Death by Association:
A DIY Diva Mystery
by Paula Darnell

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About the Book

Death by Association: A DIY Diva Mystery
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Cozy Cat Press (January 1, 2019)
Paperback: 271 pages
ISBN-10: 1946063681
ISBN-13: 978-1946063687
Digital ASIN: B07MQ73LJQ (215 Pages)

DIY Diva Laurel McMillan learns that the high walls and guarded gates of Hawkeye Haven can’t protect her community. When Laurel takes her pampered, chocolate Labrador retriever, Bear, for an early morning walk, she finds her friend, security guard Bessie, bleeding and unconscious at her guardhouse post. If the attack on Bessie isn’t enough to set the residents’ nerves on edge, the murder of Victor Eberhart, the unpopular president of the powerful homeowners’ association, certainly does the trick. Despite teaching DIY classes and writing project instructions for her latest book, DIY for Dog Lovers, Laurel manages to squeeze in time for some DIY detective work. But as she gets closer to the truth, Victor’s killer would like nothing better than for the DIY Diva to take a dive.

About the Author

Guest Post by the Author

Inspiration for the Setting of Death by Association


by Paula Darnell


            Although I’ve written lots of nonfiction and some short fiction, Death by Association, A DIY Diva Mystery, is my first published novel. When planning to write a novel, many writers start with their characters and plot ideas and go from there to develop their stories. My novel’s inception was a bit different because my idea of writing a cozy mystery novel actually came after my inspiration for its setting.

Moving to a guard-gated community that’s controlled by a homeowners’ association sixteen years ago started the process, although I didn’t know it at the time. I’d never lived in a gated community before the move, let alone a guard-gated community, so it was a new experience to have to register my car at the HOA’s office, obtain a remote entry pass for my car, and call the guard whenever I expected a visitor so that the guest could enter the community.

Being in a homeowners’ association was also a new experience and not always a good one.

A few months after I moved to my new home, I was awakened around midnight by flashing lights and winching noises. When I looked out my front window, I saw tow trucks taking away neighbors’ cars that had been parked on the street. One of the HOA’s rules is that residents can’t park on the street. Luckily, my own car was parked safely in my garage.

Over the years, I learned that a letter from the HOA meant a threat of a fine if I didn’t comply with one of the numerous rules. Usually the receipt of such notices entailed trimming my palm trees, but I also received one notice that was rather humorous directing me to “correct the lamppost” on my curb. Was I supposed to discipline the thing? As it turned out, the lightbulb needed to be replaced, which was the HOA’s responsibility. Once I pointed that out, I no longer needed to worry about keeping my misbehaving lamppost in check. Another time, I received a letter warning me that if the wall between my backyard and the community golf course wasn’t repaired, I’d face a fine. Only one problem with that: my property is not even adjacent to the golf course. After visiting the HOA’s office in person, I managed to convince them they’d erred in sending me the warning.

Although dealing with these issues can be annoying, I realized it could be worse. There is a big potential for an HOA to run amok. Since there are many HOAs in my city, the local news organizations sometimes carry stories about abuses that have been threatened or actually occurred. I heard stories of people losing their homes because they lived in 55+ adult communities and they had allowed a grandchild to live with them, incidents of residents forced to comply with unreasonable regulations, and some financial shenanigans.

I began to realize that a story about an HOA that abused its members because its management and board of directors were power hungry or had a nefarious agenda might be interesting. There are a lot of ways to spin this, especially in the mystery or horror genres, so I decided to write a cozy mystery, in which the setting would be a guard-gated community governed by an abusive HOA. Of course, that doesn’t sound so cozy, but Hawkeye Haven, the community in Death by Association, is quite close-knit (and thus cozy) and peopled with fun characters who could easily be your own neighbors (even cozier). These residents all feel safe because, like most guard-gated communities, Hawkeye Haven is not only gated, but also walled.  Death by Association’s setting affected its plot, too, but I won’t explain how, because that would be telling. You’ll have to read the book to find out more!

Info About the Author

An instructor at five colleges over the years, Paula Darnell most often taught the dreaded first-year English composition classes, but she’s also been happy to teach some fun classes, such as fashion design, sewing, and jewelry making. Paula has a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Like Laurel, the main character in Death by Association, Paula enjoys all kinds of arts and crafts. Some of her memorable projects include making a hat and a cape to wear to Royal Ascot, sewing wedding gowns for both her daughters, exhibiting her textile and mixed-media artwork in juried art shows, and having one of her jewelry projects accepted for inclusion in Leather Jewelry, published by Lark Books. She sells some of her jewelry and hair accessories in her Etsy shop:

Paula’s interest in DIY craft projects and fashion led to her writing hundreds of articles for print and online national publications.

Living in a guard-gated community governed by a homeowners’ association gave Paula the idea for the setting of Death by Association. She finds that residing in an HOA community can be both a blessing and a curse. A Happy-New-Year greeting from her community association called on residents to “start the new year by reviewing your Rules and Regulations booklet,” something unlikely to top anyone’s list of New Year’s resolutions.

Paula lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband Gary and their 110-pound dog Rocky, whose favorite pastime is lurking in the kitchen, hoping for a handout

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1 Comment

  1. Kay Garrett

    Thank you for being part of the book tour for “Death by Association” by Paula Darnell. Enjoyed reading the author comments on her inspiration for the setting. I would love the opportunity to read this great sounding book.

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