose Writers,” particularly in describing the setting, conveying emotions, and evoking sensations. Each time, I tried to challenge myself to swap out words and use phrases that evoked the senses. This is an ongoing endeavor and, I believe, there will always been room for my improvement. Nonetheless, here are a few examples from my new novel, The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor.

·         Capturing the “castle.” My novel is set in a library that was built 160 years earlier in the Norman Revivalist style to look like a castle (just like the library in my hometown). This afforded me many opportunities to use language to describe not only this unique setting, but also the mood. For example, in the opening, the protagonist, Gabriela, finds an abundance of donations for the Friends of the Library rummage sale: “Boxes of every size and shape crowded the steps, piled like a hoard of invaders against the library’s double doors with their heavy iron hinges.” This isn’t generosity in Gabriela’s view, but an intrusion into her orderly world.

·         Fraying threads of fear. In another scene, Gabriela is stalled in a taxi in the Midtown Tunnel between Queens and Manhattan because of an unexplained traffic delay. As her mind conjures disaster scenarios—“an attack, bombs going off, the tunnel entrances and exits blocked, the air filled with smoke and chaos, and all of them trapped in the tunnel”—her fear builds. But Gabriela is in the back seat of a cab, so her actions have to be small. Here’s what I choose to show her unraveling mental state: “Gabriela worried a loose button on her jacket, feeling the threads start to give.” Then, when the cars suddenly begin to move again and the taxi exits the tunnel, Gabriela’s relief is as oversized as her panic: “Sunshine and blue sky greeted them like a second chance.”

·         The scent of blood. One of my characters, Mike, has a physical reaction to an artifact found among the donations—his hand blisters and bleeds, sometimes profusely. “Blood oozed from the largest wound and dripped onto the floor. Each spatter made a gruesome starburst, and a yeasty, meaty smell hit Gabriela’s nostrils.” More than just describing the sight of blood, I tried to create a visceral reaction in the reader:


As the poet Mary Oliver observed, “The language of the poem is the language of particulars.” And so it should be for all creative writing, especially mysteries. With so much at stake—plot, pacing, character development, conflict, danger, and ultimately resolution—we need to lean on each word to do more than merely convey information. Indeed, fear, danger, despair, hope, love, and redemption—all that and more must reside within each word we pluck from our vast store of language and put on the page.


Patricia Crisafulli as an award-winning, New York Times Bestselling author and received her MFA degree in fiction from Northwestern University. Her latest book and debut novel is The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor, the first in the Ohnita Harbor Mystery Series, from Woodhall Press (September 2022).


About the author:

Patricia Crisafulli is an award-winning author. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University, where she received the Distinguished Thesis Award in Creative Writing. She also received the grand prize for fiction from TallGrass Writers Guild/Outrider Press for a story, Loon Magic and Other Night Sounds, for which she was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Patric ia is the author of a collection of short stories and essays titled Inspired Every Day, published by Hallmark, and is also the founder of

TLC tour schedule:

Saturday, September 17th: The Cozy Book Blog – author guest post
Monday, September 19th: From the TBR Pile – author guest post
Saturday, September 24th: @abduliacoffeebookaddict23
Monday, September 26th: Bookchickdi
Wednesday, September 28th: @kristens.reading.nook
Thursday, September 29th:
Friday, September 30th: @fashionablyfifty
Monday, October 3rd: Laura’s Reviews and @laurasreviews_1
Monday, October 3rd: @kenzathome
Tuesday, October 4th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, October 6th: What is That Book About – author guest post
Thursday, October 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Sunday, October 9th: Subakka.bookstuff and @subakka.bookstuff
Wednesday, October 12th: @thebookishalix
Wednesday, October 12th: @always_reading1
Friday, October 14th: @books.ashley.reads
Monday, October 17th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie
Monday, October 17th: She Just Loves Books and @shejustlovesbooks
Wednesday, October 19th: @booksandcoffeemx

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