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


Here are our August WWK interviews:

August 1 Rhys Bowen, Four Funerals and Maybe A Wedding

August 8 Liz Milliron, Root Of All Evil

August 15 Kellye Garrett, Hollywood Ending

August 22 Joyce Tremel, A Brewing Trouble Mystery Series

August 29 Dianne Freeman, A Ladies Guide to Etiquette and Murder


Our August Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 8/4--Kelly Oliver, 8/11--Lisa Ciarfella, 8/18--Margaret S. Hamilton, 8/25--Kait Carson.


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.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Shaker Trace Seed Nursery, Hamilton County Parks, Ohio


Margaret S. Hamilton




Summer in Cincinnati represents weeks of heat and humidity under a blazing midwestern sun, punctuated by violent thunderstorms. And this year, a bumper crop of chigger mites.
Tired of spending my days draped over the air conditioning vent, when I discovered that the Shaker Trace Seed Nursery, part of the Hamilton County Parks system, would hold their annual open house on August fourth, I was up for the adventure. Coated with bug spray, sunscreen, and armed with water bottles and sunhats, we headed for the Miami Whitewater Forest near the Indiana line.


Compass Flower


Once upon a time, prairie wildflowers grew in southern Ohio meadows and forests. In 1992, the Hamilton County Parks Department purchased a six-hundred-acre farm in the large Miami Whitewater Forest to use as a propagation site for the native flower and grass genotypes that used to grow wild in the area. Indigenous bird species—lark sparrows, marsh hawks, and short-eared owls—would benefit, as would bees and butterflies.
Milkweed

In anticipation of the seed farm, in the fall of 1991, volunteers spread over a hundred-mile radius gathered seeds from native species. Shaker Trace Nursery opened the following spring, when the first 43,000 seedlings, which had been propagated involunteer greenhouses all over the county, were hand-planted. Those original plants still produce seeds, which are harvested every year.


Brown-eyed Susans


The nursery relies on a large number of volunteers. Seeds of more than two hundred plants are sown into flats in the late fall and are periodically put outside to “stratify” (freeze and thaw) as they would in the wild. The sprouts are raised in a greenhouse all winter and then in the spring, six to ten thousand seedlings are planted in the nursery’s prepared 140 beds. Volunteers keep the beds weeded all summer. Prairie flowers have deep root systems and no need for additional irrigation. In early fall, the flowers are cut, sorted and dried before the seeds are harvested in an old barn on the property. The harvested seeds are stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, until they are dispersed as needed to the many parks in the Hamilton County system. The seeds for purple coneflowers, Joe Pye weed, compass plants, varieties of milkweed, liatris, ironweed and many other plants are genetically acclimated to the Hamilton County climate and yellow clay soil.


drying seed heads
seed sorter


I have an Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus in an overgrown perennial bed in my yard. My neighbors periodically ask for the “satellite” offshoots. I was astonished to learn that the cactus is native to this area. It is propagated by seeds and cuttings. I weed around it and otherwise keep at a respectful distance.

Cactus


In addition to beds of prairie and woodland wildflowers, Shaker Trace has fish ponds lined with bentonite, a natural clay. The farm raises hybrid bluegills, which are a cross between green sunfish and northern bluegills, from fingerlings, and then harvest the half-pound fish for children’s activities in a nearby lake. We watched the water churn as the bluegills swarmed for food pellets. They are bred to bite anything.

Coreopsis


The red-tailed hawks soared overhead and barn swallows flitted in and out of the barns. Bees and butterflies swarmed the flower beds. The disease-resistant wildflower meadows in county parks are successful in choking out invasive species. I wish more residential gardens had Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, and milkweed. In my gardens, I keep “volunteers” until I can identify them. Ragweed doesn’t make the cut. Milkweed is toxic to dogs, so I moved it out of the backyard.
Milkweed pods


Readers and writers, have you visited a wildflower meadow or do you have wildflowers in your garden?

Joe Pye Weed

Friday, August 17, 2018

GoRead Children's Literacy Foundation by Warren Bull


Image used with the permission of the foundation


A Publisher Involved in Childhood Literacy Efforts

Did you know?

For each book you purchase on our online bookstore,
https://www.goread.com/store we match your purchase by providing a book to a child to promote literacy.
Shockingly, even in our prosperous society, we have an illiteracy crisis:
·       14% of Americans are considered illiterate.
·       36% of people worldwide can't read at an 8th grade level in their native language.
·       85% of people who commit criminal offenses in the United States are considered to be illiterate.
·       Over 19% of all high school graduates in the United States cannot read.
·       There is a direct link between literacy, crime, poverty, and divorce.
·       And.. these statistics have not changed in the past 10 years!

Note: This publisher offers my books for sale. That's why I'm aware of the effort. I am not pushing sales of my books. (Although that would be nice.)  Purchase of any book on the site will be matched by a giveaway of a free book to a child. 5426 books have been given away to date,


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Giant Yosemite National Park by Gloria Alden


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Nest week I’ll be heading out to California to visit my daughter who lives in Northern California about 60 miles from San Francisco and about three or four hours from Yosemite National Park. For the last three years we’ve gone to Yosemite National Park to camp. However, because of the horrible fires this year we probably won’t go there although if it the fires have been put out we may at least go for a day’s visit.
My daughter Mary on an overlook.


Yosemite is the most awesome place I’ve ever visited and I’ve visited a lot of national parks like Grand Canyon and others. Three years ago my youngest sister and brother-in-law went with us and camped in a campground on the edge of the park. We had such a good time. That was my first trip there, I think, although my daughter Mary and I might have gone there the year before and camped in Curry Village which is in the valley in the center of Yosemite National Park. I know we stayed in a tent on a wooden platform with steps going up to it the first year we went. All those white tents reminded me of a Civil War Army encampment. Another year we stayed in a cabin in Curry Village which was quite nice. 

Another awesome view in Yosemite.

This year we’re going to camp in Big Basin a state park not too far from where she lives in Benicia California. We’re going to travel along the ocean and stop at various small towns on the way to Big Basin. I’ve been there before but not to camp. It’s a forest with huge red wood trees that grow over 350 feet. Quite awesome, too, although not as much as Yosemite.

 
My sister took the picture of me and her husband.

Yosemite also has an incredible grove of Giant Sequoias which are in the redwood tree family and the most awesome trees I’ve ever seen even more so than the giant redwoods. Both the tall redwood trees and Sequoias grow to ancient ages because they have a high resistance to fire, insects and diseases. I have two dawn redwoods on my property. They started out not much more than six feet maybe, and now they are quite tall.

Mary by a Giant Sequoia

Whether we go to Yosemite or not, I’m looking forward to my trip to California where we will camp for a few days, go to San Francisco another day, and hopefully take a trip to Yosemite National Park.






 If we do got to Yosemite to camp or stay in a cabin, the one thing I’m really looking forward to is to go see Lee Stetson, who is the world’s foremost John Muir portrayer. I first saw him at a Cuyahoga Valley’s Happy Day’s lodge program portraying John Muir with another man portraying President Theodore Roosevelt. Then Mary and I saw him in a theater in Curry Village in Yosemite. My daughter took a picture of me with him, but I don’t know where that picture is now. Later that week we went to the town where John Muir lived not far from Benicia. That was very interesting, too. 

Mary and I at the John Muir Museum

Have you ever visited Yosemite National Park?
Have you ever camped in any National Park?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Interview with Agatha Winner Kellye Garrett by E. B. Davis


“Forgive me, Ms. Anderson, but I find it had to believe that alleged lip syncing
is strong enough motive for a murder.”
“That’s ‘cause you’re looking at it from the point of view of a regular person. Being a celebrity is as much a brand as Coke or Pepsi. It’s a legitimate multi-million-dollar enterprise.”
Kellye Garrett, Hollywood Ending (Loc. 1462)

Tinseltown's awards season is in full swing, and everyone is obsessed with dressing up, scoring free swag, and getting invited to the biggest awards shows of the year. But when popular Silver Sphere Awards publicist Lyla Davis is killed during a botched ATM robbery, the celebratory mood comes to an abrupt halt.

Dayna Anderson—an actress turned apprentice private investigator—uncovers the killer almost immediately. Unfortunately, what starts as an open-and-shut case turns out to be anything but. Lyla's murder was no robbery-gone-wrong. Someone hired the gunman to kill her. Diving back into the investigation, Dayna gets a backstage look at the worlds of gossip blogging, Hollywood royalty, and one of entertainment's most respected awards shows—all while trying to avoid her own Hollywood ending.

Reading Kellye Garrett’s A Detective By Day mystery series makes me aware that there is a fine line between fiction and promotion. One of Kellye’s characters in Hollywood Ending (Kitt) alludes to the fact that no one really cares for the truth—more important is the weaving of the good tale. And that’s what Kellye has done in this series.

In the first book, Hollywood Homicide, Kellye introduced main character, Dayna Anderson, and her best friends Sienna and Emme. The book won an Agatha Award for Best First. I interviewed Kellye on that book here. But I cast a critical eye on the second in the series to judge the strength of a writer.

Hollywood Ending combines fast-paced action with an intricate plot. Through Dayna’s eyes, readers get ring-side seats for the Hollywood show with commentary by an insider.

But Kellye also introduces a new character, who may turn into a client, but then again, he may give Omari, Dayna’s boyfriend, competition. Just guessing here, but then, I think that’s just what Kellye had in mind. I’ll definitely read the third book a soon as it is released!

Please welcome Kellye Garrett back to WWK.                                                                  E. B. Davis
How did Dayna meet her best buds, Sienna and Emme?
Sienna and Day met in the bathroom at a club when Sienna told her that she was her biggest fan. They later bonded over a mutual shoe size and the constant need to always go to the bathroom.

I’m honestly not sure how Emme and Day met though I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I’m focusing on Emme in the third book. Let me know if you have any suggestions in comments.

Is Dayna jaded after her two-year notoriety promoting Chubby’s Chicken?

Definitely! She expected it to be a stepping stone to becoming this big time actress but that didn’t quite work out how she expected. She essentially got “ghosted” as the cool kids say by her manager and agent after Chubby’s dropped her contract.

Why does Dayna like being a PI?

She likes that she’s helping people and she’s good at it—in her own way.

Sienna has almost twenty-five thousand Instagram followers. Does exposure in the social media really help artists secure stature in business? 

There’s a phrase called “Instagram famous” because there are literally people whose job it is to post on Instagram. They’ve amassed millions of followers because of content that can range from sexy photos to funny memes. A perfect example of someone using Instagram to secure stature in business is Cardi B. She started off just posting on Instagram, which led to her being cast on a reality show, which led to her being one of the biggest hip hop artists out right now. She was supposed to go on tour with Bruno Mars! Denzel Washington knows who she is.

Aubrey S. Adams-Parker, Dayna’s PI mentor, interacts strangely with Dayna. Is it Dayna or is it him? Is he autistic?

It’s him. Someone actually asked me in another interview if Aubrey was on the autism spectrum. I’ll admit that I didn’t set out to write a character with autism spectrum disorder. I just wanted someone who would be a foil for Dayna because she is very self-deprecating and never serious. So Aubrey was created to be the guy who doesn’t laugh at her jokes or find her charming. Their relationship is definitely explored more in Hollywood Ending. You learn more about his backstory, which I wanted to share in the first book but didn’t have room.

Although Aubrey is a fourth-generation Angeleno, he seems out of the Hollywood loop. Are there a few people in LA who don’t get involved in the Hollywood thing?

Yep. There are more than a few L.A. residents who aren’t involved in Hollywood at all. You just don’t think they exist because they’re busy minding their business. Their only brush with fame is standing behind a celeb at Whole Foods. Entertainment is just one industry out there. There’s also aerospace, tech, health care, etc.

Are the Academy Awards the only genuine, merit-based contest for actors? Are there awards celebrities can buy?

The Academy Awards and the Emmy’s are probably by far the most respected awards for actors. You can’t buy them but you definitely can campaign for them. If you open up Variety or the Hollywood Reporter, you’ll see full-page “for your consideration” ads for actors, directors, writers, and films. Actors will also hit up a lot of events to smooze with those in the Academy.
                 
  
 Although Dayna seems down-to-earth, she classifies people by the roles she’d cast them in. Does she come by this perspective as a former actress, and does this help her solve cases?

When it comes to casting, all actors have a “type.” Girl next door. Tough jock. Nerd. Stoner. You’ll see it listed in what they call casting breakdowns, which list all the different roles in an upcoming production. In Hollywood Ending, I have her describe every character based on how they’d be cast in a movie. I figured it’d be a fun way to bring in the Hollywood theme while also describing what someone looked like. Plus it helped me describe the different characters as well because I suck at writing character description!

Murder is scary. But in a way, Dayna seems more terrified of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Why?
I actually think her fear of being at the wrong place at the wrong time is related to being murdered. Here’s how she explains it in the book: Just the idea that you’d done your best in life to avoid marrying any sociopaths, accidentally dropping a radio in the tub, or crossing the street without looking in both directions, and then you happen to head to an ATM at the exact same time as a money-hungry psycho with a gun.

Define:

Venmo?
App that lets you instantly pay or request money from your friends. It’s similar to PayPal but not business-focused.

Whaling?
I have no idea! I only namedropped it in the book because I wanted a throwaway line about Day eavesdropping on a convo.

A Blind?

A blind item is a piece of gossip so juicy that the blogger can’t say who it is because they don’t want to get sued. I’m obsessed with them. It’s not a coincidence they play a big role in Hollywood Ending.

Swag Bag?
Think I describe it best in the book: To call it a gift bag would be an insult. Gift bags held sweet tarts and lollipop rings that kids took when they left and begged their parents to eat in the car. This was a gift bag on steroids and it was definitely not for children. In yet another attempt to make everything sound cooler than what it is, Hollywood had even given the bag its own name: Swag Bag, aka Stuff We All Get. It held products companies donated in hopes celebs would take them home and love them so much they’d not only use them all the time, but be photographed doing so. In Hollywood, even the gift bags had ulterior motives.
Crack Pie?

A place called Momofuku Milk Bar in Manhattan sells them. Very buttery. Very dense. Very, very, very good! I’m assuming it got its name because one bite and you’re hooked. If you aren’t near a Milk Bar, you can get the recipe here: https://milkbarstore.com/recipes/crack-pie-recipe/ (Just don’t forget to send me a piece!)

Twitter Impression?

Something else I don’t understand myself. I just know that Twitter is kind enough to share my impressions whenever I log into my account. Here’s what Quora says:  Impression is the total number of times tweets about the search term were delivered to Twitter streams, or the number of overall potential impressions generated. When we say "impression", we mean that a tweet has been delivered to the Twitter stream of a particular account.

Silk Press?

A silk press is a black girl term for straightening our naturally kinky hair. Normally, you start with a blow dryer then finish it up with either a hot comb or a ceramic flat iron. Don’t forget to use the heat protectant, ladies!

Here’s me with my hair pressed at Left Coast Crime:



 Why does Dayna think that fame is “more a Sugar Daddy than a Soulmate?” (Loc. 550)

A Sugar Daddy is someone who buys you things to make you feel good and usually is only with you because of your looks. You’re both getting something from each other. It can be fun but you know it’s not going to last. Soulmate on the other hand is the person you’re supposed to have your happily ever after with…


When Dayna feels guilty, she eats Snickers and marshmallows. What does she eat when she’s depressed?

Snickers and marshmallows! Those are good for any occasion. At least they are for me.

Why does Emme claim that “Google is the Internet equivalent of God?” (Loc. 1735)

Google is all seeing and all knowing.

The difference between LA residents and visitors is that the residents pretend they don’t see celebrities. True?

Definitely. You never bug them. You just take a note of everything they’re wearing or doing so that you can one day mention it in casual conversation whenever the person’s name comes up. For instance, I once saw Nicole Richie while getting crepes at the Farmers Market by the Grove. Whenever someone mentions Nicole Richie to me, I bring this up and then give my unsolicited opinion on what she looks like. (She looks great in person, by the way.)

A gossip blogger created Tomari, as if Toni, Emme’s sister, and Omari, Dayna’s boyfriend, were romantically involved. At first, Dayna ignores the situation, but at what point does Dayna start to care?

If we’re being honest, I think Day always cared about Tomari but just didn’t admit it. It starts to bug her more in the second book though when it looks like Omari’s publicist is using the fake relationship for publicity purposes and Omari doesn’t care because he’s a guy. Guys never care about stuff like that.

Is Lyft LA’s version of Uber?

Nope. They’re pretty much everywhere. I personally use Lyft over Uber so of course my main character does too. Write what you know. Or in this case what you ride in. J

Z defines himself as a “problem solver” not a “fixer.” What is the difference?
Day would say they’re one in the same. They’re both who big-time celebs call when they had a major problem like a baby on the way from someone who isn’t their wife, or being caught red-handed in a den of iniquity. In short, they fix problems and make them go away.
Emme has more virtual friends than in real life. Do you think this is a symptom of our times or has the definition of “friend” changed?

I don’t consider it a symptom as much as the internet has expanded our abilities to connect with people—in both good and bad ways. I’ve been lucky to build a huge, supportive writing community that includes people I’ve never met and people I literally only see in person at conferences. That’s why Malice Domestic feels like a family reunion to so many of us.

If given another role that would enable Dayna to continue her career as an actress, would she give up being a PI?

What a good question. I’m not going to answer that solely because I think it’s something I might want to explore in another book if given the opportunity to write more.

My biggest questions regarding the next book:  Will Dayna get a reward for solving the crime? Will she be able to buy a new car since her twelve-year-old, hot pink Infinity is definitely shot? So—what’s next for Dayna?

I’d prefer not to answer the first question because it’s kind of a spoiler. And yes, she does have a new car in the third book, which starts with Dayna trying to uncover the person who hacked a celeb’s iPhone for naked pics.

I just needed to figure out a way to do it without going in guns
blazing screaming bloody murderer. During my limited PI experience,
I’d quickly learned most people didn’t respond well to that.”
Kellye Garrett, Hollywood Ending (Loc. 2456)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What WERE They Thinking? Questionable Acts by Questionable People

 by KM Rockwood


We all know about criminals who have exhibited questionable judgement. There was the fellow whose gun did not fire when he pulled the trigger. Puzzled, he looked down the barrel and tried again. This time, it worked.

Or the assorted bank robbers who wrote their notes demanding cash on the back of a notice from their parole agent, or their own deposit slip.

But sometimes people may not be intending to commit a crime when they exercise such questionable judgement. High on that list is the man in Korea who needed a wheelchair or a mobility scooter to get around. He chose a scooter. When an elevator door closed a few feet in front of him, security video showed that he became visibly outraged. He backed his scooter up a few feet and rammed the doors to the elevator. He repeated this several times, eventually breaking the doors down, at which point both he and his scooter tumbled into the elevator shaft and down several stories, to his death and the detriment of the scooter.

A man living in a house with several roommates became upset when he discovered two socks missing. Suspecting that one of the roommates was responsible, he attacked him with a sword. Two others tried to intervene, but were also attacked. The original victim lost several fingers, and the attacker was charged with battery. Rather an extreme reaction.

Stealing a 25-foot-long shed is a hard crime to conceal, especially if the culprits drag it down the road behind their pickup truck. As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of them had not thought to ditch his crystal meth and illegal pills prior to embarking on the venture. They were caught.

One clever guy used an FBI office as the shipping address for an order of 50 cell phones. He paid for the order with a fraudulent “cahier’s” check. The misspelling prompted a call to the FBI office. When the man waited outside the office and flagged down the delivery driver, several FBI agents intervened.

A woman who was having a dispute with her cable company took her revenge out on an employee. While he was working on lines from an elevated bucket, she turned the truck off and took the keys,
leaving the worker stranded and his co-workers unable to lower the bucket. The woman was arrested and faced several charges.

Two police constables in Toronto had to call for assistance after sampling some of the wares at a marijuana dispensary during a raid. They called for help after they began hallucinating, with one of them eventually climbing a tree. They were subject to disciplinary action for mishandling the evidence.

Authorities in Germany were called to a domestic dispute. Neighbors said the loud exchange had been going on for a long time, the volume was accelerating, and they were concerned, especially as an aggressive dog seemed to be involved. The responding officers found a man yelling occasional expletives at his girlfriend’s parrot, who provided most of the shouting and all of the barking.

A clerk at a bank was informed by a teller working the drive-through that someone had presented one of her personal checks to be cashed. She called authorities, who informed her that four residences in her neighborhood had been burglarized, including hers. The teller tried to stall the would-be check-casher, but he became suspicious and drove away. However, since he had handed in his driver’s license and social security card for identification and failed to pick them up before he left, police did not have much difficulty finding him.

Surveillance video caught a picture of a woman robbing another at gunpoint. When the police posted a picture, asking the public for help in identifying the woman, she called and asked that the picture be taken down, since she felt it was unflattering. The detective with whom she spoke suggested that she come in and they could discuss it, perhaps finding another picture they could substitute. The woman did come in, and soon the police had a much clearer mug shot of her.

Another helpful pair of thieves took a number of items from a car, including a Kindle. They took a selfie with the Kindle, not realizing it would automatically post to the owner’s Cloud. That made it much easier for the police to track them down.

A would-be burglar made it even easier for the police to apprehend him. He tried to break into a house, but failed. However, he did cut his hand, so he left blood at the scene. Not totally discouraged by his lack of success, he found another house nearby where a window in the back door was already broken, so he reached through the broken glass, unlocked the door and let himself in to that one. Unfortunately for him, that house had been burglarized previously that day, and the police were at that very moment in the living room taking a report from the owner.

If a writer tried to include most of these incidents in their books, most editors would label them as “not realistic.” Indeed, truth can be stranger than fiction.


Monday, August 13, 2018

The Body Drop

by Shari Randall

When I signed the contract for my mystery series, one requirement from my editor for Book One jumped out at me: The body drop must happen by page 30.

Body drop? I was so new that I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. I mean, I could imagine – and I was right – but I had no idea that in mystery circles this was a “thing” and that it was expected to happen quickly. The body drop, the appearance of a mysteriously dead body, has also been a topic of discussion in the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

People talk about formula when talking about mysteries, especially cozy mysteries. I happen to enjoy the formula, both as a reader and a writer. As a reader I enjoy it because I like to see how each writer makes the formula her or his own.  As a writer, I enjoy the challenge of taking that formula and seeing how I can put my own spin on it. 

Considering the body drop got me thinking about Agatha Christie.

One of the things I enjoyed about Agatha’s work and that of other Golden Age writers was that part of the fun was guessing who the victim would be. The garrulous old army major? The businessman with a scheme for a flashy new motor car or a vague scientific invention? An exotic, most likely Russian, ballerina who may or may not be the love child of a financier and that milkmaid who once “did” for Miss Marple in St. Mary Mead?

Christie would introduce us to her cast of characters and give us time to observe them, like a bettor at the race track. We’d meet them and weigh the possibilities. Who would the victim be? 

Once the body dropped – well past page thirty -  then we could dive into collecting the clues alongside the detective, watching the alibis unravel until the gathering in the library when all would be revealed. This set up also helped avoid the problem of the “mushy middle,” a slowing of pace and tension when no big dramatic events or reveals occur in the middle of a story.

I liked this set up, which, sadly, is not possible with a page 30 body drop.

I think Christie and the Golden Age authors were on to something. Giving the reader that first signpost to look for – who would be the victim? -- and then moving on to whodunnit created a very satisfactory pace and structure.

What do you think? Readers, do you like an early body drop? Writers, do you like to drop the body early? How do you keep this formula fresh?




Sunday, August 12, 2018

Which Story Should Be Next?

by James M. Jackson

The sixth Seamus McCree novel, False Bottom, is with beta readers and soon will undergo my copyeditor’s red pen. For the first time, I have not already started another novel. I have three ideas, and I’d like your thoughts about which story I should pursue.

As followers of WWK know, I am a pantser, so when I start a novel, I know the inciting incident, but don’t really know where the story will take me. That said here are the three concepts:

Seamus McCree #7: It’s the “G” title in the series, and I already know what the title would be. (I’m not telling because my newsletter readers get that kind of news first!) Seamus’s granddaughter, Megan, is spending much of the summer at Seamus’s camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When he picks Megan up after a playdate in town, she wants to hire her grandfather to find out what happened to one of her playmates who has gone missing. Seamus eventually accepts Megan’s employ and discovers a child in desperate need, an underground economy he knew nothing about, and forces that will stop at nothing to protect their enterprise.

While the Seamus McCree novels have received very favorable reviews (the series averages 4.32 on Goodreads and 4.67 on Amazon), it isn’t exactly a best-seller.

Alternative two is to start a new series, and my idea is a spinoff from the Seamus McCree novels. Those who read Cabin Fever (Seamus McCree #3) met Niki (single name, spelled with a single ‘k’). [Spoiler alert] She’s an undercover FBI agent who would rather get the job done then kiss ass and play politics. Her background is murky, so what would happen if I gave her a billionaire father who believes his kids should make their own way in life. He’s in the middle of fending off a takeover of his business and is kidnapped.

Naturally, the FBI refuses to let her get involved because she’s family, and she goes rogue. She brings in Seamus McCree to help understand the financial aspects of the takeover when it turns out her father has given her power of attorney. Seamus is a minor character, though, since this would be the kickoff of a new thriller series staring Niki. The series titles would be something like Niki Goes (fill in the blank) – for example Niki Goes Rogue or maybe Niki’s (fill in the blank) – for example, Niki’s Billionaire Father.

The third alternative kicking around in my head is to switch from modern day suspense/thriller to a dystopian YA trilogy. I’ve been playing with this idea for some time. I know something about the world: The US has split into East and West with flyover country acting as a buffer. Split into enterprise zones, the middle of the continent supplies food and raw materials to the East and West. Interpretation of the US constitution has morphed so that only corporations have voting rights. The heroine will come from what used to be Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

My problem with not working on this earlier continues to be that I try to be a plotter and scope out the trilogy before making any further false starts. (Several years ago, I wrote 30,000 words. It wasn’t working, and I stopped.) I am a committed pantser and will need to write the stories to learn what they are. One big difference in this case is I do know how the world changes by the end of book three, so I would be writing with that ending in mind. (Of course, by the time I am done, it might change!)

Given those three choices, which would you prefer I tackle? Vote in your comments:

[1] Seamus McCree #7 featuring granddaughter Megan and set in the U.P.

[2] Niki #1, a domestic thriller dealing with family, corporate power, and a take-no-prisoners heroine.

[3] Dystopian YA trilogy featuring a young woman in a world where the US has broken in two countries and corporations rule.

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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.