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Off Kilter: A James Terra Mystery

Off Kilter: A James Terra Mystery by M. Lee Musgrave

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Off Kilter: A James Terra Mystery

Off Kilter

Their new life together seems on track: she is happily involved with LA’s higher echelon art community while he has returned to hosting his TV interviews of leading artists.

However, Nicole’s worst fears are confirmed when her ex-husband goes missing in China, as a mysterious disease is killing thousands, when she and lover James are being stalked by a series of mysterious Ninja’s. Girlfriend Merra joins in to unraveling the reasons behind the quirky attacks as the trio has no choice but to throw caution to the wind, follow their instincts and go rogue as everything goes off kilter.

In this suspense-laden second book in the James Terra Mystery trilogy, friends and lovers unite to make an engaging and heartwarming partnership that shares a kind of magic alchemy in abundance. A delicious contemporary romance thriller that does not flinch from danger.

Nicole, James and Merra are up to the task in this whip-smart, relevant, tightly-plotted amateur sleuth story with suspects galore. The interpersonal dynamic between the trio is just as engaging as the solution to the murders plus new character Merra is terrific.

Author M. Lee Musgrave has created a satisfyingly-complex whodunit full of surprising twists and he ensures the story’s momentum stems not just from the plot or its thrills but rather from its perfectly-formed characters. If you enjoy riveting twists and balancing on the edge, then this descent into L.A.’s underbelly is for you.

To purchase Off Kilter,  click on any of the following links: Black Rose Writing, Barnes & Noble, Target, ThriftBooks, Amazon

Interview with M. Lee Musgrave, author of Off Kilter

Off Kilter, the second in the James Terra Mystery series, is set in the “underbelly of Los Angeles.” Tell us what that means to you:

Like all segments of society in large metropolitan areas, the contemporary art community has hidden (and sometimes, unpleasant, or sordid) aspects to it. James Terra is privy to most of them for he has an innate ability to get people to share their innermost secrets with him. His instinctual drive to use that knowledge to expose and/or correct wrongs in the underbelly of Los Angeles often gets him (and those around him) into trouble. 

Off KilterWhat should readers know about Nicole, James, and Merra, main characters in Off Kilter?

Nicole Volkov is an aspiring art community leader and wife of an ultra-wealthy investment manager. She is smart yet reticent to talk about having been an independent contractor for the FBI and she is James’ secret lover, but does not want to give up the financial security of her marriage.      

James Terra is an artists and TV videographer host for PBS. He lives in a beach front studio with his dog Duchamp (Duie). He suffers from a brain aneurism which he keeps secret and which keeps him from making a commitment to one woman until he meets Nicole. He wants to live up to her expectations and those of his friends, especially Cisco and Spider.

Merra Dawne is an FBI independent contractor and lover of Nicole (and as the story progresses, to James as well). She attended college and FBI training with Nicole and has many skills including martial arts and pole dancing plus significant contacts with Interpol in Paris.

Off Kilter follows Brushed Off, book one in the series. Is there anything you would like readers new to the series to know from the first book?

From the beginning of the story, it is obvious the main characters are close friends and each is well established within L.A.’s art community. However, there are two new elements that shake-up everyone: first is the arrival of Merra Dawne and second is the COVID pandemic. Both behave in irregular, inconsistent, and unpredictable ways which makes for an engaging romantic thriller story. 

Both books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the publisher Black Rose Writing. Plus, there is short story, Quintessence, which features the same main characters. It is available only through Amazon Kindle Vella and provides an easy way to determine if my writing is a good fit for you for the first 2 or 3 episodes are free.

Tell us about your writing process:

My approach to writing is often referred to as a modified stream-of-consciousness monologue. Sort of Kafkaesque, for I do not preplan anything … no plot overview or chapter outlines. I simply picked-up where the first book, Brushed Off, ended and thought about what the main characters would be doing and started typing. I tend to write between 1000-1500 words per day and each morning I start by reading out loud what I wrote the previous day.

In addition to being a published author, you are also a professional artist. Tell us about your artwork and how that intersects with your writing life:

I have a fondness for saying that if I did not create artwork, I would not be able to write.

In fact, my desk and computer are located within a corner of my art studio. My artwork has been shown in over 20 solo and 100 group exhibitions world-wide. Plus, as a former professor of art and curator, I have organized hundreds of exhibitions at museums and galleries involving artists, collectors, critics, gallerists, and an array of related enthusiasts. My writings related to those exhibitions contributed to their success and to my ability to relate that community to others.

Those many experiences and my ongoing art activities inform my creative writing about the exciting contemporary art community I participate in, so my writing, painting, drawing, and photography intersect daily. Thus so far, this season, my art has been featured in 3 group exhibits and 1 magazine. There is a complete overview of my artist activities on my website:

What are you working on now?

In writing, I am currently putting the finishing touches on The Beautiful One, my third novel. It is a romantic thriller set in 1912 Cairo and Berlin surrounding the discovery of the now world famous sculpture bust of Queen Nefertiti. The book will be released in November. Plus, I am always writing short stories.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

Be true to yourself, if you do not you risk making yourself ill. I also encourage you to take advantage of chance. Aspiring artists and writers have often told me how they wish they had had enough courage to act when an unexpected opportunity had presented itself.

Author Pet Corner

Pets have always been an active part of my life, especially dogs and cats.

We currently have four dogs, 3 chickens and 2 ducks.

Plus, we have an endless array of wild birds and a chipmunk that live on our property and visit with us daily.

Over the years, we have had several Malamutes and Dachshunds.

I cannot image living without an animal companion.

M. Lee Musgrave author of Off Kilter

Off Kilter

As a former professor of art and curator for 30 years, I organized hundreds of exhibitions at museums, galleries, and municipal venues involving artists, collectors, critics, gallerists, art professionals and a vast array of related enthusiasts. My writings related to those exhibitions contributed to their success and to my ability to relate that community to others. Plus, I lived in Los Angeles for over 40 years including in Malibu Canyon and Santa Monica. Those many experiences and my ongoing personal art activities inform my creative writing about today’s exciting and engaging contemporary art community.

When it comes to other authors, I especially enjoy Raymond Chandler’s approach to story, character and location, as well as that of Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, James Ellroy, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly and many others.

To learn more about M. Lee Musgrave, click on the following link: Website, Facebook, Instagram.

Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell

Amazon #1 bestseller

All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio.

Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator

Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery



The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook.


Header image by Saddleroad on Pixabay

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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