Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Amazing World of Gadgets by Lori Roberts Herbst


In my early teens, I communicated with my friends on a curly corded push-button phone that hung on the kitchen wall. I conducted research for my junior high essays using my library card or an outdated set of encyclopedias my mother had purchased on an installment plan. I took notes with a Papermate ballpoint pen (blue ink for me) on wide-lined looseleaf notebook paper, and I compiled those notes in a three-ring binder. For entertainment, I watched a small screen on our enormous combo TV/stereo. Back then, we had to walk from the couch to the TV and twist the knob if we wanted to change the channel. The horror.

By the time I was a world-weary high schooler, my parents allowed me a slimline phone extension in my room. I was thrilled to get an early version of the Trapper Keeper, as well as one of those cool Bic pens with multi-colored ink. And our family graduated to an awesome front-projection television.

 

Now, some forty-plus years later, I look around at the technology I’m surrounded by and have even learned to take for granted. There’s the laptop computer I use to write my novels, pay my bills, and book my appointments and reservations. Though I still possess a library card, these days it allows me to use an app to check out digital books, which I read on my Kindle, and audiobooks, which I listen to with AirPods. Social media and Google are readily available on my smartphone, so I can communicate with people anywhere, anytime—though I rarely make or receive an actual phone call. Throw in my FitBit and iPad and I’m nearly always using something electronic. Even my Sleep Number bed requires electricity.

The one bit of bad news: I barely know how to use our TV anymore. With its various remotes, multiple streaming services, TiVo, and soundbar, I require my husband’s presence to operate the machine. And even when I do manage to get the TV working, there are just So. Many. Choices. I don’t even know where to begin figuring out what to watch. Luckily, my Kindle is always nearby…

 

I recently acquired a Remarkable 2 e-ink tablet, and I confess I’m madly in love with the newest addition to my gadget family. I enjoy writing notes and lists in longhand, and the tablet provides the perfect organizational tool to do that and keep them all in one place. Before, I filled legal pads and spirals with outlines and notes for each book, and now I can save paper and store everything in one handy thin tablet. It even connects to the internet, so I can send myself a pdf version of a draft and make handwritten revisions as I read. I’m in the early stages of discovering all the possible uses for my Precious, but I can already tell it will be my constant companion.
 

Occasionally, like all folks of a certain age, I reflect on the old days—usually while I’m shaking my fist and yelling at some kid to get off my lawn. Back when I was walking a mile to school and back—in the snow, of course, uphill both ways—I didn’t have all these contraptions to help me organize my life—or to keep track of those snowy steps. But I also didn’t fall victim to all the associated distractions and frustrations. I’m not sure whether the advances in technology make life better or worse. Likely a bit of both, I suppose.

 

But one thing I do know for certain: if the electricity goes out for any prolonged length of time, I’m in serious trouble.

 

What about you? Do electronics and technology enhance or diminish the quality of your life?

Monday, January 30, 2023

Now on View by Mary Dutta

I love museums. They are everywhere, endlessly fascinating, and full of cool things, including writing ideas.

Take Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered, an exhibit currently on view at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. Hirshfield was a self-taught artist who only started painting after retiring at 65 from a career in the garment industry. He won acclaim from the influential gallerist Peggy Guggenheim and her Surrealist artist husband and friends. The founding director of the Museum of Modern Art even gave him a solo show.

Critical reception was harsh, however, one reviewer dismissing Hirshfield as “the master of two left feet,” a slam against what he saw as an amateurish inability to correctly represent the human form. The museum director was fired, and Hirshfield lapsed back into obscurity. 



I found the whole story fascinating and, in many ways, analogous to the mystery-writing world. Some authors get their start later in life after leaving other careers. Some writers are championed while others are ignored. Some have all-too-brief moments of fame. And despite the best efforts at promotion, some works just never catch on.

Hirshfield’s tale also opens up a world of crime story ideas. What happens to the artist who fails to achieve the heights she thinks she’s been promised? What about the artist who isn’t plucked from obscurity, what might that resentment drive her to do? What revenge will the museum director take for the loss of his job? My latest published story, The Grift of the Magi, in Hook, Line, and Sinker: The Seventh Guppy Anthology, is about a divorcing couple’s battle over a valuable painting. Now I’m thinking I may have more art stories to tell.

Not all museums focus on art, of course. On the same trip, I learned more about Jewish delicatessens at the New York Historical Society. The exhibition explored immigration, culture, and (of course) food. Food plays an outsize role in many cozy mysteries, and some actually use delis as a setting. Maybe I’ll be the next author to slip in a killing between the pastrami and the rye, with a side of cole slaw and revenge. There could be a stolen recipe, a food service inspector on the take, or a long-time waitress with a brand-new secret. There is a full menu of plotlines to choose from.



Mystery came to mind again at a Poster House exhibit on World War II anti-spying propaganda. Agatha Christie’s 1941 novel N or M deals with the exact fears of British fifth columnists and Nazi infiltrators that the posters warned against, underscoring yet again how mystery novels reflect the world around them. The lines between fiction and reality blurred even further in that case when the British security service, MI-5, investigated Christie because she named one of the novel’s characters Major Bletchley. The spies were worried that she had knowledge of their then-secret code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park (another great museum to visit, by the way).

Speaking of Christie, my next trip is to Egypt. I’m looking forward to mystery ideas ancient and new. How about you? Has a museum ever inspired you?


Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Game is Afoot By John Desjarlais

What draws us to tales of murder and mayhem? Why do we stay up late at night reading about violence and vengeance?

Because they are fun. Mysteries are the guilty pleasure of the intellectual. They are puzzles of logic. When Sherlock Holmes cries out, “the game is afoot,” he almost means it literally. For if the classic mystery – the traditional mystery – is a contest between the intelligent sleuth and the clever villain, it is also a duel between the skillful writer and the astute reader, who delights in trying to solve the puzzle along with – and possibly before – the detective. The paradox is that if the reader does, indeed, discover whodunnit early on, the game is spoiled. The alert reader wishes far more to be surprised and fooled at the end, and yet finds delight in seeing how the outcome was inevitable. This is only possible if the writer has played fair with the rules of the game, in which the reader can detect along with the detective – and still be assured that the detective will be cleverer than the reader.

In Britain, Monsignor Ronald Knox set out in 1928 the "10 Commandments of Detection," (https://mysteryfictions.web.unc.edu/10-commandments-ronald-knox/) contending, for example, that the criminal must be mentioned early on, the supernatural must be ruled out, the detective himself must not commit the crime, no accident must ever help the detective, and he must not have an unaccountable intuition, which proves to be right.

American SS Van Dine offered 20 rules (https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/08/04/books-thread-bcst-rules-for-writing-mysteries) that same year, insisting, for example, that the reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery with all clues plainly described. “There simply must be a corpse and the deader the better,” and “there must be no love interest.”

Dorothy Sayers believed the same thing but fell in love with Lord Peter Whimsey and married him by proxy via Harriet Vane. The Detection Club, which formed shortly afterwards in 1930 (https://elegsabiff.com/2013/04/20/a-z-challenge-rules-of-the-detection-club-circa-1929/), asked members (such as Sayers) to swear an oath on Eric the Skull (all in good fun): "Do you swear solemnly never to conceal a clue from the reader?" Members also promised to honor the King's English, use legitimate detection methods in stories, and refrain from stealing other writers' plots, although collaboration was encouraged. Two of the greatest collaborators in the genre, Manfred Lee and Frederick Dannay, the cousins who comprised “Ellery Queen,” regularly issued “A Challenge to the Reader” near the end of Queen novels, saying that the reader now had all the clues necessary for solving the puzzle. Queen began his – I mean their – writing career by entering one of the many detective fiction contests of the period, and always saw the detective story as a contest between the writer and the reader.

Some of this rule-making - and breaking - became quite complex. Christie, especially, played with the "rules" as a way to outsmart readers.

Books of this period sometimes looked like games: they included lists of characters, maps of houses, gardens and room layouts, all part of the game. Some included physical clues – matchsticks, coins or facsimiles of letters. One of my favorites is the "sealed mystery" - the last chapter was sealed with an onionskin wrapper. If you returned the book with the wrapper uncut (because you figured out the mystery or gave up trying), you'd get a refund. Small wonder that Parker Brothers launched the board game “Clue” at about this time. The newspapers were full of crossword puzzles and other word games. Edgar Allan Poe, who practically invented the detective story, also produced scores of crossword puzzles, secret codes and other games of logic.

The cozy, the amateur sleuth, the cop procedural and PI story are more obviously “games”; the noir story may be a game like other detective stories, but it is a rough game.

If even the serious crime novel is a form of game, there’s another reason we play it. One writer (http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2011/05/why-we-love-mysteries-by-nancy-lynn.html) put it this way: “When we look at clues and details about murder, we get to be a four-year-old playing with rubber dinosaurs: the game is enjoyable because we control what might otherwise give us nightmares.”

It is small wonder that the detective novel emerged in the Victorian Age when the murder rate was twice what it is now. People wanted some assurance that the police could do their job and keep respectable citizens safe. The books did that. They still do.

Murder mysteries might also be the modern form of the medieval morality play, where the sleuth is “Everyman” (a literary term), who works against time, big money, a determined antagonist, daunting odds and personal flaws to expose evil, stop the bad actor and restore the balance of justice. At the end, readers who identify with the successful protagonist feel a little better about the world and about themselves. A critic might say that mystery novels are escapist, since they offer a fantasy world in which justice prevails, right always wins over wrong, and love finds a way. But what's wrong with that? That's healing. The odd thing is that we can escape reality and face it at the same time.

That’s because with mysteries so close to the barest human desires and fears, they have a built-in opportunity to explore life's higher mysteries: love and power, guilt and innocence, good and evil, or the mystery of undeserved suffering. 

All literature tries to make meaning out of the frightfully short dash between our birthdate and departure date on our tombstones. Mysteries, in the guise of an intelligent game, do this well.

--

John Desjarlais is a retired community college professor who now hikes, bikes, plays blues guitar and enjoys craft beers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. His latest novel is The Kill Floor (Torchflame Books 2022). www.johndesjarlais.com


Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Feast after the Famine by Kait Carson

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my name attached to anything beyond blog posts. So long that I was beginning to wonder if I was a writer or a wannabe. Scary thought, that. I mean, if I wasn’t a writer who was I? Don’t answer. That’s exactly what I was afraid of. So, I am pleased and grateful to announce that good news on the publication front is afoot. January and February bring a bumper crop of publications and some of these efforts come with a learning curve.

 

Death by Blue Water, a novel originally released by Henery Press, is re-released in Kindle form on Amazon. My rights reverted in 2019 and I dithered mightily over the next step. Would anyone care about a previously published novel? The fact is, I cared, and while the first two books of the series were previously published, there is a third book that wasn’t. Decision made. The book released on January 24th. I needed to learn formatting, I was fortunate to have Polly Iyer design my cover, and I decided that unless it sells well, I’m leaving it as a Kindle.

 

Being my own publisher was new territory. To compensate for my learning curve, I put the book on pre-order to give me the opportunity to correct any missteps. I wouldn’t do that again with a re-release, but I will with new material. I have also been careful to specify that the book is a re-release. Anything else feels dishonest to me. Now that it’s out there, I’m eager to flex my publishing muscles with the next one. There has been one nice surprise – copies of my backlist are also selling. I hadn’t expected a cross-series effect.

 

Yesterday the Seventh Guppy Anthology Hook, Line, and Sinker released. I was Guppy president when the first anthology was in the planning stages, so there is a lovely symmetry to the publication. This is the first time I’ve written a story for consideration in the Guppy anthologies, and the acceptance of my story, “Gutted, Filleted, and Fried”, thrilled me. The anthology topic is cons and their marks. It was delicious to write a tale where no one dies and deceit rules.

 

I’d like to give a shout out to blog members Susan Van Kirk, Debra Goldstein, and Jim Jackson for all they did to bring this anthology to life, and for keeping me, and twenty-two other writers, in line and on task! Let me not omit deepest thanks to non-blog members Carol L. Wright, who worked with Debra herding the writer cats, and of course, Emily P.W. Murphy for her stellar editing and cover design.

 

Our serial story, Broken Hearted Killers, a gift to Writers Who Kill readers, will premiere on February 1st and run through the 18th. This was such a fun project. I’d never been involved in a multi-author serial story before. Watching the story evolve week by week was a hoot and an education. When my turn came, I was paralyzed with fear that I wouldn’t live up to the high-quality writing that went before. In the end, I took my courage in both hands and decided to just have fun. I’m hoping our readers will agree it works.

 

The month will round out with publication of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons Learned from my Cat. It’s no secret I’m a cat lover. My story, “Blood is Thicker than Water”, recounts a 2012 Thanksgiving week night when someone dumped two kittens and a mama cat in my yard. Catching kittens is like winning a greased pig contest. They’re fast and wily. If Cub hadn’t been so protective of his littermate Piper, the story would have ended differently. Piper and Cub, the kittens, and Jenny the mama all found their furever home that night. Cub is on my desk as I write this.

 

It's been quite a busy two months after a long, fallow, period. I hope to do it again soon.

 

Writers and readers, how has the start of 2023 been for you?

Friday, January 27, 2023

Unclear on the Concept: A Blog by Warren Bull


 Image by Robbin Higgins on Pixabay




“We are all born ignorant but one must work very hard to remain stupid.” Benjamin Franklin


We all do things that backfire, or at least leave us aware of how badly a good idea can go. It is humbling to examine examples and to remember our own lapses such as the ones noted below.


Al Gore, when Vice President, attended a meeting with Asian-American business people in 1993 that was later criticized as possibly encouraging future campaign contributions from non-citizens. His reaction included the statements, “I did nothing wrong” and “I will not do it again.”


Kari Lake, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate is suing the state for election fraud and using attorneys who are presenting the same evidence, that, in an earlier case was described by the judge as “false” and resulted in Lake’s team being told to pay court costs for both sides as well as the judge referring the attorneys for professional sanctioning.


In 2021 u/ilan555 Posted “The moon is more useful than the sun since it gives light during the night, when it is dark. The sun shines only in the daytime when it is light anyway.


A caller phoned a talk radio program suggesting that highway road signs saying “Deer Crossing” should be relocated since there had been a number of accidents at those places and the deer must not have been reading the signs.  (I heard the call.)


“Yes, I’m sure the gun is unloaded.”


I did an evaluation for involuntary hospitalization with a person who would not answer questions, repeatedly shaking her head and pointing to her ear. It seemed to me to be a way to avoid being evaluated. As if it was a standard practice, which it was not, I handed her a pencil and motioned signing her name on a release of information form. She waved her hands around and said. “I can’t because I’m blind.”


39-year-old Charles Vacca, an instructor at an Arizona firing range showed a nine-year-old girl how to shoot a single bullet from an Uzi machine gun. After one shot, he took the weapon from her and switched it to fully automatic mode. The girl was unable to control the weapon. She shot and killed her instructor.  


Bullywatch, an organization that donated all its proceeds to families of bullying victims, came up with their own distinct wristband to be worn by anyone who was against bullying as a gesture of unity against the bullies, they had their heads in the right place. Unfortunately, one important thing they failed to consider was how a bully’s mind actually works. What others may have seen as a pretty powerful message against bullies and harassment, the bullies saw as a marker for who to bully next. Students wearing the wristband were much more likely to be targeted by bullies than students who did not.

  

 

Photos of dead marine animals found on the beach make their way into the viral cycle every couple of months or so these days, though back in 1970, something like that was less “further proof of everything bad we’ve done to the oceans” and more, “Huh, what the hell is that?” So, when a dead whale washed ashore in the town of Florence, Oregon, in 1970, the authorities tried to find the best way to get rid of it without causing any trouble for the nearby beachgoers. How did they go about it? By blowing it up with dynamite. 

Yup, a bunch of adults, presumably people qualified to deal with such situations, figured it would be better to just blow up one of the biggest mammals on the planet and act like nothing happened instead of just putting it back in the water and letting the natural ecosystem dispose of it or at least calling other authorities. They also used a lot of dynamite so as to vaporize the small chunks of the exploding whale. Needless to say, the incident was a disaster; the sprayed bits not only showered the people nearby with some unwelcome and presumably stinking whale fluids but also severely damaged one of the cars parked there.
Whenever colonization is mentioned, the Brits get most of the blame, as they admittedly had the biggest empire of them all. Yet, many other European powers dabbled in it, many times reaching close to or even overtaking Britain as the most prolific colonizer of them all. France was one of them, with the jewel of their empire in Hanoi, Vietnam (then known as Indochina).

Hanoi was set up to be one of the best cities under French rule, though there was a tiny problem: rats because of the 14 kilometers (9 mi) of sewer pipe the French had set up under the city to keep things in order, rats could now reach any part of the city through them, making the problem worse. Finally, having had enough of it, the French decided to put a bounty on the pesky creatures and asked the people to bring them dead rats for a small amount of money. Understandably not willing to go through rat carcasses at government offices, they decided to ask for only the tails of the rats.


At first, it seemed to be working quite well, as many tails were showing up, suggesting that the rats were dying, too. That wasn’t the case, though, as there were now even more rats than ever in the city. Unfortunately, the locals of Hanoi had actually turned it into a lucrative business, where they would only take the tail off the rats and let them go produce even more baby rats for profit. Because of that botched bounty scheme, rats remain a big problem for the city of Hanoi even today. 


Tasked with the problem of elementary school students who excitedly got out of their desks upon the slightest excuse, the young (anonymous) psychologist developed a plan seemingly without flaw. Every time a student resumed his or her seat, they got a gold star on a prominently displayed poster in the classroom. What could possibly go wrong? As it turned out, the problem was with the concept of “resuming.” In order to resume the sitting position, one had to out of the desk. The program brilliantly increased the wrong behavior. When the program was reinvented so that staying in the desk was rewarded, the desired behavior increased.  


What’s more: no rats were harmed under my new plan.







Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Imposter Syndrome by Connie Berry

 

Almost every author I know has it—the feeling, deep down, that whatever success they’ve achieved in their writing career won’t last; that the book they’re working on now will never come together; and that their next book will never be as good as their last one.

In every book I’ve written, there has come a time (usually late at night in the dark) when I think, “Nope. This time I can’t pull it off. I’ve written myself into a corner. I’ll have to give up.” Fortunately (so far), I haven’t given up. I’ve soldiered on, counting on my unconscious, creative brain to offer suggestions, fill in plot holes, and give me renewed hope.

January has been an encouraging month for me—mentions on several “Best Of” or “Favorites of 2022” lists. And then an Edgar nomination. Believe me, I’m thrilled. But that old imposter syndrome suggests it’s all been a fluke. I’m trying hard not to listen.

If you’re plagued by the imposter syndrome, I have some encouragement and a practical suggestion.

·       Encouragement: You can pull it off. Yes, you can. You’ve done it before. You can do it again. Stop fretting and get to work.

·       Suggestion: When plot holes loom and everything seems hopeless, make a list of possible solutions, the crazier and more off-the-wall the better. If familiarity breeds contempt, toss out the familiar. In my experience, desperation breeds creativity.

Have you experienced the imposter syndrome? How do you battle against it? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

An Interview with Annette Dashofy By E. B. Davis

With her short-cropped gray hair and dark skin, Cassie was

part mother hen, part Amazon warrior queen.

Annette Dashofy, Where the Guilty Hide, Kindle Loc. 78

 

On the shore of Lake Erie, Pennsylvania, a body lays half hidden, the waves slowly moving it with the rising tide…

 

In the early morning mist, freelance photographer Emma Anderson takes pictures of the rocky coastline. She moved to Erie to escape a past that haunts her but the last thing she expects to capture is a dead body.

 

Erie City Police Detective Matthias Honeywell has been investigating a spate of home invasions but when one of the robbery victims turns up dead, his case evolves into homicide. Emma’s first encounter with Detective Honeywell leaves her shaken when he reminds her of her ex-fiancĂ©-turned-stalker. Matthias misinterprets Emma’s anxiety and suspects she knows more than she’s letting on.

 

With the threat of another murder and no obvious leads, will Emma and Matthias overcome their mutual distrust and work together to capture a killer?

Amazon.com


I was glued to the pages of Annette Dashofy’s first book, Where the Guilty Hide, in her new series. Main characters photographer Emma Anderson and police detective Matthias Honeywell are equally compelling characters. However, Matthias’s boss/partner, Detective Cassie Malone, competes with them in popularity.

Emma’s on the run from an abusive relationship and trying to find her drug-addicted younger sister. Both women are damaged by their parents’ deaths. Matthias has family and women issues. Cassie is a grandmother, and she can’t seem to refrain from match-making single women and Matthias. It’s a triangle bound for trouble.

 

Please ask Annette questions using our comments area.      E. B. Davis

 

About your new publisher, Annette—One More Chapter is a global division of HarperCollins. I downloaded my copy from a UK site, but I noticed that your punctuation is American. How did the deal come about? Is it digital only? How did you decide about that?

 

My amazing agent, Dawn Dowdle, negotiated the deal with One More Chapter, and yes, they’re one of HarperCollins’s UK imprints. I’m definitely learning as I go. Having previously been published by a small press, I can tell you this is a whole new ballgame. OMC publishes digital FIRST, meaning Where the Guilty Hide will be released on January 20 in eBook format with print coming later. I know the UK print release date is March 2, but I haven’t heard when it will be available here. Thankfully, I’m content to let it play out and see how it goes. As for the formatting, I wrote the manuscript the same as I always do, and I wasn’t sure if they would convert it to UK formatting or not. I’m glad they left it. The series is set here after all. But if they’d changed it, hey, as long as they send the royalties to me here in the US, I’m fine with whatever!

 

The series is named A Detective Honeywell mystery. Does that mean he is the main character? Since the book is written from Matthias and Emma’s POV, I thought they shared the title.

This is another one of those learning curves, from small press to big-five, items. They have a team who makes decisions. When I submitted to them, I called it the Lake Erie Mystery Series, and my title was Rule of Thirds, because Emma is a photographer. The OMC/HC marketing team made the changes to both, with my consent, of course. Yes, while I’d thought of Matthias and Emma having joint “ownership” of the series, it does seem that Matthias is now the lead.

 

Your story is set in Erie, PA. Are you familiar with the city and area? Have you experienced the lake-effect snows?

 

My husband and I have been going to Erie and Presque Isle to vacation for decades. Plus I teach at a writing conference in Erie every October. I’ve wanted to set a series there for quite a while because of the diversity of locations. There are lakeside mansions and there are areas of deep poverty. I can find a place that makes sense for any type of story and stay within the city. I admit, I’ve never experienced winter at the lake, but even here in southwestern Pennsylvania, we get some of the lake-effect snowstorms. But we’ll get a foot, and they’ll get six!

 

This book had no horses. Why? When will they show up? If Emma can ride a bike, surely she knows how to ride horses.

 

And no cats either!

 

Yet.

 

Emma grew up on a farm and had horses. Matthias grew up in Oklahoma and his mom was a champion barrel racer (backstory that we haven’t gotten to yet), so he also grew up riding horses. While neither have horses right now, I can see their mutual love of equines coming into play in a future book.

 

Describe the area of Presque Isle peninsula and its relationship to the city and lake for readers. I was at first confused by a bay within a lake. And that the peninsula, jutting out into the lake, was actually a state park.

 

As you say, Presque Isle is a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie, but it also curves back toward the city, producing a bay. The northern side of the peninsula faces the lake. Canada is across the lake, but you can’t see it, so from the beach, Lake Erie looks a lot like the ocean. The city of Erie sits on the southern shores of the lake and bay. Presque Isle peninsula is indeed a state park and is gorgeous. Besides the beaches along the lakeside, there are hiking and biking trails, lagoons, and lots of wildlife. One time, while bike riding, we encountered a much-too-tame coyote that was eyeballing the wild geese at the shore’s edge. We immediately rode to the park office to report him to the rangers!

 

The scenario you describe of the home invasion can lead to confusing a victim with a perpetrator. I can understand why people could distrust the police in such a situation. How did the husband, Wesley, create police suspicion, at least Cassie’s, of his working with the home invaders?

Wesley’s escape from being tied up felt “too easy” to Cassie. She wanted to keep the possibility of him being an insider with the gang as an option to counter Matthias’s concerns about Wesley trying to be a hero. She knew Matthias’s history with a similar situation and feared he’d fixate on that one scenario.

 

Emma is on the run from an abusive boyfriend, Clay. Even though she was his victim, she’s trying to help her drug addicted little sister, Nell, who disappeared in Erie. Was Emma’s victim status temporary? How did Emma realize that she was a victim and get away?

 

Emma and her sister are both emotionally wounded. Nell turned to self-medicating to deal with her loss. Emma sought comfort in Clay’s charms. But like so many abusive men, while he started out charming, he soon revealed his true colors, cutting Emma off from her sister and her home. Ultimately, it took a while for Emma to see him as he truly was, at which point she planned her escape to Erie, a town she was familiar with and where she knew Nell had recently been. As for Emma’s victim status being temporary, I think she’s toughened up by the end of the book to some degree, but still has some work to do on herself.

 

Is it common that abuse victims “see” their tormentors everywhere?

 

I’m not a psychologist but I believe there’s an element of PTSD involved. Emma’s waiting for her nightmare to return. She wants to believe she’s safe but knows she’s not. So she expects Clay to jump out of the bushes at her at any moment.

 

What is the “rule of thirds composition?”

 

If you imagine a camera viewfinder (or a canvas in art) and draw imaginary lines in the form of a large hashtag (#) over the viewfinder or canvas, points of interest need to fall along the lines or where the lines intersect. For example, in a portrait, the subject’s eyes should align with the top horizontal line. In a landscape, the horizon should fall on one of those horizontal lines rather than in the middle. If a landscape has one tall tree, it should be placed on one of the vertical lines. That’s oversimplifying it, but it gives you an idea. In this book, “thirds” also seem to apply to the crime spree. The burglaries are happening three to a city.


When Emma first meets Matthias, she thinks that he is Clay, her abusive boyfriend. But even when she knows he’s a police detective, Matthias scares her with his intensity. Why is Matthias so intense?


Matthias has a very dark past, going back to his teen years, that hasn’t yet been revealed. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface with this guy. He doesn’t trust easily, partly because of his career, but largely because of what he’s lived through.

When Emma accidentally takes a picture of a murder victim hidden under floating junk at the water’s edge, she doesn’t realize that the murder victim is her neighbor Joe Platt’s son-in-law. Why don’t Joe and his daughter get along?

 

Joe’s son-in-law has some of the same traits as Emma’s ex-boyfriend in that he’s controlling. He has done his best to drive a wedge between Joe and his daughter. Joe sees the son-in-law for what he truly is, but his daughter is the dutiful wife who only sees Joe as critical of the man she married.

 

Matthias doesn’t have a great history with women. Hasn’t he sought counseling? He must consider himself an abuse victim, or can’t he see that?

 

Funny that you mention Matthias being a victim of abuse. He absolutely does not see himself that way. As I mentioned, he has a dark past that I hope to explore in book #3 when all his demons come calling. The only counseling he’s had was with the department’s therapist following his earlier partner’s death. Matthias tends to take out his frustration on the heavy bag in the gym. As for women, he’s been deeply hurt twice when he’s made bad choices.

 

The county has a coroner and a forensic pathologist? Where does one job end and the other begin?

 

The coroner is an elected official and may have medical training, but often does not. The forensic pathologist is a specially trained physician who is qualified to perform clinical autopsies. If the elected coroner doesn’t have these medical qualifications, a forensic pathologist is called in as needed and they work together. Some counties use a Medical Examiner system instead of a coroner system. In those cases, the ME, who is hired rather than elected, is also a forensic pathologist.

 

What’s next for Matthias, Emma, and Cassie?

 

As I write this, I’m working on the second Detective Honeywell mystery, which is due to my editor on February 1. In it, Matthias is working multiple cases when a man turns up shot to death in a residential alley after leaving his favorite bar with a mysterious blonde. Additionally, a young woman has vanished while walking home from work, although there’s some question as to whether her disappearance is a matter for law enforcement, or whether she simply ran off with a rich boyfriend. Emma’s drug-addicted sister Nell, however, remains missing and in danger. Emma continues to search for her, but it’s Matthias who finds more than Emma wants to know.

 


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

2023 Personal Predictions ... and Lessons Learned by Martha Reed

Some folks make New Year’s Day resolutions. I start earlier, in the week after the holidays but before the New Year begins.

I like sitting down in a quiet space with a nice cup of coffee or a sweet milky mug of Earl Gray or Constant Comment tea and having a good think. The trick is to absolutely refuse to dwell on anything negative even to the point of silencing the steadfast inner critic’s voice in my head.

I purposefully dwell on writerly achievements since being a writer is my life’s mission statement.

I distinctly recall my first newbie foray in my writer’s life almost twenty years ago when I drove across the Hulton Bridge in Oakmont, PA, to the Mystery Lovers Bookshop. Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman, the owners, must have thought that they hooked a live one when I stepped into their store, clutching 300 loose manuscript pages in my hands, and asking, “I wrote a book. What do I do next?” Thankfully, they pointed me to the Mary Roberts Rinehart chapter of Sisters in Crime, Inc. The rest, as they say, is history.

Good times. Good times.

Fast forward to 2023. What have I learned?

I’ve learned you can take your creative writing with you, wherever you go. I’ve written in airports, lakefront cottages, public libraries, the front seat of my car, and while staring at a blank brick warehouse wall.

Once you develop your daily writing habit, where you write doesn’t matter. Getting your daily 1,000 words on the page does. Even when you’re stuck, think of this. Writing one page a day gets you a 365-page book in one year. You can find the time to write one page a day, right?

Honor your creative space and the time it takes you to get there. There is some training involved in this. Not only did I need to train myself, I needed to train everyone else in my world to understand that when I’m writing, I’m working. Creative world-building isn’t something I can pick up and put down. To get to the really good stuff, I need to intently focus on the story I’m telling. Yes, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work that there is.

So, let’s look at my writerly 2023 projects. Last year, at Malice Domestic 32-33-34, Rosalie Spielman and I wrangled 14 other Writers Who Kill authors into adding their individual and additional chapters (and awesome creative talents) to “Broken Hearted Killers,” a serial novella that will start being published on this blog beginning on February 1, 2023. Yes, it took a lot of organizational work to reach the finish line. Was it worth it? I invite you to read “Broken Hearted Killers” and judge for yourself.

Next up, I wrote a short story under deadline and from scratch for “Paradise is Deadly,” the 2023 (and initial) anthology from the Florida Gulf Coast Sisters in Crime. Somehow, and additionally, I volunteered to serve as one of the anthology’s co-editors. Joking aside, I am deeply honored by this trust.

Here’s an aside: Those of you who know me know that stepping off into deep and unknown holes is my superpower, but I’ve learned to trust the universe and to try new things. Plus, I have an amazing group of writer friends who will toss me a rope if and when I need one. Besides, the great unknown is where all the fun is.

The 2023 trifecta project is my self-imposed October 2023 self-publishing date for Crescent City NOLA Mystery #2, my mystery series relating the adventures of disgraced ex-detective Jane Byrne and Gigi Pascoe, my transgender sleuth. I can’t reveal the title yet until my editing is done. It’s one of my few superstitions, but I promise to share any news ASAP.

Looking down the road then, for 2023? Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!

 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Something Else Not Improved by Technology by Nancy L. Eady

 I have some work I want to do on my computer, but McAfee decided to disimprove my life by unilaterally deciding to re-enlist my account (after I specifically cancelled the last attempt at automatic enrollment). Then Microsoft decided to improve my life by announcing (another) update. So far, it’s been 20 minutes and the download has reached 33%. Even though I know I need my computer to be able to write, right now I’m tempted to throw everything out the window and find a pen and paper. 

But because I can’t really afford to do that, and because it’s too rainy and cold outside to destroy my computer properly, I thought I’d share with you moments in my life that technology couldn’t improve. 

Our adult daughter moved out in July. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, she returned permanently with one addition – a cat. We can’t keep a cat in the house because of my husband’s allergies and asthma, but we tolerated it for a few weeks because Kayla was fragile and couldn’t handle parting with her immediately. Finally we reached the point where it had to go, so my husband and Kayla worked out a compromise – the cat would be re-homed with my sister and we would get a puppy for Kayla. (For those of you worried about the cat, I am thrilled to report that Luna is doing very well, ecstatic at having the run of my sister’s house and making good friends with their other three cats.) Luna went to my sister’s the day before Christmas, so December 27th found me at the animal shelter with my daughter to see what they had that was adoptable. (Coincidentally, the 27th is my birthday). So, we acquired Max.

Max Comes Home

 



Max Comes Home 2

For the record, Max is the first dog that has ever entered our house that I did not ask for. The other eight over the years (the last two of which you met a couple of months ago in https://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2022/08/something-not-improved-by-technology-by.html) I lobbied for hard, but Max is here solely because of my husband and Kayla. And that’s okay. He also is the youngest dog we have adopted, only three months old, since 1994, when we adopted J.P. Wooflesnort who was six weeks old. Unfortunately, Kayla miscalculated the effect he would have on her social life. And since her social life has not been curtailed, he is every bit as much our dog as hers now.

Mark and Max

 
With two dogs in the house, life is never boring. With three dogs under the age of 4, life is nearly chaotic.

Play Time

Snack Time


Fortunately, there are times when they run out of steam, and then life gets really, really cuddly.


From Top to Bottom:  Me, Max, Penny and Daisy

When I look at the three of them, I am forced to admit, yet again, that there are things in life that technology cannot improve upon. And that’s the thought I’ll take with me into the week.

Pack Time


As well as the knowledge that I am very well loved.