Guest Blogger – Daniella Bernett

How Do I Kill Thee?

Murder is a shocking and terrifying taboo. The very word sends an icy frisson slithering down one’s spine. And yet, it is an occupational hazard for a crime writer. On a cerebral level, the taking of a human life is fascinating. It is a serious business, requiring cunning and sangfroid mingled with passion, anger or fear. A certain degree of luck is necessary to pull off a murder without getting caught. The faint of heart would be riddled with remorse and horror at this deadly transgression.  

Setting aside the moral considerations, I find it deliciously thrilling to plot a murder. The omnipotent power to kill is a dizzying prospect. Murder is an art form, if one thinks about it. The killer must be creative. But how does an author choose from the plethora of methods available? Your character is the key to unlocking this mystery. Therefore, an author must first delve into the murderer’s psyche to thoroughly understand why he or she came to make the fatal decision. Is he or she an assassin, a spurned lover, a business partner who has been swindled, or an average individual pushed to the brink in an extraordinary situation? Once the author has sketched this character profile, the pieces will fall into place and the story will begin to flow. The author must have absolute trust in the murderer. He or she will guide you down the evil path and determine if the victim expires quickly or suffers a slow, lingering death.

In most cases, murder stems from a rupture in an intimate relationship. This personal animus is likely fueled by emotion and an overwhelming thirst for revenge. Consequently, this means inflicting pain. The thrust of a knife into the heart, stomach or between the ribs would do the job nicely. With stabbing, the murderer and victim must be at close range. Generally, stabbing ensures that the killer’s face is the last thing the victim sees in this world, satisfying a desire to mete out punishment. For this reason, the murderer in one of the books in my series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon slashed the throat of an unscrupulous man, who had derived malicious glee from ruining other people’s lives.

Meanwhile, shooting also would induce pain. With this method, the author has the option of killing someone instantly, forcing the culprit to hastily cover his or her tracks. This provides an opportunity to sprinkle red herrings through the story. Conversely, the dark deed can rattle the murderer to the point that he or she is no longer thinking clearly and makes mistakes. Another possibility is that the gunshot does not kill the victim outright. It may cause a grave wound, presenting the murderer with a chance to finish off the victim another way. Let’s say by poison, for example.

Ah, poison. To me, it’s so sinister and tantalizing. I believe I share this view with my hero Agatha Christie, who masterfully eliminated dozens with a soupçon of poison. Some poisons are tasteless and odorless. Then there is cyanide, which smells like bitter almonds, while arsenic, when heated, gives off an odor resembling garlic. Depending on what your story dictates, poison can work instantaneously or the victim can waste away little by little. Russian spies, and Putin in particular as a former head of the KGB, have a penchant for using poison to dispatch enemies, defectors and anyone who dares to oppose them. As a result, poison was my weapon of choice in another novel. The story dealt with a defector who recklessly pitted Putin against Russian mafia boss Igor Bronowski. At the same time, both had unsavory entanglements with a ruthless British entrepreneur. All were obsessed with a flawless blue diamond. I will confess that two victims succumbed to poison in the book. However, poison is not the exclusive domain of the assassin. An author can wield it perfectly well among those who have a personal score to settle. On this point of the professional versus the amateur (for want of a better word) killer, an assassin can employ stabbing or shooting in a pinch for expediency’s sake.

A lethal arsenal would not be complete without strangulation, drowning and smothering. But all three may prove troublesome because they require a degree of strength and the victim will most certainly put up a struggle. A murderer wants death to come swiftly with a minimum of fuss to have time to disappear before the body is discovered. On the same token, bludgeoning someone to death with a heavy object could prove messy, since several blows would likely be needed thus causing a good deal of blood to be shed. Of course, an author may want to employ bludgeoning for precisely this reason to set the stage for the murderer’s ultimate undoing. For in the haste to flee, he or she may miss a trace of blood.

Allow these diabolical musings to steep in your mind. After a while, you’ll come to realize that it’s criminally good fun to acquire a literary taste for murder.

OLD SINS NEVER DIE

Never look back…Treason is deadly

While in the Lake District, journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon overhear a man attempting to hire international assassin Hugh Carstairs, a MI5 agent who went rogue. They race back to London to warn Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office and Superintendent Oliver Burnell. But it’s a devil of problem to prevent a vicious killing, if the target is a mystery.

More trouble brews as Emmeline pursues a story about shipping magnate Noel Rallis, who is on trial for murder. Rallis is desperate to keep the negative publicity from exposing his illicit schemes, especially something sinister called Poseidon. Lord Desmond Starrett, whose dark past made him easy prey for blackmail, is getting cold feet about their dubious partnership. Hovering in the shadows of this ugly secret world is a Russian mole buried inside MI5. Scorned prima ballerina Anastasia Tarasova makes the fatal mistake of threatening to reveal all she knows. The hunt for the answers takes Emmeline and Gregory up to Scotland, where they learn that the truth has lethal consequences.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Old-Sins-Never-Die-Emmeline/dp/1644372762

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/old+sins+never+die+daniella+bernett/

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America NY Chapter and the International Thriller Writers. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy, From Beyond The Grave, A Checkered Past and When Blood Runs Cold are the books in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure. Visit www.daniellabernett.com or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008802318282 or on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/40690254-daniella-bernett. Old Sins Never Die, the sixth book in her series, was released today.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008802318282

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/40690254-daniella-bernett

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/daniella-bernett

My Own Version of Justice by Paty Jager

This year, I’ve been banging the keyboard and getting projects done…until last month. It seemed like every time I got in a good day, or two, of writing, something came up and I went days without getting a word down on my WIP (work in progress).

This month, I’m determined to get the 6th Gabriel Hawke book written and out to my CPs (Critique Partners) I’ve had this story idea in my head since I did my ride-along with a State Trooper before I started this series.

It’s something that happened in real life but I’m putting a different spin on it. On the ride-along, the trooper pointed out a campsite and said, “See that burnt spot?”

I did. It was a campfire ring of charred rocks and grass three feet around the ring.

“A vehicle rolled over the fire with a man in it. It was written up as an accident.” The trooper looked over at me. “What do you think?”

“There is no way it was an accident,” were my words. The area was flat. A vehicle even if knocked out of gear wouldn’t have rolled the distance the vehicle was parked away from the fire.

“The victim was drunk. His wife kicked him out of the tent and he went to sleep in his vehicle. They say, he must have bumped the gearshift and it rolled.” He glanced at me again.

I shook my head. “Why was it pronounced an accident? I don’t see how it could have been.”

“All the investigators wanted to call it a homicide but the District Attorney said we didn’t have enough evidence and didn’t want us digging into it any further.”

I could hear the dismay in his voice. He clearly felt someone had gotten away with murder. And that is why my book, Turkey’s Fiery Roost, is about Hawke tracking down the killer.

Writers, do you like to use real life murders/criminal activity to spur ideas?

Readers, do you like knowing that writer’s try to write their own form of justice when putting together a murder mystery?

Guest Blogger – Kimila Kay

The story idea for Peril in Paradise came after a news story featuring a Portland mother whose daughter had gone missing on her way to school. The mother’s anguish, and hope, as she pleaded for her daughter to be found, moved me. Unfortunately, as the story unfolded, the young girl’s body was found a few houses from her home, tucked into some bushes. I found myself wondering how this mother was coping with the death, and rape, of her daughter? What kind of monster had the young girl encountered, in less than a mile from her home, in a neighborhood where she felt safe?

The mother didn’t make another news appearance, heartbroken beyond words I imagined. The man responsible for the girl’s death was apprehended and eventually sent to prison. Closure for the girl’s mother, and the rest of her family. Possibly.

I couldn’t let go of the idea that sending the murderous rapist to prison actually brought closure. Questions such as: What would I have done if it was my child? Would I have been comforted by the man’s conviction? Or would I have wanted a more permanent type justice.

Justice versus revenge? What would bring me comfort? I knew I couldn’t kill someone, which triggered the thought: Maybe I could hire someone? Of course, I watch enough crime shows to know hiring someone to do the deed doesn’t ensure you won’t get caught. The young girl’s rape and murder, coupled with her mother’s helplessness, continued to torment my thoughts.

And then I had a dream . . . I love when my writer’s brain takes a thought and creates a fictional scenario that can be woven into an intriguing story. Hence, Peril in Paradise was born!

In my dream, I could clearly see my villain. I had been trying to come up with a story idea for my Mexico Mayhem series but hadn’t been able to find a plausible storyline that began in the United States and ended in Mexico. Viola ~ Damian Garza provided the crossover opportunity I needed.

I could also visualize my hero. A man tortured by Damian’s previous villainous acts. A man who I could imagine carrying out a murder for hire scenario. Jackson Brady had his own need for justice . . . or revenge.

What I couldn’t see in my dream was my heroine. I knew she existed because I felt her pain and anger over losing her daughter. But I couldn’t see her. But not being able to picture Clara Marsh wasn’t a problem for me. As a mother, I could truly imagine her suffering. Her grief. Her guilt. Her need for justice. Her desire for revenge. I knew Clara Marsh would be a little like me.

Peril in Paradise

Mexico Mayhem Book 1

Imagine—A brutal rape. A vicious murder. Now—what would you seek if it involved your daughter? If the monster is her stepfather. Justice or revenge? In Peril in Paradise, Clara Garza is faced with this dilemma while trying to stay one step ahead of her deranged ex-husband, Damian Garza. As she embarks on her voyage for justice, Clara meets Jackson Brady, a man also seeking his own revenge—a man trying to capture her heart. The two find themselves resolving one issue only to face another sinister challenge. Readers will want to join Clara and Jackson as they navigate a journey of justice, revenge . . . and survival.

Buy Links- https://www.amazon.com/Peril-Paradise-unspeakable-unimaginable-unrelenting-ebook/dp/B07MQSB16Y

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/peril-in-paradise-kimila-kay/1130316947?ean=9781794052451

Kimila Kay lives in Donald, Oregon with her husband, Randy, adorable Boston Terrier, Maggie, and feisty black cat, Halle.

Her professional accomplishments include three anthologized essays in the CUP OF COMFORT series. In three separate contests, PERIL IN PARADISE, has won two first place awards, and a third-place award in the romantic suspense category. Kimila is currently a member of a writing critique group, Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA), Windtree Press, and Willamette Writers.

PERIL IN PARADISE is the first novel in a planned cross-cultural series, Mexico Mayhem, which will include Malice in Mazatlan (January 2021), Chaos in Cabo, Vanished in Vallarta, and Lost in Loreto.

REDNECK RANCH will be the first novel in a planned mystery series, The Stoneybrook Series, set in a fictional Oregon town. REDNECK RANCH is slated for publication in 2022.

https://www.facebook.com/MexicoMayhemPIP 

https://www.facebook.com/MexicoMayhemMIM

 https://www.facebook.com/OregonNovels

Guest Blogger – Sally Carpenter

New Books For Strange Times

I’d like to thank Paty Jager and the ladies of mystery for allowing me a guest post. It’s been a while since I was a regular contributor on this blog, and much has happened in the meantime.

 The pandemic has not affect me as much as others. Fortunately I work an essential job (newspaper), so I’m still commuting to my day job. Many of my fellow employees are working from home, so those of us who are still in the office have plenty of space to move around safely.

As a writer, I’m at home much of the time anyway, and I’ve put the time to good use. I reorganized files and did some rearranging to make my home more comfortable. Little changes, but effective.

And I’ve gone gun ho on the writing.

I hadn’t written a Sandy Fairfax mystery in several years, so I reread the older books to get up to speed on the character. I found grammatical and continuity errors as well as more cuss words than necessary. Ouch! How embarrassing. With permission of my publisher, I took the opportunity to edit the older books. I’m fixing the mistakes, cleaning up the language, and reworking awkward passages for a better read. With Print On Demand technology, all new print and ebooks purchased going forward will have the changes. So far “The Sinister Sitcom Caper” is finalized. “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” and “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper” should both be ready in a month or two.

Once all the old books are corrected, I can focus on the next Sandy book. The working title is “The Cryptic Christmas Caper.” Sandy is the emcee of the Miss North Pole Pageant, where the contestants are dropping like snowflakes.

I launched a new book in June, the second in my Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series set in 1967. “Hippie Haven Homicide” follows the further adventures of actress Noelle McNabb as she works with a super secret spy organization, SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). This time her cat, Ceebee, is part of the action.

In the 1960s, the CIA had a project called Acoustic Kitty. The plan was to implant a cat with a microphone, using its tail to hold a wire for transmission. The cat would wander around parks and embassies where spies met to talk. Nobody would notice a stray cat. The real-life project went nowhere, but the idea was too good to pass up.

So I made Ceebee the acoustic cat. The microphone is inside a metal collar around the cat’s neck. Noelle and agent Destiny King are inside a nearby van, listening in. As you might imagine, felines are a bit unpredictable, even spy cats.

While SIAMESE is chasing an enemy agent, a busload of counterculture hippies invade Noelle’s staid town of Yuletide, Indiana. This plot point was inspired by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, better known as the Hare Krishnas, the orange-robed devotees who were hung out around airports and large cities to chant and pass out brochures on their beliefs. The 1960s saw an explosion of new spiritual ideas: Vatican II, the Jesus People, contemporary Christian music, Transcendental Meditation, communes and ISCKON.

My sect is SPARK: Spiritually Pure And Radiant Kin. Their guru is the Wise One, an elderly leader who rarely appears in public. First Sage handles the day-to-day operations of the sect. He also rigorously guards the members from “contamination of the material world.” The cult members clash with the police chief and residents of Yuletide. The situation worsens when one of the SPARK members is found dead. The police chief calls it a drug overdose. Noelle has her suspicions and investigates on her own with the help of a newspaper reporter, Trevor Spellman.

Noelle uses her acting skills to go undercover to both find a spy and solve a murder. Meanwhile, she babysits her siblings, works with an anxious bride-to-be who’s buying clothes for the bridal party, and digs out secrets in the McNabb family tree. All in a day’s work for a cozy sleuth.

So happy reads to all. If you want to stay abreast of my writing projects, follow me at facebook.com.Sally.Carpenter.54, or my website at sandyfairfax.com, or email scwriter@earthlink.net.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier living in southern California. She has a master’s degree in theater and a creative writing award from Indiana State University.

She also has a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do.

She’s written six books for Cozy Cat Press: four in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series (including 2012 Eureka! Award nominee The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper) and two books in the Psychedelic Spy retro-series.

She’s contributed short stories to three anthologies and penned chapter three of the CCP group mystery Chasing the Codex.

To atone for killing characters on paper, she writes the Roots of Faith column for the Acorn Newspapers (theacornonline.com).

Guest Blogger – Lorrie Holmgren

When I start to plan an Emily Swift Travel Mystery, I go where my amateur sleuth will go and jot down descriptions, observations, and plot ideas in my journal.  Because Emily is a travel writer, I want to capture her enthusiasm for new places and describe them as well as I can. Useful as my journal is, however, I often turn to the Internet to develop my ideas in more detail when I’m actually writing. I find the combination of real-life observation and research works for me.

Sometimes I have an idea for a scene that means I must head off to a place I’ve never been.   In Murder on Madeline Island, the first book in the Emily Swift Travel Mystery series, Emily is helping an elderly woman search for her long-lost Ojibwa brother.   I thought her search might lead her to a Powwow.  So, I drove to Bayfield, Wisconsin to see a powwow firsthand. As I always do, I jotted down detailed descriptions in my journal.  But when I started to write the scene, I realized I needed more.  I went on UTube to watch the Shawl Dance and Grass Dance and found out their significance.  Then it was easy to imagine the scene.  In the final version a snippy young girl who has been resisting Emily’s entreaties to meet with the old woman, dances beautifully, transforming herself from a girl into a crow.  The character’s love of tradition gave her greater depth and made her more likeable.  That was my intention anyway. If you read it, let me know if you agree.

Sometimes I see something on a trip that gives me a plot idea and then I go online to find out more.  While I was in Hawaii, my husband and I visited a mountain top that had been the site of an ancient temple. Fresh fruits and flowers were placed there as if at a shrine or gravesite.  It seemed to me this would be the perfect place for a body to be discovered.  So, in Homicide in Hawaii, that’s where the victim’s body is found.  I went online to do research and discovered there had been a resurgence of interest in the old Hawaiian religion and worship of the god Lono.  Here was another lead to help me develop the story.  One character – a young girl who has been adopted and is now seeking information about her Polynesian heritage becomes fascinated by the old religion.

Now, when we are all kept inside by the Pandemic, it was a particular joy to relive my last trip to England where I did the research for A Killing in the Cotswolds, the third book in the series, which has just been published by Cozy Cat Press.  In the novel, Emily is writing articles about daytrips not far from London when she is drawn into a murder investigation.  Like Emily, I travelled from London to charming Cotswold villages to Stratford upon Avon and Avebury and enjoyed delicious teas and visits to historic sites.  But it was Internet research that gave me the idea for the long-buried secret that led to murder. I didn’t use the actual event, but it spurred my imagination.

For now, I highly recommend armchair travel.  Emily Swift Travel mysteries are available in print and Kindle on Amazon.

A Killing in the Cotswolds, An Emily Swift Travel Mystery

It’s springtime in England and travel writer Emily Swift is writing about charming Cotswold villages. But when a politician is found dead in a country inn, she and her boyfriend Jack are drawn into a murder investigation. Who killed him? An actor with a talent for deception?  A schoolmaster fired after a mysterious death? A tour guide at Warwick Castle bent on revenge?  Over tea and crumpets, Emily’s childhood friend begs her to find out and save an innocent woman from being charged with murder. Emily can’t say no. Clues lead through the British countryside and danger lurks where Emily least expects it.

The books are available in print and Kindle on Amazon

Lorrie Holmgren is the author of three Emily Swift Travel Mysteries: Murder on Madeline Island, Homicide in Hawaii and A Killing in the Cotswolds. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, busily penning mysteries and hoping it will soon be safe to travel.  She enjoys Zumba, Salsa, Bachata, aqua aerobics, gardening, knitting, and book group discussions.

Website www.lorrieholmgren.com

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Guest Author- Leslie Wheeler

An Unexpected Encounter with Wildlife Becomes a Magical Moment in Fiction

By Leslie Wheeler

One of the pleasures of having a house in rural Western Massachusetts is the opportunity to see wildlife at close range. I’ve observed deer, bear, bobcats, foxes, beavers and otters on my property, and every time this happens, I feel like I’ve been given a gift. But there is one species of wildlife I didn’t think I’d ever see–a moose.

Then one Friday in September, a few years ago, I went to my house in the Berkshires, and discovered that a cow moose, about a year old, had taken up residence, drawn by the pond on the property, the old apple trees laden with fruit, and also perhaps by the hope of finding a mate. She followed a track that took her out of the woods, onto the back field, across it, around the pond, and down the front field to the driveway, which she crossed to return to the woods and begin another circuit.

Around dusk on Saturday, I’d gone into my fenced-in vegetable garden when I looked up and saw her standing a few yards away, watching me. She was so quiet I hadn’t heard her approach. I froze, fearful that a sudden movement or sound would frighten her away. After a few moments, I slipped carefully from the garden, and stood stock still, returning her curious and unafraid gaze. Although not a bull moose with antlers or a cow with a calf to protect, she was still a very large animal. Finally, breaking eye contact, she continued on her leisurely circuit around the property.

Sunday morning, I watched from indoors as she made yet another circuit. She even ventured onto the patio, the closest she’d come to the house. And there I was without my camera, knowing full well that this might be my last chance to get a shot of her before I returned to town. Then, as I began to pack up, she made a second circuit, and armed with my camera I followed her along the patio to the front of house, where she stopped and regarded me with the same unafraid eyes. I took two pictures before she finally hoofed it away.

I returned to Boston, never to see that moose again, but the experience inspired me to write a scene in my new mystery, Shuntoll Road.  In it, the main character, Kathryn Stinson, wakes up at dawn the day after a fire has raged in the woods around the house she’s renting. She goes outside to see if it’s still burning and spots a big animal on the far side of the pond. It’s not a moose, but a white stag, a legendary creature, which does exist in real life. To her surprise, the stag approaches her, stopping a few yards short of the patio, where she’s standing. Then it turns around and bounds back to the pond, where it stops and looks back at her. The white stag does, this enough times for her to think it wants her to follow it—into the burnt woods where she makes an important discovery. Later when Kathryn expresses her wonder at why the white stag appeared to her of all people, her boyfriend says, “It’s a mystery. And a gift.”

Readers: Have you have had encounters with wildlife that you’ve used in your fiction?

Shuntoll Road

Boston library curator Kathryn Stinson returns to the Berkshires, hoping to rebuild her romance with Earl Barker, but ends up battling a New York developer, determined to turn the property she’s been renting into an upscale development. The fight pits her against Earl, who has been offered the job of clearing the land. When a fire breaks out in the woods, the burned body of another opponent is discovered. Did he die attempting to escape a fire he set, or was the fire set to cover up his murder? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to other questions about the developer’s connection to a friend of hers who fled New York years ago for mysterious reasons. The information she uncovers puts her in grave danger.

Paperback

Amazon – Note they do not show this as a pre-sale, but if people order from Amazon it will still get to them at a reasonable time not what they show on their site.

https://www.amazon.com/Shuntoll-Road-Leslie-Wheeler/dp/1645990346

Barnes and Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shuntoll-road-leslie-wheeler/1136500170?ean=9781645990345

E-books

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DCZYR3M

Apple

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1524348304

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/shuntoll-road

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shuntoll-road-leslie-wheeler/1136500170

An award-winning author of nonfiction, Leslie Wheeler writes the Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries which began with Murder at Plimoth Plantation, recently re-released for the first time as a trade paperback, and the Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries which began with Rattlesnake Hill and continue with Shuntoll Road.

Check out my books at my website: http://www.lesliewheeler.com

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Narration Fears by Paty Jager

Due to the covid and so many conferences and events I’d planned to attend being cancelled, I am now putting those dollars into getting more books narrated. Which is a good thing, except…. I’ve caught up to the last book written in the Gabriel Hawke series, Fox Goes Hunting.

It’s nice to have the audio book ready close behind the release of the ebook and print, but… this book is set in Iceland. My poor narrator is having to learn how to pronounce a lot of words in Icelandic.

Ragnar, our guide, explaining the living situations of the Viking settlers at pingvellir.

The guide I met on my trip to Iceland has been a HUGE help with my book. He answered questions when I was on my trip and later via email. He also read the book to make sure the way the Icelanders in my books expressed themselves was correct and that I conveyed the spirit and feel of his homeland.

And I have once again reached out to him as this book is beginning to be narrated. I asked if he could give me a pronunciation guide for the Icelandic words. He came through, but said if the narrator needed more detail in the saying, he could do an IPA system but it would take him much longer to do.

Thankfully, my narrator has already reached out to some other narrators for help in the pronunciation of the words. I feel for him. He was excited to do this book, but he will have a lot more work than he usually puts into the Hawke books.

If you would like to listen to one of the first five Gabriel Hawke audio books for free, I have some Author Direct codes you can use to listen to the books.

Here’s to hoping my narrator can channel his inner Icelander.

Guest Blogger – Diana Rubino

I’ve been a mystery book buff since age 12 when I started reading the Trixie Belden series (similar to Nancy Drew). As my reading preferences matured, I graduated to murder mysteries. I always wanted to write one, but didn’t believe I had the ability to weave an entire plot around a murder, plant clever clues, red herrings, and surprise the reader with ‘whodunit.’ So I began writing murder mystery subplots in my historical novels, starting with FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET.

When I wrote my biographical novel about Eliza Jumel Burr, Aaron Burr’s last wife, my agent told me it needed a bit of ‘punching up.’ I pondered how to do this, then thought, ‘what would be more punched up than a few murder mysteries?’ So I wrote two subplots involving true-life murders that occurred during the time of the story. In one of them, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton defended the accused, Levi Weeks, after his fiancée Elma Sands was found drowned in a well once owned by Aaron. In real life, Levi was acquitted, but public opinion maintained this was due to Levi’s high-priced ‘dream team.’ In my story, I involved Eliza in the lives of Levi and Elma, and Levi eventually confesses to her. As for all murder mystery authors, knowing the killer makes writing a mystery less daunting. I began writing mystery subplots in my books that followed: DARK BREW, FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE, and the biographical novel I just finished, about Edith (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt, who helps the New York City Police, of which her husband is Commissioner, find a serial killer.

I stay as close as possible to the historical record, but in writing novels, I must ‘take license’ and weave fiction in with the true life events. I’m careful to give readers lush descriptions of the settings, to send them on a journey back to that time, without rambling on, to avoid giving a history lesson. That, as well as writing murder mysteries, became easier with practice.

 ELIZA JUMEL BURR, VICE QUEEN OF THE UNITED STATES

Abandoned and left to survive on the streets of Providence, Betsy Bowen dreams of being reunited with her father – none other than George Washington. During her ninety-one years, she begs, sells her body, marries a rich man, marries a poor man, solves a murder, meets her father in secret and becomes Eliza Jumel, the wealthiest woman in New York City. She actually could have been George Washington’s daughter, according to the historical record–he visited Providence nine months before she was born.

A story of desperation, ambition, heartache and betrayal, borne with humor and refusal to compromise with what the heart asks first.

Purchase ELIZA JUMEL BURR: http://getBook.at/ElizaJumel 

Diana writes about folks through history who shook things up. Her passion for history and travel has taken her to every locale of her books, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. Her urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society, and the Aaron Burr Association. When not writing, she owns CostPro, Inc., an engineering business, with her husband Chris. In her spare time, Diana bicycles, golfs, does yoga, plays her piano, devours books, and lives the dream on her beloved Cape Cod.
Visit Diana at

www.dianarubino.com

www.DianaRubinoAuthor.blogspot.com https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor

and on Twitter @DianaLRubino.

I Love Research!

Photo I took of Grizz Flat

No matter what genre I write, there is always research. Did I say I love research? LOL The current work in progress is the 6th Gabriel Hawke novel. You would think setting the book in the county where I grew up and having had a ride-along with the State Trooper of the Fish and Wildlife Division I’d have everything I need to write the book.

I don’t and I’m having fun learning about muzzleloading rifles, rendezvouses, shooting competitions, and the general lifestyle of the people who travel to muzzleloader events.

Did you know that they not only have shooting competitions with the muzzleloading rifles, but they also have knife throwing and long bow competitions? And they all use an alias while at the events.

I contacted the person in charge of the Facebook page for the local (to Wallowa County) Muzzleloading Club to learn about the club, the rendezvous they hold every year, and all I could that would help me enhance my story. They have vendors who sell articles and clothing of the early 1800s the time period they represent while at the events.

I even drove to Grizz Flat where they hold the Rendezvous to get photos, see the area, and figure out how to set up the story.

The premise of the murder happens to be something the State Trooper told me about when I did my ride-along. He stopped on a road, across the river from Grizz Flat and pointed to the camping area. “See that campfire to the left?” I nodded. “A vehicle rolled over the campfire and caught on fire. A man died. They say he was drunk, passed out, and must have bumped the gear shirt. But after investigating, we discovered he’d had an argument with his wife.”

I said, “It couldn’t have rolled, the ground is too flat. And how coincidental would it be for the vehicle, if he’d put it in gear, to stall over the campfire. I say it was homicide.”

The trooper said, “That was what all the investigators said, but the D.A. said it was an accident.”

That is the story I am writing for this Hawke book. The vehicle is found burning over a campfire and the victim is in the vehicle. This time, Hawke will push to make sure the killer is caught and the D.A. prosecutes.

Have I mentioned the theme of my books is justice? 😉

Guest Bloggers- Dr. Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

The Working Stiffs: How We Get Our Ideas

by Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Judy: I do autopsies in a big city medical examiner morgue. The murder mystery ideas come strolling through the door most every day!

T.J.: Take the plot of First Cut, our debut novel. The seed for the story came from an actual homicide, where Judy got called out to the death scene. The decedent was a petty thief. He jacked a laptop off a man sitting in a café—and the robbery victim pulled out a gun. He shot the thief a bunch of times, in front of witnesses and under security cameras, took the computer out of his dead hands, and walked away.

Judy: I was there to answer questions from the homicide detectives about the gunshot wound trajectories, but all I kept thinking was, “what was so important on that laptop that someone would kill over it?” The book’s story took off from that mystery.

T.J.: You see a lot of overdoses, too. Those came in handy for First Cut.

Judy: Fatal drug overdoses are fascinating to me, because they can be any of several manners of death. When a poison is self-ingested, it could be a suicide or an accident. If it is administered by another person, it could be a homicide. It’s the same cause of death—a poisoning—but the actions people take behind that poisoning might be accidental, intentional, or nefarious. It’s my job to make that call. The police only get involved when we are certain the case is a homicide.

T.J: And even then you can’t always convince them. The tension between the determination of the medical examiner and the findings the police can make for some juicy conflict.

Judy: Just like the tension between the district attorney trying a case and the medical examiner who gets called as a witness. Trial lawyers have to build their cases based on what the witnesses are claiming, but if those witnesses are lying—or just mistaken—their testimony might not comport with the ME’s physical findings from the autopsy.

T.J.: So that’s how we work. Judy brings these stories home and we toss them around until we’ve come up with the case-based outlines for a murder plot. She gives me the story and I work to fashion it into the narrative structure of the American noir detective novel—our corner of the genre-fiction world. When I get stuck, we talk out additional scenarios from her long experience in forensic investigation, and the plot gains a new twist. She never lets me cut corners with the science, though!

Judy: It can be really satisfying—because, unlike in real life, we get to determine the outcome of the cases and the fates of the characters. We take poetic license in the narrative, but we always write our mysteries with scientific rigor, too. It’s a lot of fun!

First Cut

A young rookie medical examiner. A suspicious case. An underworld plot only she saw coming.

From the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff

For San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr. Jessie Teska, it was supposed to be a fresh start. A new job in a new city. A way to escape her own dark past.

Instead she faces a chilling discovery when an opioid-overdose case contains hints of something more sinister. Jessie’s superiors urge her to close the case, but as more bodies land on her autopsy table, she uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate plot involving drug dealers and Bitcoin brokers.

Drawing on her real-life experiences as a forensics expert, Judy Melinek teams up with husband T.J. Mitchell to deliver the most exhilarating mystery of the year. Autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all—even if it means that the next corpse on the table could be her own.

https://www.amazon.com/First-Cut-M-D-Judy-Melinek-ebook/dp/B07P1B4CJL

Bio: The Working Stiffs are the married writing team of forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek and writer T.J. Mitchell. They are coauthors of the New York Times bestselling memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (Scribner, 2014), and the new novel First Cut, the debut in a forensic detective series from Hanover Square Press. Its sequel, Aftershock, is coming in February, 2021. You can follow the Working Stiffs on Twitter @drjudymelinek and @TJMitchellWS, and Facebook/DrWorkingStiff.