Saturday, April 29, 2023

Location, Location, Location by Valerie Burns

I’ve bought quite a few houses in my time (nine to be exact), and I’ve heard the three most important things to consider when buying a house are location, location, location. Why? Because you can easily change just about everything else about a house, but you can’t change the location. Well, not easily. So, what does buying real estate have to do with writing a cozy mystery? In my opinion, EVERYTHING. Why? Because, just like in real estate, location is a key component in a mystery, especially a cozy mystery.

The very name, “cozy mystery” conjures up different scenes for each person. For some, this might be a cabin tucked away in the mountains. Others may get a picture of a small New England town with fishing boats, diners selling lobster rolls, antique shops, and a lighthouse converted into a library. When I think cozy, I think of a quaint town with handmade furniture, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, unique craft stores, a bakery with lots of delicious goodies in the window, and a bookstore with comfy chairs, a fireplace, and a sizeable mystery section. Cozy mysteries aren’t set in cookie cutter towns overflowing in big box stores, but lacking in personality and charm. No. A COZY mystery’s location does more than provide a geographic location to ground the reader. It sets the mood for the book and instills things in the reader’s mind that aren’t always on the page. Okay, I can feel your skepticism. How can the location or setting of a book do all of that, you ask? Let’s look at a couple of cozy mysteries.

First, let’s look at a cozy set in the South. Kate Young’s, Southern Sass and Killer Cravings, A Marygene Brown Mystery. The book’s location, on Peach Cove Island off the Georgia coast, creates a southern vibe that radiates from the pages. Without the author stating that the locals have a southern drawl, readers will hear that drawl based on the phrasing. In Debra H. Goldstein’s Sarah Blair Mysteries, which are set in Birmingham, Alabama, you know that each, ‘Bless your heart,’ is spoken with sarcasm. Why? Because, the book’s location is set in the South. If you’re from the South, you know. If you’re not. . .ask a Southerner.

Cozy mysteries set in New England like Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake Mystery series or Shari Randall’s Lobster Shack Mysteries, create a mental picture of the place and the people. Even without a written description, readers familiar with the area, and even those who have only watched Murder, She Wrote on television, will conjure up images of the beautiful New England coast with seagulls flying overhead, fishing boats and lobster buoys bobbing in the water, and quaint shops with saltwater taffy. The locals’ dialect, their passions, and their interests practically leap off the pages when the setting is right.

Location was a key factor when I chose to set my Mystery Bookshop Mystery series in Southwestern Michigan. The series is set in the fictional town of North Harbor, Michigan. Southwestern Michigan isn’t as popular  a setting for cozy mysteries as New England. However, readers familiar with the area easily recognized specific elements of Lake Michigan’s coastline, lighthouses, and often turbulent weather. Storms, tornadoes, and lake effect snow are normal for the region, and residents know how to “hunker down” and stay safe through the harshest weather Mother Nature throws at them. In the eighth book in the series, a storm comes through and damages the local library. Samantha Washington’s bookstore doesn’t sustain any damage, and she offers to host one of the library’s book clubs. That’s when her troubles begin. I would argue that the plotline in Bookclubbed to Death works because of the book’s location. Just as a hurricane could work as a great starting point for a book set in New Orleans, or an earthquake in California. Why? Because location really does matter.




About the Author

Valerie (V. M.) Burns is an Agatha, Anthony, and Edgar Award-finalist. She is the author of the Mystery Bookshop, Dog Club, RJ Franklin, and Baker Street Mystery series. Valerie is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Crime Writers of Color. She is also an adjunct professor in the Writing Popular Fiction Program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. Born and raised in northwestern Indiana, Valerie now lives in Northern Georgia with her two poodles. Connect with Valerie at



Bookclubbed to Death

 by V. M. Burns

When the bookshop she owns becomes a crime scene, mystery writer Samantha Washington discovers there is such a thing as bad publicity . . .
After the local library in North Harbor, Michigan, is flooded in a storm, Sam offers her bookstore as a new venue for the Mystery Mavens Book Club. Unfortunately, she immediately runs afoul of the club leader, Delia Marshall, a book reviewer who can make or break careers—something Sam can ill afford with her debut historical mystery soon to be published.
But the next morning, Sam opens her shop to find the unpleasant woman dead on the floor, bashed with a heavy—apparently lethal—tome: the Complete Works of Agatha Christie. While Sam is busy writing her latest British historical mystery in which the queen mother is suspected in the murder of a London Times correspondent, a pair of ambitious cops suspect Sam of the real-life crime. When she gathers Nano Jo and their friends from the Shady Acres Retirement Village to review the case, they discover every one of the Mavens had a motive. With her novel about to hit the stores, Sam must find out who clubbed Delia before a judge throws the book at her . . .


Friday, April 28, 2023

Hawkeye: A television program: A review by Warren Bull


Image from Wikkimedia

Hawkeye, the Television Program: A Review by Warren Bull


(This blog has been re-published from Warren's 2022 blogs. We will continue to re-post his blogs until he is able to return to WWK.)


This miniseries created by Jonathan Igla is based on the characters from Marvel Comics. Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Tony Dalton and Vera Farmiga star in this production. If you are not acquainted with Marvel Comic book heroes, you may not know that Hawkeye, also known as Clint Barton, is a member of a group of superheroes called The Avengers. Among the group he is unique in a number of ways. He does not have a technological suit of flying armor like Ironman. He was not physically enhanced by accident such as a bite from a radioactive spider (Spiderman) or exposure to gamma rays (The Hulk), or by plan such as injection with an unreproducible super-secret solution intended to produce a nearly invincible soldier (Captain America) or assassin (Black Widow.)  And he is definitely not a God (Thor.)


Hawkeye is a regular person who is in extraordinary physical shape who is an expert archer, martial artist, and swordsman. Hawkeye has a secret identity of sorts in that he has a wife and three children, which he keeps secret from the Avengers except from his friend Black Widow.


So, he is a superhero who is not super and his secret identity is that he is a husband and father. I find the twist on what makes someone “super” interesting.


The character is different in movies and in this television show than the character in the comics. The show has humorous inside references to the differences, for example in the comics he wears a purple costume that shows up from time to time in the series. When his wannabe sidekick in the series suggests he wear something like the costume, he rejects it. “I’m trying to stay in the shadows. My wife would divorce me if I wore something like that.”


One of the things I like about the series is its willingness to make fun of the comic characters. Hawkeye attends a Broadway musical based on the Avengers who have saved New York (a long and complicated story I will not go into), he turns his hearing aid off, and walks out. There are references to Mocking Jay, comic conventions, and adult roleplaying games. At one point he insists, “I am not a role model.” The series avoids taking the characters and the comic too seriously. 


Poor Clint Barton who is in New York to spend time with his children just before Christmas gets dragged into a gang war with an all-too-eager young women who has copied his skills and wants to be like the Hawkeye of legend.  Clint wants to clear up the mess and get home in time for Christmas.


The action is movie-like with remarkably poor shooting from the bad guys and gals and incredible escapes. The dialog is funnier if you get the movie references. I enjoy the skewed superhero approach. It is fun, lightweight material for when you have time to kill. 





Thursday, April 27, 2023

Navigating the Muddle in the Middle: My Top Ten Tips by Connie Berry

Philip Larkin, the British poet, novelist, and librarian once said, “…we like stories because of the muddle in the middle. The middle takes up more story time and space than the beginning and ending combined. And making that muddle work dramatically or comedically takes thought, planning.”

Every Writer Faces the Terrifying Muddle in the Middle

Anyone who’s ever written a book knows that the middle is the hardest to write. Setting things up is exciting. Resolving the problem is fun. The muddle in the middle is where our brains are tested and we often think, “This isn’t going to work!” At least I do. In every book I’ve ever written, I have that moment, the dark night of the soul, where I think, “Nope. I’ve written myself into a corner this time for real. I’m going to have to throw it all out and start again.” I have, however, learned a few techniques to propel me through the muddle toward the final resolution. I am not the only one who’s thought of these things, but here they are—techniques to move you through the dreaded middle and keep the reader turning pages.

My Top Ten Tips for Surviving the Muddle in the Middle

        1. Surprise the reader.

        2. Change the pace of the action (slow to fast or vice versa).

        3. Introduce a misunderstanding between characters.

        4. Give your protagonist a moment of clarity or a new discovery.

        5. Change the location of the action.

        6. Show the consequences of a previous act or decision.

        7. Create a physical barrier (including time).

        8. Introduce a dead end (“all is lost”).

        9. Highlight an unresolved contradiction.

        10. Reflect your main conflict in a subplot.

I’m sure there are more techniques, but these are my top ten. Just so you know, I haven’t (yet) ever had to trash my WIP and begin again. There’s always a way forward.

What About You?

Are you intimidated by the muddle in the middle? What are your go-to techniques?

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

An Interview with Colleen Cambridge By E. B. Davis


Julia had a rule for managing husbands: feed them, flatter them, and er,

fornicate with them. (She usually used a different f-word when

mentioning the last item of the Rule of the Three Fs.)

Colleen Cambridge, Mastering the Art of French Murder, Kindle Loc. 3464


As Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture . . . and food. Thanks to her neighbor and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe.
Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen.
Tabitha is eager to help the investigation, but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight, to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen, to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison . . . or worse.


I found Mastering the Art of French Murder intriguing from the Paris setting, the post WWII era, and the characters—fictitious main character Tabitha Knight and very real Julia Child, no less! Two independent American women secure in their situations befriend each other. Julia older than Tabitha Knight becomes a mentor of sorts, and yet they also have a symbiotic relationship.


Colleen Cambridge must have done an enormous amount of research to write this book. But I can also imagine that the research was fun. She brings Julia to life as a progressive woman and hints that her past life during the war with the State Department is best left buried. But as the above quote reveals, Julia was unequivocal.


Please welcome Colleen Cambridge to WWK.             E. B. Davis

In your Phyllida Bright mystery series, you team an ordinary housekeeper with her boss, Agatha Christie. In this An American in Paris mystery series, you pair Tabitha Knight with Julia Child, a fun pairing. What summoned the idea of placing talented, but amateur, fictional sleuths with famous and strong real women of the past?


Well, to be honest, it was something my editor and publishing team came up with. I love writing historical mysteries, and had written a series featuring an aide of Abraham Lincoln (the Lincoln’s White House Mysteries, writing as CM Gleason) and one day my editor called and asked if I’d be interested in doing a similar sort of thing with Agatha Christie’s housekeeper. I jumped on that chance and haven’t looked back.


The fun part about making the protagonist be the friend of the historical person is that I can do whatever I want with the protagonist’s character, life, story, etc. Everyone knows Agatha Christie’s and Abe Lincoln’s and Julia Childs’ stories…but now people get to experience that piece of history through the eyes of Phyllida Bright and Adam Quinn and Tabitha Knight…and I can give them their own lives.


Are there any legal rules about putting real historical people into fiction? Do heirs have to give their approval?


Not unless you write something libelous, which of course I wouldn’t do. J


Did Julia really have a “potty” mouth?


Absolutely! She was very earthy and relaxed and bawdy, enthusiastic about learning and experiencing new things—and I’m certain that was part of why Paul, her husband, and her many friends were attracted to being with her.


Julia becomes enamored by French food and its history. She starts taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu. The action takes place in 1949 after Julia’s husband Paul is transferred to Paris by the US Information Service as a diplomat. Did that department become or was the precursor to something we know of today?


Yes. The US Information Service became the US Information Agency in the late 1950s, I believe.


Tabitha is a transplant to Paris from Detroit. What happened that brought her to Paris? What skills does she have from her war experience?


Tabitha’s mother is French, and her grandfather still lives in Paris. When he invites her to come and live with him, she eagerly leaves the US for one of the most intriguing cities in the world. She’d worked as a Rosie-the-Riveter at the Willow Run Bomber Plant in the Detroit suburbs, and since the war ended, she has been at loose ends. She’s not the sort of woman who wants to get married and have children (at least, not yet), and she’s not really interested in the other traditional female occupations of nurse or teacher. And so she is eager.


Why does Tabitha think that cooking will be like fixing an engine?


Because she figures everything just fits into place, each part, like the parts to a mechanical thing.


Did Julia’s six-foot, two-inch robust frame affect her trajectory in the cooking arena? Did men have less of an intimidation factor on her?


In her kitchen, the counters and the stove were low enough that she would have to bend over a little. Must have been hell on her back!


I have no idea whether she ever felt intimidated by men because of her height; from everything I’ve read about Julia it’s that she wasn’t shy and she wasn’t retiring, and wasn’t easily intimidated. I will say that the thing that intimidated her at first in Paris was not being able to speak the language, and feeling left out of conversations.


I loved your descriptions of what American food consisted of during the mid 20th century. Grilled Spam topped with pineapple slices was considered a fancy appetizer. Condensed soup as sauces, and instant coffee! Those descriptions show just how much Julia Child changed American cooking and culinary standards. Did you look at old cookbooks to find these “recipes?”


No, not at all. Some of them are simply from my growing up and knowing what my parents ate. And some of them were things mentioned specifically by Julia in her autobiography as what she’d grown up eating as well.


What is a suspended food box? (What did they do in summer if they didn’t have an icebox?)


Basically it’s a box hung outside the window. I don’t know what the Childs’ did in the summer without an icebox! Julia never says…probably never bought things that would go bad quickly without being refrigerated.


What is Tabitha’s sprite?


It’s her internal curiousness, her tendency to want to stir things up, to find out more, to have adventures and do fun and different things.


If a woman wore pants in Paris, except when bike or horse riding, it was illegal. What did they do to women who wore pants—lock them up? How could they justify this ridiculousness?


Well, I don’t think the women were ticketed very often, if at all. But the law was still on the books, and it was unusual for women to wear pants…though not unheard of. Especially in the more bohemian areas like Saint-Germain La Prés, you would see lots of the Existentialist women wearing slacks.


What was “Coca-Colonization?”


It was the fear that Coca-Cola would take over in France, ruining or affecting the wine industry, and helping to make France too “American” and “capitalistic.” The promotion of Coca-Colonization was mainly from the Communist Party, which was a very powerful force in France at the time.


Did Julia and Paul meet during the war when they both worked for the Office of Strategic Services, which was then our intelligence department? What did they do?


Yes, Julia and Paul met while working at the precursor to the CIA. They were both stationed in Ceylon for a time. Julia was a secretary, managing the files and data on the employees—including any that were spies. Part of Paul’s role was to help design war rooms, as he was an architect and also very artistic. Who knows if either of them did anything else…


What is a képi hat?


A képi hat is the familiar stove-pipe shaped cap worn by Parisian police with the slanted top and a little brim. Think Inspector Clouseau. ;-)



What’s next for Tabitha and Julia?

 I’ve just finished the second book in the series, titled A Murder Most French (May 2024). In this book, Tabitha accompanies Julia to a cooking demonstration at Le Cordon Bleu. The chef doing the demonstration opens a very rare and expensive bottle of wine, takes a taste, and promptly drops dead.



Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Wax on, Wax off - 10 Tips for Polishing Your Manuscript by Martha Reed

When I first started writing my stories, I would often despair looking over my draft manuscripts because they seemed so rough, so cobbled together, so bottom line unpublishable. Word choices were poor, verb choices were lame. The plot rambled like goats all over the landscape. There were way too many adverbs and adjectives.

Then, with time and continued practice, I learned an important lesson. At the start of each new writing project, it’s vital to have fun with the raw story and get it down while it’s still fresh, exciting, and interesting. Play with a story idea for too long and it becomes brittle and stale. The last thing you want to do is become bored with it. I needed to give myself permission to just write it down. Editing and polishing the manuscript to perfection came later in the writing process.

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I think polishing a manuscript must be like the work a lapidary does. You start out with a pretty pebble and with knowledge and consistent application you grind away the cracks and the grit and the sand until you have a gorgeously sparkling gemstone to show everyone.

So, after I’ve typed “The End” or “###” on my draft manuscript, what are my next steps?

1.     I save the manuscript to my computer and on a thumb drive. This way I have backup copies in case I go down an editing rabbit hole and need to return to my original thoughts. (It happens.)

2.     I create a copy, “Rev 1.” This is the version I edit. Some writers print Rev 1 on paper and edit the story from there. Hey, whatever floats your boat, as long as it works. I prefer to stay digital.

3.     Using the “Read Aloud” feature under “Review” in Microsoft Word, I listen to the whole story unfold, editing Rev 1 as I go. I listen for a consistent and interesting narrative tone, slash any duplications, and check for continuity in character names and descriptions.

4.     While I’m listening to the story, my internal editor is also listening in the background to the paragraph and chapter length for pacing. As I go along, I give myself plenty of time to pause the audio and think: would this material work better if I reordered things? If I was the reader, would I get up now and make a cup of tea? What if I moved this section from here to there? Now is the time to make those structural changes.

5.     I remove any tropes or cliches, overused words, or phrases. (What’s your favorite overused word? Mine is “silhouette.”)

6.     Once I cross the 200 page mark, I deliberately shorten chapters and sentences to increase the tension and pick up the pace.

7.     When the initial audio reading is over, I work back to front to identify and reinforce any themes. I know “theme” is a bad word we all learned in high school, but your book is about something. Why not make it a theme?

8.     Your characters have been sharing their story with you. What has been revealed? Add any new and surprising insights that will hook your reader’s interest and their emotions.

9.     When Rev 1 is done, I send it to my trusted Beta readers. After reviewing their notes, I make additional tweaks.

10.  I send the final Rev 1 to my professional editor and make those suggested changes, as needed.

After that, I call this one done and start the next one!

What is your process for editing and polishing? Do you have any tricks you’d like to share?


Monday, April 24, 2023

A Mind Like a Steel Sieve Part II by Nancy L. Eady

 Back in September 2018, I wrote a column about having a mind like a steel sieve.  It is also known as good old-fashioned absent-mindedness. I have it in spades. 

Today, Mark stopped at Buc-ee’s, a unique gas station chain, so I could run in and get each of us a drink. The square footage of a Buc-ee’s store is between 50,000 and 75,000 square feet, and its shelves are packed with everything from clothing to home décor to snacks to fresh baked goods, candy, and barbecue. The chances of me walking in a straight line through a Buc-ee’s to the drink machine and back are close to zero.  But I tried my best, until on my way towards the registers at the front of the store I came across a row of cute T-shirts flanked by a counter with fresh brisket. I dithered there until I remembered Mark was circling the parking lot waiting for me. So I resolutely turned my back on the T-shirts and brisket and walked briskly through the door to head to the car. Until I realized I hadn’t yet paid for my drinks and had to turn around and go back in to pay. I’m just lucky no one thought I was trying to pull a fast one. 

Reading during lunch can be a hazard also. Once at Cracker Barrel, I read my way from the table to my car and then drove back to the office before I realized I hadn’t paid for my lunch. I called the restaurant to let them know what I’d done, and they let me come back that afternoon after work to pay my bill. Which would be bad enough, but I had done the same thing about a year before at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. There, I went back the next day, had the buffet again and then explained why I was paying twice. The waitress shrugged and told me that she saw me walk out the day before, but just figured I must have been extremely busy! 

Paying for my food at a drive-thru and driving off before I receive the food has happened enough that it's not an entirely unusual predicament to find myself in.  

And about a week ago, I left the office to go home and found my car still running. Apparently, I had forgotten to turn it off when I returned to the office for lunch. And yes, I have an alarm for when that happens but apparently it was too subtle to get my attention. I was lucky; no one stole the car and the engine temperature stayed steady, so I didn’t blow the engine. 

Tonight, I’m going to bed extra early in hopes to add a little more steel and lot less sieve to my mind. What absent-minded stories do you have to share?

Sunday, April 23, 2023

An Interview with Annette Dashoffy By E. B. Davis

Pete was beginning to feel bruised from all the brick

walls they’d been running into.

Annette Dashofy, Helpless, Kindle Loc. 1975


As a massive weather system barrels toward them, Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams and his wife, County Coroner Zoe Chambers-Adams, soon learn how unprepared they really are. A 911 call reports a dead young mother, her critically injured husband, and their missing seven-year-old daughter. Pete and Zoe realize that as the storm moved north from Louisiana, a mysterious killer came with it.

The wounded and trapped father is Zoe’s friend and blacksmith, and he asks her to stay with him during the rescue efforts. Pete encourages her to oblige, hoping she can uncover clues that might help the investigation. But as attempts to free the victim fail and his condition worsens, Zoe’s questions reveal he doesn’t know why his family was targeted and child kidnapped. Yet he stays alive, hoping for one last glimpse of his little girl.

Pursuing the murderer and the kidnapped child, Pete and his officers battle downed trees, massive flooding, and a widespread loss of communications. They’re isolated with no backup, while facing rising water and impassable roads. The killer faces the same problems, yet somehow stays one step ahead of law enforcement. But he is becoming desperate, and more people are dying because of it.

As two lives hang in the balance, can Pete win the race against time and weather to stop a savage and cunning predator? And will he and Zoe be able to reunite a family before it’s too late?

If you’ve lived around farms and/or lived in Pennsylvania during Hurricane Agnes as I have, real situations like those Annette Dashofy included in Helpless occur. Real situations that are scary. Pete and Zoe’s helplessness is demonstrated in all the trials they face, real situations that occur like cataclysmic dominos due to one man’s psycho madness during an epic storm, pressure cooking a horrible situation that deteriorates as time ensues.


Helpless is a page turner, as Annette’s books usually are, but what is unusual is that it is a suspense, not a mystery. We don’t know whodunit right from the start, but we have a good idea, and then our suspicions become fact. After that—there is not only a countdown against the killer, but also of the child’s safety, the father’s survival, and the storm’s impact and hoped dissipation. Annette has suspense ratcheted up on so many levels, it’s no wonder you turn the page quickly. Readers feel Zoe and Pete’s desperation, their helplessness in trying to end a very bad situation.



Because Zoe’s horse barn is on high ground, she anticipates boarding horses that are located in low-lying areas, which will flood due to the storm. What is a tie stall?


In comparison to a box stall, which is usually 10- or 12-foot square allowing the horse to move around freely, a tie stall is about half as wide. The horse is tied facing the feeder and can’t walk around. It’s not ideal but works in a pinch. And the poor farmers living in low-lying areas were definitely “in a pinch.” As a side note, I live in one of those areas and came very close to having to evacuate my horses once or twice.


Zoe must choose between doing her job, attending the county’s dead and performing autopsies, or staying with a gunshot wounded and tractor-trapped father, Danny, who is desperate to get his daughter, Peyton, back from a kidnapper, who thinks he is the child’s father. How does Zoe decide what to do?


Her heart desperately wants her to stay. Danny is an old friend. Zoe still misses her old career as a paramedic. But her head insists she fulfill the demands of her new office. However, Danny begs her to stay with him, and Pete feels her talents are better served right there as opposed to being at the morgue.


What are the “special circumstances” Pete refers to when asking Zoe to stay with Danny?


There are a lot of special circumstances, but the ones Pete cares about involve the increasingly bad weather and the fact that, as a friend, Zoe can talk to Danny and draw out potential clues as to who this mad man is and where he’s taken the little girl.


Why does Zoe call in a doctor to assist with Danny’s care?


Ideally, Zoe’s paramedic buddies would’ve loaded Danny into the ambulance and taken him to the hospital 20 miles away. But they can’t move him, and his condition is grave. So, Zoe places a call to her old friend, Emergency Department Doctor Fuller (who has appeared in several previous books.) Dr. Fuller is the best where emergency medicine is concerned, and Zoe is grateful he agrees to come.


The horrible and shocking situation is that the weight of the tractor keeps Danny from bleeding out, and since he is a strong man, the weight of the tractor hasn’t collapsed his airway. In short, he can talk. To find the madman, Zoe asks Danny how he met his now deceased wife Michelle. Zoe takes pages of notes about how they met to find out more about the victim. What does she uncover that makes Danny’s paternity questionable?


Zoe’s questions are aimed at keeping Danny talking with the hope of directing him to a couple of topics he’d refused to discuss earlier. Zoe and Pete are convinced Danny can give them information about who took his daughter that he doesn’t even know he has. Of course, his stories only raise more questions about Danny’s wife’s mysterious past. Zoe is most concerned about the short amount of time between Danny meeting Michelle and marrying her. It’s simple math.


What are anti-shock compression trousers, and what do they do?


Anti-shock trousers inflate around the lower extremities of a patient, forcing blood upward around vital organs. If a patient has suffered traumatic blood loss and is going into shock, they’re one of the “tools” carried in an ambulance or rescue truck to maintain the patient until they can reach a hospital.


When they discover that Michelle, wife of Danny, mother to the kidnapped child, and murder victim, was originally from New Orleans, of course, they call the NOLA police, but because of Hurricane Iona all circuits are busy. The only Catch-22 that didn’t happen appears to be that no one’s car got stalled out in flood waters. What else didn’t go wrong in trying to find the perp?


It’s really a cat-and-mouse game throughout the book. The biggest curse and blessing were the rising flood waters. Help couldn’t get to them, but their suspect was as trapped as Pete and his crew. Alas, once the torrential rain started easing off, it meant the killer would be able to escape the area and go literally anywhere.


One of Michelle’s friends assumes that Michelle has made a wrong decision based on her own circumstances. That subversion costs Michelle her life, but the friend loses her life, too. Why do people try to take control of situations beyond their boundaries? This aspect of the case was so real, but also so maddening!


Good question. Everyone seems to believe they know what’s best without understanding the big picture.


What’s a leather keeper?


There are lots of variations, such as the loop next to a belt buckle into which you tuck the end of the belt to keep it from flapping. But the ones Pete and practically all law enforcement use have a double loop, one encircling the officer’s regular belt and the second encircling the officer’s duty belt, which holds his side arm, handcuffs, pepper spray, etc. These “keep” the heavy duty belt from sliding down.


Nate is a new deputy to Pete and works with him when Seth is released to sandbag his house, which he bought from Pete. Nate’s worried about drowning during a flood because he can’t swim, but the currents are such even seasoned swimmers could drown. Although Nate proves himself, is he also a bit of comic relief?


Actually, Nate Williamson has been in every one of the Zoe Chambers Mysteries, but he’s recently moved from being Pete’s weekend officer to being one of the weekday nightshift officers. I had fun showing a vulnerable side to Nate since in past books, he’s been the big scary looking cop who keeps the peace just by his appearance. He’s always been a softy beneath it all but used his appearance to his benefit. This time, we get to see the big guy legitimately scared.


Is the 911 system more vulnerable than regular phone numbers?


There are lots of safety backup systems to keep something like this from happening, but this was one of those storms no amount of planning could foresee. Overall, any system relying on electricity tends to be more vulnerable than the old landlines. But even those lines come down at times.  


During emergencies such as storms with flooding, do emergency operators triage calls? What are the priorities?


Oh, absolutely. The priorities are basically the same as any emergency room or disaster scenario triage situation. Category One requires immediate care, which means life-saving measures are needed now. Category Two means “urgent,” which in EMS-speak means non-life-threatening but needs medical attention. I don’t want to use the words “less important,” but basically someone in this situation can wait until the category one patients are stabilized. Category Three means non-urgent. The patient may need attention, but the injuries are minor. What you may not know is that patients who are clearly not going to survive fall into this category as well. In a disaster, medical resources must attempt to save those who can be saved.


What does hot shod mean? Does it hurt the horse?


It doesn’t hurt at all. A horse’s hoof is made of the same thing as our fingernails. Hot shoeing means the blacksmith uses a forge to heat and shape the horseshoe. With cold shoeing, the blacksmith simply pounds the shoe into shape without the forge. Hot shoeing is generally used for horses that require special shoes due to hoof problems. Also, when a shoe, hot from the forge, is placed on the horse’s foot, it tends to bond better, hence the horse is less likely to throw the shoe. 


As the bodies pile up, Pete’s available personnel goes down. Crime scenes need to be guarded until processed, and the storm delays the CSU. This seems so elemental, and yet, until you pointed it out, I hadn’t realized how stretched the police can be. Also, that Amber Alerts can aid the perp rather than the police. Is this when the State police help out?


The Pennsylvania State Police help out in lots of cases in rural areas. In fact, it’s one aspect of police work that I tend to “fudge” in my books in order to make Pete and his department more vital to the stories. In reality, the PSP would be doing the bulk of the investigation because small, rural departments simply don’t have the manpower or financial means. Local and state police work together. When there’s an incident around here (and we had a big one recently), I’ll see a local unit or two followed by a couple of state troopers screaming past my house, one after the other.


Due to the storm and blood, how many changes of clothes did Pete go through in the one day?


Ha! I didn’t count. But he did get soaked a few times!


What’s next for Pete and Zoe?


The next book picks up a couple days after this one and deals with the fallout from that last chapter. In other words, the long simmering feud between Zoe and Dr. Charles Davis finally comes to a full boil with deadly results.