If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Living with Murder Years Later

The other day, I was sitting in traffic, waiting for the light to turn, when I noticed a bumper sticker on a pickup truck the next lane over.


Yep, that’s what it said, in big, bold red letters, on a pollution-decayed white background. On the truck’s back window was one of those personalized “In loving memory” decals you see with someone’s name and date of death all stylized in a fancy script.

Michaela McClelland. 6-17-1998

Being the curious sort that I am, I Googled the case the second I was back in front of a computer. On June 17, 1998, 11-year-old Michaela was struck repeatedly with a hammer. Her 24-year-old baby sitter, Richard Benedict, was arrested the next day and eventually went to jail for the crime.

The whole thing sounds horrible—drug use, sexual advances and theft also came into play—but it also doesn’t sound much different from something we’d see in any number of our favorite mysteries and thrillers.
Which made me think about the man in the pickup truck.

I don’t know if he was Michaela’s father, brother, uncle, grandfather, friend… he could’ve been any of those things (all I saw was a hairy man arm hanging out the open driver’s side window). No matter who he was in relation to her, he clearly loved Michaela and is still carrying a torch for her, if his vehicle is any indication.

We write and read all the time about family members of victims. They are sometimes minor characters, only mentioned in passing. Other times, they can be a main character, out for the truth and vengeance. No fictional reaction seems to be exactly the same, though there’s always some form of grief, sadness, shock and anger in the mix.

But what happens when the murder isn’t confined to the pages of a book? What if it’s real life and 16 years later, you’re still wearing the pain of the ordeal on your sleeve, or the bumper of your pickup in rush hour traffic?

When writing, do you think about the future and how your story still sits on the survivors’ hearts?


James Montgomery Jackson said...

When it comes to the family of my fictional murder victims, I have not yet come back to visit them from a distance. I do deal with the initial trauma, but not the long term.

I have addressed and will continue to write about the longer-term implications of a justified homicide my protagonist commits.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Yes, I have to some extent. Usually my victims are not very nice people.I'd have trouble offing a really nice person I liked and the reader would, too. What I have to deal with more is the family of the murderer as I've done with my first book as well as my third book. I think that's why I write a bio of my murderer in advance and never make my murderer a really evil person, but one who is dealing with issues of their own in which murder seems their only choice even though it's a wrong choice.

KM Rockwood said...

The effects of the crime go on forever. In some ways, it's the same as any unexpected, inappropriate death, accidental or otherwise--children without a parent, parents without a child, a hole that never heals in so many lives. And there's the added element of it should not have happened, that someone did it deliberately. Lives are changed forever.

Other crimes have long-lasting effects, too. Rape comes to mind--people who are never able to trust again, or who have on-going problems with relationships.

Even property crimes can cause problems. Some people never feel secure in their homes again after a burglary. Having a wallet stolen causes all kinds of problems, sometimes long-term if identity theft is part of it.

The other day, I was talking to one of the people I use as a model and a source of information for my books. One of the topics we talked about was how different so many lives would be different--his, his family, his victim's family--had he not, 30 years ago, killed someone. His mother has urged me to write a novel from the point of view of the mother of a murderer. She says there's a wealth of un-mined material there, and I'm sure she's right.

Shari Randall said...

So sad, Sarah. I've heard of victims' assistance funds for folks who go through these things, but I am sure it is never enough to fill the empty place left by a loved one's murder.
Actually, a couple of my characters are dealing with the deaths of someone close to them, and it definitely affects their world view and behavior.

E. B. Davis said...

My position is very much the same as Jim's--including the last sentence! What a reveal, Jim! Now your next in series must come out in a timely manner.

I can't say more about my book or I will spoil it, but a murder 20 years prior impacts my main character. I hope as I develop her arc, the effects of that murder will be resolved for her.

Sarah Henning said...

Great answers, folks! Jim: WRITE THAT NOW. You too, E.B.!

Gloria, I think it's a great idea to write a bio of your murderer in advance.

KM, great parallels drawn there—you're right that any crime can have long-lasting effects.

And Shari, I think you're so right about death affecting characters, even if it's not *the* death that makes it a mystery.

Mark Howard said...

Good Evening, I believe Sarah, it was my pick-up truck that you saw in traffic on the day you mentioned. I do in fact carry still to this day nearly 17 years after the fact, a torch for Michaela. She was/is my step daughter. Even though I never called her that, she was my daughter. I loved her "big as the universe" we would say to one another. There is not a day that passes that I don't think of her and miss everything about her. I am a bit of a fish out of water here, as this is a blog for writers. Not for victims. Even though I have taken some studies in writing and only have a poem in a bound work. Yet I digress. As to my sleeve, yes, I do carry that cross, it is out there for the world to see...Murder shatters lives...as it says in the script under her name. Our lives have been in a tail-spin since that horrific day. I have likened it to a scene from CSI, I suppose the writers here on this blog could write a scene such as we came home to find. Hopefully, it would remain but a work of fiction, much like the reports that you mentioned in this blog. It makes for good reading, sells papers, draws viewers. Doesn't mean that was the truth. With that being said, the truth is our baby girl was NOT molested, there were NO drugs in our home, and the offender was 22. Sadly, murder sells, and often stories are told from the offenders point of view, and the victims become lost. It's sad. All the comments I have read sound like folks who are looking in, for that I'm thankful. This is a pain, I would wish on no one. Our friends have said to us "you should write a book", when we talk about the tragedy to them. There is so much more to be said. Thank you for hearing me and allowing me to stop by on your space here.
A Broken Hearted Father...
Mark Howard

Sarah Henning said...

Mark, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I've thought about your truck many times since I saw it and I thank you so much for coming to our blog and sharing. Take care and know that we at the WWK are very sorry for your loss.