Tuesday, April 30, 2024

What are we Writing


I'm always asking my writer friends what they're writing. Today Writers Who Kill are sharing their works in progress.

Connie Berry: I’m working on two books at the moment: a sixth Kate Hamilton mystery and a historical. How am I doing this? With some difficulty. 

Sarah Burr: I'm juggling two different projects at the moment. Flying Off the Candle, book three in the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, is in the final editing stages with my editor. I'm aiming for a late May release. I'm also writing the final book in my Court of Mystery series--book fourteen! I'm trying to wrap up all of Duchess Jacqueline's experiences, and, boy, it's more than a bit tricky! 

Kait Carson
: I’m working on No Return, the first of a new series set in Maine, and a short story. 

Margaret S. Hamilton
: My debut amateur sleuth mystery, What the Artist Left Behind, is on submission. I'm finishing the first draft of the next in the Jericho Mysteries, What the Author Left Behind. I plan to write two short stories in anticipation of summer and early fall deadlines. 

Lori Herbst
: Graven Images, Book 6 in the Callie Cassidy Mystery series, released April 23. Now I'm turning my attention to a new series, The Seahorse Cove Mysteries. Stay tuned! 

Marilyn Levinson: I’m writing the first book in my new mystery series, the Dickens Island series. I’m also writing the third book in my middle grade children’s series entitled Rufus and the Dark Side of Magic. I've recently finished the edits of my romantic suspense, Come Home to Death, which will be out today. Also out today is my short story, "Stabbed in the Heart" in the anthology, First Comes Love, Then Comes Murder. 

Molly MacRae: I’m finishing up book two in the Haunted Shell Shop mysteries, There’ll be Shell to Pay, and gearing up for the June 25th release of book one, Come Shell or High Water. On Ocracoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina, Maureen Nash comes face-to-face with the ghost of a pirate and also trips over a dead body. It isn’t the best start to a beach vacation. 

Korina Moss: I just finished revisions for the fifth Cheese Shop Mystery, Fondue or Die. It's releasing October 22nd, and is available for preorder now. The lazy, hazy, dairy days of summer are coming to a close in the Sonoma Valley. . . and so is someone’s life. 

Shari Randall: My next release is ages away, but I’m currently working on two new projects and wrestling with a short story. So stay tuned.


Martha Reed: I spent most of March drafting The Seven Gates, my third NOLA Mystery from a studio apartment in an authentic Creole cottage in New Orleans on Rampart Street near the French Quarter. The phrase “madwoman in the attic” comes to mind. It may fit. 

KM Rockwood: I'm finishing up a short story collection, Miss Grayling Minds Her Murders. I have 10 stories now (a few have been published, but most have not) and am trying to decide if I should add another to bring the collection to 70,000 words. 

Grace Topping: I’m doing the final edit on my submission of “There’s Always Plan B” to the anthology First Comes Love, Then Comes Murder.

Susan Van Kirk: I'm writing the fifth book in the Endurance Mysteries, and it's different than the earlier books because Grace Kimball, the protagonist, is married and running a bed and breakfast with her husband, Jeff. However, a very strange situation from the past comes back to haunt the present, and a cold case becomes far less cold for Detective TJ Sweeney. I don't have a title yet, of course, because that will come as I write. So, stay tuned. Hoping to get it out this coming fall. 

Heather Weidner: Deadlines and Valentines, the fourth book in the Jules Keene Glamping series, is due out in October. A Tisket A Tasket, Not Another Casket, the third book in my Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries, will be published next January. I also have two short stories that will be published this year. “Dead over Heels” will be published in First Comes Love, Then Comes Murder, and “Game Over” will be published in a SinC chapter anthology. 

Wow! Talk about a prolific group. I’m limbering up my pre-order list now.

Monday, April 29, 2024

How to Write a Novel by Nancy L. Eady

Two of WWK’s recent blog posts, one on April 12 by Heather Weidner, and one on April 27 by Kait Carson, got me thinking about how to write a novel. Their posts were more about how to get back into a regular writing schedule, but I realized that a tangent to their points is a simple principle: How do you write a novel? One word at a time. 

Think about it. If you never write the first word of the novel, you can never write the last word of the novel. And if you stop writing words somewhere in the middle, then all you are left with is a half-finished novel. So, in many ways, butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard remains the central core of any writing regime. Unless you still write long-hand, in which case you have to keep pen on paper for similar periods of time, or unless you like to sit somewhere outdoors to do your writing, in which case your derriere will be sitting either on a lawn chair or a rock or a hill with your back against your tree or…. Well, you get the idea. But no matter what, your keyboard or your pen must continue to plunk out words until you come to the end. 

Notice, I did not title this blog “How to Write a Successful Novel,” which would be silly for me to write since I have yet to have my book published. But I did complete one book and have started a couple more since then, so I can authoritatively discuss what it takes to write a novel. While “writing one word at a time” as a guide to writing a novel is a bit of an oversimplification, since you also need something to write about (an idea), and characters that you enjoy writing about, but without the words, the idea and the characters won’t get much traction. And I have good news – sometimes when I have pounded out words just to keep going, thinking at the time I was putting out my worst writing ever, I later discovered when I re-read it that what I had written was better than originally thought.

Also note that the “one word at a time” theory does not apply to polished novels. What you get with the “one word at a time” approach is a finished novel you must then edit. But again, if you never finish the first draft, you will never have anything to edit. (A word of caution here – try to resist the temptation to edit any part of your novel until it is finished. Otherwise, you can get stuck editing Chapter 1 repeatedly to make it perfect, and never reach Chapter 2, let alone “the end.”) 

If you’re disenchanted with the amount of writing you’ve been able to get done lately, take heart! Promise yourself that you will take fifteen minutes to start putting words on a page. I’m willing to bet that before you know it, a lot more than fifteen minutes and a lot more than just a few words will pass by. 

What thoughts do you have that you use to encourage yourself or others to keep writing? What tricks do you use to get the small voice that says you never will be successful to get quiet, even for a little bit? 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Lucky Number Seven? By Annette Dashofy

By the time you read this, I’ll either be packing or on my way home from Malice Domestic, but as I write this, it hasn’t happened yet. 

It will be my tenth Malice. The first was as an unpublished observer so long ago, I can’t remember the year, but I’m thinking 2005 or 2006. 

My very first panel with our own
Jim Jackson

My next—and first Malice as a published author—was in 2014. I’ve attended every year since—keeping in mind there was no Malice Domestic in 2020 or 2021.

2015: The Agatha Awards Banquet with my
Pittsburgh SinC crew: Joyce Tremel, Jeff Boarts, & Martha Reed

In 2015, I was an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. It was akin to being Cinderella. I didn’t win, but the nomination gave me a sense of legitimacy. I didn’t suck! Readers liked my book!

2016: With Hank Phillippi Ryan, Margaret Maron, 
and Catriona McPherson

In 2016, I was nominated again, this time for Best Contemporary Novel. I got a second chance to dress up and be Cinderella! I knew I wasn’t going to win (I was up against powerhouses like Louise Penny, Margaret Maron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Catriona McPherson), so it was the most relaxed I’ve ever been at an award ceremony.  But I got to sit on a panel with the other nominees and breathe the rarified air.

 In 2017, I was just an attendee and fan girl, cheering on my friends. And I was assigned to a panel with Anne Hillerman! Did I mention being a fan girl? She’s one of my favorites!

2018: Me wondering what the heck I'm doing
there with these amazing authors!

Along came 2018 and yet another Best Contemporary Novel nomination. This third one had me in shock. Okay, I was in shock each time I received the phone call, but this one made me cry tears of joy and gratitude. I mean, how amazing is it to sit on a panel with Louise Penny, Margaret Maron, Ellen Byron, and Marilyn Levinson?!

Trying to look glamorous while feeling
totally silly

By 2019, you would think I’d quit being blindsided, yet I was completely gobsmacked by another nomination. I was running into a wardrobe issue though. I’d been posting my dress searches on social media each year trying to one-up the dress I’d worn the year before. If I couldn’t win, at least I could look like I deserved to be in the room, right? This year’s entry will forever be my favorite. It was so snazzy that I felt silly. I’m a country gal used to jeans and cowboy boots after all! 

For what it’s worth, I still didn’t win.

2020: Watching the Agatha Award 
announcements from home

I was again nominated in 2020, when Covid shut down the world. No dressing up this time. Anne Cleeves won. No surprise.

2022: Writers Who Kill at Malice

In 2021, there was still no Malice and no nomination for me. Nor was there a nomination in 2022 when the world had opened up and Malice Domestic returned. We were all ecstatic to see each other in person! I had so much fun with old friends and new.

2023: Having way too much fun

Last year, I was shocked senseless when I was again nominated. Being Cinderella never gets old. NEVER. On the other hand, two years of sitting around on Zoom wearing yoga pants definitely affected my sensibilities about glitzy dress-up clothes. I’ve switched to blingy but comfortable mother-of-the-bride pants suits. In 2023, it was navy blue lace. Apparently, it was a letdown to those who were used to my party dresses because I don’t have a single photo of the outfit! If any of you reading this do, please email me a copy! 

Here we are in 2024. For the seventh time, I’m a nominee. It truly is an honor, one for which I am deeply grateful. I never take these nominations for granted. I never expect I will ever travel this road again. So, the fact that enough readers have written down my name on the nomination ballot to make me a finalist indeed humbles me. 

This year's Agatha nominees

(This time, I’m nominated alongside my good friends, Tara Laskowski, Ellen Byron, Gigi Pandian, and fellow Writer Who Kills, Korina Moss). 

By the time you read this, as I said earlier, I’ll be homeward bound. The Agatha Awards will have been handed out. Do I think I stand a chance? There’s always hope. But there’s also Alfred Einstein’s quote: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. 

Have you ever been to Malice or any mystery convention? If so, please share your experiences.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Ups and Downs of Writing Full-Time by Kait Carson


Part-time writer dreaming of full-time
Today I’m riffing on Heather Weidner’s recent blog, Getting Your Writing back on Track. In 2020, the pandemic brought me a massive surprise. After what felt like a zillion years of working sixty-to-eighty-hour weeks for a law firm in Miami, Florida, and carving out time to write, I found myself laid off and ultimately, unemployed.

The writer in me shouted “Yea!” I had visions of cranking out books by the score – well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. For the first time in forty years, my time was my own. Real time. Not time carved out from vacation, or turn the phone off and huddle in for a long weekend time. This was nobody is watching and you have only yourself to report to time. Bliss, luxury, nirvana. Reality check! 

Full-time writer office ready to rock
It's been almost four years. What did I do with all that delicious time? Not nearly as much as I planned. In fact, last night while I was procrastinating, I mean writing, I discovered my writing calendar from 2013. It was eye-opening. I was far more productive while working a full-time job. How was that even remotely possible? Let’s circle back to that ‘my time is my own’ statement above. It is, and then again, it isn’t.


I was far more protective of my time when someone else was paying me for my hours. Come to think of it, so was my husband. Well, there was that one time he interrupted a Zoom hearing because he couldn’t find his cell phone, but hey, that happens. And he learned to knock. Now he breezes in and out of my office on a regular basis. And I let him. So, where’s the problem? It looks at me from the mirror every morning. The situation hasn’t changed. I’ve changed. I allow myself to be distracted and interrupted, and seriously, oftentimes I’m my own worst enemy. While I was writing this blog, I took time off to do dinner prep. Take gun, roll cylinder, shoot self in foot.


Piper wondering when the magic begins
Finding that ancient calendar was quite the revelation—and a lesson. The luxury of “all that time to write” still exists. The onus is on me to use it properly. Since I opted to self-publish, my day cannot be entirely writing. There’s marketing, social media (for fun and hopefully profit), and volunteer work that keeps me connected to the writing world. All of that takes time, but it’s also writing related. Clearly, I’m one of those writers who needs structure. And possibly a deadline. It’s time to re-think this luxury, make a plan, and stick with it. It also wouldn’t hurt to set a deadline or two and make those happen. It worked before.


I’m taking several of Heather’s suggestions and rededicating myself to the writing life. How about you?



Friday, April 26, 2024

In Which I Encounter an Unexpected Detour by Nancy L. Eady

Fifteen days ago, I sat in the ER waiting room with a CAT Scan report from urgent care that said I had an intestinal blockage due to a tumor. Mark, my husband, was with me. And wait we did. At long last, however, we were called back to our own little partition in the ER.  

The nurse began by starting an IV and then the doctor came to talk to us. Now, in my job, I often have a brief due, and I had something due in the 11th Circuit that coming Friday (it was Wednesday). So when the doctor started talking about surgery, I asked Mark to get my laptop so I could knock it out before surgery. The doctor (strenuously) disagreed with that plan. He said I needed to clear the decks for the next two months. He also said I needed an NG tube inserted. An NG tube is an instrument of torture a medical tube inserted through your nose, then down your throat that suctions stuff out of your stomach and upper intestine when things aren’t moving in the normal directions.  Trust me, you don’t want one.   

I will draw a merciful curtain over the NG insertion tube experience, except to say that I insisted once they got it in they needed to be sure it stayed in because I was not going through that again.  Then we sat in the ER room and waited, again.  

Turned out they were working on getting me a room at one of the hospitals in the area who had a surgeon who could do the type of surgery I needed.  Once they had a room, I had to wait for an available ambulance.  I was curious about the ambulance because I’d never ridden in one.  It wasn’t nearly as thrilling as it looks on TV, which is probably a good thing.  So it was about 4 am on Thursday the 11th before I found myself in a room in a hospital downtown.  They managed to get me into surgery by noon.  

The only thing I remember about the surgery is telling the nurse in the pre-op area that if they had to take the NG tube out to do the surgery, they needed to put it back while I was under anesthesia.  When I get hold of an idea, I tend to hang onto it.  

The next thing I remember is being wheeled back into my room, where my husband and sister were talking to the surgeon.  I don’t remember much about that, either; I was capable of four words:  hurts, Mark, and thank you.  Given what I was going through, it wasn’t a bad set of words to have.  

Somewhere along the way, I acquired more words and decided I needed to use them.  I think there was still some anesthesia or something in my system, because this was the email I sent to my work the day after the surgery:  

Day 3 of my incarceration - uhhh, hospital stay.  Yesterday's schedule included an open laporotomy so some doctor could remove 14 inches (!) of my intestine with carcinoids attached.

Today, the reality of Diet Coke withdrawal set in - and my captors' sad decision not to allow mainlining of caffeine.  I am sitting in a chair right now.  Trust me, that's a big deal.

Carcinoids looked non-cancerous but they are testing them to be sure.  Alas, the NG tube remains, but I have hope of liberation from it in another day or so.  As you probably can tell from this email, they do have me on some righteous pain medicine.

Seriously, everyone here is very nice and putting up with me through caffeine withdrawal.  I HOPE to go home Monday or Tuesday.  Thank you everyone for your kind wishes and prayers and help.

Most people at work thought it was hilarious.  Fortunately, my family kept me off of email for the rest of my stay, and I was allowed to go home on Monday, April 15.  I’m cleared to go back to work this coming Monday.  

The worst part of the experience weren’t things like the surgery and pain from the surgery, but the NG tube, cutting out caffeine cold turkey, and the hospital bed.  A modern hospital bed is a technological marvel, but I, at least, was unable to get comfortable in one. Cutting out Diet Coke was not in my playbook, either.  Cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal is an ugly thing.  Caffeine withdrawal on top of major surgery is personality changing – and in my case, not for the better.  As soon as I could, I started drinking it again.  I became a much nicer person once I did.  Both of our offices are stocking up for my return on Monday.  

Sometime during the last two weeks, I thought about how we are taught that mystery novels require an inciting incident that leads to instability and then a new normal.  In this case, fortunately, the inciting incident was just a detour that doesn’t require a new normal.  But somewhere in the whole experience a story lurks; I just have to discover what it is.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Diving Into the World of Character Creation by Connie Berry

Do readers read for the plot or for the characters? Writing coach Nathan Bransford says these two elements of a novel are inseparable. Characters make the plot interesting, and the plot creates conflict that forces characters to make choices.

That is certainly true, but I would add that every novel needs at least one character the reader cares about and roots for. That was the problem with Gone Girl in my opinion—brilliant writing, yes; plenty of conflict, yes. But there was no one the reader could get behind and root for. Amy and Nick were two despicable people who, in the end, deserved each other. I felt sorry for their unborn child. I can’t tell you how many people told me they finished the book and threw it across the room.

People may not remember a plot, but they will remember an interesting and vividly presented character. Take Hercule Poirot. I couldn’t give you a plot summary for most of his stories, but I could describe him to you in great detail.

So how do we craft our characters so that readers remember them? I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman recently. Have you heard of his funny hats metaphor?

“When you have a lot of characters wandering around you need to help your reader. And one of the ways that I’ve always liked to do that is what I call ‘funny hats’…You give your character something that makes that character different from every other character in the bookYou’re holding the reader’s hand a little bit, and you’re making sure that they’re never confused.” (Neil Gaiman from his Masterclass “The Art of Storytelling.”)

Gaiman’s advice works not only for main characters but even for the characters that appear on stage for a single scene. Why not make them memorable too? I had a lot of fun putting Gaiman’s advice to work in my new novel A Collection of Lies (coming June 2024). My great advantage in creating memorable characters is the fact that my books are set in England where eccentricity is not only tolerated but celebrated. In 1933, Dame Edith Sitwell published a study entitled “The English Eccentrics.” A case-in-point was her own father, who put up a sign at the entrance to his house: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of the gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”

Here's a preview of one of my minor characters in A Collection of Lies. Kate and Tom want to question Lady Helen Merivale, an elderly lady who gives tours of her crumbling family mansion to supplement her income:

The stern facade of Merivale House met us. This was no posh country house in the home counties, but a working farm constructed of stone painstakingly cleared from the land. We rang the bell and waited. And waited. We were beginning to think Lady Helen wasn’t home when we heard the scuttling of a key in a lock. The door opened.


“Yes?” A tall, elderly woman eyed us suspiciously. “What do you want?”


“We’re here for the tour,” I said. “The brochure said you’re open on Fridays between one and three.”


“I know what day it is,” she snapped. “I haven’t gone doolally yet. You’d better come in. I can’t afford to heat the entire outdoors.” She beckoned us into a dank entryway lit by a pair of wall sconces. “Will you keep your jackets?”


We nodded. It wasn’t much warmer inside than out.

Lady Helen Merivale must have been in her mid to late seventies. Her spine was straight and her gray eyes clear, but her hands, gnarled and roped with veins, betrayed her age. She wore a baggy tweed skirt and a pale-blue blouse buttoned to her neck, around which hung a single strand of pearls. Over the blouse, she’d layered a battered wax Barbour, and over that what appeared to be a man’s heavy wool jacket with the sleeves rolled up.


Tom pulled out his wallet. “Forty pounds—is that right?” The cost of the tour was outrageous.


“For the tour. Refreshments are extra, and the chapel is closed today.” Her cut-glass accent was matched by an air of snobbery com­pletely at odds with her grimy fingernails and thrift-store ensemble. She took the bills and shoved them into the pocket of her wool jacket, glaring at us as if daring us to reclaim our money. “Shall we begin?”


*   *   *

For authors, how might you give each of your characters a “funny hat?”

Readers, what fictional characters are forever cemented in your mind? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

An Interview with Author James M. Jackson By E. B. Davis


What you don’t know can kill you.


The Happy Reaper, notorious for his chilling efficiency and “Results Guaranteed” calling card, escapes prison. Instead of killing Seamus McCree on sight, he offers a diabolical bargain with a heart-stopping proviso. To live, Seamus must help the Happy Reaper find and eliminate the upstart impostor who’s trashing the assassin’s reputation.

And Seamus must act quickly. Should the Happy Reaper’s bad heart give out or any harm come to him, the criminal underworld will wreak carnage on Seamus . . . and his loved ones.

Can Seamus outsmart the impostor and appease the Happy Reaper without staining his soul with blood? The only thing Seamus knows for sure is that time is running out for him and his family.



James M. Jackson does not write fluffy books. There is no cozy in Hijacked Legacy, his eighth Seamus McCree novel. My words are not complaints. He packs action into every page and his endings are spectacular to the point of cliffhanger—for which I now will have to wait for the next book to calm myself. Reader beware—binging snacks, drinking wine, or partaking of other substances may be necessary to cope with the tension Jim presents.


His mastery of technology (and what is technically possible in his setting—not that I can actually verify it) isn’t a surprise. The setting is a strong character and is one he is familiar with since he owns such a place in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan (U.P.), like his main character, Seamus. Jim’s plots remind me of the adage “torture your characters.” Poor Seamus.


Please welcome Jim to the flip-side of WWK.                           E. B. Davis


Can you give us a little summary of the last book so that readers understand that Seamus and his sister Colleen are in trouble if the DA wants them to be?


In Granite Oath, Seamus McCree’s granddaughter, Megan, employs a “pinky-swear” to get Seamus McCree to learn what happened to Megan’s best friend’s missing mother.


Seamus uncovers a tangled web of drugs, prostitution, and dummy corporations, and soon finds himself the target of killers. Anyone sane would wash his hands of the mess or turn it over to the police. But Seamus has given his word, his granite oath, to learn the truth . . . even if it kills him.


Well, it didn’t kill him or Colleen Carpetti, his half-sister, who was also involved in learning what happened. At least one bad guy was not so fortunate, leading the Iron County police to arrest Seamus and Colleen. The county prosecutor brought charges because of that death.


Your story is shown via six POVs. Do you map out your plot in detail before you write? Prior to this time, you’ve said you were a pantser—in this book though, how can that be possible?


I am 100% pantser. I start writing with an idea of what the story is about. The first draft allows me to discover what the story was really about. I rewrite until I have the story exactly as I think it should be (after input from others, of course.) If I recall correctly, in the first draft, I think I also had six POV characters, but in the third draft, one of them lost their POV, and another character gained their POV. I made those choices to make the story stronger.


This is a story with three sides: Seamus and his people, the Happy Reaper, and a group of Happy Reaper Imposters. There are two POVs from Seamus’s camp. Three POVs from the Imposters, and one—the Happy Reaper’s representing himself. What is significant about the numbers?


Mathematicians know six is a perfect number. Its factors 1,2, and 3 add up to itself. The next perfect number is twenty-eight (with factors 1,2,4,7, and 14). Twenty-eight were too many POVs.


Okay, so the real answer is I choose the minimum number of POVs possible for me to tell the story as best I can. This story required six; Granite Oath used only one, Seamus.


The Happy Reaper Imposters was started by a cop named Charlene with two buddies who are not cops—Zach has the computer skills of an IT professional. The other, Tyler, was a former military sniper, who was dishonorably discharged. Why would Charlene start such an assassin’s group?


Charlene is frustrated by the ability of rich and/or powerful people to get away with crimes that others cannot. She had an opportunity to correct one such wrong and, with her friends, took it.


Why do the Imposters have Seamus on their hit list? Why not Colleen, also?


In his memoir, the Happy Reaper holds Seamus responsible for his capture and life imprisonment, and states that he wants revenge. The Imposters decided since the Happy Reaper couldn’t do it, they would.


How does the Happy Reaper find out about the Imposters?


Even in prison, the Happy Reaper has wealth and contacts. His underworld friends let him know.


Seamus observes a trumpeter swan on his property. Wouldn’t they have already flown south for the winter? It’s October.


Our trumpeter swans wait until just before the lake freezes up to leave. That’s usually late October. One year during a sudden cold snap, we were afraid a pair would become iced in because they need a lot of open water to take off. They swam around to keep the water open and took off at first light. Even with that effort they had to break through some skim ice.


What does Squirrel! mean?


Squirrel! means a distraction. I had to look up its origin for this interview. Apparently, it comes from the 2009 movie Up, in which Dug, a dog, is easily distracted by a squirrel.


What is the KP index for the northern lights?


The KP index is a measure from 0 to 9 that describes the brightness and range of the aurora borealis (northern lights). The higher the number, the farther the aurora moves from the poles. Where Seamus and I live in the U.P., we can sometimes see northern lights with indices as low as 4, provided you have a clear view of the northern sky.


Seamus says he feels like the character Tommy, the deaf, dumb, and blind kid, from The Who’s rock opera? Why?


Seamus often has a jukebox playing in his brain. Sometimes he sings along. It’s never purely random and often provides psychological clues to his feelings. In the situation in which he channels The Who, he’s wandering around in the dark of night in a perilous situation with no clue what is happening.


Please remind us who Owen is? Why is he so protective?

Readers first met Owen in Cabin Fever (Seamus McCree #3) and again in Empty Promises (Seamus McCree #5). He’s a hardscrabble ancient Yooper (someone from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, da U.P., eh?) In Cabin Fever, he delivered weekly supplies to Seamus, became a friend, and has looked after Seamus ever since.


Niki is so far deep undercover only one man in the NSA knows how deep her cover is. Who authorized her position and her in it?


The backstory on that will have to wait until you can read Niki Undercover. I’m hopeful we’ll publish that novel later this year. It just went through a beta reader process and needs a few tweaks yet. Suffice it to say, Niki takes assignments for the US government no one else can. Her current cover is as a US Marshal, for which she has bona fide credentials. However, that causes real problems when traditional marshals come sniffing around to recapture the Happy Reaper.


Clem is the Happy Reaper’s insurance to get Seamus to work with him to get rid of the Imposters. But at some point “Clem” disappears. Why?


Dancing around plot points here: The Happy Reaper holds Clem over Seamus’s head to make sure Seamus doesn’t turn him back in to the authorities. While that threat remains throughout the story, it becomes less critical as other, more immediate, threats loom.


Patrick, Seamus’s techno-savvy son, and his former business partner, Lisa, come to Seamus’s camp to help ferret out who has infiltrated the Happy Reaper’s websites and Clem’s identity. Lisa is a pregnant General in the Army, CyberOps. Is there such a thing? What is a brevetted rank? How did Lisa end up in the Army?


The US Army Cyber Command is real. Here’s their website. To stay out of jail for youthful hacking exploits, Lisa agreed to join the Army as an officer and remain for six-years. She likes the work and re-upped her service. She’s done rather well for them, so they keep promoting her to more senior positions. To do that, however, requires leapfrogging the traditional promotion system, which requires minimum times in rank before being eligible for the next promotion.


That’s where brevet promotions apply. Brevet ranks give the individual temporary rank and pay, while keeping intact the permanent ranks that follow the more stringent time-in-service requirements for promotion. Currently, the US Army does not brevet officers to brigadier general or higher levels, so fictional Lisa is leading the way.


What kinds of tools do Lisa and Patrick use to help Seamus?


They use standard hacking tools, including taking over a botnet (internet-connected devices from around the world that you have infected and can control) to attack the Imposters’ websites to learn who they are.


But they also want to know what the Happy Reaper is up to and find out who Clem is. For that, they segregate the Happy Reaper’s computer onto a separate network, allowing them to monitor everything he does. They also erect a fake cell tower that monitors all cellular communications coming into or out of Seamus’s property.


But Seamus has a few tricks up his sleeve as well. He employs multiple trail cameras around his property to spot wildlife. He strategically relocates them to keep watch on roads and paths for unexpected visitors. Some of the cameras upload pictures to the cloud and alert his phone in real time. Others require him to pull the memory card and view the pictures with a card reader.


What is Telephone Time?


TT, as Telephone Time is locally known, is a talk show on WIKB in Iron River (you can stream it) that allows individuals to buy, sell or trade their items or look for stuff or services they need. Go into any store in the greater area while it’s on air, and that’s what you’ll hear. Seamus uses TT with unexpected consequences. I’ve never called the show, but I was the subject of a call. It’s a funny story at my expense. If someone wants to hear it, I can tell it in the comments.

What does a sandboxed browser mean?


Think of a sandbox you played in as a kid: four walls low enough to climb in with your pail and shovel, but high enough to keep the sand from killing the grass outside the sandbox.


The same concept applies to your browser: you bring an application or file into the sandbox to test it. If it is infected or has other malicious properties, the sandbox contains the damage, (which you can sanitize), not allowing it to cause mischief with the rest of your computer/network.


So, what is the story on Kingsford Charcoal?


Kingsford Charcoal was the go-to brand for grilling when I was growing up. Seamus is waiting for Colleen at the Ford Airport in Kingsford, Michigan and looks up its history.


I looked up the history of Kingsford charcoal on Wikipedia. I had recalled Henry Ford had come up with the charcoal idea to deal with the voluminous scrap generated by the sawmill he owned that produced wood products for Ford cars and trucks. Kingsford was the real estate guy (his wife was a Ford cousin) who bought the land and managed the manufacturing process. Got the city named after him. Now I knew.


What’s next for Seamus? Yes, this is a pointed question!


Um, did I mention I’m a pantser?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Write Your Books by Martha Reed

A writer friend of mine unexpectedly died this month. Her Celebration of Life was well organized and very well attended. While listening to the many heartfelt songs, poems, and tributes, I was overwhelmed by the volume of non-writerly activities she had supported in her daily hours.

She was a driving and volcanic force behind a spiraling galaxy of vital community, social and political activism, and grant-writing and fund-raising efforts. She was a professional mediator who helped troubled teens. She was a powerful advocate for women and families in need. Her friendships were true blue, deeply felt, long-standing, all-encompassing, and diverse. She took advantage of every opportunity to travel to distant shores and exotic lands. She founded the first writer’s group I joined, ushering newbie me into a community of creative fiction writers that sustains me to this day.

I left her celebration dazed, wondering where I had parked my car and thinking: “Holy heck, when did she sleep?” Sliding into my car, I reviewed my life feeling like a slacker until it dawned on me that she had never completed the manuscript of her debut novel. Now we will never know what could have been written. Death has taken her pen.

This end result raised a few questions in my mind: Gabriel Garcia Marquez told his sons to destroy his final unfinished novel. The manuscript was too rambling; it had too many pieces; it was too scattered. He had run out of creative editing lifetime. Despite his direction, his sons are readying it for publication. What are your thoughts on this posthumous publication?

After author Robert Ludlum died, author Brian Freeman was approached by the Ludlum estate to continue writing the Jason Bourne series. How do you feel about an author completing or extending another author’s series post-mortem?

How about taking a dead author’s characters and using them for entirely new creative fiction? Is that a respectful acquisition, or an aggressive hijacking?

This reflection on an author’s unfinished work isn’t a judgment or a justification. We all write on borrowed time. The clock is ticking. I get it. Sue Grafton never finished writing her murder mystery alphabet by publishing “Z.”

Writing a full-length novel is a daunting task. It daunts me every time I start drafting a new one. The spur in my giddy-up is that I simply can’t fathom doing anything else with my earthly time. Every time I begin, I stop and wonder: Is it time to hang it up, to find something else to do to fill my Book of Hours, to quit doing this? Then, as I meditate on the joy the act of stretching my human imagination to its outermost limits and finding exactly the right words to add to my latest story brings me, I open my laptop and begin.

When it comes time for my celebration of life, I want my family to hand out cupcakes and bookmarks, and perhaps in some future time some reader will open one of my books and from the other side, I’ll speak again.

Still not convinced that our books are our timeless legacy? Click this link to hear Dame Judy Dench recite a Shakespearean sonnet and enjoy hearing The Bard’s voice speak to us with modern relevance from roughly four hundred and thirty years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_X1dbO-quI