Saturday, May 31, 2014

M. E. May's Ensconced




M. E. May lives in the Far Northwest Suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Paul, and their white Husky, Iris. Born in Indianapolis, she spent most of her years there or in a suburban town near there. Although, she has physically moved away, her heart still lives in her hometown. She has a son, daughter, and four wonderful grandsons living in central Indiana. She attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.

In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown.  

About her latest novel, Ensconced: Missing Person Detective and loving family man, Tyrone Mayhew, faces one of the toughest cases of his career–now a cold case he investigated ten years ago when Wendy Matherson and her vehicle vanished without a trace. New evidence has come to light and now Tyrone and his partner, Sergeant Benjamin Jacobs, must sort through years of old evidence and interview persons of interest and witnesses one more time. They soon discover that Wendy’s youngest son may be their best witness.

After years of nightmares, this young man is ready to try anything to pull the memories so deeply ensconced in his subconscious to the surface so he can finally be at peace with what happened to his mother. The more Tyrone digs, the more dangerous the investigation becomes. When Tyrone’s family is placed in mortal danger, it sparks Tyrone to work more diligently to discover what really happened the night Wendy Matherson disappeared. He must find resolution before this case tears Tyrone’s happy life completely apart.

Other titles by M.E. May:

Perfidy (Circle City Mystery, Book 1) – winner of the 2013 Lovey award for Best First Novel
Inconspicuous (Circle City Mystery, Book 2) – nominee for the 2014 Lovey award for Best Suspense novel.                                                                                           

You can learn more about Michele at www.memay-mysteries.com

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Puzzle of Writing Mysteries


by Velda Brotherton

Wow, is writing mysteries ever puzzling. Some of my favorite authors write mysteries and I devour them, but it never occurred to me that I could actually write one. Then two characters tapped on my inner sanctum door and insisted I put them in a book. Tell their stories. I asked Dal Starr what he wanted to be in my book and he said in his Cherokee accent, "I'd like to be a deputy sheriff in a small town."

Well, maybe I could do that. On to Jessie West, who continued to stare at Dal and I don't blame her. He is hot. Anyway, this isn't supposed to be a romance, I don't think, so let's stop with the sexy glances. Jessie finally answered my question. "What else? A reporter on a small rural newspaper. Don't you know a lot about that?"

I replied that I did, having spent 19 years as feature writer, columnist and city editor for two of these small weekly papers. I never covered a murder though. The only one that happened while I worked for the paper was the killing of a Highway Patrolman out on the highway when he stopped two guys running from the law. There was no mystery there, and they were tracked down through the Ozarks on horseback and killed in a shack off in the wilderness.

But back to my visit with these two new characters in my life. Both Jessie and Dal informed me that while they'd like to solve a murder or two, doing it together might cause a bit of a problem. "Good," I replied. "Conflict is something we definitely need."

"And sex," Jessie said, casting another of her coy glances toward Dal, who dimpled when he grinned, a definite attraction. "Hey, a little sex mixed in with conflict would definitely be an asset to any story. Sometimes solving murders can get boring."

As an author of western historical romances, I knew all about hot love scenes, but I also knew that in the mystery and suspense genres hot love scenes would take on a different slant than in romances. But I could do that. I liked reading gritty mysteries with dark stories and a sexy man with a questionable past. These two appeared to fit the bill all around. Dal wouldn't say much about his past except that he'd been undercover in Dallas and had been shot on duty. Jessie was even more close-mouthed. She'd come back to her small Arkansas hometown after a big career in California that she didn't want to talk about. I'd get it out of her though, before the story got underway.

So my first mystery was born, but it took a lot of stops and starts to get a finished draft. Some drastic cutting because I had too many characters wandering around starting trouble that had nothing to do with anything. Finally I finished a decent draft that had gone by names such as Dry Bones, Dark Bones, etc. You understand the battle with titles. Then, when a small publisher asked me if I had something for their new line, which happened to be mysteries, I decided to get serious about my "Bones" story. Too many bones titles out there, and I needed something different.

Google helped me out and after reading several sites about Edgar Allan Poe, I decided to twist his titles and create a series for these two characters who continued to pester me with ideas. So the Twist of Poe series was born, and The Purloined Skull (The Purloined Letter by Poe) was contracted by Oak Tree Press and published in late 2013. The next story is written but needs a lot of work.

You see, I have this problem. When I read a mystery I cannot for the life of me figure out the killer or bad guy, so it's difficult for me to lay out the clues and the red herrings. I have to work extra hard after my story is written planting those things that will help the reader figure out the killer. But I'll get there and The Tell Tale Stone will soon be submitted. Hey, this mystery writing is a fun break from writing romances, and I snuck in some pretty sexy love scenes in the appropriate places.

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Velda Brotherton writes of romance in the old west with an authenticity that makes her many historical characters ring true. A knowledge of the rich history of our country comes through in both her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her writing workshops and speaking engagements. She just as easily steps out of the past into contemporary settings to create mysteries and women's fiction which she prefers to set in her home state of Arkansas. Tough heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for, all live in the pages of her novels and books.



Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Bad Reputation


There She is by Jane Tesh

When I was rewriting the first Madeline Maclin mystery, A Case of Imagination, I needed something for Madeline aka Mac to be besides a struggling PI.  In earlier drafts of the story, she’d actually been a man, but my agent at the time suggested I change Mac to a woman because during that time, the mystery field had opened up for women protagonists in a big way.  Original Mac had been a con man, but I didn’t want New Mac to be a con woman.  Instead, I gave that character trait to her boyfriend and soon to be husband, Jerry Fairweather, who’d been Original Mac’s best friend.  Looking around for something interesting, I decided that New Mac, now known as Madeline, would be a former beauty queen.

Pageants are a big deal in the South, and many of my gay men friends were involved with local and state pageants, so I had an inside track to what went on behind the scenes.  I think it’s fine if women are old enough to decide for themselves about being in pageants, but I have my doubts about the Little Miss stuff, especially the so-called glitz pageants, where little girls are dolled up to look much older and creepily sexy.  I decided that Madeline’s mother pushed her into those ghastly child pageants for many years, and now Madeline has an uphill battle to prove she’s more than just sequins and a tiara.  I also decided she could be an artist, trying to work her way past some cutting criticisms.  Being an artist comes in handy in Madeline’s latest case, A Bad Reputation

Having to change a character so much taught me a lot about compromise.  In the end, New Mac is a stronger and more interesting character than Original Mac, and Jerry, who was basically just a straight man for his friend, now has his own problems to solve and a background filled with shady friends who are always popping up at the wrong times to add more drama to the stories.  Madeline is not above using some of Jerry’s special skills, such as picking locks and getting into houses, and both of them can tell when someone’s smile is not sincere, especially Madeline Maclin, Miss Parkland. 

Summary of the Plot: In A Bad Reputation, wealthy Wendall Clarke decides to renovate an old building on Main Street and open an art gallery in Madeline and Jerry’s small town of Celosia, North Carolina, causing the local Art Guild to go into orbit.  Wendall’s past reputation as a show-off isn’t helping his cause, and there’s something iffy about his new wife, Flora. Wendall’s ex-wife, Larissa, resents this newer, younger, blonder wife, and members of the guild are fighting over whose art work goes in the gallery first.  Someone even heaves a brick through the gallery’s front window.   Then Wendall is found dead behind the gallery, and Madeline takes the case.

However, Madeline has a couple of other concerns. Honor Perkins, one of Jerry’s friends from his con days, is playing tricks around town.  Honor says she wants Jerry back in the game, but Madeline can tell what Honor really wants is Jerry back in her life.  
And Madeline’s been feeling odd lately, particularly in the mornings.  She refuses to believe she’s pregnant.  A baby is not in her plans!
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Jane Tesh is a retired media specialist and pianist for the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mt. Airy, NC.  She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Mysteries, featuring an ex-beauty queen turned detective and her con man husband, and the Grace Street Mysteries, featuring PI David Randall and the many Southern characters who live at 302 Grace Street.

My links are website: www.janetesh.com

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Great Game Murders


Plotting The Novel by Willliam Shepard
The Great Game Murders is the fifth in my series of diplomatic mysteries, which began with “Vintage Murder,” which takes place in Bordeaux. “Murder On The Danube” follows protagonist Robbie Cutler to the American Embassy in Budapest, and in “Murder In Dordogne,” Robbie and his bride are on their honeymoon in the scenic Dordogne region of France – where murder interrupts their honeymoon! \


In these three novels, the main characters – protagonist Robbie Cutler (a career diplomat), his wife Sylvie, and particularly his Great Uncle Seth Cutler, a nationally revered man who has access to the highest intelligence levels – become familiar to readers, against a background of American Embassy assignments.

In The Saladin Affair Murders,” however, I decided to shift gears plot wise. One of the interesting assignments that I had in the Department of State was the Executive Secretariat, he staffing office for the Secretary. In that office, I helped plan overseas trips for the Secretary, and twice went along as a staffer for lengthy overseas trips, to Europe (with a focus on NATO) with Secretary Dean Rusk, and then, around the world, an eighteen day trip for Secretary William Rogers). “The Saladin Affair Murders,” the fourth novel, parallels my European trip, while “The Great Game Murders” takes as its inspiration the longer trip with Secretary Rogers.

I decided that this novel would take the Secretary to Southeast Asia, Australia, India, China, and Afghanistan. The opportunities are therefore to introduce the reader to several fascinating regions, and for a unifying device, the current worries over China’s geographic pretensions in the South China Sea form a unifying thread.

So far, so good. But I wanted to continue the threat from Al Qaeda terrorist group that had begun with “The Saladin Affair Murders.” Enter a suave Middle Eastern businessman, with an unexpected ear for opera, who plots to murder the Secretary of State at the world renowned Sydney Opera House.
            
But could he do this without any assistance? Most terrorists require some sort of backup. The nightmare that I introduce here is a link between Al Qaeda and a world power – a possibility that has the Secretary of State making an unscheduled and secret stop in Beijing, China, to run down the possibility of the terrorist group’s arranging a link with Beijing.
            
Two further plot twists sharpen the narrative for today’s reader. It turns out that cyberwarfare is far advanced for the nation’s enemies – but could the intelligence leaks to Al Qaeda be coming from Robbie Cutler’s own computer?
            
Several reviewers have liked best the last several chapters. Robbie has decided to finish his assignment with the Secretary of State, and take a temporary duty assignment in Afghanistan. This takes Robbie out of fiction, and into the real world actually faced by hundreds of Foreign Service Officers. His assignment is to a remote and highly dangerous province – and his capture by the enemy is only foiled by Uncle Seth Cutler by the narrowest of margins. Looking back on the experience after his return home, Robbie remembers the well that he has provided for a remote village near the border with Pakistan. It seems a more satisfying accomplishment than many more glamorous diplomatic episodes in his career.
            
The title, The Great Game Murders, is a reflection of  The Great Game, the rivalry between Great Britain and Czarist Russia in the nineteenth century in Central Asia. Some of the same territory is involved here, with new rival forces at work. And the nightmare posed by this novel remains – what if Al Qaeda could form a linkage with a great power?
            
Meanwhile, Robbie, Sylvie, and their infant daughter Katherine will soon be moving to Cyprus, the lovely island where Middle Eastern cross currents will assure that Robbie has an interesting assignment to the American Embassy in Nicosia!
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William Shepard felt that there was something missing in crime novels. And that was the world of diplomacy, a real world for all its glamour. He invites readers to "Come into that world and solve a crime or two, while you explore with me the Embassy life, its risks and rewards, and yes, its occasional murders! His novels include include Vintage MurderMurder On The Danube, and Murder In Dordogne. Also, Diplomatic Tales, a memoir of life at American Embassies, is also available. For those who want to know more about enjoying fine wines, Shepard's Guide to Mastering French Wines is a reliable and entertaining guide to the regions and wines of France.

Learn more about William S. Shepard at: