Tipsy Tuesday Heads to the Beach with Cozy Mystery Author Sybil Johnson

Travel and make-believe go hand in hand. Whether we're in the present or the past, in a haunted castle, an enchanted forest or a broken down building, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and traveling the world can bring the imagination to life.

Baby, it's cold outside... and it's not getting any warmer for the next few months. 

That's why today we're frolicking at the beach. So, turn up the fireplace, wrap that cozy blanket around and let's head to Los Angeles with Author Sybil Johnson. 

#Travel #AuthorInterview #TreasuredTipsyTimeslip #RachaelStapleton #LosAngeles #VistaBeach#PainttheTownDead #cozymysterywriter #Beachlife #California #SybilJohnson

The city of Vista Beach where the protagonist in my mystery series lives might be a fictional town, but it’s based on the real beach cities of Los Angeles County, in particular Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach. Each of these South Bay cities has inspired me in different ways. From them I’ve created my own beach town where my characters live, work, and play.

Let me take you on a mini-tour of some of the places that influenced my fictional world. We’ll start at the ocean and work our way inland.

Our first stop is the pier, what I think of as the focal point of most beach cities. Here’s where a lot of events occur all year round. Volleyball tournaments, pier-to-pier swims, pumpkin races, and sandcastle contests are just a few I’ve seen over the years. In this photo I took one November, you’ll see the Manhattan Beach pier that juts out over the water and the bike path that runs along the sand.

People enjoy the sand and ocean all year round though it’s more crowded in the summer. I prefer the beach in the winter myself when the crowds have thinned. During these months, the weather isn’t always optimal for sunbathing, but I’m more of a watching the ocean kind of person, anyway. Here’s a photo of an informal volleyball game I came across one Thanksgiving.

Until I moved to the beach I thought all of the cities along the coast were flat right down to the ocean. I was surprised to discover they’re quite hilly, at least the ones in my area are. As you can see in this next photo taken one July, the street down to the pier is quite steep. Imagine a cafe here on the left on the ocean side of the bike path. That’s where one is in the second book in the Aurora Anderson mystery series, Paint the Town Dead.

Walking along the path reserved for walkers and joggers, north of the pier we find a swing set on the sand facing the ocean. Imagine Rory and Detective Green swinging on a similar one, side-by-side, as they discuss the case in Paint the Town Dead.

Contrary to popular belief it’s not sunny here all the time. June usually brings overcast skies in the morning. Hence the term “June gloom” you may have heard. It usually burns off by afternoon, though I remember one summer not that long ago when we saw maybe an hour or two of sun per day for almost three months. During that time, I regularly drove inland to “visit the sun.”

The weather is fairly moderate along the coast. Temperatures are often ten to twenty degrees cooler than those quoted for downtown Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley and, in all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen it freeze though it can get down into the 30s at night in the winter. When it’s hot, we usually cool off our house by opening windows and letting the ocean breeze in. A lot of homes in our area don’t have air conditioning because there’s little call for it. Recently though, we had a heat wave for a long enough period of time I was almost begging for central air!

Now let’s walk up the hill to the downtown area, a couple streets of shops of various kinds. This is the place where you’d find Arika’s Scrap ’n Paint, Rory’s mother’s store. Unfortunately, all of the tole painting stores I used to frequent in southern California have long since closed down.

Let’s move inland a half mile or so. Rory lives in a single-story stucco house she inherited from her grandmother. Older houses like hers are still sprinkled throughout the beach cities, though they are fast becoming a rarity, replaced by two-story homes that take up most of the lot. From here, Rory can walk downtown if she wishes though she does drive when she’s in a hurry or needs to deliver something to her mother’s store.

So there’s my little tour of my area of the world. There are other places to explore, but I’ll leave them for another time. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of the places I use for inspiration while writing Rory’s adventures in the fictional 

The Ocean Painting Society invites you to join the painting wave…

It’s June in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, the place computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson calls home. Decorative painters are flocking to the newly built Akaw hotel to attend the Ocean Painting Society’s inaugural convention.

During the week-long event, Rory plans on shopping the trade show floor, working in her mother’s booth, taking classes and connecting with other decorative painting fans. She doesn’t expect to witness her childhood friend collapse in class and die. When the police find no evidence of foul play, Rory embarks on her own investigation. Can she brush aside the lies to uncover the truth and bring the killer to justice?

Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), amateur sleuth books, book club recommendations, craft and hobby mysteries.

“Johnson paints characters with a folksy charm that makes them feel like family…Color me a fan!” – Diane Vallere, Author of the Material Witness, Style & Error, and Madison Night Mystery Series

“Rory is definitely a quirky character; she has the ability to draw the readers in so that they want to follow her through her adventures.” – Suspense Magazine

Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

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  1. Thanks for having me! Hope everyone stays nice and warm and has a great holiday season.

  2. Love seeing those places! I can picture Rory at all of them...


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