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

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Accidental Series

I asked Steve Liskow to tell us how he developed his Zach Barnes PI novel series.  Here's his interesting story. 
KM Rockwood
Steve Liskow with Ernie, who provides advice on chases,
fights and other matters on which cats are experts.

Accidental Series by Steve Liskow

Back Door Man, my sixth Zach Barnes PI novel, came out in November. I never intended Zach to

have his own series.

In 2006, a friend suggested I try writing a romance instead of a mystery. She recommended a few authors to read as models, and I developed a romance that morphed into a romantic thriller.  Over the next two years, most agents sent form rejections, but when I got advice, I tried to follow it. Late in 2009, after 68 rejections and a title change, the book finally sold as Who Wrote the Book of Death? When it appeared in spring of 2010, a few reviewers said they looked forward to the next book in the series. A few readers sent the same request to my website.


Zach Barnes was ridiculously handsome and psychically scarred. Beth Shepard was even more

beautiful and even more damaged. I thought I was writing a one-off pastiche and never planned to
use either character again, so I balanced them on the edge of parody. Now I was stuck with two cartoons that people wanted to see again.

I knew Beth’s backstory fairly well, but I hadn’t given Zach much substance except for a horrible tragedy. I had to go back and create backstories for both characters that would make them more human and still keep them sort of consistent.

I fudged a little. None of Beth’s family has appeared except in emails or phone calls since the first book. We know some of Zach’s backstory, but have never met his parents (I think they’re still alive. Don’t ask me about sibs). I actually define both characters more in terms of
their friends and associates. Zach’s college roommate is now a police detective in central
Connecticut, only a few miles from where Zach lives.

Beth attends book signings as the stand-in for Jim Leslie, a man who writes best-selling romance novels under a pseudonym. The readers think “Taliesyn Holroyd” is a woman, so Beth takes the role. Only the publishers know the truth. Jim and Beth are close friends, and Zach’s old classmate and researcher, Svetlana Melanova Thirst, is now Jim’s lover. Svet is as over-the-top as Zach and Beth, but Jim is so normal he anchors the rest of them.

As the series progresses, Zach and Beth have become more conventionally domestic. They play down their physical beauty with sunglasses, old hats, faded jeans and loose sweatshirts. Beth is the
only one of four siblings with no children, and she wants to be a mother. They’ve bought a house. They’re both learning to cook better. Beth is working on her second novel after publishing dozens of short stories under her own name.

The best thing about Beth and Zach’s domesticity is that I can contrast their concerns with the issues in Zach’s cases. This is how I develop subplots. In Back Door Man, Zach investigates Jack Fisher, who was accused of killing his
fiancée years ago, but the police couldn’t prove it. He changed his name after the scandal, so his new identity is a parallel with Beth’s alter ego. He’s trying to develop a relationship with Trisha

Straithorne, and their concerns mirror those of Zach and Beth. Trisha Straithorne is trying to write
songs for her band, just as Beth is struggling with her novel. Rasheena Maldonado, a lesbian detective on the Hartford PD, is involved in Fisher’s cold case, and is considering moving in with her lover. All the subplots involve parallels with a relationship and creativity (or children).

Does it always work? Not on the first draft. 

Link to Back Door Man on Amazon:


E. B. Davis said...

I understand now the title of this blog. Has morphing from mystery to romantic suspense changed your audience? Publisher? Although I write mystery, most of my manuscripts have an element of romance. How do you decide what category you write?

Margaret Turkevich said...

Hi Steve, interesting blog. Looking forward to reading your books.

Steve Liskow said...

Since that first book, the series has become more crime stories with a few romantic elements. I don't think it's changed my audience much, but it's hard to tell. The first book was with a small publisher, but we learned quickly that we were a terrible fit for each other because I wanted to write darker and longer, so I now self-publish.

I don't worry about category much, and that MAY be a bit of a problem because some of my books are much darker than others. My humor tends to be kind of dark irony, and I deal with serious topics including trafficking and drug use in schools. My current WIP involves sexual assault and is much darker than most of my others. My limited perception is that the darker stories seem to get a better response, but I'm not sure.

Some of my short stories are much lighter than my novels. "Teddy Baer's Picnic" in Mystery Weekly last fall was an experiment to see how many cheap puns and outrageous plot twists I could get away with. Several readers commented that they loved it. But many of my stories involve children, and you're always walking a fine line with kids and animals (although both my female protagonists own cats).

Warren Bull said...

Isn't it interesting that what looks like a career in retrospect, feels like random wandering from A to B in the present.

KM Rockwood said...

I read Back Door Man. It's an interesting story, full of well-developed idiosyncratic characters and settings with realistic details.

I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Grace Topping said...

With 68 rejections, you are an example of how important it is to keep on trying. People fall in love with characters in books and hate to see them end there, so it's not surprising that readers wanted to see more of them.

Gloria Alden said...

Steve I read one of your books that I got at Malice Domestic and really enjoyed it. Now I want to go online and order more of your books. I self-publish, too.

Steve Liskow said...


Thank you!

I didn't even know my books were at Malice. I don't think of myself as a cozy writer.

Which one did you read?