Guest Post: You can’t buy happiness, but you can be inspired by Mary Angela

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Guest Post

The holidays always inspire me. During this special time, people try harder. They give, they donate, they bake. But what about when the holidays are over? As winter continues, inspiration might seem far away, but I know firsthand it can be found at the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected places.

The Happy Camper gift shop in my new cozy mystery series is set in the fictional town of Spirit Canyon, but the lodge in Open for Murder was inspired by a very real place: Spearfish Canyon Lodge. I spent two blustery winter days there one January, the coldest month of the year, and never forgot my time.

The lodge is located in Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota, where cellphone service is intermittent at best, nonexistent at worst. Surrounded by ponderosa pine trees, which give the Black Hills Forest its name, the hotel is an area favorite. Many beautiful creeks and waterfalls are nearby, and visitors can spend time hiking, fishing—or drinking wine by the fireplace, which is what I did. The canyon feels like a world within a world, an idea that’s captured my imagination since reading Edgar Allan Poe in high school. Being a writer, I immediately thought it was the perfect place for a mystery.

Well, not immediately. That’s not how inspiration works, at least not for me. For me, inspiration is like a memory, a small kernel that grows larger each time I remember. I wouldn’t write Open for Murder until much later, but when I did, I would set the murder in a lodge much like the one I stayed at.

On the same trip, I visited many cute shops, including one that sold gifts and flowers. I spotted an ancient Remington typewriter, a heavy relic that doesn’t actually type, and had to have it. It was an impulse purchase, not something I would normally splurge on (though it was under fifty dollars). At the time, it was being used as a sort-of vase, holding plastic flowers. It was so neat I couldn’t pass it up.

Again, it was a kernel, or in this case, a heavy machine, that inspired the eclectic Happy Camper giftshop in my series. On vacation, you can buy fun things like hats and books—and typewriters—without feeling guilty. The Happy Camper is filled with similar, fun merchandise. It includes items you might find on a trip to western South Dakota: bison prints, dream catchers, and honey sticks. But I wanted the shop to be more than your average tourist trap, so it also sells funky and motivational gifts meant to inspire.

You can’t buy happiness, but you can be inspired by the places and things you love. Whether it’s a postcard, a picture, or a book, the purchases we make from the places we love will always supply us with memories. They might even supply us with encouragement, happiness, or new adventures. My new Happy Camper series has certainly been an adventure, and I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series brings.

Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . . in Open For Murder by @maryangelabooks

About The Book

About The Book

Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .

It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises . . .

Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out . ..

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About The Author

About The Author

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather and Happy Camper cozy mystery series. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I appreciate everything bloggers are doing to help authors get the word out about new books.


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