Tag Archives: winter austin

Tule Author Q&A: Winter Austin listens to crime podcasts!

Winter Austin stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the second book in the Benoit and Dayne Mystery series, Hush, My Darling!


Where did you get the inspiration for Hush, My Darling?

Hush, My Darling came about with a tickling of an idea when I was writing The Killer in Me. Lila’s tragic past would come out and as I got to know her better and write more about her, the threads began to weave into the pattern I needed for the story. The hard part for me was not knowing who the actual attacker/killer was, I fought with this plot point until I was more than halfway through. I had hashed out ideas with Julie, my editor, when we had a Zoom meet going over editing details on The Killer in Me, and I had a general concept of what the antagonist was, but not who.

I also spend a lot of time listening to true crime podcasts, my two favorites being CrimeJunkie and Anatomy of Murder, both fed in for the filler points. I draw a lot of inspiration from something that has actually happened, or a little thread from something I’ve read, and I just roll with it, make it my own. But Hush was not an easy book to write, several times I had to stop and backtrack, remove huge chunks of the story and restart from another point because I was either forcing the characters to my will, or rushing ahead in the story. In the end, I really feared the editing process would take longer because we would have to rework the whole book. As it turned out, Julie assured me, I had it, and we just had minor tweaks to get to the final product.

Can you share a fun fact about your two protagonists, Elizabeth and Lila, to help readers get to know them better?

Elizabeth, despite never having had children, is a mother-hen. She cares deeply for those under her charge to the point that she’ll cause harm to herself before she’d allow any to those she loves or cares about. This is a point she struggles with as a leader, as the sheriff, she wants her people to be open and friendly with her, but it gets in the way of her having to lay down the law or rules when broken. Yet, she has no qualms about bringing down the hammer to those who break the law.

Lila is still an enigma. It stems from her upbringing, Chicagoans are tough nuts to crack, and she’s no exception. We get to know her a little better in Hush, My Darling, but she’s dealt more blows that are going to change her in ways I’ve yet to discover. Lila is the Rubik’s Cube I hope I don’t ever solve, because she’s going to make for some very interesting future stories.


Are your characters set before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go? What did that development process look like for Hush, My Darling?

For the most part, since we’re now into book 2 of this series, the main characters are set. There will always be new characters added, which happened here, and eventually characters will leave, but the main ones are set. However, a secondary character has now taken center stage with Elizabeth and Lila. The medical examiner/family doctor Olivia Remington-Thorpe has joined the cadre and I’m going to enjoy giving the readers more of her story.

I’m such a pantser/organic writer. I start with a concept and let the characters take me. I try to develop, but most of that is stuff that I play out in my head. I don’t like to write down things as it gives me the perception of it being in stone. I visualize a future scene and I write towards that. Once I have reached that one, it’s on to the next scene. Knowing the ending—which is a must in mystery/suspense/thrillers—helps me create scenes to work toward. This is one genre where you literally write the story backwards.

And Hush was a hot mess because I had no idea what the ending looked like, because I didn’t know who my killer was until halfway through. Once that fell into place, BAM! Story flow. There are a lot of authors who would hate my process, but I’m not them and they are not me. I have to juggle a lot of outside forces—job changes, family obligations, out of the blue interruptions, a pandemic, editing on previously written books, and trying to finish a college degree—and the stressors finally made me lay down new rules for myself. I do love my drive time going to and coming home from work. With certain music playing, I can let my mind story dream. Just wish I wasn’t so exhausted when I get home I can write things down, but the downtime is great for letting ideas simmer, they gain more flavor that way.


Where and when do you get most of your writing done?

Usually weekends, most mornings before work, and some evenings after work, and if I’m really hot and heavy on the story, during my hour lunch breaks. If we’re traveling to cattle shows or now catching those college football or basketball games, I write while my husband drives. I spent a good deal of my time this past summer hanging out in the hotel instead of the hot cattle barn getting work done on my book. I try to handwrite when I’m dealing with writer’s block, but for the most part, I’ve got to have all my toys that are on my laptop. That whole visual/audio thing is a must, I need my Pinterest board of character models, and my go-to music, YouTube music and Audiomachine albums do wonders for scene moods.


What are you currently reading?

I have begun to re-read the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh from the beginning. I love, love that paranormal/urban fantasy series and her style of writing. Between books I’ll re-read her psychological thrillers A Madness of Sunshine, and Quiet in Her Bones. And sprinkle in some of my fellow Tule Mystery author’s books. I’m way behind on some of them. 😊


About the Author

Winter Austin perpetually answers the question: “were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope,” but believe her, there is a story behind her name.

A lifelong Mid-West gal with strong ties to the agriculture world, Winter grew up listening to the captivating stories told by relatives around a table or a campfire. As a published author, she learned her glass half-empty personality makes for a perfect suspense/thriller writer. Taking her ability to verbally spin a vivid and detailed story, Winter translated that into writing deadly romantic suspense, mysteries, and thrillers.

When she’s not slaving away at the computer, you can find Winter supporting her daughter in cattle shows, seeing her three sons off into the wide-wide world, loving on her fur babies, prodding her teacher husband, and nagging at her flock of hens to stay in the coop or the dogs will get them.

She is the author of multiple novels.

Tule Publishing January 2022 Releases

Happy New Year! Read more about our new releases for January.

GIVEAWAY: We will pick ONE winner to receive a digital book of their choice from the January releases. Comment down below saying which book you’re looking most forward to reading! Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. The winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month.


Doctor in the Outback by Nicole Flockton (Holiday)

Release Date: January 11, 2022

Welcome to Bunya Junction, Book 3

Can she find the courage to love again?

With running the busy small-town hospital at Waratah River and setting up a foundation to help others achieve their dreams like he has, Dr. Scott Carruthers has his plate full. So when a beautiful specialist obstetrician is employed to ease his workload, his inconvenient attraction toward her is a complication he doesn’t need.

Dr. Franceen Lewis arrived at Waratah River Hospital to start her life over. After a tragic loss and the resulting breakdown of her unsuitable marriage, she’s ready to focus on her career and help those who need her. Working with Scott challenges her not only professionally, but personally. Getting involved with another man is not on her to-do list, but Scott shows her again and again that not all men are as shallow and unreliable as her ex.

The longer they work together, the harder they fall…but can Franceen really put the past behind her and reach for the happiness she deserves?

Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules by Sinclair Jayne (Montana Born)

Release Date: January 13, 2022

Montana Rodeo Brides, Book 3

It’s time to take advantage of his player reputation…

Pro rodeo bronc and bull rider Bodhi Ballantyne is always upping the stakes. This year he’s been hiding a secret, and when he and his cousins come home to Marietta, Montana, for the Copper Mountain Rodeo and learn their granddad is contemplating selling his legacy ranch, Bodhi challenges his cousins to a game to save their futures. To stay in the game, they’ll each need a bride by the end of the rodeo.

Nico Steel is on the run from her family, her fortune, and her unwitting role in the corporate scandal of a generation. After cooperating with the FBI and the New York state attorney’s office to right the wrongs, she drives across the country, desperate for peace and reinvention. One impulsive stop at a saloon along with a dance with a sexier-than-sin cowboy and suddenly Nico’s learning to shoot whiskey and agreeing to be a stranger’s fake fiancée for the week.

They’re both players, so it’s a win-win—unless one of them loses their heart.

Scammer Girl by Michelle Dayton (American Heart)

Release Date: January 18, 2022

Tech-nically Love, Book 2

Technology complicates everything, including love.

Five years ago, Jo Harper did a bad thing. Dumped, injured, and in crippling debt, Jo did what any desperate woman with a PhD in psychology and above-average computer skills would: become an elite, undetectable online romance scammer. Now Jo and her team of four young women bring in enough cash to keep them securely afloat. Their targets? Married cheaters.

Jamie March, Bay Area royalty known as “The Conscience of Silicon Valley,” hates every aspect of online crime, especially those who defraud people. And when it appears that his brother is the victim of a sophisticated romance scam, he can’t stand idly by.

What’s weird though, is that when Jo and Jamie meet…they don’t hate one another. Not at all. He makes her laugh and feel alive again. She challenges his intellect like no other. But they can’t trust one another, right? And you can’t fall in love with someone you don’t trust—or can you?

Can’t Go Home by Melinda Di Lorenzo (Tule Mystery)

Release Date: January 20, 2022

Trinity Calhoun Mystery, Book 1

“Do you remember Savannah?”

How could she forget? Two decades ago, Trinity Calhoun‘s best friend—18-year-old Savannah Stuart—went missing. Just weeks later, Savannah’s body was found brutally slain outside the mountain town. With no suspects or leads, the local authorities dismissed the murder as a tragic one-off, likely perpetrated by a tourist. But Trinity wasn’t convinced.

Determined to do better for other victims, she left town and settled in Vancouver, rising through the ranks to become a detective. She’s never looked back. But now, an unexpected phone call from her former lover has her barreling down the highway to face the past.

Another young woman has disappeared under eerily similar circumstances. Allegedly. But the local police are disinterested. Trinity’s ex has a tenuous—at best—hold on his mental and physical health. And Savannah’s secretive and handsome brother is in town, asking an awful lot of questions.

Trinity’s focus is clouded. Maybe her judgment, too. As she wades through her past, she needs to answer a potentially life-threatening question: is there a dangerous, repeat criminal on the loose, or is she just desperate for closure?

Cowgirl in Love by Jamie Dallas (Montana Born)

Release Date: January 24, 2022

The Hartman Brothers, Book 3

She has a lot to prove and won’t get distracted by a cowboy again…

Barrel racer Ella James Sanders has one goal for her breakout year in Pro Rodeo—to make it to the National Finals Rodeo and prove to her hometown that she’s more than a girl raised on the wrong side of town. But her dream quickly crashes when an accident injures her and her horse, ending her rodeo season and leaving her in the care of the man who carelessly broke her heart years ago.

Cowboy and veterinarian Ty Hartman knows what it’s like to be rejected by those close to him. Ty’s loved Ella since high school, but she’s rejected him twice so he’s resolved to keep his distance and protect his heart…until an accident forces Ella and her horse into his life and he can’t step aside. As he cares for the feisty cowgirl, he feels himself falling for her again.

Can he convince this cowgirl that not only is he a man she can trust, but that he’s also a man she could love?

Once a Cowboy by Justine Davis (Texas Born)

Release Date: January 25, 2022

The Raffertys of Last Stand, Book 3

He’s a cowboy through and through…

Rylan Rafferty was a cowboy long before interest in his leatherworking artistry and saddle making for the rich and famous catapulted him to national fame. He values his privacy, so when a popular Texas magazine wants to feature him, his first inclination is to run. His military father who died in combat when Rylan was a teen was the artist, not him. But then he meets the photographer, and Rylan suddenly no longer wants to bury himself in his work.

Kaitlyn Miller values three things above all else—the memory of her father, her photography, and the mentor who first handed her a camera. Her beautiful but flawed mother may have chipped away at her self-esteem as a child, but Kaitlyn has confidence in her work. So she’s thrilled to be back home in Texas for her first big break—a photo shoot of a local Last Stand artist.

When plain Kaitlyn collides with gorgeous Rylan, unexpected sparks fly. But can he convince her that her generous heart and artist’s eye make her more than beautiful to him?

Hush, My Darling by Winter Austin (Tule Mystery)

Release Date: January 27, 2022

Benoit and Dayne Mystery, Book 2

Sometimes, the past starts to bleed into the future…

Dark memories haunt Eckardt County Deputy Lila Dayne. Two years ago, she survived a serial killer’s attempt to add her to his growing list of victims in Chicagoland, but the fight cost her more than just time lost to surgeries and rehab. Now she’s finally beginning to connect with the people in this small section of southeast Iowa, even if she can still sense him watching her.

Sheriff Elizabeth Benoit has her sights on bringing down Eckardt County’s corruption when two bodies surface, both bearing striking similarities to the serial killer victims discovered along I-80—and one delivers a personal message for her department. Lila spirals out of control under the pressure, pushing everyone out of her life.

As Elizabeth and her deputies try to bring Lila back into the fold, the killer closes in, marking his next victim. Lila must shake free of her fears and trust those who have supported her—or the killer will finish what he started.

Tule Author Q&A: Winter Austin loves writing about strong women!

Winter Austin stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the first book in her Benoit and Dayne Mystery series, The Killer in Me!


Where did you get the inspiration for The Killer in Me?

The Killer in Me started out as an idea about corruption in a small town sheriff’s department. It was originally supposed to be set in Louisiana, but I enjoyed writing the setting in my home state of Iowa when I came back here. It’s unique in the fact that there are so few books out there set in Iowa. And we have plenty of the “good ole boy” network that goes on here that my plot of family-feuds and law enforcement corruption is real enough. Elizabeth Benoit had a slight name change to be who she is, but she’s always been the sheriff who took over with the intent of disrupting that good ole boy system.


Assorted Books on ShelfWhat kind of research did you need to do for this story?

I have a full bookshelf of research books on police procedure and autopsy stuff. I belong to a few crime writers’ groups so if I needed something answered I couldn’t find on my own, I have that outlet. But my biggest research came from the connections I have. A long-time friend of mine is an LEO with a local police department, he keeps me as straight and narrow as I can get. For emergency medical situations I tapped the shoulder of a friend who is a veteran and a former Critical Care EMS.

The Killer in Me is my tenth novel in a long line of other books that have military and police characters. I will tap into what I’ve learned in the past to reduce the length of time I need to research. But it really helps to have people who are in the field who can read and help correct you.


Elizabeth Benoit is such a strong female character. Where did you draw inspiration for her? How do you relate to her?

I have a thing for writing strong women, it’s kinda my signature. In fact, my best friend gave me a bracelet that is Morse Code for Kick-Ass because that’s how she sees me.

It’s taken me a long time to grow comfortable in my mindset and be who I really am, believe me that is hard when you’re an Introvert. I was the girl who said enough is enough when the boys were the ones getting to do all the fun things, and stood my ground with them, earning their respect. Exclusion is not part of my language and I’ll be in your face if you pull it on me. What I write about with what Elizabeth, and Lila Dayne, experience are the same things I see and have dealt with during my life.

Elizabeth is every woman I have ever encountered; from military wives and servicewomen to the lady running her own business in a market that is dominated by men. She’s the rancher and farmer who knew when it was time to stand by her man, and when it was time to take the reins and lead. She’s my daughter, who has stood toe to toe with arrogant adults and put them in their place and is paving her way through the world to her own tune.

This is who Elizabeth is for me.


What was your favorite scene to write and why?

I liked writing a lot of the scenes between Elizabeth and her ex-husband, Joel, or Elizabeth with Deputy Rafe Fontaine. Also, those scenes between Lila and Deputy Kyle Lundquist. While this isn’t a novel for romance purposes, you can’t have characters interacting without some kind of romantic elements. But I really liked the ones with Elizabeth and Lila together, showing their dynamics and how Elizabeth becomes sort of a mentor to Lila, despite the fact that Lila has the law enforcement experience.


The best scene between them is when they first meet:

Lila Dayne stood at parade rest, the deep-seated training instinctual, while the woman who held her future in her hands perused the dossier at her leisure. Off in the corner on a chair better suited for the dump, a red and white border collie watched her. Trying to ignore those brown orbs boring holes into her soul, Lila stared at the bare wood paneling above the sheriff’s head. 

Knock, knock, the seventies were calling.

Sheriff Elizabeth Benoit was not what Lila expected. To have a woman sheriff was rare in this country, rarer still in a rural community like Juniper, Iowa. It mattered little to Lila. She needed this job. This deputy position with the Eckardt County department was about as perfect as she could get.

“You have an impressive résumé, Ms. Dayne.” The older woman’s gaze lifted to meet Lila’s. “It would seem taking this deputy position would be a step down from what you were doing in Chicago.”


“You worked in one of the roughest precincts, did a stint with a few narcotics task forces, trained with SWAT, and the coup de grace, you passed your detective exam and worked one year in homicide. So, why come here?”

Because this place gave her the promise of a new start she sorely needed. “Ma’am, if I may, I’m still not comfortable discussing certain private matters.”

Steepling her hands, the sheriff folded her fingers together as she rocked back in her chair. Those piercing dark brown eyes, so like her canine companion’s, roved over Lila, seeming to pick apart the elements that made her whole and find the parts that were missing. Never one to back down, Lila did her own scrutinizing.

Elizabeth Benoit was a tall woman, standing a good five inches over Lila, with rich brown hair that skimmed her shoulders. A gold star glinted over the left pocket of her desert tan uniform top, declaring to all she was top of the food chain. Except for some bits of leaves clinging to her hair and shirt, she was put together with near military precision. A tidbit of knowledge Lila tucked away for future reference.

“For the sake of an argument, I won’t press the matter.” The sheriff tapped the dossier file. “Everything I need is right here. I can study your file and read up on all of your past accomplishments ’til the cows come home. What these papers can’t tell me is what I want to know by listening to you. You have outstanding credentials, a stellar law enforcement career, and you fast-tracked through the ranks in Chicago PD. Eckardt County is by no means a place to advance a career. Especially for a woman.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, ma’am, but you are the sheriff of this county, are you not? Elected by the people to keep them safe? A woman sitting in a position of power normally controlled by men. I’d say that’s a fine career advancement.”

Lila enjoyed watching the warm smile appear on Benoit’s lips.

“That being said, I need to know one thing from you, Ms. Dayne. I need to know where your focus lies.”

“My focus?”

“The deputy whose position you applied for quit. Let’s just say there was a major difference in opinion that caused the man to forsake his career. Before I make any final decisions, I want to hear from you what your intentions are for this job and if Eckardt County is a place you can see yourself living in for a good long while. To be frank, I have no intention of appointing someone who will bail on me the moment things go south.”

On the spot. No holds barred. Everything the dispatcher had mentioned about Elizabeth Benoit was true. Finally, someone who didn’t give a damn about their political rising star and was ready for real police work.

“Ma’am, I firmly believe this position came available at just the right time for you, and for me. I wouldn’t have bought a house here if I wasn’t certain of where I wanted to live. Being from Chicago, there isn’t much I’ve seen or dealt with that makes me turn tail and run. The final decision is yours, but I don’t sense that you’re willing to turn me away.”


What are you currently reading?

I’m in the middle of reading 2 historical mysteries. Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose the first book in her Wrexford & Sloane Mystery series. And A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd the first book in the Bess Crawford mystery series. (At the time of writing this, I just learned that the mother of the duo of Charles Todd, Caroline, had just passed away.)

When I’m writing I tend to stay close to what I write, but not in the same time period. I’ve really gotten interested in books set during the Regency era and the World Wars.


About the Author

Winter Austin perpetually answers the question: “were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope,” but believe her, there is a story behind her name.

A lifelong Mid-West gal with strong ties to the agriculture world, Winter grew up listening to the captivating stories told by relatives around a table or a campfire. As a published author, she learned her glass half-empty personality makes for a perfect suspense/thriller writer. Taking her ability to verbally spin a vivid and detailed story, Winter translated that into writing deadly romantic suspense, mysteries, and thrillers.

When she’s not slaving away at the computer, you can find Winter supporting her daughter in cattle shows, seeing her three sons off into the wide-wide world, loving on her fur babies, prodding her teacher husband, and nagging at her flock of hens to stay in the coop or the dogs will get them.

She is the author of multiple novels.