Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finished at Last!

by Jackie King

Finally. It’s finished!

I’m embarrassed to say how long it’s taken me to finish THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR. Way, way, way too long. In fact, there have been numerous times when I seriously considered ending the struggle (No, not slit my wrists!) and starting a new project. But I didn’t. Mostly because I have a stubborn streak a mile wide. If you don’t believe me, ask my daughter, Susan. She’s accused me of this since she was in college…and she’s right!

Stubborn Streaks Are a Mixed Blessing. They make you stay in a bad marriage and put up with emotional and mental abuse. Just too damn stubborn to walk away.
They also keep you working, whether at your day job or at writing, when any more sensible person would have walked away. And both of those have helped pay my rent and utilities down through the years.

At more than one point I was ready to throw in the towel and say, “This book just can’t be fixed. I can’t connect the dots, not ever. Then I’d write a new scene or rewrite an old one. Unfortunately, I’ve always been a panster, not a plotter. That is another trait that I consider both a great blessing and a dark curse. Pansters can bring a freshness and excitement to the table. Even the author doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.

And it’s great fun. This is the drug that keeps me ‘writing the hard way.’ Plotters, on the other hand, don’t have to do nearly as much rewriting, fixing, and wondering where the deuce this particular scene should go in the story.

Anyway, I’ve been struggling for a very long time with this story. (I’ll share more in following posts.) Now is celebration time and I’m wondering why I have this feeling of anticlimax in my bones. Perhaps it’s because it’s plotting time. (And yes, I know I said I don’t do that, even though I do. Although in a convoluted sort of way.)

Me celebrating, both my birthday and finishing my book
I’ve emailed a copy of this almost-ready draft to my beta readers: Judy Rosser, her beautiful daughter Anna Dooley, and my darling DIL Amanda Horn. I may also send a copy to my niece and nephew. They’re off playing this weekend and I’m not going to bother them just now.

None of these folks are writers. They are that most wonderful and intelligent creature, a compulsive reader. God Bless them one and all.

More later,


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How our betters bob up and down

I often go on about how absurd life is. It’s because I believe it’s true and that so many of the ways we behave must make God sorry he didn’t choose a different species, such as slugs or mackerel, to be the Lords of creation. I’ve no doubt every nationality has its little foibles and proofs that humans are unworthy to have dominion over Chihuahuas, wildebeests, aphids and the rest but I’d make a claim that the UK must be contenders for the gold medal in unworthiness.

This claim is sparked by a small item in my regular newspaper, the Guardian. For those who don’t live in the UK I should explain that, to the majority of our citizens, being a Guardian reader signifies that you must be a pretentious, gay, communist, ex-hippie, muesli-eating, sandals-wearing coward.

So, over my bowl of muesli, I learned all about a document entitled the Order of Precedence of the Royal Family To Be Observed At Court. I googled it to make sure it wasn’t an early April 1st contribution and found that, apart from the revelations in my paper, there were all sorts of other arcane aspects to who’s who and who can do what at court. (“At court” – a phrase straight out of the Theatre of the Absurd.)

Anyway, this particular piece, and I acknowledge my debt to the Guardian in reproducing its main points here, noted how the OPRFTBOAC had been updated to take into account that someone simply called Kate Middleton had appeared in the team photos. Now some people think that, because the Queen signs edicts and laws and things ‘Elizabeth R’, she’s Mrs R. Wrong. She is, of course, Mrs Mountbatten-Windsor (we’ll leave out all the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha stuff). So when a commoner  arrives, she has to know where she stands. And the gist of it all is that, despite Father Xmas having given her the title of Duchess of Cambridge, Ms Middleton has to curtsey to Eugenie and Beatrice, the daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York, one of whom was famous for a while for wearing a fascinator shaped like a pretzel. To be fair, Ms Middleton only has to curtsey if William's not there, but still… And she has to do it whether it’s at a grand public affair or in private. This is because they’re real ‘blood princesses’ rather than arrivistes like her. She also has to curtsey to Charles Mountbatten-Windsor’s wife Camilla too, because she’s the wife of the Queen's son and therefore ‘better’? ‘higher’? ‘more noble’? than the wife of her grandson.

We’re talking here of the people at the pinnacle of British society, a society whose lower reaches are at present in the grip of an austerity imposed by millionaires who have no idea of how the people they ‘represent’ live, so if that doesn’t earn us the gold medal for absurdity, I’ll be very interested to hear about the antics of those who beat us.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Writing about Death and Murder

by Jean Henry Mead

I wrote about death and murder on a regular basis as a news reporter, until I'd had enough and decided to use my experiences as a mystery novelist. My Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense series then evolved with a bit of humor and romance to lighten the plot, but with death stalking my family in successive years it made me wonder whether I was writing in the right genre. 

Following my niece's murder, my parents' and daughter's deaths from cancer as well as two of my younger brothers in their mid-to-late forties; I lost two young grandsons, one of them from a unloaded gun, the other from E. coli, the result of eating a fast food hamburger. 

Yesterday a third brother died of pneumonia--a big, handsome, great guy who kept me apprised of the latest vitamins to take as well as the right food combinations for good health. I'm devastated and have decided that I can no longer continue writing casually about the deaths of others, especially adding humor to the mix as I've done with my Logan and Cafferty series. 

Writing saved me from complete despair when  my daughter died  by immersing myself in my writing and promoting my work. But, now, I can't imagine writing about death and have decided to continue writing historical novels and children's mysteries instead. Some day I may be able to continue my mystery series, but for now I doubt that anyone will expire in one of my future novels. . .

Monday, February 17, 2014


By Mark W. Danielson

Timeless.  A word as endless and enduring as the word itself.  This word is reserved for items with appropriate merit.  Few of mankind’s creations are worthy of such recognition.

Recently, my wife and I stumbled onto a couple of CD’s that pay homage to musicians who made songs timeless.  The first was an Everly Brothers tribute performed by Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones, appropriately titled Billie Joe and Norah, Foreverly. Ask any musician that sings harmony and they will no doubt say the Everly Brothers influenced them.  But Norah and Billie Joe went beyond this.  They felt they needed to do this album, just as an author’s burning desire to pen a story.  Over a period of nine New York City days, these two musicians fashioned one of the greatest tribute albums I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, their voices blending as easily as the Brothers Everly.

The second surprise was Bruce Springsteen’s tribute to Pete Seeger, titled Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome – The Seeger Sessions.  As with our previous experience, it was a fluke hearing about this album.  Most likely it came as a mention after Pete Seeger’s passing.  This album is a totally fun mix of Seeger’s tunes performed in Dixieland and New Orleans styles.  The band Springsteen assembled for this album included some of the best musicians in the United States.  Remarkably, everything was cut in three LIVE sessions from 1997, 2005, and 2006. The fact there were NO REHEARSALS makes this album even more amazing.  The clarity and energy of their work permeates in every song.

Don’t be mistaken.  As much as I love both albums, my intent is not to do CD reviews, but rather use them as examples that authors should strive to create abiding pieces that will inspire readers in the way Pete Seeger and The Everly Brothers inspired musicians.  Timeless works can read over and again without anyone tiring of them.  It matters not that one may be so familiar with the piece that they can recite its content without reading them.  If history is any indicator, few authors will ever be recognized for timeless work while they are alive.  Nevertheless, that should never stop someone from putting their best work forward through carefully chosen words. 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Romancing the Mystery

by Jackie King

Mysteries are my first love, but since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I decided to explore mysteries that have a love interest. Adding a touch of romance is something I do in my own mystery series featuring Grace Cassidy.

In her autobiography, Agatha Christie mentioned that if she added a bit of romance to her novels, the books to sold more copies. Now I think that most mystery fans will agree that writing romance wasn’t the great Dame Agatha’s strong suit. Her surprising plot twists were what caused her books to fly off the shelves. But the famous lady of mystery was an astute business woman; therefore most of her stories have some kind of love interest.
Agatha Christie

Writers have now become adroit at blending a love story with pure mystery. In Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries, our heroine always seems to have bad luck with men. But when Grafton penned G Is for Gumshoe and added an anti-hero type guy named Robert Deitz, the book sizzled for a few pages.
Sue Grafton
Historical mysteries also feature love. One of my favorite authors, Anne Perry, uses two different hero types. William Monk, brilliant and ambitious, fancies helpless, very ladylike women. Our protagonist, Hester Latterly, who served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, is a prototype of the early feminist. When these two characters are pierced by Cupid’s arrows, the excitement mounts.

Another of Perry’s popular series features Thomas Pitt, a poorly paid policeman who weds Charlotte Ellison, the daughter of a well-to-do family. The union is definitely a no-no in the class-conscious Victorian setting. The marriage and the complications that arise from it, make Perry’s plots deep and believable.
Anne Perry
Anne Perry
Even hardboiled mysteries feature strong love stories. The Elvis Cole series, written by the grand master Robert Crais, is a perfect example. Elvis’ love match with Lucy Chenier is enough to melt your teeth. And even though the two have parted for the safety of Lucy’s young son, her memory still lingers with Elvis and adds an extra dimension to Crais’ books.
Robert Crais
Robert Crais

Joe Pike, that hour-and-a-half hardboiled egg and my personal favorite hero (also created by Crais) is not immune to love. When he falls, he falls hard.

This list could go on and on, and I haven’t even mentioned the popular romantic suspense novels. So on Valentine’s Day Eve, I’m going to go wild and say that adding romance to mystery just makes the story that much richer and more fulfilling.

If you have a favorite mystery that also features romance, I’d like to know about it. I will also love any comment you care to make, favorable or not.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Yet more Unsafe Acts

We learn from our books, and Unsafe Acts, the fifth in my Jack Carston series, gave me the chance to remind myself of how unsexy and ugly prostitution is at its lowest levels. One of the characters (who, I hope, is sympathetic) is forced into it to pay the bills. She’s not one of the truly hopeless cases whose dependence on drugs strips them of their humanity and allows others to treat them as objects with no worth, but she has to put up with some pretty unpleasant clients who pay pennies for her services.

But it recalled the things I’d learned when I was writing The Darkness (the third in the series). There, one of the central characters was a woman who’d been abused but learned to turn it to her advantage and became an escort. In other words, she was further up the scale and didn’t have to service her customers in cars or against walls. The research for that involved contacting actual escorts online (I know, I know – insert your own comments here) and I got some very generous and enlightening replies. They came from intelligent, articulate women, some of them married, who answered my questions honestly and sometimes at great length. These were women aware of their attractiveness and skills and ready to provide services far beyond the basic satisfactions. I’m not suggesting it’s a positive career choice but they were conducting a supply and demand business with the common sense and efficiency of any respectable service company and the overwhelming impression was that they and their clients operated in a context of mutual respect.

The final thing wasn’t really something I learned because I already knew it. It arose from my recognition that Unsafe Acts is the first of my seven crime novels (the historical The Figurehead and the spoof The Sparrow Conundrum are both crime-based, too) which has a real culprit – someone who commits deliberate, premeditated murder. There are baddies in all the others but the deaths and motives are all … well, let’s say different.

Apart from that, there’s the fact that I always add something at the end to say that, yes OK, the crime’s been solved, the puzzle’s been explained, but other things are still going on, usually nasty things. Because life isn’t neat and tidy, we don’t live self-contained adventures or events with natural conclusions to which we can confidently attach ‘THE END’. There’s always something else going on, more events brewing, problems arising and so on. Reality isn’t completeness and satisfaction; it’s continuation and change.

At the end of each of the Carston books there’s a sort of coda, just a page or two. It comes after Carston has made his final revelations, the crime’s been solved, the loose ends have been tied up. But then the coda gives the reader a little nudge and says ‘life’s not like that’. Having said that, you won’t find one in the Bloody Books edition of Material Evidence (the paperback version available in the USA). I mentioned that to a friend who lives in New York. He emailed me to say he’d enjoyed reading it and I told him about the coda and said that I’d left it out on the advice of the commissioning editor. He asked to read it, I sent it to him and he replied, ‘Your editor is an idiot, she knows nothing about crime writing’. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the editor did actually know exactly what she was talking about. Her name is Val McDermid.

Friday, February 7, 2014

An Ill Conceived Beginning

Welcome, L. C. Hayden to Murderous Musings. What prompted you to begin a new series

I like to travel. So when I decided to start a new series, I knew my protagonist would not be the stay-at-home type—or even the stay in one place type. Each novel would find my character in a different city. Since I’m the author, I would naturally have to visit those places in order to capture the atmosphere that is so unique to each area. How convenient. I like this idea.
Next, I had to decide: should my character be male or female? I have another series, the award-winning Harry Bronson Mystery Series. I didn’t want my new character to be similar to Bronson. 

That concept became the major influencing factor as far as selecting gender. This new series would have a female protagonist.

I focused on Aimee Brent’s job selection. Aimee needed a profession that would naturally lead her to mayhem. Since Bronson is a retired detective, I immediately ruled out policemen, detectives, F.B.I. agents, or any other similar job. I also wanted her to have a vocation that would be easy to research or even better, have one that I knew a bit about.

I received my Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. That would work. Aimee, the reporter, would make an excellent journalist. Not only do I have a concept of what the job requires, Aimee would often find that in order to follow her leads, she would have to travel, and I, of course, would have to visit that state park or city or country in order to correctly write about it.

There you go: a new character is born at age 25. Now that I had my protagonist, I could focus on the plot. I wanted a complex character that at one point would be strong, but the next, weak.  Consequently, I gave Aimee a deep, dark secret that she keeps buried deep within her heart.

Aimee is unaware of all of the dark details from her past because she blocked them a long time ago. Now, her current major assignment, an important murder case, causes her to face her fears. She wants to succeed as a journalist. She wants to be the one who helps solve the major murder case she is currently covering. But because she travels into the unknown, the steps she takes only brings her closer to the killer.

Thus the premise for ILL Conceived is born. The story begins when Grandma Louise hears a scream in the middle of the night. When no one else does, the police dismiss it as an old woman’s ravings. Aimee Brent, an ambitious, dedicated reporter for the North Shore Carrier, the Lake Tahoe newspaper, sets out to prove Grandma Louise right. In so doing, Aimee is forced to face her past, a past filled with so much darkness that it threatens her very existence and leads her down a twisted, dangerous road from which she may never return.

For more details about Aimee or about me, please visit my website at and like my author page on Facebook. 

~Submitted by Jean Henry Mead

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


by Carola

A couple of recent sunrises over the Willamette River

I've done something to my shoulder--lifted the camera too energetically?--and typing is painful, so I hope you enjoy these views because that's all I'm posting this week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Coke was a Coke

By Mark W. Danielson
I love music.  For me, nothing lifts the soul or occupies the mind like a well-constructed tune.  Even though most of the time music serves as background, there are times when the lyrics draw me in.  One song in particular was Tim McGraw’s reflective hit, I Miss Back When.  As the title implies, it examines how our morals and language have changed over the last few decades.  If you’re unfamiliar with his song, Tim sings about how a coke was a coke, a hoe was a hoe, crack was something you did when someone told a joke, and so on.  Talk about nailing it, we’d all be better off if we could turn back time. 

Far more disturbing than our moral decline is how so many people are letting others think for them.  While some blame this on apathy, broken marriages, both parents working, whatever, I think the simplest explanation is younger people tend to lack imagination.  Play sets like Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and Erector Sets that once challenged kids’ minds and promoted logical and mechanical thinking have been replaced with electronic games that snare kids and keep them from noticing the outside world.  Even Legos shed their imaginative play sets in favor of theme kits.  Rather than keep their original variable-sized building blocks, Lego kits have gone to specific models.  Build whatever’s on the box and you’re done.  Forget about creating your own starship because the pieces limit what you can do. Okay, this is an exaggeration, but these policy shifts still parody our society. 

For the sake of argument, I’m labeling this societal transferal media selection because it affects every aspect of our lives.  As much as people love social networking, television remains our most influential media, bombarding us with biased reporting and suggestive commercials and shows.  Turn on the TV and it will show you how you should look, tell you what to eat, how to medicate, vote and treat other people.  Mulling over commercials selling us on pharmaceuticals reminds me of the sixties song about how one pill makes you larger, another makes you small, and the one that mother gives you does nothing at all.  The bottom line is pharmaceutical companies want you hooked on their medicine, and too many fall into their trap.

But far worse than the medical industry’s tact is award recipients and talk show hosts preaching about how we should live our lives.  The grandest display appeared on the recent Grammy Awards.  Please explain to me what a mass marriage ceremony has to do with music or an awards show?  We just saw the media focus on a Duck Dynasty actor and NBA player attending the President’s State of the Union Address.  What’s next?  Live sex change operations at the Oscars?  People, whatever you do on your own time is your business, but awards shows should limit themselves to the awards, and the recipients should keep their comments to thanking whoever is responsible for getting them there before quietly leaving the stage, just like they did back when. 

Speaking of politics, I’m tired of people voting based on celebrity endorsements.  I’m tired of celebrities slamming potential contenders before they ever appear on a ballot.  I’m tired of our soldiers dying overseas while the media focusses on gay issues rather than our debt and war losses.  Most of all, I’m tired of seeing our citizens act like sheep.  While it’s is easier to follow another’s lead than gathering facts, everyone should realize our free society depends on us doing our own research and making intelligent choices, so why not open your minds and stop being guided by the media?  It should not surprise anyone that not everything seen on the TV or Internet is true. 

While The US Constitution protects the media’s freedom of speech, it should never impair your freedom of choice.  Realize that every politician caters to the media to get elected, and to stay in office they glad-hand and grovel to keep the media on their side.  Also realize that when a favored politician blunders, their incident or indiscretion disappears, but for those less favored, anything negative becomes front page news, lingering like a sewer leak.  No matter which medium you get your news from, fairness is a myth.

I used to wonder why older people were so cynical and now I understand.  Despite their expansive lives’ experiences and vast educations, the only ones paying attention to the gray generations are pharmaceutical companies.  So, how about it, Tim?  It won’t be long before AARP finds you.  You have an updated version of Back When?  Oh yeah, I do miss it . . .