Lifus Interuptus by Paty Jager

This photo is why my post is late. Grandkids have taken over my office!

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I started out 2016 telling myself I wasn’t going to push so hard. Last year I wrote and published four mystery novels, three western historical romance novels, and one novella. The three projects at the end of the year were almost more than I could handle. That’s when I made my decision for 2016 to write two novels and a novella in the mystery series and two historical western romance this year.

However, due to catching the virus going around and family visiting, I’m already behind my slower pace for this year. Killer Descent was to be published by now but it is a week to two weeks out.

Killer DescentKiller Descent book five in the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries

Abuse…Power…Murder

Once again Shandra Higheagle finds herself a suspect in a murder investigation when an ex-lover is found murdered on a Huckleberry ski run. A past she’d planned to never divulge now must be shared with the first man she’s trusted, Detective Ryan Greer.

Ryan puts his job in jeopardy when he’s booted from the case and uses all resources plus a few extra to prove Shandra is innocent. The information leads them down a road of blackmail and betrayal of the ugliest kind.

This past weekend, one of my daughter’s went with me on a road trip to a book signing. On the way back we started brainstorming the Christmas mystery I’ve been thinking about writing this year. It was fun, since she’s read the books in the series and knows the characters. She gave me some fun ideas. Have any of you ever read a book where and animal is the main suspect? I’m thinking about making Sheba, Shandra’s canine sidekick,the suspect.

And I plan to introduce a couple of new characters into the next couple of books to also use as suspects. That is the fun of writing a mystery series, incorporating characters you know will be suspects or the killers in books to come. I’m always thinking two to three books ahead when I write a book to drop small clues to what may be a next book.

As  a reader do you you like clues to a possible next book dropped in? Or does it make you upset if that little nugget isn’t the next book in the series?

SH Mug Art (2)

patyjager.net

Writing into the Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

Researching a Mystery by Paty Jager

SH Mug Art (2)

I’m not a forensic coroner or a lawyer or even a law enforcer. I’m the wife of a rancher and I write murder mystery.

As I write this next book in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series I’ve come across questions that have required answers by professionals. When I start a book I know how the victim will die and where. But I ultimately need to know what their injuries would look like say if they fall off a cliff or are stabbed with a blunt object or shot at close range with a small caliber gun.

These are all things coroners have seen and can tell me. But how do I get a coroner on speed-dial or in my case speed e-mail? I’m part of a yahoo loop that is filled with every kind of occupation a mystery or murder writer might need expertise about. The yahoo loop is crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com

That’s how I connected with a coroner who not only answered my question I put on the loop but also emailed back and forth with me as I asked more questions and what-if’s. She has lots of knowledge and being a budding writer is willing to help out fellow writers.

Writing the opening and how the victim is killed and what is discovered went well, knowing I had the correct information and knowledge. Then I brought in some secondary characters and a sub-plot. For the sub-plot I needed some legal information. I turned to my niece who is a para-legal and what she couldn’t answer she knew where to send me to find the information. After my niece and I discussed the issue I wanted brought up in my book and how I wanted it dealt with, she suggested I contact a law enforcement officer.  I happen to have one in the family. 😉

I sent off an email explaining what I wanted to do, how would it be handled, and after some back and forth ,that element of the sub-plot was worked out.

Writing mystery books is my favorite writing experience. Not only do I have to puzzle out a mystery that will keep the reader thinking, I have to make sure the forensics and laws will work in the story and enhance the overall realness of the crime and the killer.

Have you read books where you could tell the writer hadn’t researched the laws or forensics? Did it bother you while reading the book or is that something that doesn’t bother you?

~*~

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at:

her blog; Writing into the Sunset

her website; http://www.patyjager.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How long should a Series be? by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)When I came up with the idea for a mystery series, the second thing I thought about after bringing Shandra Higheagle to life was: Can I write enough stories to make this a long running series?

So I sat down and thought about where she lives- a ski resort; what she does- a potter; and then the people she is closest to. Her family history and heritage also can play into several story linesBookmark Front. All of these things figured into stories I could write to expand the series.

I’m also finding that as I write a story, something will pop up that sends me to my list of story ideas and adding another one. Also, things I hear and see on the news starts and idea for a premise of a story.

I figured if Sue Grafton could write 26 books with the same sleuth, Janet Evanovich went for Tricky Twenty-Two, and Tony HIllerman put out 19, I should be able to come up with that many mysteries for Shandra to solve without her or the stories getting stale.

Right now I’m researching for Book 5. I know who will be killed and who will be suspected, but I still need to write up my suspect chart, which will happen after I know more about the murder venue. Usually by this stage I have a title for the book. This one isn’t coming to me as easily. But I’m sure by the time I get to the middle of the book, I’ll know my title.

If you read series, has there come a time when you’ve found the series going stale? Why do you think that happened?

www.patyjager.net

Writing into the Sunset

 

Guest Blogger – Kathleen Kaska

The Grand Dame of Mystery Writing

Agatha Christie_mockup02 copyAgatha Christie is regarded as the most popular mystery writer of all times. Since the publication of her first book in 1920, more than one billion copies of her books have been sold worldwide. She wrote her first detective story while working in a dispensary during the First World War. Her sister, Madge, bet Christie that she could not write a mystery in which she gave her readers all the clues to the crime and stump them at the same time. Christie proved Madge wrong, and The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published. Her second book sold twice as many copies as her first, and she found that writing flowed easily for her. In 1926, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, gained her world acclaim. It is one of the most talked about detective stories ever written. Using a technique that had not been used before, many of her colleagues and readers accused her of breaking the mystery-writing rules. In her defense, she stated that rules are made to be broken and if done well, prove effective. Almost ninety years later, the controversy still remains. She’s gone on record to say that this Hercule Poirot mystery was her masterpiece.

But my two favorite Christie mysteries are two of her lesser-known novels. In these two action-packed stories, The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad, Christie ventured away from Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot and drove into light-hearted adventure. She sent her young heroines, Anne Beddingfeld and Victoria Jones, to mysterious locales, exposes them to harrowing danger, and allowed them to live life on the edge.

“I had a firm conviction that, if I went about looking for adventure, adventure would meet me halfway,” Anne Beddingfeld proclaimed. He archaeologist father has decently died. On her own for the first time in her life, Anne is ready for adventure. But her eighty-seven pound legacy would not last long. After a discouraging job interview, Anne was waiting to catch the train home, which put her in the right place at the right time. A man, startled by something, stumbled and fell off the train platform onto the third rail. Another man claiming to be a doctor, examined the body, declared the man dead, and hurried away, dropping a piece of paper with the words, “17.122 Kilmorden Castle,” written on it. Anne retrieved the paper and tried to catch up with the doctor, but he disappeared into the crowd.

Anne was determined to find the man in the brown suit. He obviously was not a doctor, since he examined the victim’s heart by palpating the right side of his body. After a clever bit of detecting, Anne was aboard a ship to South Africa. In Anne’s life there are no coincidences.

A few days later, she was in her cabin, recovering from seasickness when there came a knock on her door. Or to be more exact, an explosion. Her door flew open and a man tumbled inside.

“Save me,” he says. “They’re after me.” Anne shoved him under her bunk and got rid of the nosy stewardess, who was tracking the apparently drunk passenger. However, alcohol was not the reason for his clumsiness. A knife wound and the loss of blood gave cause for the young man’s unsteadiness. As Anne dressed his wound, they exchanged insults and cold stares, along with a bit of shoving. As he felt, she realized that it was him—the man in the brown suit! But he was gone again, and she was left standing with clenched fists and a racing heart. There was no doubt about it. Anne was in love, and she would find him no matter what.

“To Victoria an agreeable world would be one where tigers lurked in the Strand and dangerous bandits infested Tooting.” Victoria Jones, unemployed secretary, flighty female, habitual liar, is the star of They Came to Baghdad. Fired from her job for poking fun at her employer’s wife, Victoria found herself on her favorite park bench, eating a tomato and lettuce sandwich, and contemplating her future with no income. Before her pondering became too serious, however, she noticed a handsome blue-eyed man sitting next to her, and her plans for finding a new job were forgotten. A quick exchange of life stories, a few laughs, and Edward declared he must leave. “I don’t suppose you’ll ever think of me again,” said Edward. “Oh, Hell—I must fly.” Duty called and Edward was off to Baghdad. Victoria decided to follow the young man. Undaunted by the 3,000-mile distance and the mere three pounds to the name, she conned her way to the Middle East and quickly found herself penniless and alone in a strange hotel.

All of a sudden, there is a knock at Victoria’s door. Could it be Edward? Had word reached him that she was in Baghdad? Without hesitation, she opened the door and found a handsome stranger seeking refuge.

“For God’s sake hid me somewhere—quickly,” he pleaded. Victoria, never one to shrug off adventure, shoved him under the bed cover, propped up the pillows and leisurely leaned back while the hotel manager searched the room. Satisfied that the fugitive was not present, the manager left. Victoria pulled back the covers just in time to hear the dying man’s cryptic message. Now she must found Edward, but where should she begin? After all, she didn’t even know his last name.

Following the adventures of these two young women is almost as exciting as following Indiana Jones into the Temple of Doom. The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad are truly two of Agatha Christie’s most delightful mysteries.

 

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries set in the 1950s. She also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes ThIMG11_2661e Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. The Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books are finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, (University Press of Florida) was released in 2012. Kathleen has a new mystery series, which will debut later in 2016.

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.facebook.com/kathleenkaska

https://twitter.com/KKaskaAuthor

 

Dreaming up an Amateur Sleuth by Paty Jager

Dream your dreams with your eyes closed…paty shadow (1)

But live your Dreams with your eyes open—

                                                                     ~Cherokee~

The amateur sleuth in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series is half Nez Perce. She was raised to hide her Native American heritage when her Nez Perce father died and her mother remarried. However, her paternal grandmother kept in touch, and Shandra spent a summer during her teen-age years with her grandmother on the reservation. Her grandmother said Shandra had powers. When Shandra announced that at home her mother and step-father quickly made her see it was an old woman’s way to making an awkward teenaged girl feel special–nothing more.

As an adult, Shandra visits her grandmother more and is interested in discovering more about her roots. But her grandmother dies, leaving Shandra a note requesting she attend the Seven Drum Ceremony after the funeral.

While in the midst of murders and mystery, Shandra’s grandmother comes to her in dreams showing her clues to the true murderer. While Shandra investigates the dreams and discovers helpful information, she has a hard time believing the dreams and her grandmother’s presence.

This is the information I came up with when I was brainstorming who my amateur sleuth would be in the mystery series I wanted to write. I started with the niggling that I wanted a Native American character. But not being Native American myself, I didn’t know the first thing about being from that heritage. That’s when I came up with the idea of her being kept from those roots. It allowed me to discover Shandra’s heritage as she is discovering it, a piece at a time.

To add a bit more of the “mysticism” or “dreamer” qualities to the Native American element I have her deceased grandmother come to her in dreams. Visions and dreams are instrumental in Native American culture. This was my way of drawing on elements that could be intrinsic to Shandra.

And all amateur sleuths need a person in law enforcement to keep them safe. I gave Shandra handsome Weippe County Detective Ryan Greer. He believes in Shandra’s dreams more than her in the beginning thanks to his Irish mother who taught him to believe in things you can’t see.

I’m enjoying getting to know Shandra and Ryan better with each book I write and having them meet the locals of Huckleberry, Idaho and the unique murders that draw Shandra into the investigations. And I can use the backdrop of the ski resort and the art communities because Shandra is a potter whose works are considered art.

What draws you to the main character in a mystery series? What elements in a character haven’t you seen that you would like to see?

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www.patyjager.net

Writing into the Sunset

What Fresh Hell is This?

IMG_1610You might think that the life of an author is all glamour and thrills, but you’d be wrong. I am looking down the barrel of a deadline and I am just not ready. My editor has already put the date back a month for me but I am still struggling. Book 3 in my series was going great guns. Things were happening, balls were in the air, juggling was going on. Nothing was going to stop me, until I got to the middle of the book. The nice shiny new was gone. The end seemed to be way too far to go. The plot was beyond my comprehension and I wanted to join my heroine in a large glass of wine.

So what do you do when you don’t want to do what you are supposed to be doing? You find something more interesting. My more interesting involved all sorts of things. Starting a diet, cooking (and if any of you knew me you’d know just how much I wanted to avoid writing if I was hanging out in the kitchen with a cook book), I started jogging again, and I decided to learn book marketing.

Can you guess which one had me running back to my half written manuscript?  Yep, marketing.  I’ve been buried in books on marketing, online videos, I have been wrestling with Amazon to add keywords to my books so that people can find them.

I am now in the midst of a course on how to advertise on Facebook. That is an exercise in frustration if ever there was one. I spent one evening wrestling with the Power Editor on Facebook creating an advert and nothing worked. The things I created kept disappearing. My stress levels were at maximum and the next morning I had an appointment with my doctor to get my blood pressure checked. I was shocked that it was normal because I felt like my head was going to explode.

Anyway, despite my best efforts, I am yet to crack marketing but it’s all good. For some unknown reason, whilst I was banging about screwing up everything I touched trying to give my first book away to a US audience, it took off in the UK and peaked at number two on the best sellers list in its genre. How or why that happened is still a mystery. Did someone somewhere talk it up online? Did Amazon decide to wind me up by emailing hundreds of people suggesting that they download it?

I wish I knew so that I could try and do it again. Meanwhile I have a photo of my computer screen showing how well it did and I will continue battling away trying to get a grip on book marketing. So, if you haven’t read my book…and there are millions of you…feel free to take tiptoe over to Amazon and download a copy. I need all the help I can get with this book selling lark.

You can download it at Amazon.

Lost Cause 400

Series- Keeping it Interesting by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)I don’t know how you feel about reading mystery series but I love reading and writing them. Following a character on their journey through life, murders, and mayhem is fun. They have personal triumphs and failures, that the reader who has become a part of that character’s world can cheer and cry over.

Some of my favorite characters and series to read over the years have been Mrs. Polifax by Dorothy Gilman, Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Mysteries with Joe Leaphorn,  Leighann Dobbs, Blackmore Sisters, Marilyn Meredith’s Tempe Crabtree and J.L. Simpsons’s Daisy Dunlop. I enjoy meeting back up with them in each book and seeing what mayhem they get into.

I like writing series because I can continue relationships, make new relationship, and have a cast of characters I know and can take on adventures. Whether they are the main characters, Shandra Higheagle and Ryan Greer of if they are the quirky, endearing, and annoying secondary characters, like Crazy Lil, Sheba the dog, Ryan’s nosy family,  or the cast of characters who live in Huckleberry.

The murdered person and the murder suspects are usually new characters, which means I have to discover all I can about them before I start writing the books. But that is one of the best parts about a mystery, discovering how to make characters connect and have motives for the murder that happened.

I’ve never thought of myself as analytical or a puzzle solver but I love piecing the story together to have my sleuths think it’s one person only to discover it could be someone else. Keeping my sleuths guessing, I hope also keeps  the readers guessing.

I just released the fourth book on my Shandra Higheagle mystery series- Murderous Secrets. This book has Shandra delving into her father’s death. She’d always been told it was a rodeo accident, but as her grandmother continues to come to her in dreams, she begins to feel it wasn’t an accident and searches for the truth.

A bonus about this book, the timing couldn’t have been better, because it happens in December and ends on Christmas Eve.

Murderous SecretsMurderous Secrets

Jealousy…Deception…Murder

The accident that took her father’s life has always haunted Shandra Higheagle. When her dreams become too real, she knows it’s time to discover the truth. It doesn’t take long to suspect her father had been murdered and that someone is unhappy with her probing.

Detective Ryan Greer knows Shandra well enough to insist he be kept informed of her investigation into the decades old death of her father. When signs implicate her mother, he can’t withhold the information, even though he realizes it could complicate their relationship.

Buy Links:

AmazonNook –  KoboWindtree Press

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at

her blog; Writing into the Sunset

her website; http://www.patyjager.net

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paty-Jager/132536633482029

Newsletter: Paty’s Prattle: http://eepurl.com/1CFgX

Paty’s Posse: https://www.facebook.com/groups/402519373168442/?ref=bookmarks

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1005334.Paty_Jager

twitter @patyjag.

Who Said You Could Wear a Dress?

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By JL Simpson

I made it this month. Due to the hectic pace of life, family crisis and dumb stupidity I missed posting in September. I hope you didn’t miss me, actually you probably never even noticed. However, whilst I have forgotten to post on here I have been busy writing.

Even though people buy and read my books I do feel like a fraud some days. In my head a writer bangs away on a typewriter with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of their mouth, a glass of whiskey close at hand. Even worse, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, (clue ha ha, no pun intended).

Some writers plot. They have weird charts, spreadsheets, cards and all manner of paraphernalia. I just have a blank screen. I’ve tried to plot. I’ve tried to work out how many words the book is going to be, how many chapters, what the gist of each chapter is, whose point of view it’s in, what the hook is at the end. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work for me.

For me writing a book is a lot like childbirth. Yes, lots of screaming, sweating, swearing at my husband (just kidding). Every word is hard earned. No matter how much you practice your breathing, and think  you know what is coming, labor is like nothing you could imagine. Everything you thought you knew goes out the window. Writing is like that for me.  Even when I have a plan or a plot my characters just do what they choose. I start a chapter thinking one thing is going to happen and then Solomon or Daisy will do or say something that takes the story off on a tangent. Today I was thinking I knew all there was to know about my grumpy Irish PI hero and then another character mentions that he once went undercover as a woman. Now Daisy is plotting how to put this knowledge about the Irish git to good use.

Not only is writing unexpected but it’s also surprising. If you’re going to slug it out for hours and hours then it’s nice to have something exciting at the end. When I had my kids I never knew if I was having a boy or a girl, and when I’m writing a book I never know what is going to happen. The only thing I know for sure is that someone it going to die, Daisy and Solomon are going to give each other hell, Daisy is going to flirt outrageously and somehow someway she is going to solve the case. Who dies, who kills them and why are not things that concern me when I start the story. Thankfully every book so far has been delivered healthy, and once dressed in a pretty cover lots of people have taken a look and decided that they love my crazy creation almost as much as I do.

 

www.jlsimpson.com

Spatter by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)When I started my first mystery novel, Double Duplicity: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery, I had a “novel” way for the victim to be stabbed. While writing the story I had to write the scene when my main character the amateur sleuth, who in the first book hadn’t had any mystery/murder events in her life to that point.

The first thing I did was connect online with a forensic coroner who explained different types of stabbing with me. I asked if my murder weapon (not a knife but I won’t say what it is in case you haven’t read the book ;)) would cause spatter. Would the person who used the weapon have blood on them?

This is what the specialist said:

1) The “spatter” will depend on what the blade hits and the overlay of clothing.

2) Each rib has an artery that runs on the bottom side, in a groove (the intercostal artery). Hitting one of these, or tearing it by breaking the rib, will cause more bleeding—most of which will be internal—into the chest cavity.

3) There’s not likely to be any spatter until the weapon is pulled out; most of the external bleeding comes from removing the weapon.

4) If the weapon hits the heart, a lot more bleeding will happen—again, mostly internal, but some external. The right side of the heart is closest to the chest wall; this is the lower pressure side of the heart.

5) After the weapon is removed, blood leakage will be a pulsatile ooze, but not shoot across the room.

6) If the lung is hit, the biggest risk is air leakage in the chest (pneumothorax) and
bleeding in the chest cavity (hemothorax) or both (hemopneumothorax). The blood leakage from the chest is a frothy red/pink, as it’s full of air.

7) Clothing is going to make spatter much less likely, except for removing the weapon.

Here’s an article the specialist suggested:
http://medicalscenewriter.blogspot.com/2012/09/stab-wound-to-chest.html

Double Duplicity (652x1024)Here is the scene where Shandra finds the gallery owner. 

“Paula?” A light shone around the edges of the partially open office door. Shandra pushed the door open. “Why aren’t you answer—”

Paula’s arms hung splayed away from her body that was cradled in her leather office chair. A large red patch spread across her body and lifeless eyes stared up at the ceiling.

Shandra backed out of the room. She couldn’t swallow for the lump of fear and vileness she’d just witnessed.

“Think… Call the police.” She punched in 9 as sirens shrieked and grew louder. “Maybe they’re coming here.” They had to be coming here. This town is too small for there to be two incidents where the cops are needed at the same time.

And this is what the seasoned detective thought when he walked into the same room.

He slipped his pack off his shoulder and extracted booties and latex gloves from the outside pockets before swinging it back onto his shoulder. He pulled the booties over his cowboy boots and wrestled his hands into the latex gloves.

The metallic tang of blood assaulted his nostrils as he stepped into the room. The scent stopped his feet and sent his mind spinning back in time to the gang fight he’d walked into in Chicago. There were many who left the alley in body bags. The scent of blood had permeated the whole alley where the two gangs had used every weapon they could get their hands on to annihilate the other.

His month long hospital stay, six months of grueling rehab, and then facing the leaders of the gangs as he testified at their trials was one horrendous bad dream. As soon as his part in the trials was over, his resignation hit the commander’s desk and he came home.

Ryan shook his head clearing it of the past and stared at the woman sprawled in the chair, staring at the ceiling. His gaze immediately landed on the large dark spot covering her chest. From lack of blood on the floor, if it was a bullet, it didn’t exit the back. Making it a small caliber and less likely anyone heard the shot. He peered closer. The large amount of blood and ripped clothing around the wound dismissed his thoughts of it being a bullet that caused the wound.

He slipped a hand into the outside pocket of the backpack and pulled out his digital camera. The click of photos one by one capturing the scene from all angles, triggered his detective mode. He forgot all else, moving in a circle, closing in on the body. Standing over the body, he looked straight down at her chest. The torn clothing at the entry sight and the gaping hole with pink foam…this wasn’t caused by a clean stab of a knife, it was viciously twisted to cause maximum damage.

Depending on the person and their knowledge it makes a difference in how the research is used.

Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series Books

Double Duplicity

Tarnished Remains

Deadly Aim

Murderous Secrets – coming the end of September

Paty Jager

Writing into the Sunset

The Perfect Murder Weapon

by Janis Patterson

We all believe that killing someone is easy as pie (remember, I’m speaking of in pixels only here) but it’s not as simple as it seems. The main trick is doing the deed and getting away with it. I mean, letting your character get away with it. Harder still is to make it so your sleuth can find enough clues to solve the mystery without making your killer seem like an idiot or your sleuth some sort of psychic/savant. What’s really hard is when your villain is so smart you really have to work to make it possible for your sleuth to catch him. I’ve had that problem in my current WIP, so I know whereof I speak!

One of the main things to catching a killer is the murder weapon. Guns and knives have traditionally been regarded as men’s weapons of choice, while poison is regarded as a more of a woman’s weapon, the rationale being that women are dainty little creatures of great sensibility who don’t like to see blood and gore. Really? And they kill people? Give me a break.

One of the main choices of murder weapon is dependent on its availability and traceability. A gun? Who owns it and how did the murderer get it? With the forensic ballistics available today – not to mention the creeping cancer of the gun control nuts – it’s harder and harder to make it believable that a villain can just grab a gun, shoot someone and get away with it. Of course, there are workarounds. The gun could be stolen. The gun could be bought on the black market. The gun could be ‘borrowed’ with the intent of framing the legitimate owner. Something else to be considered is that so much information needed to catch the villain – ballistics, registration, etc – is not available to an amateur sleuth unless they can wheedle it out of a policeman.

Forensics today can trace a knife down to the minutest measurement and shape and, if it is unusual enough, to the brand and store from which it came. If I were going to commit a murder with a knife, I’d go to the local Target or WalMart and buy the commonest knife I could, then afterwards boil it in bleach to kill any blood on it and donate it to some charity or other or leave it in a batch of kitchen utensils at a garage sale – after carefully wiping off all fingerprints. Of course, this is assuming the killer is strong enough both internally and externally to handle the strength necessary and the resultant blood, which is going to get all over his clothes. If you want to see how hard it is to stab someone, take your murder knife and stab a big, thick roast. It’s hard to get a knife deep enough to cause a fatal wound, but not as hard as stabbing a real life person, because the roast isn’t fighting you back!

Then there’s poison. First of all, where does the killer get it? Today so many of our commonly available compounds have had their poisonous elements removed or neutered. There’s nicotine, of course, sold for e-cigarettes, and it’s commonly available, but how do you know how much to use, and then there’s the problem of getting it into your victim. Same with prescription meds, which are generally fairly traceable because of limited availability. There are also the plant based poisons, but first you have to know about them, and again think of how much to use for a fatal does and how you’re going to get the resultant product into your victim Unfortunately for the killer plant based poisons are notorious for being both variable and unreliable. Poison contents vary according to the plant, the location where it was grown, the season of the year – and the phase of the moon for all I know. You never really know if you’ve gauged your dosage correctly until your victim either dies or survives. Also, this is considered rather esoteric knowledge, known to a smallish group of people (other than mystery writers) and fairly easily traceable.

For the hardy, there is always the staple of your two hands and a good old fashioned strangling. Of course, you have to know the victim well enough to get that close to him, and you have to be strong, for he will be fighting you. Strangling takes a great deal of strength as well, which basically rules out the delicately built person strangling a larger one. It also is harder than it seems. Life is tenacious, and it takes at least four minutes if not longer to strangle a person until death is assured, no matter how easy and quick it seems on television. Same objections with smothering. Unless the victim is unconscious your villain will both have to subdue and smother. Not easy.

So – is there a perfect murder weapon? Not that I know of. Every one has plusses and minuses, and in its way that is perfect for the mystery writer. You can choose one that fits your villain and your victim, but each method has built-in clues and difficulties that can, with a little accuracy and lots of creativity on your part, make it possible for your sleuth to capture your killer, no matter how smart that villain thinks himself to be.

Also, if you’d like to read the article The American Research Center in Egypt did on me and my upcoming novel A KILLING AT EL KAB, here’s the link – http://www.arce.org/news/u162