A Tribute to Roberta Gellis

A former Spanish teacher, Allison Brook writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for young readers. She loves traveling, reading, knitting, doing Sudoku, and visiting with her grandchildren, Olivia and Jack, on FaceTime. She lives on Long Island with Sammy, her feisty red cat. This is her first Haunted Library mystery.

Allison Brook is a pseudonym for Marilyn Levinson and you can find her at the following links:

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // Goodreads
  Marilyn’s Amazon page
Allison’s Amazon page

Writers who start out today have various ways to learn their craft. There are classes on line, at schools, through writing organizations. Online groups share information regarding the craft of writing. They form critique groups; they can find out what agents and publishers are looking for. We have Facebook and Twitter, websites and newsletters. For any writer starting out today, there’s camaraderie and help to be found in the writing community.

It wasn’t like that when I began writing fiction in the seventies. Certainly, courses were available at colleges. I took a course in writing poetry, and another one with a local writer who was a playwright and started writing short stories. I took private lessons with one woman who had attended what was then called the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshops. We analyzed a novel and I began to understand the components that go into novel writing. I wanted to write a novel, but she felt I wasn’t ready.

And then I had a dream when my family and I were renting a house at the shore. I was running along the beach. A man was chasing after me. When he caught me he told me my husband had lost a lot gambling and owed his boss a lot of money. Gambling? Owed money? All this was news to me. I told the man my husband was away. The man no longer seemed menacing. He simply told me again to have my husband contact his boss.

I knew I had the beginnings of a novel! Around that time, I’d read that Roberta Gellis was giving an adult ed writing course that I could take. Roberta was a well-known genre author. She wrote mainly historical novels, though over the years she also wrote mysteries and some romantic suspense, fantasy and science fiction. She said she was giving the course so she could get some feedback regarding her novels.

Roberta helped me write the novel I later called COME HOME TO DEATH. It turned out to be a romantic suspense, though I had no idea what that meant at the time. We discussed the characters and ended up changing the murderer. She helped me write scenes. Taught me to use short sentences when writing action. And helped me birth my first novel.

I was very proud of COME HOME TO DEATH. I still am proud of it, though, after many rewrites over the years, I’ve yet to hear if one of my publishers is going to turn it into an ebook. I went on to write my next novel called MOSTLY MIRANDA. This book was never published, but it convinced Roberta that I had a knack for writing books for kids. The ghosts of two children were characters in the book, an indication that I’d be including ghosts in some of my novels: GIVING UP THE GHOST, GETTING BACK TO NORMAL and DEATH OVERDUE.

Next, I wrote AND DON’T BRING JEREMY. Bingo! With this book I acquired an agent and eventually a publisher. It’s the story of two brothers, the oldest of whom has learning disabilities. It was based on a short story I’d written which was loosely based on my two sons. The book won accolades: six nominees for state awards. It went out of print but is now available through my ebook publisher, Untreed Reads.

Roberta and I became close friends. With each book, I managed to wean myself away from her assistance, though I always felt free to ask her questions as they arose. I was constantly amazed at her vast store of knowledge about so many subjects. And when she didn’t know something, she simply told me, “I don’t know, Marilyn.”

Roberta taught me how to use the computer. How many times did I call to say I’d lost an entire chapter, only to be told that wasn’t the case? She welcomed me whenever I wanted to visit. We went out for lunch. We went food shopping. I began to regard her as a relative as well as a friend.

She and her husband were some years older than I. Roberta reached the point when she felt she needed to live close to a relative. And so she and Charles moved to Lafayette, Indiana, to be closer to her sister. I was heartbroken when they left Long Island. Roberta and I spoke on the phone, but it wasn’t the same as in-person visits.

There were fallow years when I didn’t sell any manuscripts. Roberta, a person who always spoke her mind, was always surprised that I wasn’t selling because she thought I wrote well and told good stories. She visited Long Island a few times. One year she asked if she and Charlie could stay with us. I said, sure. As usual, we went clothes shopping and out East to meet Bertrice Small for lunch. Bertrice and Roberta had been good friends for years, and Bertrice and I had become good friends as well. The three of us had lunch at the Cooperage Inn. Months later, when I was out visiting Bertrice, she asked if I’d noticed that she hugged Roberta for an especially long time. “It’s because I knew I’d never see her again.”

It was true. Roberta moved to Michigan to be closer to her son Mark and his family. She began to fail. Charlie died. Bertrice died. In May of 2016, Roberta died.

Roberta lives on in my mind. My latest book, DEATH OVERDUE, has received some wonderful accolades. I wish I could tell Roberta because she would be happy for me. But somehow I think she knows.

Advertisements

Mystery and Horror

G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror. Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing (a rare medical condition called “acquired savant syndrome”). G.A. has recently completed his second novel, Antitheus, a dark supernatural tale of horror that takes Good vs. Evil to a whole new level. Currently, his brain is busy at work, meticulously processing the text for another story of the macabre that will both entertain and horrify its reader.  G.A. lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus. You can read more about G.A. on his author website.

Mystery is defined as something that is a secret, something where there is no clear explanation, something difficult to understand or explain, or something unexplainable or unsolvable. Horror is defined as a feeling of great shock, fear, and worry caused by something extremely unpleasant; an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.

Edgar Allan Poe is generally recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story.” His publication in Graham’s Magazine of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841 is considered to be the first modern detective/mystery story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” Ratiocination is defined as the process of exact thinking. Besides being a proficient poet, Poe was also the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre.

Horror is a genre of fiction which has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century, once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another for maximum effect.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline.

Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in their book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If  the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul.

Behold the Corpse

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about the importance of critters in her life.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net

I write murder mysteries, as by now most of you know. You also know, and expect, that in a murder mystery, sooner or later a corpse will appear. Usually sooner. It’s hard to have a murder mystery without one.

In some mysteries, and especially thrillers, the murdered person doesn’t play a central part of the story. The fact of the murder does, but often the thrust is about solving the crime. Why was this particular person the victim, does this murder fit with any other similar crime, how do the police go about solving the crime, all facts that are important in crime stories and in real life. But often, the corpse is more of a prop than a real person.

The death of just about anyone leaves a rip in the fabric of many lives. Murder makes that rip larger and more damaging. The writers of cozy and traditional mysteries know that, and use that to build their stories. No serial killers who choose their victims seemingly at random, no terrorists who shoot or blow up people to make a political or religious statement, no gang violence or drive by shootings. The corpse in a traditional mystery is killed because he or she knows the killer personally and has done something, seen something, has stumbled across a piece of information that threatens the killer.

Therefore, the protagonist (hero or heroine) needs to know more about the victim. So does the author.

When writing a piece of fiction, one of the first things an author does, is get to know the characters. They might write out a description of them, or invent a family history. Take them back to their childhood, exaine the relationship they had with their parents. Of course, you have to know what characters you want in the story before you can do this. I’m afraid my approach  is a little less well organized.  I often have no idea who the corpse is when I start a book.  I saw the opening of Purebred Dead in my head before I put a word on paper, but had no idea who the man lying in the Christmas manger was. I certainly didn’t know he was the town drunk, a veterinarian stripped of his license, hated by many of the townspeople because of the heart breaking ‘mistakes’ he made. I did know who Miss Plym was, in Curtains for Miss Plym, when Mary and Millie found her dead behind the dressing room curtains because I’d been thinking about her for some time, usually around 3:00 in the morning. But it took a while before I discovered why she’d been murdered.  Which brings me to my point. The reason for murdering someone, at least in a traditional mystery, springs from who the person is. Was. So, the author needs to build the personality of the victim as carefully as he/she does the rest of the cast. Who hated Cliff enough to kill him and put his body in the Christmas manger? A lot of people hated him but most of the pain he caused had taken place some years ago. What had happened recently that retriggered that hate? Or was it a recent hate? Why put his body in the manger? What was he doing with the small puppy? What kind of man had he turned into since the loss of his license? Lonely? Bitter? Vindictive? Our protagonist needs to know these things before he/she can begin to figure out who would have wanted him dead so badly they killed him right before the Christmas Posada was due to arrive. See what I mean? We’re never going to meet Cliff alive but before the story ends, we’ve gotten to know a lot about him, and how he affects other people.

We usually focus on the murderer (the antagonist or villain) and the person trying to solve the puzzle (the protagonist or hero/heroine), and since the story is going to revolve around their conflict, the hero trying to find out ‘who done it’, and the villain trying to make sure he/she doesn’t, that makes sense. But there are three, and depending on how many bodies, four or five people in this conflict and we need to know every one of them. Their relationship to the murderer has to be made clear, at least by the end of the story, and what kind of threat they presented.

So, ladies and gentlemen, behold the corpse. Why? Because lying there, dead on the kitchen floor, shot in the back, a knife in his/her chest,  beacon of poison beside him, he or she and what he was like when he was alive is the beginning of our story.

What About Killing Off a Main Character?

Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage:  http://fictionforyou.com Blog:  http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/ and you can follow her on Facebook.

Before I get started, let me state that though I’ve bumped off a bunch of fictional folks in my books, I’ve never killed a main character. Nor have I ever considered it.

I’ve read books where on-going and important characters to the hero or heroine have been killed one way or another. In one, the character’s love interest was killed but miraculously returned in the next book. To me it was unbelievable because of the way he’d died. In a series I love, the wife of the hero dies. Heart wrenching, but it made for much angst on the part of the hero and some intriguing new twists in the following books. I don’t know whether I could do that.

I’ve had a couple of readers tell me to kill off Tempe’s husband, Hutch, because he’s too “straight-laced.” Well, after all, he is a pastor. Besides, because of his strong Christian beliefs, at times there has been conflict because Tempe has used various forms of Indian mysticism to help her solve crimes. Because Tempe and Hutch love and support one another, some conflict adds to the fun of writing for me as the writer.

Because I’ve said all that, who knows what might happen in the future? I never quite know what these characters I’ve had floating around in my mind for such a long time might have happen until I actually start writing about them again.

Recently, I had a friend ask how I remember what has happened in the past. To be honest, sometimes I have to go look back at a book to refresh my memory. But as far as how Tempe or Hutch might react to something, I have no problem knowing what each one might do. I’ve been hanging out with these two for so long, I even know how they think.

But as for killing off a main character, I have no plans to do that at the moment.

What do you writers and readers think about this?

Marilyn

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Cold Death:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer.

Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher‘s website: http://mundania.com can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart. This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.

You can order books from many sources:

Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound // Mundania Press

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.

Tomorrow I’ll be here: www.sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com with Deputy Tempe Crabtree and the Food She Eats

Tribute to a Literary Critic, Cheering Coach, Mystery Lover & MOM—and a Giveaway

Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Killer in the Band is the third installment in the Lovers in Crime Mystery series.

In addition to her series set in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Lauren Carr has also written the Mac Faraday Mysteries, set on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, and the Thorny Rose Mysteries, set in Washington DC. The second installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, which features Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy and Jessica Faraday, Mac’s daughter, A Fine Year for Murder, was released in January 2017. The next book, Twofer Murder, will be released at the end of the year.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. Visit Lauren Carr’s website at http://www.mysterylady.net to learn more about Lauren and her upcoming mysteries.

I am very sorry to say that last Friday I lost my life mentor, inspiration, harshest literary critic and biggest cheering coach. My mother passed away at eighty-two years of age.

Seven days before, she called with the news that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. No, she was not a smoker. She never smoked even one cigarette. But she had spent twenty-one years with my father, who was a chain smoker. He died of lung cancer in 1974. The dangers of second hand smoke are real.

As my mother, she was the one who taught me the love of books and literature—especially murder mysteries. My fondest memories are lying next to her in bed while she read Perry Mason to me. Mom was not into Dick and Jane. She was into Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. As soon as I learned to read, I was consuming the Bobbsey Twins—quickly moving onto the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I was never into love stories like other girls. I wanted a dead body and a mystery to solve in my books. This was a love I got from my mother.

Every one at all the libraries in and around Chester, WV, knew my mother. My fondest memories of being with her was going to the Carnegie Library in East Liverpool, Ohio, every Friday morning. As the youngest child in the family, I would make these trips with my mother while my brothers and sister were in school. The love of books and reading was something that the two of us shared together that the rest of my family didn’t take part in. This made it something special.

In recent years, my mother took me back to the mystery section of that same Carnegie Library and pointed at each of the books saying, “I read that. Read this one. This one, too.” She devoured every mystery that would come out. So much so, that the libraries had to borrow books from other libraries just for her because she had read everything they already had.

It was only a few weeks ago that she told me that while at the library, she was waiting in line to check out that week’s books when the lady ahead of her asked the librarian where to find the latest Lauren Carr book. As the librarian directed her, my mom swelled up with pride. When it came her turn in line, she told the librarian that Lauren Carr was her daughter. She says the librarian, who did not know her, almost scoffed until she saw the name “Carr” on her library card. Then she believed her, and called over to the woman that Lauren Carr’s mother was right there. Upon hearing this news, the lady told my mother about how she had read all of my books and enjoyed them.

Once, my mother told me that she was uncertain if she should take the credit or blame for my writing success. Whichever one it is, she certainly played a pivotal role in my becoming an author. She had never attended college. In fact, she went to school in a one room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. But she was wonderfully smart. She knew books and what made a good book—especially mysteries. She didn’t know the literary terms tossed around by writing coaches and editors, but she did know what worked and didn’t.

That’s why I chose her to critique my books before I would send them off to the editor. One hundred percent of the time I would have to do a rewrite after she’d read them. If she had been born at another time or place, she could have become a great literary critic.

It was her intense knowledge of what made a good murder mystery that kept me motivated to continue pursuing my dream of being a mystery writer—even in the face of continued rejections by agents and publishers. Yes, there was some maternal bias there when she would tell me how good I was, but I knew that she knew what she was talking about when it came to mystery novels.

Don’t get me wrong. Mom was not totally biased about my books. Once, when I told her that a reviewer had said I was as good as Agatha Christie, my mother replied, “You’re not that good.” She did know how to keep me grounded.

At her age, Mom had chosen to have no treatment for her cancer. She cut the doctor off when he gave her the news and didn’t even want any specific details about the type, etc. She swore the doctor to secrecy under the threat of death. (That’s my mom!) For the next year, instead of chemo and other medical treatments, she bowled with her team, had lunch every week with her friends, traveled with my sister to visit my home five hours away, and took trips with her friends—all without saying a word to anyone about the short time she had left.

Two days after breaking the news to our family, my brother took her to the ER. They admitted her into ICU. Five days later, she passed away. Just the way she wanted. (Actually, she had told me that she wanted to go out in a blaze of glory in a big fiery car crash, but to peacefully slip away in her sleep was a close second.)

My mom made me the woman I am today—a lover of books—which I have proudly passed on to my son, who is pursuing a minor in journalism. Because of her, the love of writing will continue.

For this, I thank and love my mom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for an ebook
advance reading copy of

  Twofer Murder by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment below with
your thoughts about who in your life
inspired you with the love for reading.

The winning name will be drawn
on Monday evening, September 25th
and the ebook will be sent in late October.

 

Getting There Is Half the Fun

A lifelong resident of Minnesota, S.L. Smith was born in Saint Cloud and attended Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul. During her thirty-two years with the state department of public safety, she worked with law enforcement and fire officials at the state, county and municipal levels. Those interactions assisted her with writing mysteries, but were just the starting point. Without the help of a friend who spent thirty-five years as a cop, she might never have ventured into writing police procedurals. He contributed to her understanding of the perspectives of her two protagonists, Pete Culnane and Martin Tierney. Thankfully, this friend is still a resource. He proofreads each manuscript and performs a reality check on the law enforcement aspects.

All three of her previous books include a social issue. In Blinded by the Sight, it’s homelessness. For book two, Running Scared, it’s the impacts of a failing marriage on the kids. Book three, Murder on a Stick, addresses a plight faced by many of the elderly. Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime (an organization that supports mystery writers). She divides her time between Minnesota and Florida, to care for her mother.

Website // Book trailer

Buy links for Mistletoe and MurderBarnes & Noble // Amazon

Research is a centerpiece of my novels. Three critical resources provided valuable information as I wrote and rewrote my first four books. They are: a retired police chief, a retired lead investigator with the medical examiner’s office, and an emergency medicine physician. The mission? Keep the stories realistic. Outcome? Several law enforcement officers buy my books, and the retired lead investigator is a loyal fan.

But that’s just the beginning. All four of my books are set in St. Paul, Minnesota. No, thirty years in St. Paul doesn’t make me an expert in all facets of this city. For that reason, each of my novels requires a lot of location-related research.

The crime in Mistletoe and Murder occurs in Saint Paul’s Union Depot. I’d heard about the depot, but never been inside. That was the starting point. It took three trips to get and verify the facts, as I worked my way through the first draft and the revisions. The fact Christos Greek restaurant is located in the depot and plays a part in the book worked in my favor. I was forced to eat dinner there… twice. How else could I work the menu into the book? In the process, I got to know the manager and a waitress. Both served as valuable resources. Both made their way into the book.

I wanted to know when construction of this landmark began and was completed. Then I had to know why it took so long. This led to a discovery of the World War II modifications to and utilization of the facility. That led to the insertion of the story about my main protagonist, Pete Culnane’s grandfather returning from World War II via the depot. And that led to more research, regarding the return of World War II veterans.

An Internet search provided a story about a soldier returning to St. Paul, after the war. It gave me a feel for the atmosphere greeting these soldiers upon their return, and the attitudes of the returning soldiers. Didn’t find a place for the latter in Mistletoe and Murder, but filed it away for future reference.

Since Pete’s grandmother retells the story of meeting his grandfather at the Union Depot, I wanted to describe what it would have been like—the look, the feel. In the mid-1940s, a woman would’ve dressed to the nine’s to meet her returning fiancé, right? You bet! Even so, I wanted to see photos. Once again, the Internet came through. I found not only pictures of families greeting returning veterans on train platforms, but also one of soldiers hanging out the windows as their train approached the station. Both made their way into the book.

I researched departure ports from the European theater. I’ll share a secret. I tried every way imaginable to have Pete’s grandfather’s journey mimic my dad’s. I knew Dad’s location at the end of the war and a month prior to his return to the states, as well as his departure and arrival dates back in the US. Unfortunately, that’s all I knew. The other details burned in a fire at the facility housing military records. Tried the county historical society, but their efforts, too, failed. Solution? A friend who is an historian provided viable options.

Carrying it several steps further, I visited the locations where characters lived and worked. Since I describe those locations, and since they are real, accuracy is important to me. That includes the route in getting from one place to another, and the location and appearance of the entrance, the existence and type of security system. You name it.

Heroin comes into play in Mistletoe and Murder. Fortunately, or in this case perhaps unfortunately, I’m ignorant when it comes to a firsthand knowledge of heroin. The good news is, a friend provided a connection. Once again, problem solved.

A homeless man, “Doc,” is introduced in book one, Blinded by the Sight. Because temperatures are predicted to be dangerously cold in Mistletoe and Murder, Pete Culnane is intent on reconnecting with Doc. You have to read Mistletoe and Murder to learn what Pete is considering, and why he must contact social services to get some answers before making the offer.

The materials used by highway departments to keep roads passable in winter are dictated by ambient air temperatures. Yet another detail that came into play and required accuracy.

Just a few of the other points requiring research while writing Mistletoe and Murder were:

* How does a gunshot sound in an enclosed, cement facility?

* What are optical affinity and auditory exclusion, and what part do they play in police confrontations?

* What pricey shoe would be rare, yet readily recognizable?

Each time I find an answer, it’s a victory, moving me toward the completion of my work in progress. It isn’t the storytelling part of the effort, but it adds depth. It helps the novel come alive.  For that reason, I love the research almost as much as the writing.

What do you think? Do I carry it from the sublime to the ridiculous? If you’re an author, I’d love to hear about the research you do. If you’re a reader, do you like to learn new things as you read a novel? If so, what types of things?

Where Were You?

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to reveal all…about herself.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

It’s been quite a summer full of earth, wind and fire: earthquake in Mexico, hurricanes Harvey and Irma beating up Houston and Florida, and fires on the West Coast. We will all remember the summer of 2017.

Before extensive TV coverage, 24-hour news shows, computers and iPads, information took longer for us to hear about. How important it was to you also depends on how old you were and what you were doing at the time. Those events are etched in the mind. With that said, I’m going to go through some memorable events of my life.

FEB. 20, 1962—John Glenn orbits the earth

We were a military family and I was 11 years old. My mother woke my sister and I up at some ungodly hour and sat us down in front of the TV. It was a black and white set and the picture was grainy. They also had maps showing where the space capsule was. “This is history!” my mother exclaimed. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to go back to bed. At school, they had us make space capsules out of clay.

OCT. 16-28, 1962–The Cuban Missile Crisis

This probably didn’t affect many of you as much as my family. Like I said, we were military and living on base. Our fathers were sent home from work to brief the family. We were told we were Russia’s #3 target because we had the carrier planes and lots of bombs. The small town of Lemoore never knew they might have been blown to smithereens. I think most still don’t know how close it came.

NOV. 22, 1963—Assassination of JFK

We were lined up to go inside 8th grade history class when our teacher, Mr. Hamill, walked up. It was obvious he’d been crying. We went in quietly and took our seats. He turned on the TV and that was when we heard that Kennedy has been assassinated. We were sent home from school. All the adults were crying.

JULY 20, 1969—Neil Armstrong walks on the moon

I’m very embarrassed about this one, but understand I was 18, just graduated, and spending a week down in Coronado, CA. with my friend Cory. We were going to Midshipmen Balls and wearing bikinis everywhere. We raced to her house to change clothes and her dad called up the stairs “A man has walked on the moon.” We stopped for a second then continued to do what was important to us. Clueless.

AUG. 9, 1974—Nixon abdicates

I was in the Navy and stationed in Puerto Rico. There were no newspapers, radio in English and only one station on base TV which aired “Topper” reruns. We got most of our news from new people shipping in. When we were told we had a new president, it took us by surprise. I mean, this was our Commander in Chief and NOBODY BOTHERED TO MENTION IT?

DEC. 8, 1980—John Lennon assassinated

I was a Ma Bell operator in Fresno working at one of the last old-fashion cordboards. A customer came on and said “Operator, somebody just shot John Lennon.” It seemed unbelievable. I whispered it to the woman next to me and she passed it down the board.

AUG. 31, 1997—The death of Princess Di

I was asleep and the phone rang. It was my ex-husband. Knowing I was an anglophile, he’s the one who broke the news. I’m glad it was him.

SEPT. 11, 2001—The Twin Towers fall

I was ironing a shirt for work and watching the morning news. They had footage of the first tower being hit. Was it an accident? Then the next plane hit tower 2 and I think the whole nation realized this was intentional. I called my father, a widower and recluse, and said “Daddy, turn on the TV.” He did and saw the devastation. “Why did you have to wake me for this?” he grumbled. How do you explain this is my generation’s Pearl Harbor?

AUG. 20, 2005—New Orleans under water

I was on a Caribbean cruise when all the passengers were called together. An officer said, “New Orleans no longer exists.” Say what? How does a city disappear? He told us Hurricane Katrina had dumped so much water on the city and the levees broke. People from there or had family there demanded to be put ashore, but that was impossible.

JUNE 25, 2009—The death of Michael Jackson

I was on a plane coming home from a mystery conference (Killer Nashville?), ignoring my seatmate. I’d fallen asleep when he nudged me and pointed to the TV. We both sat there, thousands of miles above the earth, in disbelief.

So, what memory do you have and why is when and where you heard it etched in your mind?