We’re Sleuthing Out Mysteries in August

Mystery

What comes to your mind when someone says mystery? For me, I think of Agatha Christie, the queen of cozies, or maybe the Sherlock Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle stories. The first murder mystery is said to be written by Edgar Allen Poe, The Murder in the Rue Morgue. But the mystery genre overflowed into the crime fiction genre, and cozy mysteries featuring amateur sleuths who put the puzzle pieces together in an unofficial capacity began to take center stage in the mystery genre.

This month I’ve been learning right along with you. As a youth, I lavished in the cozy amateur sleuth mysteries of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. In my teens, I was fascinated and maybe a little haunted by The Hound of the Baskervilles with its hints of paranormal. As I grew older, I found that I enjoyed the Dr. Allen Gregory series, by Stephen White, and the Alex Delaware series, by Jonathan Kellerman,  which are cozies with a touch of psychological thriller to them, but by that time, Stephen King had already stolen my heart as favorite author and I was veering more toward horror, so admittedly my experience and knowledge in the mystery genre is limited although much of what I read has some kind of mystery element to it. My one attempt at writing it resulted in my paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, which you can get free when you sign up for my newsletter.

When we come across a mystery, there’s something in the human mind that just won’t let us let go of unanswered questions, so we automatically start trying to put the pieces together to bring a conclusion that makes some resemblance of sense. We can’t seem to help ourselves. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Agatha Christie is the number one all time best selling author in history. I mean, who doesn’t love a good whodunit or locked room mystery?

However, as with all genres, this one has changed with the times. Contemporary mysteries include detective novels that cross over into the crime fiction realm, such as the Carson Reno Mysteries of Gerald Darnell, suspense mysteries such as those of  my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Gilly Macmillan, murder mysteries like Murder on the Horizon, by M.L. Rowland that take us into the world of search and rescue, and paranormal mysteries like Broomsticks and Burials, by Lily Webb, that lead us into the world of fantasy or folklore. We even find mysteries in short fiction form, as are found in the murder mystery anthology Death Among Us. Mysteries today seem to delve into the realms of other genres or sub-genres, creating an interesting mix of stories. The cozy is alive and well, but it is found in a vast array of variations that weren’t available in the days of yore.

August has been an educational and entertaining adventure into the world of the mystery genre. I hope you’ll join me next month too as I delve into Christian fiction when my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be Christian inspirational author Angela Hunt, and I will also be interviewing murder mystery author Gerald Darnell. My Christian fiction book reviews will include two Christian romances in the Thanksgiving & Blessings collection, Texas Tears, by Caryl MacAdoo, and Mail-Order Misfire, by Davalynn Spencer. It looks to be a good line-up and I’m excited to be moving into September with this exploration of the Christian fiction genre. Until then, happy writing!


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with bestselling mystery author Gilly Macmillon

chatting with the pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest this month is a New York Times bestselling mystery author with books translated in over twenty languages. Her success as a writer may have come as a surprise, but I’ll let her tell you about that. She currently has five published mystery/suspense novels, and is working on the sixth, I believe. Let’s see what she has to say on the writing of mysteries. Please help me welcome UK author Gilly Macmillan.

 

© Céline Nieszawer/Leextra

© Céline Nieszawer/Leextra


Kaye: Can you tell me about your author’s journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Gilly: I started to write when I was over 40 and I challenged myself to do 1000 words a day until I had finished an entire book. I faithfully recorded my word count each day until it was done. I polished the first three chapters and send them to a few agents. Two rejections followed swiftly, one agent didn’t reply but the fourth one I sent it to was interested enough to offer me representation. She and I worked on the book together for a year before she submitted it to publishers, and we were lucky enough to sell it very rapidly and in over 20 territories! The rest has followed from there. I write a book a year and try to keep things fresh, compelling and thrilling for myself and my readers.

Kaye: When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

Gilly: For many years I didn’t have a burning desire to write, I think because I was busy doing other things and life got in the way, but once my youngest son started school full time I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to write a novel. The idea sort of came out of the blue but perhaps it wasn’t that surprising because at that point I had been an obsessive reader for 35 years. I had a small window of opportunity before having to get a proper job, so I took it.

Kaye: Why do you write mystery? Why not romance, or western, or horror?

Gilly: I read very widely, but mystery books have always been a favorite, so I write what I would like to read.

Kaye: What element do you think is the most important in a mystery story? Why?

Gilly: That it creates an impulse in the reader to turn pages. This can come from great characters, a thrilling set up, tons of action or an intriguing plot, but it must be there.

Kaye: What is one thing your readers would never guess about you?

Gilly: I have no idea! I’m a fairly straightforward person so there’s probably not much they couldn’t guess.

Kaye: (So, there’s no mystery to the mystery author? Hmmm.) What is the biggest challenge in writing mystery for you? Why?

Gilly: Plot. I don’t plan ahead when I write and creating a well-paced, complex and intriguing plot is always my biggest challenge, especially as I like to keep things within the realms of believability.

Kaye: What is the most fun part of writing mystery? Why?

Gilly: I love creating new characters and devising a challenging scenario for them. It intrigues me to explore how ‘regular’ people might behave if placed in extreme situations and pushed to their limits.

Kaye: Your most recent release is The Nanny. What can you tell me about it?

81ul8HE96pL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243Gilly: When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

Kaye: What is your biggest accomplishment to date in your writing career?

Gilly: Making bestsellers lists! It’s a dream come true!!

Kaye: Of all of your books, which one is your favorite? Why?

What She KnewGilly: I love them all for different reasons, but I think my favorite is my debut, What She Knew, because that was the book that launched my career and I put a lot of heart into it.

Kaye: How do you keep tension and suspense in your stories, so that readers will keep the pages turning?

Gilly: I work hard to come up with characters that I hope will be relatable and intriguing and then place them in a compelling situation, which subsequently evolves in a threatening, challenging or terrifying way. At the end of every day of work, I ask myself: will this turn pages? If the answer is ‘no’, I start over and do it again until I’m happy that both tension and suspense are maximised.

Kaye: Is there a common theme running through your books?

Gilly: I like to take a person or people who are in a relatable situation and make something very dramatic or difficult happen to them. A mother with a missing child, for example, or a teenager who has made a fatal mistake in her past which threatens to derail the new life her mother has carefully reconstructed for her, or perhaps a little girl whose nanny disappeared overnight without trace or explanation and reappears thirty years later in very mysterious circumstances. I love to explore dynamics within families, especially the parent child bond.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What is next for Gilly Macmillan?

Gilly: I’m working on a novel that feels like a journey into psychological horror. The main character is a female crime writer. That’s about all I can say for now!


I want to thank Gilly for sharing her craft today. I think it is fascinating that she can plot as she writes. When I try and do that, I find myself exploring avenues that lead to dead ends and have to backtrack a lot. You can learn more about Gilly Macmillan and her books on her website and Amazon Author page.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Interview with mystery author Gerald Darnell

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My guest today has made a career from a single mystery series. He must be doing something right. His Carson Reno Mystery series consists of 18 books and still going strong. He was awarded the 2016 Indie Author Crime Master “Best Thriller/Suspense/Murder Mystery Author” for book 18, Lack of Candor. Let’s find out how he’s done it. Please help me welcome mystery author Gerald W. Darnell.


Kaye: Can you tell me about your author’s journey? How did you get where you are today as a writer?

Gerald: I began writing in college, but nothing serious. After college I published a couple of articles for outdoor magazines and then joined the working world.  I retired after 30 years in the computer industry and wrote my first non-fiction book (which I had been working on for about 15 of those years). It is mostly a bio about my life Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time to Go. My Carson Reno series started after that – and 18 books later…here we are.

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Gerald: Anything outdoors. I have a boat, and when I’m not riding I’ll be fishing.

Kaye: You describe what you write as “Fiction for Fun”. Can you clarify for my readers just what you mean by that?

Gerald: Sure. I use real places with semi-real characters (reflections of my friends or people I know) and tell a story that didn’t happen – but could have.

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Kaye: In your Carson Reno Mystery series each book is a stand-alone mystery, yet you claim they have character continuity across novels. How do you accomplish that?

Gerald: While the core characters might grow (as my writing grows) they change very little from book to book.  And each new book has enough new characters to keep any reader’s attention.

Kaye: Your latest book, Lack of Candor, received the 2016 Indie Author Crime Master award for best author in thriller/mystery/suspense category. Can you tell me a little about that book?

Lack of CandorGerald: It is set in 1962 with most of the story taking place in and around Memphis, Tennessee. A Sergeant with the Memphis Police Department is found dead only hours before his scheduled testimony before a grand jury. Was it suicide or was it murder? What was he going to testify about? A handwritten note left by the Sergeant and addressed to the District Attorney disappears. What was in the note? Was it a suicide note with information regarding his pending testimony or something else? A woman claiming to have information related to his planned testimony comes forward and seeks protection.
Carson is hired to look into the matter and provide protection to the mysterious woman, but protection from whom? The situation gets out of hand quickly, and Carson finds himself in trouble with most everybody involved. A dark cloud hangs over the truth, as he tries to determine the ‘good-guys’ from the ‘bad-guys’ from the ‘bad good – guys’.
This old fashion crime story takes Carson Reno and his crew on a complicated adventure, where it seems that no one is looking for a solution.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing mystery for you? Why?

Gerald: My time period (early 60’s) has its own challenge. Limited transportation, no cell phones, no CSI type of stuff to solve these crimes. Old black and white solutions to whatever Carson is involved in.

Kaye: What is the best part of writing mystery for you? Why?

Gerald: I’ll answer that by referring to what I tell other writers or wanna’be writers. Don’t write to get rich, but to enrich others.

Kaye: What time of day do you like to do your writing? Why?

Gerald: No particular time, but I prefer the evenings with a little ‘libation’ for inspiration.

Kaye: How do you decide on your titles? Where does this come in the writing process?

Gerald: Titles are always first and I have NO idea where they come from. My friends constantly ask the same question – wish I had a catchy answer.

Kaye: Of all of your books, which one is your personal favorite? Why?

Gerald: I have two and they are my most popular and best sellers – ‘Dead End’ and ‘Murder and More’.  I like the stories and I guess my readers do too.

 

 

Kaye: Many of the events in your stories are inspired by real life events. What was the strangest or most unusual inspiration you’ve ever had for a story?

Gerald: ‘Dead End’ involves a chase scene in a rural Arkansas area where I spent many years when I was younger. The snow, the dirt roads, the mud, the outdoor part of me enjoys that.

Kaye: There are 18 Carson Reno books, one book in your Jack Sloan series: Concrete Jungle, in addition to your autobiographical book, Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time To Go. So, is Carson Reno on the way out and Jack Sloan on the way in? Or is there more Carson in the future?

Gerald: More Carson and maybe a little more Jack.  A work in progress.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What is next for Gerald W. Darnell?

Gerald: ‘The Disappearance of Robin Murat’ and it will be out before the end of this year (I hope).  No spoilers, but a big part of the story takes place in New Orleans – one of my favorite cities. A great place for mystery and ‘bad-guys’.


I want to thank Gerald for chatting with me today and sharing his experiences and advice. You can learn more about Gerald Darnell and his books at the links below.

Website: www.geraldwdarnell.com/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NQRPXMW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i5

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4521276.Gerald_W_Darnell

Lulu.com Spotlight: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/geralddarnell

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/geralddarnell


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The Numbers Killer: A Crime Thriller that keeps readers guessing

The Numbers Killer

Things aren’t always what they seem, and The Numbers Killer, by Jenifer Ruff is no exception. In this psycholigical thriller mystery, people are are turning up dead and Agent Victoria Roslin is a tough police investigator who must race to catch a killer. The stakes are raised even higher and the clock runs faster when it turns personal and Victoria is targeted. It seems the killer has her number. Can she solve the mystery of how the victims are connected. Can she catch the killer and catch the killer, or will she become the nest victim of the Numbers Killer?

The Numbers Killer is a well-crafted mystery that keeps readers guessing. There’s nothing cozy about this mystery. Ruff keeps the action moving and throws in plenty of surprise twists right down to the last pages. I give  it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with Pulp & Crime Fiction Author Quintin Peterson

Quintin Peterson Literary Hill BookFest 2018 Profile Photo

I have the pleasure of conversing with a pleasant guest today, whose love of life shines in his eyes and his smile, author Quintin Peterson. A talented author, whose work keeps classic craft alive in modern times. He writes pulp and crime fiction in many variations, throwing new twists on the classic styles. I can’t wait for you to meet him. So, without further adeau, let’s find out what Quintin Peterson has to share.


Kaye: Tell me about your author’s journey. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you make that dream a reality?

Quintin: I began entertaining my friends and family by telling them amazing stories long before I started writing them. I obtained my first copyright when I was 13. While in high school, I was awarded a National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, the University of Wisconsin’s Science Fiction Writing Award, and the Wisconsin Junior Academy’s Writing Achievement Award. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, I wrote and performed in two stage plays and received a Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation grant for my play project, Change. I also received a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, for playwriting.

Kaye: What is your favorite thing about writing crime fiction?

Quintin: I gave up creative writing and pursued a 30-year career in law enforcement. I rarely found justice during all the years I worked as a police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. I suppose it is the reason why writing crime fiction is my dominant obsession: I find justice in my stories.

Kaye: You’ve had both short fiction and novel length works published? Which do you prefer writing? Why?

Quintin: It’s a toss-up, really. I like writing short stories for magazines and anthologies because of the word count limits, but I also like not being constrained by a word count limit for longer fiction.

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing short fiction?

Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing short fiction is doing more with less. Writing short fiction for magazines and anthologies also afford me opportunities to experiment with genre-blending. For example, I’ve sold a cop/ghost story, a horror/mystery/noir thriller, science fiction/noir mysteries, and an Arthurian police story.

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about writing novel length works?

Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing novel length fiction is avoiding the pitfall of being too wordy and doing less with more.

Kaye: Pulp fiction, maybe even more than other genres, must have well developed, larger than life characters. How do your characters develop for you?

Quintin: I create backstories for my characters so that I know them in order to make them seem real, and then pit them against each other in what I endeavor to make compelling stories.

Kaye: Which of your main characters is your favorite? Why?

Quintin: I have two favorite characters: Norman Blalock and Luther Kane, who are cousins and appear in each other’s stories. I like Blalock because people underestimate him. I like Kane because he is a man of action.

Amazing Tales #10Kaye: Your story “Broken Doll” just came out in Awesome Tales #10. That story is a part of your Private Eye Luther Kane Mystery Series. Would you tell me a little about who Luther Kane is and what makes him a great pulp hero?

Quintin: Luther Kane is a former DC police officer, as well as a former soldier and soldier of fortune who is maimed by a landmine. The loss of his legs does not prevent him from operating upon the same principles he adhered to when he was whole. He rises from his own ashes and walks again on state-of-the-art bionic legs, a miracle of modern science. At the suggestion of his physical therapist Claire Bradley, who taught him to walk again, he takes over his late father’s business, the Intrepid Detective Agency, located atop the other family business he inherited, the Last Stop Liquor Store.

 

Kaye: The Voynich Gambit is book two in your Norman Blalock Mystery Series and it won the Literary Titan Book Award. Tell me a little about that series. Who is Norman Blalock, and what makes him a great pulp hero?

Quintin: In these old-fashioned heist stories, Norman Blalock is a disgraced Howard University history professor who has been working as a special police officer for the Folger Shakespeare Library for decades. No one at the library knows his background and only see him as “an old black security guard.” The first Norman Blalock Mystery is Guarding Shakespeare, followed by The Voynich Gambit. The upcoming third installment is The Shakespeare Redemption. (By the way: I worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library for almost seven years, beginning the same year I retired from the police department, and penned the first two installments while I was employed there.)

Kaye: Who is your favorite villain? Why?

Quintin: Kavitha Netram, the femme fatale Norman Blalock matches wits with in both Guarding Shakespeare and The Voynich Gambit. She returns in The Shakespeare Redemption. She is smart, sexy, and ruthless.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What can readers expect in the future from Quintin Peterson?

Quintin: Right now, I am working on The Shakespeare Redemption. I will continue to write more installments of the Norman Blalock and the Private Eye Luther Kane mysteries, as well as other noir stories. I also plan to write more science fiction and horror thrillers.

Thanks for having me, Kaye. It’s been a pleasure.

I want to thank Quintin Peterson for sharing with me. It’s been enlightening for me and I hope it has for all of you readers, too. You can find out more about Quintin and his books at the links below. (Be sure to visit his Amazon page. You’ll find a large selection of books and short fiction in a wide range of variations upon the genre. Pulp and crime fiction fans may call it a gold mine. Those unfamiliar with the genre should check it out. It’s a fun genre. )

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Quintin-Peterson/e/B002BMCR2E?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1561789921&sr=8-1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quintin.peterson.56

Twitter: https://twitter.com/luther_kane

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/quintin-peterson-263b4b8/

Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/26191433-quintin-peterson


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Writing for a YA Audience: Writing about a Dollhouse

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

Dollhouses have always intrigued me.  That and steampunk, but we’ll get to that later.

As a child, I had three dollhouses.  One was wooden, made by my maternal grandfather.  One was metal.  I used it for my Little People.  The third was plastic and I used it for my Victorian Playmobile set (I still feel bad that I never got the official dollhouse that went with the sets!).  I loved setting up the rooms and just looking at them.  My dolls didn’t always move around in them.  It was more for show.  I used my imagination to act out scenes.

There’s another dollhouse that sticks out in my mind, only I didn’t own it.  As a child, my mother and I went through an estate sale in the neighborhood.  In the basement, there was a dollhouse built to replicate the actual house.  I fell in love with it.  Unfortunately, it was expensive.  It was old and showed the effects of being in a basement.  Plus, it didn’t fit through the door!  I can still picture that dollhouse to this day.  I became obsessed with having an intricate dollhouse just like that one.

My grandmother bought me a wooden dollhouse kit.  It came with working windows, shingles, and a drainpipe.  It also came with a bit of trouble – none of us were carpentry inclined.  The dollhouse sat in its box in my basement for years.  Eventually, my then-boyfriend (now husband) attempted to put it together, but didn’t get farther than popping out the pieces.  A few years ago, a friend’s husband put it together.  It looks just as amazing as I’d always hoped it would.

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My mother and I bought wallpaper, wainscoting, furniture, dolls… We’re in love with it, but we haven’t done too much decoration-wise.  Some of the furniture came in sets and we already know we’re horrible at putting sets together.  This dollhouse, sitting on the hall table, with its beautiful dolls keeps pulling at my imagination.  I wanted to create a story about a dollhouse, one with secrets.  Since I love the steampunk genre, I wanted to add in a taste of that.   Thus, along came CLOCKWORK DOLLHOUSE, a short story about dolls and secrets.

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Have you ever seen a dollhouse that beckoned you into its walls?

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  If you have any spooky dollhouse furniture you want to part with, she would be happy to take it off your hands! You can connect with Jordan  via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

 

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Someone is winding up the “Clockwork Doll House”

Clockwork Dollhouse

Clockwork Dollhouse, by Jordan Elizabeth is a short steampunk tale which may give readers the chills. Robert has many secrets, but Jane’s clockwork dollhouse sees and reveals things Robert would rather stay hidden. But what is really going on? Who’s winding the dollhouse after all these years and setting the stage? Is it Ainsley, his niece, the ghost of his dead sister, Jane, or is the dollhouse haunted? And can it be stopped before the truth comes out?

A brief story which captivates. Clockwork Dollhouse is a tale of murder unraveled in short fiction format. Perfect for YA audiences. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.