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My Favorite Murmuration of Blackbirds

G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped series of cozy mysteries. You can find out more about her on her website,, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

I’ve always wanted to be in a gang, preferably one that wore t-shirts emblazoned with our name and a cool picture, so everyone would notice us hanging out together. Sadly, transfer students who join choir and work on shows, unless they look like Sandy in Grease, do not typically get invited in. Fast forward nearly half a century and my dream finally came true.

I met Tracey Phillips, an accomplished pianist and piano teacher (there’s apparently a waiting list to get into her students’ recitals) who looks like a cross between a movie star and someone who’d pay your grocery bill if you run short at the checkout. She writes vivid suspense that will keep you awake at night and make you wish they’d bring back psychiatric institutions.

While we were on pandemic lockdown, Tracey started an online group of authors, named it Blackbird Writers (obviously, there are 4 and 20 of us), and invited me to join. I have a t-shirt to prove it!

I’ve slowly worked my way through at least one of every Blackbird’s books, but this is a prolific group of authors and it’s nearly impossible to stay completely up to date. Every time I turn around, someone has a new book out, and as a group, we represent what’s going on in the world of crime fiction. Also, we cheer each other on, beta-read each other’s manuscripts, review each other’s books, and attend each other’s events (when possible, because we live all over the country).

Although a “murmuration” of blackbirds in the wild will NOT have a leader, Tracey Phillips continues to organize the group when she’s not assigning Bach Inventions or writing super scary suspense thrillers. Somehow, she also manages to write steamy romances, but they’re under a pen name that you’d never guess (probably because she doesn’t want her kids to ever find out).

Who are the Blackbirds?

Nine of us write thrillers or suspense, and thanks to their terrifyingly well-written scenes, I’m now even more suspicious of people than I already was. I already mentioned Tracey Phillips, but then there is Laurie Buchanon (Sean McPherson series), Avanti Centrae (VanOps International series), Sheila Lowe (Forensic Handwriting and Paranormal thrillers), Sharon Michalove (Romantic and traditional thrillers), Saralyn Richard (Brandywine Valley series), Laurie Stevens (Gabriel McRay series and futuristic thrillers), Carl Vonderau (International paranormal thrillers) and Colleen Winter (technological thrillers).

Three Blackbirds write Police Procedurals: former cop and Woodstock security guard Nick Chiarkas (1950s New York), dog whisperer Margaret Mizushima (Timber Creek, Colorado K-9 series), and outdoorsman Jeff Nania (Northern Lakes, Wisconsin series). 

Three Blackbirds write for kids; Sherrill Joseph (books set in California and other places) writes for 8-12 year-olds, and both Sharon Lynn (books set in Bath, England) and Valerie Biel (books set in both Ireland and the states) write the kind of books I’d have adored as a young teen.

Five Blackbirds write cozy mysteries: Anne Louise Bannon (1870s Old Los Angeles plus an international spy series), Christine DeSmet (Fudge Shop, Wisconsin series), Carlene O’Neil (Cypress Cove, California wine country series), Joy Ann Ribar (Deep Lakes, Wisconsin series), and TK Sheffield (Backyard Model, humorous Wisconsin series).

Three Blackbirds write in distinct categories: “Litbbop” magazine editor Tim Chapman (forensic scientist Sean McKinney series), Former white house correspondent John DeDakis (LARK Chadwick, reporter series), and Amanda Marbais (short story collection and a bunch of stories in anthologies and journals).

Will it surprise you to know that I couldn’t figure out who was missing from the list? I kept checking the Blackbird website and re-counting but could only find 23, one Blackbird short of a pie. It was a baffling mystery until I remembered that my motto (not the one about pie) is Murder, Mystery, and Recipes: Only a Little Cozy. I am the 24th Blackbird!

My novels (so far) are set in Chicago’s near north side. Research involved years of sipping tea and tasting pastries at just about every café in this toddling town. I spent three years writing what became the first novel, Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery, 2019, then two years each to finish Smothered and Charred. Not winning any speed writing contests because I’m more like the turtle, slow and steady, but the next book in the series should be out sometime in 2025.

The working title is POUNDED, and NO, it won’t be X-rated. Pounded is also a cooking term. What were you thinking?

GP Gottlieb

G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped mystery series, as well as an interviewer on the New Books in Literature channel of the New Books Network podcasts. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Galit — Your sense of humor is truly infectious! I found myself chuckling at several points while reading your post. It was the perfect pick-me-up and set a wonderful tone for the rest of my day. Thank you.

    1. GP Gottlieb
      GP Gottlieb

      And thank you for welcoming me into the club!

  2. Nicholas Chiarkas
    Nicholas Chiarkas

    What a lovely, fun, and informative article. I loved it, thanks for sharing and I am glad you finally found a gang that suits you, my friend.

    1. GP Gottlieb
      GP Gottlieb

      Hope we can go to a conference one of these years, wear our Blackbird shirts, and invite attendees to meet us all!

      1. tracey64p

        Are you going to Bouchercon? Nashville is so close!

  3. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Galit, you’re a treasure. Thanks for your dry sense of humor on a Monday and generous spirit with this charitable blog, shouting out for all four and twenty of us Birds in the “gang.”

    1. GP Gottlieb
      GP Gottlieb

      Thanks, Sherrill, it’s been a pleasure to be in the club!

  4. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    Thanks of much for mentioning all of us, Galit. I also am very pleased to be in Blackbird Writers. When I ws wearing the t-shirt while working out at the Y, some0ne asked me, Is that your writers’ group? Yes, it is!

    1. tracey64p

      Proud to have you flying with us, Carl!

  5. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    Thanks! It was great meeting you in person at Left Coast Crime 2024….how cool would it be for us to do a Blackbird event at an upcoming conference?

    1. tracey64p

      Great idea! We’re doing a Blackbird panel for the Wisconsin SinC in September. Will you be on it?

  6. John DeDakis
    John DeDakis

    Delightful….. with a perfect description of Tracey. Thanks for the tip about hitting her up to pay my latest grocery bill.

    1. tracey64p

      LOL! Any time, John!

  7. tracey64p

    I’m so humbled! Thanks for the spotlight on the birds- My favorite Murmuration as well! And your list reminds me I have some reading to catch up on as well. You’re right- this is a very prolific bunch!

    1. Galit Gottlieb
      Galit Gottlieb

      Thanks for all you do, Anne! You’ll always be my first mystery friend!

  8. Avatar

    Thanks for the apt description of this wonderful flock of writers. Happy to share the shirt with you, G.P.

    1. GP Gottlieb
      GP Gottlieb

      Thanks, I really do love being a part of this community!

  9. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    Galit – you made me chuckle several times. Thanks also for the VanOps shout out! Super happy you’re flying high with the Blackbird flock.

  10. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    It’s a pleasure being in a group with so many wonderful authors!

  11. Colleen Winter
    Colleen Winter

    Thanks Galit! Such a great reminder of how varied and supportive this group is, and of course how grateful we all are for Tracey who keeps us all on track.

  12. Avatar
    Laurie Stevens

    You are always a support, Galit, to fellow authors. I remember when you offered names of podcasters who invite authors in to be interviewed. Warm heart, good spirit, AND a sense of humor!

    1. GP Gottlieb
      GP Gottlieb

      Writing is solitary but being an author takes a village, and we all need to help each other!

  13. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    What a lovely tribute to this fantastic group of writers. Thank you! I am honored to be a member and thrilled you are a part of the group.

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