Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A bloody tale

by Carola

A while ago, my dog Trillian's best friend, Oli, came to stay for a week or two. Like most dogs, one of the games they both enjoy is running along a fence barking at a dog on the other side of the fence who is running and barking back.

Trillian watering a tree on the school field

I'm lucky enough to live next door to a school field where dogs are allowed after school hours. Like mine, my next-door neighbour's house backs onto the field. He has two bloodhounds and two mini yappers. When they're out in the yard, it's practically impossible to get Trillian and Oli away from that fence. They'll come away but always rush back for another session. Oh well, it's exercising them!

Oli giving me a kiss on the school field
Another neighbour with one dog, Stella, also shares a fence with the field. She's older and not so much fun, but occasionally they have a "run-in". Unfortunately, Stella's fence doesn't reach the ground in some places. Stella's mom puts boards to block the gaps, but sometimes the boards fall over or get nudged out of position.

One of the run-ins with Stella got out of hand. Oli stuck his  head under the fence, and Stella removed a piece of his ear. Blood started to well. Oli shook himself and blood spattered all over him. Stella's mom brought a bucket of cold water to the gate to wash him off and--we hoped--stanch the flow, but by then it was more flood than drip. A second bucket didn't help. By then there was a puddle of blood in the gateway to the school field... (As a mystery writer, I started plotting!)

So I headed for home with Trillian completely unconcerned and Oli respattering himself as we walked. He looked awful. A young girl walking down the street saw him and asked in horror, "Is that blood?"

Another bucket of water at home. Oli still bleeding freely but not apparently in pain. He wasn't allowed in the house, of course, and by bedtime he was still bleeding, so the poor boy had to spend the night in the garage. I should add that by that time there was no danger of his bleeding to death.

Luckily there was time enough for it to heal before his parents came home. I just had to explain why he had a notch in his ear...

Now I keep styptic powder in the garage, readily to hand for emergencies.
Yes, Oli is one of my faithful readers...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Killer Nashville August 2014

by Jackie King

Killer Nashville rocks! I highly recommend this mystery con for mystery writers or for any writer who needs an excuse for a fun trip. The conference was scheduled over the weekend, August 22 through 24. T.D. Hart, my traveling buddy, aka Jennifer Adolph, and I left on the Wednesday, August 20. We went early to attend the Sister’s in Crime workshop on Thursday afternoon, which was titled: DOING TIME WITH SinC: GREAT BEGINNINGS. We brought the beginning of our current WIP, up to 200 words.
Hank Phillippi Ryan with T.D. Hart (Jennifer Adolph)

The presenters were Laura DiSilverio, (president of SinC), Catriona McPherson, Cathy Pickens and Hank Phillipi Ryan.

The president read our copy, which felt a bit like taking your clothes off in public and letting everyone critique your body. In other words, it took courage. But wow! Did we ever get some great tips. As soon as I came home I immediately rewrote my beginning. What I learned was well worth the cost of an extra night at the Omni Hotel (First 5-star hotel I’ve ever stayed in.)

I was on the KILLER COZY panel at 10:00 on Friday morning. Panelists: Jennie Bentley/Jenna Bennet, Kay Elam (panel leader), Caroline Fardig and Nancy Parra. I'm in the middle.

Mystery Writers of America party—Killer Nashville 2014
Surrounded by writer friends

Book one in Grace Cassidy Series

Book two in Grace Cassidy Series

If any of you attended this fantastic conference, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crime and the paranormal - an interview with Sara Bain, part one.

by Bill Kirton
I seem to be spending a lot of time interviewing other authors nowadays. Following on from last month’s chat with Dorothy Johnston, here’s another with a Scottish writer-friend, Sara Bain. Sara’s a journalist and late last year, she published her first novel. I read a beta version of it and wasn’t surprised to find myself drawn into a powerfully conceived, beautifully written story which ticked all the crime boxes I expected to find but also threw a disturbing paranormal element into the mix. Also, The Sleeping Warrior will be the first publication from a new publisher, Ivy Moon Press. And guess what, it’s Sara herself who’s set it up.
I found her answers so interesting that, rather than edit the conversation down, I decided to split it between two postings. Here’s the first chunk.

First, let’s talk about The Sleeping Warrior. Have you written anything like it before? If so, tell us about it and if not, tell us what sort of writing you have done.
I prefer to read and write within the confines of the ‘fantasy’ genre and all its associated subgenres. Epic fantasy, in particular, is a personal favourite and one that I’ve been reading since I was a little child and writing since I was a bigger child. That said, when I started submitting my work to traditional publishing houses, I was often told that my fantasy was not ‘epic’ enough, in that there was not enough magic in the primary plot and not enough magical creatures running around my world.

My problem is that I like real people and put them in real situations, albeit with a long stretch of the imagination. I can’t write about something I don’t believe in. Orcs and dwarves don’t work for me, although the supernatural and a belief system in heaven and hell does.

I wrote The Sleeping Warrior as a challenge to traditional publishers’ fixation for genre classification.  I decided to write a contemporary novel which crossed as many fictional genres as I could cope with; which was populated by as many clichĂ© antiheroes from fashionable fiction that I could stuff into the story without losing the plot, so to speak; and which had an element of fantasy woven into the narrative.

For some reason, it worked for me.

Hmmm, ‘challenging traditional publishers’ fixations’. You obviously know what they, as well as agents and readers for that matter, feel about genres and how they like their authors to fit neatly into them, so isn’t your challenge rather a bold move?
Maybe, but I’ve noticed that, where a couple of years ago publishers would instantly reject novels that failed to fit neatly into the limited library classifications of fiction, they’ve now opened the submission sluice gates to the more speculative or slipstream genres: something that was anathema to them only a little while ago. I believe that, with the coming of the mighty Amazon, publishers are no longer in control of what people read and are genuinely surprised that readers are choosing for themselves. 

So what are you offering readers to counteract any possible resistance to genres being mixed?
I believe that a strong plot and strong characterisation are the true benchmarks of a good story, regardless of setting.

Well, there’s no doubt that the crime aspects of the book in particular are very real, pacey, gripping. Did you have to change gear or somehow change the way you thought as you shifted between that and paranormal/fantasy mode?
Not at all. Gabriel is the fantasy element in the book: the stranger who turns up one day and turns people’s lives into hell before making them better people for having met him. He could happen to anyone.

He’s certainly a striking character (and phenomenon). Do you see the supernatural as being an extension of ordinary reality, some feature of the subconscious perhaps, or is it purely fantastical, an escape?
I believe the supernatural is anything and everything that can’t be explained by science or logical reason, so, syllogistically, it must exist. Just because something can’t be explained or proven doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

When I was a journalist for a local newspaper a few years ago, I ran a regular feature on hauntings in my region. This not only involved interviewing the owners of the allegedly haunted buildings, but also the physical investigation of the sites. I must admit, most of the time, I was absolutely terrified but, mercifully, I saw and experienced nothing other-wordly so I wasn’t haunted by the experience.

I like to think that, if I witness something personally, then I’ll believe it. I do, however, keep an open mind just in case someone or something does come back from the dead and tries to convince me otherwise.

Tell us about your characters. Were some easier to create than others? Are there any with whom you did or didn’t like spending time?
There are a lot of characters to juggle in The Sleeping Warrior but their characteristics are so different from one another that it was quite easy to keep up with them. Carl, Libby’s boss, is the one character I particularly dislike. He has so few redemptive personal qualities that it was difficult for even Gabriel to save him. I did think of killing him off quite early in the plot, but he worked too well.

And how about the difference between males and females? Did you find them equally easy to inhabit?
I don’t think I’m one of those writers who possesses the minds of characters and manipulates them from the inside. I tend to let them get on with life while I take a back seat – a bit like God. All my books involve a vast array of characters – both good and bad, male and female, young and old, poor and rich – they tend to interact better when I’m not trying to control them and the story progresses organically.

It sounds as if you maybe don’t do much plotting beforehand. Is that true? Or do you need to have a fairly rigid idea of where you’re heading?
I start with a character and then a few more come along. I don’t plot and I don’t draw mind maps or make lists. I may have a general inkling as to where I want them to go and what I want them to do once they’ve got there, but sometimes that doesn’t work. I tend to go where my characters lead me and trust that they will get there in the end. Often the end is a surprise, even to me.

OK, time for the intermission. Next time we’ll say a wee bit more about the book, then turn to the new publishing venture and more general thoughts on Sara’s approach to writing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

That revision letter...

That revision letter is my excuse--no time for blogging once again. My editor is quite right, I have to rewrite the last chapter.

So I'm going to post a link to an article I wrote for an online magazine:

The only thing it has to do with writing is that I wrote it. 



Thursday, August 28, 2014

LAST HOPE ALASKA, by Linda Trout

Today Linda Trout tells us about her latest Romantic Suspense Novel--LAST HOPE ALASKA.

You're are going to love this!
Linda Trout

Thank you, Jackie for having me on Murderous Musings. I feel right at home among mystery writers since I also have an infinity for killing off people. On paper at least. When some of my friends and former co-workers read my first book, Grave Secrets, they couldn’t believe I’d written it.

Where did that come from, they’d ask. You’re so sweet and nice so how did you think of such a dark character?


I think everyone who writes mysteries knows there’s a bit of a dark side to all of us. It’s a matter of tapping into it, then transferring that to paper.

I love putting my hero and heroine through their paces; throwing them into dangerous places, then proceed to make it worse.

In Last Hope Alaska, my latest release from The Wild Rose Press, I’ve done exactly that. I keep throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them. Oh, wait. I think I even threw the metaphorical sink at them in the end. J  But being the romantic that I am, they had to have their Happy Ever After, even if they are a bit banged up. I suppose that’s why I write romance as opposed to straight mystery, that HEA.

In LAST HOPE ALASKA, Emily Redfern's ex-fiancĂ© learned to kill on the back streets of New York. Now, she is his target. Broke, exhausted, and a step ahead of the man she once loved, she clings to one last hope: the wilds of Alaska. The quiet safety of her hide-a-way becomes addictive as she grows to care for the man who offers her refuge.

Released from prison after a wrongful conviction, native Alaskan Sam Tarkington is determined to regain his business, repair his reputation, and rebuild his life. But when he meets a desperate and vulnerable woman, guarding secrets of her own, she tugs at his heart. She's a distraction he can't afford. Sam must choose Emily or achieving his dreams.

Like Emily's life, the peacefulness of the wilderness is an illusion as danger lurks in the distance. Does Sam hold the key to her survival or will her past cost them everything?

Thank you again for having me, Jackie. I’ve enjoyed visiting.

My books are available everywhere eBooks are sold and the print version is also available. I’d love to hear from your readers and can be reached on my website: or Like me on Facebook at


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More thoughts from below the equator – an interview with Dorothy Johnston (part two)

by Bill Kirton
Last time, Dorothy gave us her insights into the labyrinthine nature of suspense/mystery and the cultural/historical influences that bear on writers of the genre in Australia. In this second part, I’m asking her about the specifics of her own writing.

For no obvious reason, after reading The White Tower, I found myself wondering about your attitude to the paranormal. Perhaps it’s the way you linked real and virtual worlds in the book. What are your thoughts about ‘alternative realities’?

In a way this is a prophetic question because the book I’m working on now is about the murder of a Henry Handel Richardson scholar who believed he could make contact with her spirit. One of the suspects is a psychic medium. In my daily life, I have no time for ‘alternative realities’, but when I sit down to write, I find that I enjoy exploring them. 

I was struck by your use of apparently insignificant detail in the narrative. For me, it enhanced the reality of your fiction. I assume that’s a deliberate choice. Am I right?

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘apparently insignificant detail’. Some details are there to mislead, or to make more plausible what turns out to be a false path. There’s a lot of detail devoted to making Canberra a solid, material place, in the tradition of mystery and crime writers for whom their settings are, in themselves, important characters. 

By details, I meant things like when Sandra is staring out of a window at ‘a square of grass’ and you write ‘A magpie hopped across it, dragging a tangled piece of string’. It’s maybe part of making the setting live, like Stendhal with his ‘petits faits vrais’. Anyway, here’s a boring question – ignore it if you like. Sandra Mahoney comes across as a fairly complex character and some of the complexities arise from the fact that, as well as an investigator, she also has a well chronicled home life, especially in sequences when she reflects on nursing her baby. Has she borrowed some of your own experiences in these areas?

Despite appearances and stereotypes, motherhood is not such a bad training for criminal investigation. I gave Sandra, partly as a reaction against the cerebral pull of cyber-detection, a weight of domestic life that, as you suggest, is not without its complications. The fact that I’ve made her a mother whose parental responsibilities aren’t brushed aside, or handed over to a nanny, or simply dropped from the narrative as the plot thickens means, for some critics, that she can’t at the same time be a credible investigator. She is the antithesis of the loner stereotype beloved by the genre.

I once wrote an essay titled ‘Female Sleuths and Family Matters – can genre and literary fiction coalesce?’ in which I attempted to argue the case that one doesn’t need to forego an in-depth exploration of family life in order to write a detective story. At the time I published the essay, I believed the combination was possible; now I’m not so sure. But I don’t regret the experiment because it taught me a lot.

Sandra’s children both are and are not mine.

She’s a great, rounded character. But then, so are the others you introduce in your narrative. You make some of them share impulses and motives and yet they’re all distinct individuals. Have you got a particular approach to creating them?

No particular approach. My children were a ‘given’, whom I then proceeded to take liberties with. Ivan is based on a Polish boyfriend from my early twenties, but I doubt he’d recognize himself in the character. Characters just come to me, much as I expect they do to you.

Yes, it sounds a familiar process. There’s also the fact that much of what we know of them comes as much from the conversations they have as from Sandra’s assessments of them. You seem to like dialogues. When you write them, do you have a specific purpose (i.e. that you want someone to reveal something inadvertently – about themselves or someone else, or supply some other clue or snippet of information necessary to the plot)? Or is it the power of the characters that drives them?

I don’t think I’m very good at dialogue. I re-write it heaps of times. I’m more comfortable with descriptive narrative, and with implication – what remains unsaid. I’m well aware that convincing dialogue is necessary for good mystery novels, so I keep working at it.

Well, take it from me, your hard work gets good results. But, turning to the comfort you feel with your narrative, does it ever take turns which surprise you?

Of course. I don’t write plans, so I don’t have pre-conceived ideas about where a narrative is heading. So I’m not ‘surprised’ in the sense of expectations being overturned. But my characters frequently surprise me.

That’s definitely a feeling we share. Now, I’m hoping your answers will have piqued the curiosity of readers so, if someone unfamiliar with your works decided to try one, which one would you recommend and why?

I’d recommend One for the Master or The House at Number 10 because I think these two novels contain my best writing. Also several short stories: ‘Two Wrecks’, ‘The Boatman of Lake Burley Griffin’ and ‘An Artist’s Story’.

On the subject of what you call your ‘best writing’, it seems that a critic found one of your books ‘too literary’. I find that a truly bizarre comment but would be interested to know your own reaction to it? Did you know what parts of the text made him/her say such a thing? Was your aim to ‘be literary’? Or was he/she expressing the annoying assumption that genre fiction is and/or ought to be qualitatively inferior?

One reviewer of The Trojan Dog wrote that I came to the genre with a pedigree. He meant literary pedigree, and that it did not fit me at all well for my new incarnation. I felt like writing back and saying that he’d made me feel like a poodle being told it couldn’t join the mongrels’ club. And that I’d always thought of myself as a mongrel. Genre classifications – and ‘literary’ is now considered to be one of these, though it is a qualitative assessment, not a genre – might be useful to marketing people and I accept that they can be useful to readers too. In my view, though, they are highly problematic.

… and that was where we stopped. I must confess, though, that I found Dorothy’s answers so thought-provoking that I’d liked to have asked her even more. So far, I’ve only read one of her Sandra Mahoney quartet but I’ll be reading the rest.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

When Ideas Won't Come

by June Shaw

What do you do if you're an author, and ideas won't come?

For about the two thousandth time, I am about to find out.

Normally when I don't know what words to type on the page it's because I'm at a place in the plot of a novel where something important and unexpected needs to happen. When that occurs, I often sit back, look at what I'd written thus far, and consider what twist might pull the reader along so that he or she won't close the book.

That's not what's happening now. Right now I'm setting my fingers on my laptop keys and creating one word after another, but I need to admit -- I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

I'll blame it on others. Twice within the past week I needed to create blogs for other people (of course I could have done them sooner, but -- I digress.) Possibly I could start thinking of something clever to write in our group blog here like so many of the other authors do. I could set lots of attractive pictures in my posts (if I could figure out how to do that.)

I write a quarterly column for our area's Chamber of Commerce. The same thing happens there. Ideas come at the last minute. I'm not sure who I'll write about until the editor shoots me a reminder that my column is due in a few days.

I don't put off writing on a work-in-progress almost every day. My routine is set: rise whenever I wake up, read my Daily Word and say quick prayers, grab my coffee and get to the computer. Of course my fiction might increase faster if the Internet wasn't connected.

So what do you keep writing about? And how do you do it on time? I'd love to know how others keep up with all of the things they're trying to write.