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


Check out our April author interviews: Two WWK members have new books out this month. Look for James Montgomery Jackson's interview about his fifth Seamus McCree novel, Empty Promises, on 4/4. Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver novel, Necessary Ends also debuts this month. Her interview will be on 4/18. WWK veteran, Sherry Harris's interview posts on 4/11. The next in her series, I Know What You Bid Last Summer, is now available. Grace Topping interviews KB Owen on 4/25. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


Our April Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 4/7-Cindy Callaghan, 4/14-Sasscer Hill, 4/21-Margaret S. Hamilton, 4/28-Kait Carson.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.


Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:


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.


Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.


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.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Murder and Mayhem, March 17, 2018




By Margaret S. Hamilton




On St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, I attended Murder and Mayhem, a crime readers and writers conference organized by author Lori Rader-Day and publicist Dana Kaye.  At nine in the morning, South Michigan Avenue was thronged with parade attendees attired in green. Simultaneously with the conference kick-off, the Chicago River was dosed with green dye. Let the party begin!




Eric Beetner was Master of Ceremonies for the one-day event. He kept up a lively banter as he introduced the five panels and keynote conversation between Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn at the end of the afternoon.

Debut authors J.D. Allen, Danny Gardner, Steve Goble, Alexia Gordon, and Kristen Lepionka spoke about their books and publishing process, moderated by Heather Ash. I’ll review Goble’s pirate noir “Spider John” mystery in a future WWK blog. Lepionka is the Columbus-based author of the private investigator Roxane Weary books, which I’m anxious to read.

Series authors Raymond Benson, Jess Lourey, Nick Petrie, Patricia Skalka, Carrie Smith, and Susanna Calkins spoke about character and plot arcs in a series. How do their characters age? And what if a publisher drops the series? Lourey characterized writing a series as “clearing out the rusty pipes in an old house.” With each book in her series, she reveals more about her characters and their backstory.

Thriller and crime writers Jamie Freveletti, Michael Koryta, Mary Kubica, Isabella Maldonado, and Lori Rader-Day addressed how they use place as a real or fictionalized setting in their novels. Julia Borcherts, a Kaye publicist, moderated the panel. How does your perception of a real place change after you use it in your novel? Maldonado, a retired D.C. police captain who writes the Veranda Cruz police procedurals set in Phoenix, said she was “used to knowing where the bodies are buried.” She waxed eloquently about “the desert vibe” in Phoenix and how the intense heat assumes the role of a major character. Maldonado delighted in telling us Phoenix residents refer to themselves as “Phoenicians.”

Eric Beetner, Terri Bischoff, Cheryl Reed, Andrew Shaffer, and Jessica Strawser discussed various aspects of publishing, moderated by Adam Morgan. Strawser is a Cincinnati resident and Editor-At-Large for Writer’s Digest Magazine. I’ll write about her books in a future blog post. Terri Bischoff, Acquisitions Editor for Midnight Ink, made the chilling statement that she only reads a submission until she finds a reason to reject it. Every aspiring author in the audience gulped and chewed her nails.

Forensics specialists Thomas Halloran, Adam Henkels, Marcella Raymond, Luis Santoyo, and Cynthia Woods discussed various aspects of crime scene investigation and forensics, moderated by Tim Chapman. Santoyo is a certified sketch artist, one of two FBI-trained artists in Illinois. A law enforcement professional as well as a forensic artist, Santoyo explained how he uses investigative techniques to complete an accurate sketch of a perpetrator. He believes hand sketches are more accurate than software programs.




Over lunch, Sisters in Crime Chicagoland president Pat Skalka interviewed Gillian Flynn. In addition to having published three novels including the best-selling Gone Girl, Flynn is a Chicago-area, mini-van driving mother of two children. She’s tall and slender with a pleasant alto voice and perfectly blunt cut hair.

Flynn grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of a film professor father and reading comprehension professor mother. Her father took her to the movies on a weekly basis, after which they would analyze each film. After obtaining a graduate degree in journalism from Northwestern, she wrote for Entertainment Weekly. She published her first two novels while working for EW. After she lost her job, she wrote Gone Girl and the screenplay adaptation. She currently is executive producer and co-writer of the HBO miniseries adopted from Sharp Objects, her first novel. She characterized the book as a “character story inside a mystery.”

Flynn focuses on the violence of woman in her novels, telling the audience to “own the darkness.” She creates female characters who display a full range of emotions from good to evil. Flynn noted that the majority of mystery writers are women, for whom creating fictional characters and plots is a safe way to deal with violent tendencies. She admires the writing of Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood.

Flynn is a journalist and writing is her job. She writes in scenes, claims not to plot, and routinely hits the hundred-page block. As a birthday surprise, her husband installed a wall-sized white board in her downstairs office on which she writes notes. She doesn’t have a problem writing from a male viewpoint, characterizing herself as “part dude”. Flynn’s beta readers are her lawyer husband and a close friend.
Flynn completed her interview with these admonitions: be stubborn, keep writing, and don’t settle for a first draft.

Cloud Gate (or "the Bean") by Sir Anish Kapoor, Millennium Park, Chicago



At the end of the day, Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn held a keynote conversation about their respective writing processes and crime fiction. They agreed that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who look under rocks, and those who don’t. All 250 attendees agreed that they were the former.

The first horror/scary book Deaver read was “Hound of the Baskervilles.” He noted that the moor setting offered no place to run. Flynn’s first brush with horror was In Cold Blood. She described her first story, written about age eleven, “To the Outhouse,” which featured a pack of wolves and gory climax.

Sisters in Crime founder Sara Paretsky awarded Gillian Flynn the Paretsky Award. Paretsky noted that Flynn writes about the “forgotten places” of the Midwest—Kansas and Missouri, where readers live but unlike Chicago, places that are rarely used as settings in novels.

Readers and writers, have you attended an author panel event? Do you prefer a panel presentation or an hour-long in-depth presentation?

Dying the Chicago River green on St. Patrick's Day

Friday, April 20, 2018

Are you a Lexophile? by Warren Bull




Image from nwcreation.net 

Are you a lexophile?, i.e., a lover of words, one who derives pleasure from various use of words, who appreciates the nuances surrounding different words, and who is alert to synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and homonyms, often using them for effect, sometimes in humor.
For example:
Lawyers’ briefs are anything but brief.
I know I shouldn’t have argued with the nurse but he kept needling me.
The pop singer was a flop as a movie star. He just didn’t project well.
Baseball is holy. After all, Genesis starts, “In the big inning.”
My uncle must be a magician, Mom said he took a car and turned it into a tree.
My teacher asked how many sides a circle has. I told her, “Two; inside and outside.” 
How big is the capitol of Ireland? I don’t know but it must be enormous. Every time anyone talks about it they say its Dublin.

“Jimmy! I missed you.” “I know, Sam. I ducked.”
Even Abraham Lincoln was a lexophile. He used to sit by a window in the White House reading newspapers or books. He would glance out the window from time to time. One evening he said to his confidential messenger, William Slade.
“William, who is that old colored man outside with an empty basket on his arm? I’ve noticed that for some days he comes regularly and leaves with the basket still empty. Go down and get him. Bring him up to see me.”
The old man hobbled into the presence of the President, but upon realizing he was seeing Lincoln, he was too full of emotion to speak.
Realizing this, Lincoln spoke first.
“Well, Uncle. I’ve seen you coming here for several days with your empty basket and a few minutes later you leave. What’s your story? What can I do for you?”
“Thank you, sir,” he said. “Mr. Lincoln I heard that you have the Constitution here and it has provisions in it. Well, as we have nothing to eat in my house, I just thought I’d come around and get mine.” 
Lincoln laughed and told Slade to take him to the kitchen to fill his basket.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

TEACHING HIRAM HISTORY



When I was teaching third grade in Hiram Ohio near the college, I decided to research the history of this small college town. I went to the college library and checked out some books about the early settlers in this town with only two traffic lights. Then I put them in chapters and with a binder made them into books the size of a printer paper. I drew a picture for each chapter I wrote relating to the chapter.

CHAPTER ONE:  “This is Hiram.” In this chapter I wrote about this beautiful town in Portage County and when the first settlers came and where they came from and how the town grew and how the earliest people were Native Americans, and many were soldiers from the Revolutionary War who were given rights to the land. I named the soldiers who got the rights to the land. I also printed maps out on several pages, too.

When we gathered together to discuss what we found.


CHAPTER TWO: “First Settlers.” I wrote about the first settlers who came and their families with their names. I drew a picture at the top of the page with a settler an oxen plowing a field.









This is the one that turned up well when I snapped a picture.


CHAPTER THREE: I wrote about them settling in, how they built their cabins, clearing the land for planting and before the cabins were done the three-sided shelters they built with a place for a fire in front of it. They were called half-camps. At the bottom half of the last page, I drew a picture of the inside of a cabin with fireplace, a woman working at a spinning wheel, a boy sitting on a bench carving a piece of wood, a girl using a brush to clean sheep’s wool for her mother, and another little girl with a doll. The father is at the table working on something. It was an interesting chapter.



Two students making a rubbing,.


CHAPTER FOUR:  Food of the pioneer, what they grew and the hand mills many of them had to grind their corn and other grains. Sometimes they would take a wagon load of grains to a grain mill in Parkman north of them. At the top of the first page I drew a woman milking a cow sitting on a little stool with a bucket and the cow eating a pile of hay.



CHAPTER FIVE:  Hiram’s first school, and the first post office. In 1813 the first schoolmaster came to Hiram with his family, bought some land and started teaching. People had to pay at least a dollar for each student. The school masters were strict and often used a switch to keep students in order. I wrote quite a bit about those early school houses. I drew a picture of the back of a school master holding a switch facing four little children reading their books.


A student who found who he wrote about.


CHAPTER SIX;   Life in Early Hiram is when I started bringing in the names of early settlers, and what the children would be doing to help their parents and what they would do if they had free time, the games children would play, the weddings that were performed and other things done in those days. I drew a picture at the end of the 3 pages of this chapter of a blacksmith shoeing a horse.
CHAPTER SEVEN;  Hiram Continues to Grow. More people came; a blacksmith, a cooper, a tanner, currier and shoemaker. In 1820 the first store was opened, but there still was no doctor. Most of the inhabitants relied on home remedies like chamomile tea and other things like garlic. It was the job of the housewife to care for the sick and usually a neighbor woman would help out. A family was lucky if all their children lived. The little village organized their own Military Company, too. During the Civil War 74 men went to fight including James A. Garfield who lived in Hiram.



A mother helping some students.




CHAPTER EIGHT;  Religion in Hiram. Almost every community had a church, but like the Amish many met on Sundays in someone’s home. In 1850 The Disciples of Christ chose Hiram to build a school for higher education. They called it Western Reserve Eclectic Institute which later became Hiram College. James A. Garfield taught there, too. Hiram’s religious history wasn’t always good. In 1830 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigden came to Hiram with a new religion called Latter Day Saints or Mormonism, and they recruited new members. However, a rumor started that they were going to take away people’s land, so one night a dozen men came and dragged Joseph Smith from his home, where he was resting after caring for his sick baby,  and tarred and feathered him. Later friends spent the night scraping the tar and feathers off him. The next morning he still preached to his congregation. I did draw a picture of this but when I took a picture of it it didn't come out well.


CHAPTER NINE;   Early Life of President James A. Garfield. It was about three pages long, and I drew a picture of him with a mule pulling a boat loaded with stuff down the Erie Canal, something he did as a young man.

CHAPTER TEN; Garfield As A Young Man. I drew a picture of him in military uniform on a horse.
Two more checking out a tombstone.

CHAPTER ELEVEN;   James A. Garfield as president. I drew a picture at the top of the chapter of him and his wife, and on the 2nd page of him being assassinated.
We would do a chapter of this each day, and my students would fill in a paper of questions for each chapter to be graded. Also, I made a list of nine early settlers for my students to choose from to write about in the journals I made that looked like leather booklets using gray plastic for the covers that I sewed down the middle over several or more pages of typewriter size paper, and the children would write in their journal as if they were that person as we went through the history. 








This is the grave stone of Mahitable Loomis.



The last week of school I took my class with parent volunteers to Hiram Cemetery and gave each a clip board with questions to fill in like what kind of stones were the tombstones. Also a line to write an epitaph they thought was interesting. I kept them with the parents in the lower part of the cemetery at first and then we went up to the upper part that had the tombstones of all the settlers I had on the list and we had discussed. I still remember when one my little girl students, who had chosen Mehitable Loomis, a young girl who came to Hiram when she was ten years old. When she found her tall tombstone, she screamed “I’m buried right here, and I had all these children.


I had brought large sheets of paper and black crayons so they could do rubbings of the tombstones of the person they had chosen to be in their journals. After we finished in the graveyard we walked to a local park where other parents had arranged a picnic lunch for us and the kids could play games after they ate lunch.
I would have included more of my drawings but taking pictures of them they didn't show up as well, and I thought seeing my students would be better.

What history classes in school do you remember that you enjoyed?


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An Interview with Author Tina Whittle by E. B. Davis


I knew how hard it was to pull your roots out of the dirt that had made you,
leave that ground behind no matter how poisoned it had become. All our regrets
and mistakes and hauntings, they were always ours, always. We hauled our
own private graveyards with us everywhere we went.
Tina Whittle, Necessary Ends, Kindle Loc. 1054

Tai Randolph is no stranger to solving mysteries. With a taste for danger and a talent for amateur sleuthing, she has helped put an assortment of murderers behind bars, much to the displeasure of her lover, Trey Seaver. A former SWAT officer with the Atlanta police department, Trey believes in letting the authorities handle complex matters of crime and punishment.

But then the Talbot case flares back to life.

It was the crime that rocked Atlanta—actress Jessica Talbot shot dead in her Buckhead mansion and her husband, movie producer Nick Talbot, accused of the murder. It seemed an open and shut case…until a dirty cop’s secret forced prosecutors to set Talbot free. Now, four years later, someone wants him dead, and the evidence points to the man most convinced of Talbot’s guilt—Trey.

Talbot offers an irresistible deal—he’ll keep Trey’s name off the suspect list if Trey agrees to a one-on-one interview. It’s a chance for Trey to determine once and for all if Talbot really is a killer, but it could also expose secrets in Trey’s own past, confidential information he has sworn to protect. Caught between his drive for justice and his need for security, Trey does the unexpected—he asks Tai to help him investigate.

It’s a situation fraught with drama and potential disaster, the kind of case Tai relishes. With Trey by her side—and in a killer’s crosshairs—she vows to use every trick in her slightly sketchy playbook to stop a vigilante murderer from claiming a fresh victim.

Tina Whittle’s sixth book in her Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series, Necessary Ends, moves fast. The plot circles around relationships and doubles back. Like many mysteries, if the truth can be determined, then the culprits will be discovered. It all seems so black and white, but the truth is elusive. There is no clarity when “facts” are every shade of gray as well as their perceptions.

One of the most important parts of any novel to me is the backstory. I found myself at a disadvantage because I hadn’t read the previous five books in the series. Although Necessary Ends’ plot holds together well without reading the first books, if you are like me and are interested in the development of the main characters, start at the first book because from what I gathered, Tai and Trey have a lot of backstory/changes they’ve gone through—and I wanted to know their stories.  

Tina must do a lot of research for her books. I learned so much—like why wearing clip-on ties puts men at an advantage in dicey situations, and why dash and body cams provide officers’ alibis, (but even cams can be fudged). I also loved the touch of fun and the unexpected donkey—nope, not telling.

Welcome to the other side of WWK, Tina.                                                                                     E. B. Davis
Thank you! It’s very comfy and welcoming over here!

Trey is under Tai’s brother’s care. Is Tai’s brother a psychologist?

Yes, an organizational psychologist, which means he works with companies and individuals in the workplace. His specialty is helping former police officers adapt to careers outside of law enforcement settings, especially in corporate structures. This is how he met Trey.

Are Tai and Trey both suffering from PTSD—but due to very different circumstances?

Yes. One thing I’ve learned about PTSD—it doesn’t necessarily need violence as a trigger: any traumatic event can bring it on. My own grandmother suffered from it after losing her home in a tornado—severe weather agitated her greatly in what I now recognize was a form of PTSD.

In Trey’s case, he first had to deal with it in the aftermath of the car accident that killed his mother and gave him a traumatic brain injury (TBI)—he’s comfortable using therapeutic measures to address his psychological challenges, once he’s aware of them anyway. Tai isn’t. Being of the “buck up and deal with it” school of thought, she’s spent her life rejecting what she considers her brother’s overly analytical approach to mental health. But now that she’s with Trey, his matter-of-fact acceptance of the things one must do to keep one’s brain functioning is giving her a different perspective.

Tai tries a technique her brother has suggested Trey use, reenactment therapy, in which Trey has found success. When Tai tries it, she ends up in a panic attack, followed by anger. I can understand “rewiring a response,” but I’m unsure of how anyone can “rewire an experience.” It was what it was, wasn’t it? Is this part of conquering fear?

I learned a lot about this type of treatment for PTSD. It’s just one part of Prolonged Exposure therapy (PE) which teaches you to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations before taking on activities that are psychologically challenging. Tai should have started with talking in a guided session before moving right into a reenactment, but being somewhat impatient and headstrong, she went right to the hard part.

Rewiring the experience refers to the body’s response as the brain remembers. So much of the trauma is based on the connections between memory and experience. If you can gain control over how you respond to the memory, you “rewire” it so that it doesn’t trigger PTSD symptoms under similar conditions. It works very well for Trey because he’s done a lot of the emotional processing already—reenactment therapy in a SWAT scenario puts him right in the driver’s seat. Tai…not so much. But she’s learning what does work for her, including the necessity of defusing her internally violent response to her own anger.

One definition of decompensation is “the failure to generate effective psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbance or disintegration.” It can signal a mental health crisis is on the way, which is why people can be hypervigilant about it in themselves and their loved ones (Trey suffered from decompensation in the fifth book, Reckoning and Ruin, and now both he and Tai are ever-watchful in case he starts to slip again).

And yes, it can hit anyone. I tend toward anxiety myself, and after the birth of my daughter, when I was overwhelmed and under-rested, my usual methods of keeping myself calm didn’t work. Luckily, I had a good therapist to help me get back on track, but I remain watchful, even twenty years later.

Due to Trey’s brain damage he gropes for words—like playing charades with Tai. Does she ever tire of the process? Does she possess great patience?

Tai has very little patience, but she has an extraordinary ability to accept people as they are, in all their foibles and complications. To her, Trey’s vocabulary hiccups are simply a part of him (the same way my dear husband deals with the fact that every inanimate object in our house is a “thingamajig” to me). It’s another part of their give and take, which I enjoy writing very much.

Tai wants to smoke, but she often settles for Jack Daniels. How do readers like a character who hasn’t been whitewashed by PC?

Very well, actually, but then my readers are all incredibly intelligent and accepting of characters who may be a little rough around the edges. One reviewer dinged her for such behavior, calling her “unlikeable,” which is code for “not behaving like women ought to.” My readers, however, appreciate her in all her sneak-smoking, liquor-loving, muddy boot-wearing, and fancy bra-sporting complexity.

You’ve made Tai a very responsible gun shop owner. Do you think most are?

This is a hard question. The ones I know are very responsible, impeccable in their adherence to federal firearms law and their own code of ethics. That said, I am not sure the industry as a whole is as responsible as the people I know, and I think we as a country need to address this situation, and pronto.

I thought Tai’s merchandise was mainly Civil War oriented, but she does sell modern guns, too, doesn’t she?

She does. The shop is first and foremost a gun shop, which requires a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to run. She does specialize in Civil War weaponry, however, both antique and replica, and has a special license to sell explosives (she supplies black powder for several reenactment groups in the Atlanta area).  

I was surprised that Tai had never met Trey’s old partner on the force and as SWAT snipers. Why hasn’t Tai met Keesha Price before?

When Trey suffered the car accident, he went into residential rehab for quite some time. And then when he came back to the force, he was different—more guarded, less friendly, suspicious and anxious and unpredictable. He has what is called “flat affect”: his expression often looks bland and emotionless regardless of what he’s feeling. His new cognitive challenges took up every ounce of his focus and energy, and he became very self-conscious, so much so that he cut ties with almost everyone he knew except for his best friend, Garrity (but even that relationship took a hit and remains somewhat challenging for both men).

Keesha worked with Trey as a SWAT sniper; it’s tough, demanding work that requires utter trust in one’s partner. For Trey to put up a wall between them, after all they’d been through together, felt like a betrayal to her. And it was. Trey is just beginning to reckon with the fallout from his actions, and he’s trying in his own clumsy way to reconnect with her. I’ve known about Keesha since the third book in the series, but she is headstrong and wary and reluctant to be vulnerable with this man who hurt her once—I don’t blame her for staying away until now. But that explains why Tai has never met her.

Communication between Trey and Price is precise. Is this personality or the need for gut survival tactics?

It’s a function of their former partnership, certainly. Two-person sniper teams are one of the few law enforcement partnerships where one has a permanent partner. That’s because snipercraft is meticulous, mathematical work where milliseconds and millimeters stand between life and death and there is no room for error. It attracts people with compatible personality traits, and partners learn to size each other up quickly and effectively. They learn to communicate with a personal shorthand, at least in the field. That’s the dynamic I see at play with Keesha and Trey (or Price and Seaver, as they refer to each other). What looks like emotionless precision is in fact a testament to the professional intimacy and trust they once shared…and might share again in some fashion.

One of the characters has been involuntarily committed twice and his fiancée was given custodial care. How is this legally done? How is someone deemed unfit? Are there legal standards?

The standards vary from state to state, but all states require that someone (usually a relative or a health care provider) file a legal petition seeking to be appointed as a conservator for the person who has demonstrated an inability to take care of themselves. Courts then appoint a third party to investigate the claims, which sometimes leads to a full hearing. If the claims are found valid, then the petition may be temporarily granted. A conservatee can contest the decision, but in any case, the courts make the final determination.

I based the specifics of my character Nick Talbot’s case on the real-life situation of Britney Spears, whose father and family lawyer became her physical and financial conservators in 2008. That conservatorship seems to be working out well for all parties, unlike my fictional one (spoiler alert!).

Definition time! What are:


BDU pants?

BDU stands for Battle Dress Uniform, which refers to a specific kind of armed forces camouflage that has since been phased out officially. The term found new life in the civilian world and refers to any type of tactical clothing, usually made of ripstop fabric and fitted with many gear pockets.

ATACs wear?

ATACS is the acronym for Advanced Tactical Concealment System. It’s a high-tech camouflage used by SWAT or Special Ops teams to blend into their surroundings, especially useful for mixed terrain concealment.

OPS?

In the Atlanta Police Department, the Internal Affairs division is called the Office of Professional Standards. They are the cops who investigate the department itself should there be suspicion of official wrongdoing.

LeMat revolver?

A Civil war-era firearm designed by Jean Alexandre LeMat of New Orleans, the LeMat is a cap and ball black powder revolver with a secondary under-barrel that could function as a short-barreled shotgun. Notoriously inaccurate but deadly at close range, the LeMat saw service with the Confederate Army and was a favorite of CSA generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Jeb Stuart.

Zone of Proximal Learning?

This is a teaching term that refers to that sweet spot between what a learner can do on her own versus what a learner needs help accomplishing (often called the zone of proximal development). In practice, it means keeping the assignments hard enough to challenge the learner but not so difficult that she gets discouraged. Tai accuses Trey of violating this rule frequently during their sessions in self-defense training, but she’s wrong – he’s simply trying to teach her how to fight effectively even when she’s outmatched.

Cooling Board Door?

An extra-large door that doubles both as a door and as a slab for the laying out of the dead. It’s not a function of contemporary design, but it came in very useful during the days of in-home wakes.

LINX? (Is it nationwide?)
LINX (properly spelled LInX, but that looked very weird when typeset, so I adapted it) stands for Law Enforcement Information Exchange. It is a nationwide, multi-jurisdictional data base that correlates information from across the country. For a number-nerd like Trey, it’s a way of teasing patterns out of seemingly random information.

After Trey’s accident, he changed his personal “front” to the world by driving a Ferrari and wearing designer clothing. Why did he do this, and why is his identity tied to these things?

One of the challenges of Trey’s particular injury is the loss of identity, the feeling that the person he was doesn’t exist any longer. Traumatic brain injury often creates personality changes, significant ones, and Trey woke up from a coma only to find himself living another person’s life, one that didn’t fit at all with the old one. So he created a new identity whole cloth and stepped right into it.

It’s an extreme adaptation, but it worked. Tai describes his Italian couture life as a container, one that can hold together the disparate parts of his life until he himself can reconnect them. He’s learned that there are a few of these things, however, like a well-tailored suit and his black Ferrari F430, that really do reflect his identity.

Gabriella, Trey’s former girlfriend, helps with the case. What is her profession?

She is a massage therapist who runs a spa and boutique in Buckhead. She also reads tarot cards for a select clientele and is a skilled herbalist.

Kava lactone is a common ingredient in herbal anxiety formulations. But it can have a psychoactive effect if mixed with prescriptions of benzodiazepine (and its derivatives). Are there no regulations of herbal ingredients, which in combination could cause an overdose?

Herbal remedies are regulated by the FDA, but they are considered dietary supplements, not drugs. Manufacturers don't have to seek FDA approval before selling them, but these products do have to pass quality standards, be properly labeled, and if the company makes a claim about the product’s general effects on health and body functions, they must provide supporting evidence to back up that claim. The company must also state that the FDA has not evaluated that claim. So as you can see, there’s a lot of gray area here (as the contraindication of kava and certain prescriptions has demonstrated). Caveat emptor is Rule Number One when supplementing one’s diet with herbal remedies.

I’ve always thought of the Buckhead area of Atlanta as a sort of posh country club sort of neighborhood. Has it undergone transitions?

Starting in the eighties and lasting though the first years of the twenty-first century, Buckhead was a raucous, rowdy, tacky, gaudy spectacle of drinking and decadence, the last of the great American bar crawls. In its heyday, college students, yuppies, out-of-towners, and professional partiers prowled the sidewalks and packed the streets with bumper to bumper noise and traffic. Nightclubs proliferated, and so did the noise and violence. The area’s more conservative Old Guard decided they’d had enough. They zoned the area into better behavior and bulldozed the bars. Glass and steel skyscrapers and high-end restaurants and couture boutiques replaced the likes of Lulu’s Bait Shack and Tongue and Groove. Buckhead is posh, absolutely. But its past is wild and checkered.

Where is Kennesaw in relation to Atlanta?

About an hour northwest of the city center.

Is Doll’s Head Trail in Chastain Park? Or is the trail in a police training park area? Why do people use trash to create roadside attractions there?

Doll’s Head Trail is a part of Constitution Lakes Park in Dekalb County. An urban nature preserve open to the public, it is the reclaimed site of a 19th-century brickworks factory.  Doll’s Head is its most well-known trail, a two-mile loop through forests and over boardwalks that features trash repurposed as community art (including, inexplicably, lots of baby doll parts). The idea of turning garbage into art is the brainchild of resident Joel Slaton, who said that he wanted the trail to have an air of “mischief and mystery.” Having walked it myself, I can attest that he succeeded. I haven’t seen it closed for a police training (as I have parts of the airport), but I imagine it would make an excellent location for a search and rescue scenario.

Rico, Tai’s old friend, breaks cellphone passwords easily. Are they easy to break? Most are like PINs—are they easily broken too?

There is a very simple hack—so simple that I can do it—that will allow a user to bypass the passcode of an iPhone. It takes advantage of a glitch in Siri’s programming that as a real person, I hope Apple has fixed (or will fix) real soon. As an author, though, I like having phones so easy to break into.

In Necessary Ends, Trey and Tai make progress in recovery, which necessitates changes in their lives. Have you mapped out their character arcs for the series?

For the most part, yes, although I occasionally get surprised. I can only stack the deck so far in advance before their free will as characters starts to mess up my best-laid plans. This may sound odd to non-writers—I’ll confess; it did to me before I started writing these two—but I’ve found that I am in no way the boss of either Tai or Trey. They’re not the boss of me either, though, so…we are in a constant negotiation.

What’s next for Tai and Trey?

My husband provided me the clue to the inciting incident in Book Seven when he picked up a stranger on the highway one morning—an elderly man who was neat and clean, but who existed in a parallel reality all his own. Our local police department revealed that he was a Known Wanderer, a person with a home but a penchant for roaming hither and yon with anyone willing to give him a ride, especially when he decided to go off his medication. I wondered what would happen if some other Known Wanderer witnessed a heinous crime—how would the authorities protect such a person? How would criminals find him? And what could he have seen that would make him run away instead of roam?

As for Tai and Trey’s personal relationship, I can’t spill too much without spoiling the final reveals in Necessary Ends, but I can assure readers of one thing—whatever they do, they’ll do it together. How they define “together,” however, is leading to some interesting plot developments.