Hilltop Sunset by Joyce T. Strand – Guest Post & Giveaway


Joyce strandAuthor Joyce T. Strand

Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries set in the San Francisco Silicon Valley and Napa-Sonoma wine regions of California.

Her most recent novel, HILLTOP SUNSET, is the first of a new series featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft is a minor character in Strand’s novels ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.

Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. She focused on writing by-lined articles, press releases, white papers, and brochures to publicize her companies and their products.

Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as possible.

She received her Ph.D. from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA


Guest Post: Writing to Entertain—The Message in the Mystery


Without question, a mystery must entertain readers. Otherwise, why would we read it?


We mystery readers love to solve a puzzle along side our favorite sleuth—or help a new sleuth in his endeavors. We thrive on page-turning action and complex heroes and villains. We enjoy our heroes’ one-liners. Sometimes we long for a touch of romance.  We wait patiently for a bumbling hero to get it right, or for a smart villain to make the mistake that will get him caught.


However, sometimes along the way of reading a mystery, we realize that we’ve learned something new; or our values have been challenged; or maybe even we’ve been inspired. How did that happen?


I have read mysteries and action thrillers since I was a teenager, and we won’t get into how long ago that started—let’s just say it’s been a long time. I’ve enjoyed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys through Erle Stanley Gardiner’s Perry Mason, Ian Fleming’s James Bond to John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee right on up to Stieg Larsson’s Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. And, oh, so many more favorite authors.


I was so influenced in my early years by the Perry Mason series that I decided that I wanted to become a lawyer. (A quick review of a law textbook changed that career goal.) I doubt that Erle Stanley Gardner had my career goals in mind when he wrote his books, but I do believe that he wanted to let us know that not all criminal lawyers were shysters, and that some of them collected fees in order to defend their mostly innocent clients as well as they could.


I recall a story by Nora Roberts titled NORTHERN LIGHTS that featured characters located in an Alaskan town in winter. She described what it was like to walk across a street at night, creating a clear picture of what life must be like there during the winter months. And I learned so much about horse racing through Dick Francis thrillers and forensic anthropology from Kathy Reichs. Yet all of those books were page-turners. I didn’t stop to revel at the discovery of a new piece of information.


When I started to write my own mysteries, I pondered over the value of back-story without any desire to educate but with the comprehension that my readers would appreciate learning a little something along the way.  I set my most recent mystery, HILLTOP SUNSET, at a winery and readers get to learn about winemaking along with my protagonist. Of course, the mystery was the primary “thing,” and my goal was to use winemaking only as a backdrop for the puzzle and action.


So even in a mystery, authors can help readers learn something—so long as the story is entertaining and we want to turn the pages quickly.


What about an author’s own point of view? Does an author use his writing to deliver a message? Does an author try to influence his readers?


Personally, I think it’s got to be almost impossible for an author’s point of view NOT to come across somehow. Authors can either channel that or ignore it, but how can we not reflect a lifetime of values, experiences, and education?


Perhaps the most successful writers are those who can overcome their own point-of-view to write the universal novel, such as, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. We could make the argument that Steinbeck channeled his own point of view to capture the plight of the farmers experiencing the dust bowl during the Depression of the 1930s. Nonetheless, there are authors who write highly entertaining novels who go beyond their own viewpoint and deliver messages—even in the mystery/thriller genre. John Grisham’s novels tell us quite clearly that bigotry is wrong, insurance companies are corrupt, law firms are suspect, and the death penalty is to be questioned.


One of the most inspirational mysteries—if I dare call it that—is To Kill a Mockingbird. We definitely are drawn into the mystery, appreciate the heroism of Atticus Finch, and also hear the message against bigotry.


If we are to draw any conclusion about the goals of writing a mystery or thriller, it is that a book must above all be entertaining and compelling. A reader must want to learn more about the characters and how they will overcome the adversities they encounter—how the hero will out-maneuver the villain. However, a book will mean ever so much more to us readers if we learn something along the way without even realizing it. Or if we start to think about new ideas. Or if we examine our own values.


Writing to entertain—and what’s in the message.


Hilltop sunsetHilltop Sunset

A mystery set in wine country pitting financial exec Brynn Bancroft against a determined stalker, a troubled love interest, and career clashes.

Brynn Bancroft learns that a former employee who beat her nearly to death has returned to stalk her and her friend, Jillian Hillcrest, also a former victim.  Recently divorced, Brynn turns to a new love interest only to encounter additional unwelcome issues. Meanwhile, short-timer Brynn, who has resigned from her Silicon Valley company, becomes bored fulfilling her remaining responsibilities there. She begins to prefer supporting the launch of her ex-husband’s new hilltop winery while waiting to move to her next position. Between her stalker and her new love interest, Brynn faces a series of life-changing events.

AMAZON * Barnes & Noble

Hilltop Giveaway

Blog Tour Giveaway

1st prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card plus autographed copy of Hilltop Sunset
2nd prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card plus autographed copy of Hilltop Sunset
3rd prize: Autographed copy of Hilltop Sunset


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hello Kathy,

    On behalf of Joyce Strand and Book Marketing Services, I would like to thank you for hosting Joyce today on I am a Reader, Not a Writer. If anyone has any questions and/or comments they would like to share, please leave them in the comment box. Joyce will be by later in the day to respond.

    Joyce is having a giveaway during her tour. 1st prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Hilltop Sunset; 2nd prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Hilltop Sunset; and 3rd prize: an autographed copy of Hilltop Sunset. Click here to enter: https://www.facebook.com/JoyceTStrandAuthor/app_228910107186452

    Please join Joyce tomorrow, Thursday, November 6th, 2014 for her author spotlight on MorgEn Bailey’s Writing Blog http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com.

  2. Victoria Alexander says:

    Great post – thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Linda Szymoniak says:

    I love a good mystery. I’ll have to give this one a read.

    • I can relate as I grew up with Ellery Queen and then Perry Mason as my stepfather was a mystery detective nut. I read Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and my husband loves James Bond. So mysteries are a high point in our reading selection– this book intrigues me and I will have to check it out!

      • Oh, I’d totally forgotten about Ellery Queen. He was a favorite. And did you read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe? He never left the house and had a greenhouse full of orchids.

  4. Kyaw Sein says:

    Sound interesting, must be a good book to read.Thanks for sharing.

  5. thanks for the giveaway

  6. Serena S. says:

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. I love mysteries! Her guest post is so great! Very informative.

  8. Teresa Richards says:

    I love to read a good mystery, and this sounds like it would be just that. A good, hot chocolate, curl up on the couch, rainy night read. Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  9. thanks for the giveaway sounds like a great mystery.

  10. Sounds like a good mystery. I do like to change up my reading genre’s and mysteries are just one my go to’s. Thanks for the post and bringing up the giveaway.

  11. I’d like to personally thank you for hosting me on your blog. I really appreciate your support. Thank you, thank you.

  12. Book sounds interesting. thanks.

  13. The book sounds great!! Thank you for the chance to win!!!

  14. lori faires says:

    I enjoy a good mystery. Just to curl up in front the fire with a cup of tea and a good mystery makes me happy. I also enjoyed the interview here on I Am A Reader. Thanks to all,

  15. Mary Preston says:

    This does sound like such a fabulous read.

  16. Interesting guest post, it sounds like a good read.

  17. thanks for the giveaway!

  18. Mary G Loki says:

    This sounds like a great read! 😀 Thank you for hosting!

  19. I have recently read a review for this book on another blog, and it managed to get all five stars, which makes me excited for this. And I agree – finding entertainment in a mystery is always key. If a novel makes me laugh, it always scores high points.

    • Thanks, Olivia. I appreciate your comments. My characters need to develop more of a sense of humor so I can make the mysteries even more entertaining. They can’t be all “puzzles” and “red herrings!”

  20. Anita Yancey says:

    It sounds like a wonderful and exciting mystery. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  21. Thanks, I wanted to be just like Perry Mason too.

  22. angela smith says:

    sounds like its going to be good.thanks for having the giveaway

  23. Christy Peeples DuBois says:

    Mysteries are my favorite and I have learned a few factual things in my years of reading them. And hope I continue to do so.

  24. I love a good mystery, this book sounds great. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Sounds really interesting! Looking forward to reading this book!