Staying Small Town by Paty Jager

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As I was contemplating the next Shandra Higheagle Mystery, I thought I needed to take her out of Huckleberry and away from the reservation to not have critics saying there are too many murders in the ski resort or on the reservation.

Then there was a timely blog post at Mystery Readers.org about small town cops, which had me thinking about my small town amateur sleuth.

While we all know small towns have a lower rate of murders, the small town atmosphere is what makes placing a mystery there so enticing. My character, Shandra Higheagle knows many of the local people. Her conversations are much like that of Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie books. She doesn’t wander about in an apparent aimless way asking questions like Miss Marple, but she does use the knowledge of the people in Huckleberry or the Reservation to learn the information that helps her, along with her dreams, unravel the murders.

From the blog post on small town murders, it seemed readers are willing to put up with an unusual amount of people being knocked off in a small area if you give proper reasons for the murders and give them a good test to their detective skills.

After reading the post, I moved the next book back to Huckleberry and the crime and suspects came to me like a barrage of hungry dogs. (No offense, Sheba). Putting my story back in the town I knew, with people I knew, and using one of the scenarios I’d already set up in previous books, I couldn’t wait to get started on this book.

The only thing eluding me now is the title. All the other books in the series, I had the title before I started writing. But this one is still waiting to come to me. I’m thinking Fatal Fall, because the body is found at the bottom of the stairs, and the word fall could work into the premise of the story. But I could also use Fatal Tale, as the dead person is telling her memoirs to a ghost writer.  So who knows. It may end up something completely different. 😉

SH Mug Art

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What Happens Next

by Janis Patterson

After listening to those of my friends who have become mothers – some several times – the more I am convinced that finishing a book is sort of like having a baby. The initial idea is delightful and often quite pleasurable. The gestation period is variable, ranging from horrendous to enjoyable, and sometimes both on any given day. The final wind-up is a lot of hard work and sweat, and though a book does not cause the same amount of physical pain as a baby, with a book you cannot be anesthetized to insensibility and then wake up to a brand new book.

Once the deed is done and over with, though, and The End typed boldly at the bottom of the manuscript a debilitating lassitude creeps in. You feel hollow and in an odd way bereft. That which you have cossetted, worried over, been obsessed with, hated, and loved pretty much to the exclusion of all else for X number of months is gone. It is no longer extant only within you. It lies there on table or hard drive, unable to take flight on its own, but neither a part of you any longer. It is no longer totally dependent on you.

Oh, it’s still very much in need of you, and in a way perhaps the hardest work of all lies ahead. Edits. Congruency runs. (You don’t want a character named Eddie to be called Charlie in chapters 4 and 21 when there is no plotline reason for it.) More edits. Revisions. Perhaps even more edits and revisions in a seemingly endless obscene dance. Then, when it is finally spruced up and ready to be seen out in the world, there are the submissions to agents and editors, or if self-publishing, the conferences with cover artists, even more kinds of editors and formatters. No matter how you are publishing there is publicity to be thought of and budgeted for, even perhaps ARCs to be sent out and reviews to be solicited.

But that is in the future. At the moment you have just typed The End, and that hollow feeling is enveloping you. I cannot do this again, you think. This is absolutely the last time. Even when an idea – a new idea, a simply splendid idea that will never give you the trouble and pain this one did – pops into your brain you are so totally wrung out it doesn’t even sound appealing. You’re never going to do this again.

I know. I just finished a book day before yesterday that has given me no end of pain and problems and trouble. And I know the unholy circus of editing and all the rest lies in front of me. The whole idea seems so daunting I want nothing more than to lay my wrung-out, bereft, hollow self down with a margarita within easy reach and do nothing.

If only that dratted new, shiny, oh-so-delectible idea would just go away and leave me alone…

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Thou Shall Not Kill

By Sally Carpenter

Looking for a different way to bump off the victim in a mystery? I found some effective methods in the Bible. Yes, the good book describes humans with all their warts and foibles in brutal honesty.

Later this month I’ll be giving a talk titled “Thou Shall Not Kill: A Mystery Writer Looks at Sin and Redemption” at my home church as part of the annual University Series, a Lenten program of adult education classes presented in 12 county-wide parishes. I’ll be discussing sin, the devil, the psychological and biblical basis of evil, the “shadow side” of Nancy Drew (she isn’t all niceness) and the world view expressed in the various mystery subgenres.

In my research I found a number of murders in the Bible. The point of this blog is not to generate a theological discussion or negative comments about religion, but that a mystery writer can find inspiration anywhere.

*Ehud, a southpaw, set out to kill the fat and wicked Eglon, king of Moab. Ehud strapped a dagger to his right thigh. He got the king alone and reached for his knife. The king saw nothing suspicious, since a right-handed person would have a dagger on the left thigh. Ehud plunged the knife so deep into Eglon’s belly that the fat covered it (Judges 3:15-25).

*General Sisera of the Canaanite army, foes of the Israelites, fled from the battlefield and found refuge in the tent of Jael. She gave him milk to drink, invited him to rest, and covered him. As he slept on the ground, she took a mallet and pounded an iron tent peg through his skull (Judges 4:17-22).

*Women rock! This time the Assyrians laid siege to Israel. Judith, a widow, dressed up and met the leader of the Assyrian army, Holofernes, in his camp. She let him woo and dine her. After four days he got roaring drunk at dinner and attempted to seduce her in his tent, but fell asleep instead. Judith took Holofernes’ sword, cut off his head in two whacks, put the head in a bag, and returned to the Israelites to rally them to victory (Judith 13:1-10).

*A case of murder/suicide. Strong man Samson was weakened and captured by the Philistines, who blinded him and set him to work pulling a grindstone. Some time later, hundreds of Philistines gathered inside and atop a building for a party. They brought in Samson to amuse them. During his time in prison his hair had grown back and his strength returned. Samson put his hands on the building’s supporting pillars, pushed, and the roof collapsed, killing everyone.

*Evil Queen Jezebel put on her cosmetics and looked out her upper-story window to lure Jehu, Israel’s head of state. He ordered her eunuchs to throw her out the window, which they did. The Bible even describes the blood spatter (Judges 9:33). Then dogs ate the body, leaving only the skull, feet and hands (Judges 9:30-37).

*St. Stephen was stoned, a gruesome method in which the victim sometimes took hours to die (Acts 7:58-59). The victim was thrown into a pit with rocks on the bottom, and more rocks were piled on.

*But the classic story is one of adultery and murder. King David was walking atop his palace and spied on the rooftops below. He saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing and had her brought to the palace. Before long she became pregnant, which proved awkward, as her husband, Uriah, was off fighting in David’s army. David sent a letter to the army commander to place Uriah in the heaviest part of the battle and pull back the reinforcements. The enemy quickly killed Uriah, and David married Bathsheba. The baby died, but their next child was the great king Solomon.

 

 

 

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Guest – Marian Allen

A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMMERHOUSE

How the DEAD GUY was born

When I began college in 1 968, I had read enough Gothic Romances to be contemptuous of the formula: Orphan girl in her late teens is hired by a brooding older man to work at a spooky, reclusive mansion; is drawn to two men, one of whom seems charming and one of whom seems threatening; pries into the secrets of the house, in spite of being warned not to; is plunged into seemingly occult danger and learns that the real threat is the supposedly charming man and that her savior and true love is the supposedly threatening man.

As an amusement, I began writing a sort of Anti-Gothic Romance: An orphan boy in his late teens is hired by an elderly ex-flapper to work at a mansion where nearly everyone is active in the community; is only drawn to one woman and stops being drawn to her when she turns out to be weird; tries his hardest to get people to STOP telling him the secrets of the house; is plunged into seemingly occult danger and learns that things just may be a little on the spooky side, after all.

After I wrote it, I decided I liked it too much to let it be just silly. As I matured in years and writing experience, I dragged it out occasionally and reworked it, adding characterization and (I hope) depth. At last, I decided it was as full as I could make it and submitted it to an agent. She loved it, and got back some very encouraging letters from publishers, but no sale.

I put it away again for a few years, decided I could improve it at this stage of experience, and reworked it again. By this time, small press publishing had blossomed, and I sold the book to Hydra Publications. During a business transition, Hydra offered me my rights back and, not knowing where that press was headed (it turned out to be getting even stronger and better) I retrieved my rights, went in with two friends and fellow writers to found Three Fates Press (which died and was transformed, under the amazing Amanda Rotatch Lambkin, into Line by Lion Press) and then Per Bastet Publications, and A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE was finally born.

The cover delights me. The cover art is one of the first works done by my #4 daughter, Sara Marian, who is also one of our partners and one of our authors. Our other partner, T. Lee Harris, a fine arts graduate who does our formatting and cover design and is also one of our authors, found the perfect font for the time period.

A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE is available in print, eBook, and audio.

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Mitch Franklin thinks he’s got it made when the town’s wealthiest eccentric hires him to look after her two lapdogs. Then he meets her family. Five years ago, the last guy she hired played head games the family and servants are still trying to recover from. He also wound up dead. Now, some people think Mitch might be just like him. Some people think Mitch might BE him, back from the grave. Will Mitch survive the anniversary of his predecessor’s death, or will he be another DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE?

Indiebound http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781942166085

Amazon http://bookshow.me/1942166087

Audible http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/A-Dead-Guy-at-the-Summerhouse-Audiobook/B01B1Y5K4Y/

Marian Allen bio:

ma2015Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.

Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, including multiple appearances in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s SWORD AND SORCERESS anthologies. Her latest books are her YA/NA paranormal suspense, A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE, her collection of science fiction stories, OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS, and SHIFTY, her collection of fantasy stories set in the world of her fantasy trilogy, SAGE, all from Per Bastet Publications. She blogs every day at Marian Allen, Author Lady.

Blog and Social Media:

Blog: Facebook: Facebook page: Twitter: Google+: Google+ page: LinkedIN:

Amazon author page: Pinterest: Goodreads:

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A Real Murder Mystery

This one happened right across the river.

The whole murder and what happened is bizarre. You can read all the details here:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/09/27/magazine/the-case-of-the-lady-and-the-killer.html?pagewanted=all

To tell the story quickly, Hope Masters, a rich young woman from a prominent Beverly Hills family, with two marriages behind her, traveled to her family’s ranch in Springville with her live-in boyfriend, Bill Ashlock. They stayed in the guest house.

A new acquaintance of Bill’s, Taylor Wright (real name G. Daniel Walker) came to visit. He spent the night and murdered Bill. He raped and threatened Hope, but for some strange reason they stayed together at the ranch for several days, even after her folks arrived to stay at the ranch’s main home.

Hope’s father is the one who ultimately reported the murder, Hope and Taylor/G. Daniel were arrested. As it turned out, G. Daniel Walker was a fugitive.

Though I doubt anyone will ever know exactly what happened, you can read the whole story in the book, “A Death in California”, and watch the TV movie starring Cheryl Ladd and Sam Elliott.

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Hope and Bill on the ranch.

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Hope Masters

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G. Daniel Walker

This happened before we moved to Springville–but I’d seen the TV movie and when I learned how close the ranch was to where I lived, you can see it across the river, of course I read the book. A most bizarre case. No one would believe it if you wrote a fiction mystery with similar content.

Marilyn

 

 

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Guest: Lori Robinett

Why do I write thrillers?

I write thrillers for the same reason I read them – I’m a chicken. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting my PI license or going to the police academy, but . . .

During a police ride-along, the line between imaginary and real was highlighted for me. Downtown beat. Night shift. Before I went, I researched protocol, questions to ask, how to act. I felt REAL as I climbed into the powerful SUV, with rifle behind my head and a Toughbook in my lap.

Our first call was a gang of 20+ people, shots fired. We raced to the scene.  Gary (not his real name) angled the vehicle across the street, told me to stay put, jumped out and locked the vehicle with a beep. People ran, angry shouts could be heard. Others approached the SUV, one guy sneering at me through the passenger window, teeth bared. After things were sorted out, we were off, hurrying from call to call. To the ER for a rape. To a high rise apartment for a man who wondered if his TV was too loud (yeah, seriously). To a robbery. To a threatened suicide. To runaways.

About the time my ridealong was scheduled to be over, we responded to a low-income apartment building I recognized from frequent appearances on the local news. Another officer met us there and warned Gary to leave me in the SUV because the subject was known to “get hairy.” Gary assured me I’d be able to hear everything he said and, again, locked me in the vehicle.

As I sat in the dark, I listened. The officers knocked, announced themselves. A man’s voice answered, loudly. A crash. Yelling, more crashes, more yelling. Something slammed into a wall. Someone grunted.  More yelling. Then . . . a loud bang.

 Someone’s been shot. I took a deep breath, looked in the side mirror and thought, what  am I doing here?

The radio crackled. “Need a bus!”

Lights strobe in the darkness as more patrol cars and an ambulance converged on the scene.  My heart pounded. People began to wander past and looked into the SUV, probably wondering who the middle-aged white lady was.

More yelling, more thumps and grunts, then “Officer 443 en route to hospital.”

Oh, that’s not good. Officer 443 is my guy.

There I sat, alone. In a bad part of town. Late at night. But, I reasoned, I was sitting in a police vehicle. Surely, somebody’d come back for it, right? They probably didn’t care about a writer, but the SUV, that was different. So, I settled in and watched. And scribbled notes.

And Gary did return. An hour later. The perp had attempted suicide by overdose, but he’d failed. Instead, he went nuts and attacked one of the paramedics. Gary had restrained the guy while the paramedics worked on him as they raced to the hospital.

Yup, I’ll stick to writing about crime. It’s easier, and much less dangerous.

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Fatal Obsession is the most recent Widow’s Web novel – an exciting series where women face challenges that threaten to destroy them, just as they begin to find the strengths within them.

Sophie grew up in the foster care system, an orphan separated from her brother after their parents are killed. After she marries Blake Kendrick and gets pregnant, she’s thrilled that she’s finally part of a real family. When she learns that her husband, a brilliant cancer researcher, has experimented on their unborn child, her world shatters. The powerful man her husband works for is determined to get that child, to use the research within Sophie’s body to save his dying mother. Sophie is forced to go on the run, terrified of what might be growing within her, worried that her baby might need treatment by the very man who is hunting them. The skills she learned in foster care serve her well as she must discriminate between who she can trust and who she can’t, who is a real friend and who is a threat. All the while, an experiment grows within her . . . will they survive?

All ebook buy links are available here:

https://books.pronoun.com/fatal-obsession/

img_0028-002Lori Robinett is the author of the Widow’s Web series. She lives in central Missouri with her husband of 20+ years on a small hobby farm, which is maintained exclusively for the comfort and enjoyment of their miniature schnauzer and beagle. She enjoys reading, writing, and scrapbooking. If you can’t find her, check out the backroads, where she may be bouncing along dirt roads in her lifted Jeep.

Social Media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoriLRobinettauthor/

Twitter: @LoriRobinett https://twitter.com/LoriRobinett

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/LoriLRobinett/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/llrobinett/

Website: http://lorilrobinett.com

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Perfectionism and the Cut Revision

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Everyone who confesses to this fault, I suspect, is actually bragging. It’s the classic answer in a job interview. “What’s your greatest weakness?” “I’m a perfectionist.” I’m going to be contrary and confess that I’m not one.

My clothes? I have no clue what’s fashionable. If an outfit is clean and has no holes in it, it’s good to go. I don’t wear makeup, and haven’t since I quit acting. If I’m not onstage, the face I woke up with will have to suffice. My apartment and office are neither neat nor chaotic, clean but on the disorderly side. I don’t worry about it other than to move my free weights out of the living room if I’m having guests. Maybe.

So much of my life has been spent in public—acting, dancing, teaching academic classes and yoga and fitness classes—that I have spent many hours being irretrievably imperfect in front of an audience. When responding honestly to a novel situation in a classroom, I’ve sometimes said the wrong thing and couldn’t put it back in my mouth. I could only try to clarify. How many times in teaching yoga have I called right left or called elbows knees? You can’t redo live performance or teaching, only do your best and have a sense of humor.

Of course, I have higher expectations of my language skills when I can revise. While I’m not a full-blown perfectionist, when it comes to word choice and sentence structure, I can get close. One reason I do my plot analysis with a printout is so I won’t be distracted by the changes I would make if I could touch the keyboard. I indicate which sentence I should cut or revise with an orange highlight and a C or an R and keep going. After I make the needed plot changes, I do the “cut revision.” The purpose of this is tightening: consolidating ideas and examining every scene for excess lines, every line for excess words. It may seem perfectionistic to do this before I send it out for the second round of critiquing, but want my critique partners to be able to tell me if the plot is paced well without the distraction of verbal clutter. (I cut four thousand words from my current WIP.)

Another reason I cut so much is because I know my editor will usually ask me to add a few lines to clarify something. We can go back and forth several times over the best way to rephrase a sentence without either of us thinking the other is too picky. I keep double-checking my research, too, finessing tiny details. As long as it makes the book better, I don’t feel pathologically perfectionistic. I know when it’s done, and then I’m ready to let go. No matter how hard we try to make them perfect, no book ever is.Amber in tree final

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