By Greg Ellison
(Sept. 2, 2021) Ocean Pines author Dana Phipps is promoting her second novel. “Pursuit in Ocean Pines,” which picks up where her earlier work, “Murder in Ocean Pines,” left off.
Phipps, an educator for decades in the Baltimore region, published “Murder in Ocean Pines” in 2019 and for the latest installment revived a host of characters including, Amie, Patrick, Cici, Joe Crabbe and Hulk.
“The first book that was released about three years ago, and a year later, in August, the sequel came out but then the virus came,” she said.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 stymied promotional efforts.
“I had to cancel book signings the summer of coronavirus,” she said.
As health restrictions began to ease this year, Phipps revived the publicity campaign.
“I had my book signing [at] Bethany Beach [Books] on Aug. 1,” she said.
The creative process was streamlined for the second volume.
“The other one took me three years to write,” she said. “It was easier to write the second one because I had all the characters.”
Phipps said the writing bug initially took hold while she was completing course work in elementary education.
“I majored in elementary education and one of our projects was to construct and write two children’s-aged books,” she said. “That’s where I first got the interest to write, but then I was teaching.”
Prior to the recent murder mysteries, Phips had published two children’s books, “Emily and Hurricane Isabelle,” and “Emily and Her Pouting Puffer Fish.”
“After I wrote the children’s books, I wanted to write something for adults,” she said.
Phipps said she was inspired by her favorite authors, including Sue Grafton and John Grisham, along with Michael Connelly and James Patterson.
“I like the twist in their novels, the entertainment and the element of suspense,” she said. “I thought it would be good to put in a new page-turner.”
Phipps also drew inspiration from familiar surroundings.
“We have a place in Ocean Pines, and I love it there,” she said. “I decided to make that the setting for a murder.”
Localizing the action was the mark Phipps aimed for in her stories.
“I wanted the characters to give you the feel of the beach and the ocean,” she said. “One of the characters is named Joe Crabbe to add some local Eastern Shore feel.”
Phipps also recognizes that murder mysteries are not suitable for all audiences.
“There’s some people who just don’t want to read about murder, but there are a lot of people who do want to read something that’s suspenseful and intriguing,” she said.
Revealing bright spots in dark moments was also her intent.
“That’s what I was aiming for … life could be great even in the darkest of circumstances,” she said.
In addition to area bookstores, “Pursuit in Ocean Pines” is available to purchase online through major retailers such as Target, Walmart and Amazon.
“It’s also in the library,” she said.
Working her literary craft on familiar grounds proved engaging for Phipps.
“I felt like I was right there when I was writing. It was fun,” she said. “I know the area pretty well and could feel myself walking through the woods or getting on the boat.”
Readers have warmed to the local references.
“A lot of people have said to me, ‘I like reading it because I knew that restaurant or I knew that place,’” she said.
While it took time for Phipps to publish the first pair of installments in novel series, she offered encouragement for other would-be writers.
“I would just say if anybody out there that wants to write to not give up,” she said. “Make sure your content is credible, do your research and hire an editor.”