Michael Prelee and Leana Hilliard of Leana's Books, Hermitage, hold copies of Prelee's new novel, which is on sale at Leana's.

Michael Prelee and Leana Hilliard of Leana’s Books, Hermitage, hold copies of Prelee’s new novel, which is on sale at Leana’s.

“The cool thing about little towns is everybody knows each other,” said Michael Prelee. “But, everybody kind of knows everybody’s secrets, too.”

The former Brookfield resident uses small-town life as the setting for “Lost Little Sister,” his fourth novel and second mystery.

Out now, “Lost Little Sister” follows the investigation of a cold-case missing-person report and its connection to a fresh robbery. It’s based in the fictional town of Hogan, Ohio, the setting for his previous mystery, “Murder in the Heart of It All.”

“It’s like an amalgamation of all the little towns that I grew up in,” Prelee said of Hogan. “My family moved around a little bit. We lived in Brookfield; we lived in Cortland; I live in Hubbard now.”

Prelee’s other two books are science-fiction novels, “Milky Way Repo” and “Bad Rock Beat Down.”

“Growing up, I was always a big sci-fi fan and I was always a big crime fan, of mysteries,” Prelee said.

Even his sci-fi books have an element of crime novel in them, he said.

“Growing up here, especially in the ’80s and the ’90s, we had a lot of corruption in the area,” Prelee said. “We had a lot of violence in the area. I think that just tends to kind of lead into my work and give it a theme that stretches across.”

The 1988 Brookfield High graduate said he always had a book in his hand as a kid, but wasn’t much of a writer until he started a blog about 15 years ago. He progressed to short stories – without success, as his collection of rejection letters show – and then to novels.

promo“About 10 years ago I decided I’d like to try writing a book,” said Prelee, a quality assurance analyst for a local software company. “The first one (‘Milky Way Repo’) took me probably three or four years to do. I had no training or education for it. It was a little difficult. It got published in 2015 by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy (Publishing).”

His mystery novels have been published by North Star Press.

Working with small presses, Prelee has to do most of the marketing himself. Prior to COVID-19, he would have in-store book signings at Leana’s Books in Hermitage and Books A Million in Niles, and a table at Youngstown Comic Con.

“This year, I contacted them and they’re not doing anything,” he said of book stores. “No one is doing any kind of events. It makes it difficult to market in this environment.”

“Lost Little Sister” has mostly been marketed via social media, including Facebook, and having friends and family members “be evangelists for me and get out there and spread the word.”

The Mahoning Valley area has supported his writing, Prelee said, adding that he has had sales across the Midwest and as far south as Dallas.

“It’s been fantastically positive,” he said of local response. “It’s nice; I put a book out, and people really do respond well to it. I get a lot of very positive feedback. I’m very grateful for all that. I really appreciate everybody’s good wishes. It’s nice to see the community come together.”

Prelee’s books are available at Leana’s and on Amazon.com Learn more about him and the availability of his books at michaelprelee.com