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

Here are the upcoming WWK interviews for the month of July!

July 4th Christopher Huang, A Gentleman's Murder

July 11th V. M. Burns, The Plot Is Murder

July 18th Edith Maxwell (Maddie Day), Death Over Easy

July 25th Shari Randall, Against The Claw

Our July Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 7/7--Mary Feliz, 7/14--Annie Hogsett, 7/21--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/28--Kait Carson.

Our special bloggers for the fifth Monday and Tuesday of July--Kaye George and Paula Gail Benson.

Please welcome two new members to WWK--Annette Dashofy, who will blog on alternative Sundays with Jim Jackson, and Nancy Eady, who will blog on every fourth Monday. Thanks for blogging with us Annette and Nancy!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Carla Damron's quirky short story, "Subplot", was published in the Spring edition of The Offbeat Literary Journal. You can find it here: http://offbeat.msu.edu/volume-18-spring-2018/

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), was published on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here. He's working on Seamus McCree #6 (False Bottom)

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 July 31, 2018.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

After the crime: Fear and resilience

sliver of moon in night sky

by Julie Tollefson

In reading and writing, I am drawn to the dark side. Murder. Suspense. I get a thrill from peeking over the edge at the worst of human nature, knowing that at the end of the ride the payoff will be the triumph of good over evil. Nice and tidy and controlled.

Last spring, our community (population 5,000) experienced two incidents that caused me to reflect on the connections between the fiction I love and the reality I find reprehensible.

In the first, as winter gave way to spring, someone scrawled a note on the bathroom wall at my son’s school, threatening violence against the student body the next day. In light of school shootings in recent years, and the mass shooting at a business less than 200 miles away a few days earlier, the threat was seriously scary. 

Increased anxiety accompanied the increased police presence in all of our small district’s schools. Two hours after the district notified parents of the threat, I sat at my desk going through the motions of work, cleaning out drawers and organizing files and attempting other tasks that didn’t require my full attention. My thoughts were 20 miles away, with my son and my husband, a teacher in the same school. 

The next day, when I sent my child to school and my husband to work in a place that potentially could be the site of the next headline news, was even worse. My husband could have called in “sick.” We could have kept our son home. Many, many parents did. Only two students showed up for my husband’s first class of the day. His largest class size was six. District-wide, more than half of students stayed away. 

But as a family, after a lot of conversation, we agreed that we did not want to be held hostage to fear instilled by other people. It’s the kind of decision you never want to get wrong, but we thought it was important to show that we weren’t helpless.

A couple of months later, a local man allegedly shot a police detective in a nearby town, then fled through a series of carjackings. My husband and his students stayed at school under lockdown while tactical units surrounded a house a block or so away. 

Both of these incidents caused me to think about the implications for my writing. I enjoy reading a sweeping Jason Bourne-like tale of multinational intrigue, but big drama also happens on a smaller scale, locally, at the family or individual level. That’s the sort of fiction I gravitate toward in my writing, where I can explore the consequences for an individual or a community when someone breaks the social contract and commits a heinous act. 

When I started writing this post, I thought the message would be “In fiction, unlike in real life, you get to control the outcome. You get to celebrate when the good guys win.” But the real-life incidents I described above were scary, and the consequences rippled throughout the community, even when the outcomes were the best possible under the circumstances (no one attacked the school and police caught the suspect in the shooting of the detective without further harm to innocents). And that is a lesson I want to explore more deeply in my fiction. Crime at all levels leaves scars, and how people—real or fictional—heal and cope in the aftermath determines whether they and their communities let fear win or find the fortitude to be stronger and more resilient despite threats and violence.

How do real-life events influence your thinking about the fiction you read or write? 


Kait said...

Very powerful, Julie. Especially brave is the decision you and your family made to not let fear control.

Jim Jackson said...

You and I share the same relative space with our writing. I wondered whether what I write could possibly contribute to more mayhem in the real world. Anything is possible, but since I never use violence to titillate, and my novels deal in part in the consequences of criminal acts, I decided I wouldn’t worry about adding to global violence.

I echo what Kait said about your courage to stand up fear.

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

Crime and its consequences are part of life, and in my writing, I try to handle situations with respect for the fictional characters involved. Like Jim, I don't use violence to titillate, and my antagonists aren't presented as acquiring honor or respect, or even "street cred" from their vile acts.

Sometimes you just have to adjust to the reality that crimes do occur. When I worked in a place where car thefts were rampant, I drove a tiny Toyota in which no self-respecting car thief would be caught dead, and it had a manual transmission that very few of them would be able to drive. Most of the thefts were joy-riding teens and early twenties guys who would abandon the car when it ran out of gas. Unlike my co-workers, I could be pretty sure my car would be sitting there waiting for me at the end of the work day.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I write about crimes that scar a small town. From my own experience, I remember when my children's elementary school was on lockdown because an armed robber had fled to the woods separating the school from a strip wall. Law enforcement armed to the teeth escorted the kids on their buses. This wasn't an intruder drill, this was real life.

Warren Bull said...

Crime has been with us always. Writing about it gives us a way to think about it without having to experience it. The actual experience is always jarring and disruptive. Maybe it helps prepare us for reality. I hope so.

Julie Tollefson said...

Kait & Jim - thank you. I confess that I didn't feel brave at the time.

Jim - Fiction like yours that acknowledges the consequences of crime and violence is the most meaningful and deeply touching to me as a reader.

Julie Tollefson said...

Oh, KM, what a great story. I once had a car I WISHED someone would steal. I did everything except leave the keys in the ignition and nobody wanted it.

Julie Tollefson said...

Margaret - I hate that the kids have to practice lockdown drills the way we practiced tornado drills in my elementary school days. Glad your children were not harmed.

Warren - I hope so, too, even as I hope we never have to experience the real thing.

Gloria Alden said...

Julie, a few years ago in a small town rural community not too far north of me, there was a teenager who shot up the cafeteria murdering some students and wounding others. No one who knew him thought he'd do anything like this. In our local schools, there are often the threats you mentioned. Several times the ones who wrote those things on mirrors in the restroom or called it in to the school, were caught, and thought it was a joke, but often it's never found out. Once when I was teaching third grade, our school was on alert because the father of one of the students had just got out of prison, and it was rumored he might come for his child even though he had no visitation rights. That was a long time ago, before any school shootings, and without a doubt it's getting worse now. I can understand why you were worried for both your son and husband.

Shari Randall said...

When my girls were in school we lived in the DC area. First came September 11 and then months later, there was the DC sniper, who turned out to be two men, who shot and killed 10 and wounded 3, including a middle school student over the course of two months. A lot of parents wouldn't let their kids walk to school any more. I decided to let my kids continue with their usual activities, including walking to school, though I did second guess myself. Like you said, we can't let these people dictate our lives. Things really turned a corner about that time.
I am grieved that our kids have to do lock down drills. What a world.

Julie Tollefson said...

Gloria - It's frightening how common these situations have become. I'm glad schools take the threats seriously, but I do wish for calmer, more peaceful times.

Julie Tollefson said...

Shari - I can't imagine how conflicted you must have been. I remember the anxiety of that period, even here more than a thousand miles away. You showed your girls how to be strong. That's an example I hope we're setting for our kiddo, too.

Grace Topping said...

Julie, what a wonderful blog. I know you must have been frightened the next day--wondering if you had made the right decision. I remember vividly going to school the day of the Cuban Missile Crises--not knowing whether we would be coming home again. It was terrifying. And like Shari, I remember driving to work during the DC sniper activity. It really makes you think about life in this country and the rise in violence. Unfortunately, our entertainment industry has a lot to account for with all the depictions of violence.

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