Tag: Mystery series

Mystery series

Authors and Books and Readers, Oh My

 Crime conference season is still in full swing. Thrillerfest takes place in New York City in a couple of weeks. (Yes, I’ll be there!) Bouchercon happens in Florida in September. Dozens of other events are scheduled worldwide between now and November. I counted 17 on Sisters in Crime’s upcoming events calendar. Libraries also kick off their summer reading programs this time of year. They host author events in conjunction with their efforts to encourage people to get out and read. This Saturday, June 30, from 1-3pm, I’ll be at the Dixon Public Library in Dixon, IL as part of their Summer Author Series. Author events and conferences have several things in common—authors, books, and readers. Beyond that, they’re as different as, well, authors, books, and readers. Some feature moderated panels. Several authors answer questions they may or may not have received in advance. Some feature interviews. Someone, usually an author, interviews the featured guest author in front of an audience. Authors read from their works at some events and give prepared speeches at others. Sometimes an author hosts a table. Readers may spend the entire event seated with the table’s host or they may move from table to table and meet several. These events usually involve food. Yum. This weekend’s event at the Dixon Public Library is a meet and greet and Q and A. Readers will ask me questions and I’ll try to answer them. What’s your favorite format for author events?

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What a Bunch of Characters

 Meet the nominees for the 2018 Best First Novel Agatha Award.  Ever wonder which character they most enjoy writing? Join the conversation to find out! Who is your favorite character to write and why? Micki Browning:This is a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I certainly like spending time with my protagonist, Mer Cavallo. She’s wicked smart, which means I have to stretch to keep up with her. She’s someone I’d like to have as a friend—and dive buddy. But sometimes I want a little more levity than Mer provides, and that means it’s time for Captain Leroy Penninichols. I love his Southernisms. If he had to describe someone as small, he’d bust out with “Well, she ain’t bigger than a bar of soap after a hard day’s washing.”  His gruff exterior hides a tender heart and he dotes on his wife. He always cheers for the underdog, and took Mer under his wing when she first arrived in the Keys. They constantly banter, and one day Mer asked how his wife put up with him. In typical Leroy fashion, he responded, “There’s a lid to fit every skillet.”  Leroy reminds Mer (and me) that there’s always another way to look at life. V.M. Burns:I love writing about my protagonist’s grandmother, Nana Jo and the sleuthing seniors. Nana Jo and ‘the girls’ are older and less inhibited than Samantha. They take martial arts classes, hang out at the bar, and enjoy spending time at the casino. They are honest, funny, and courageous. Each one has a zest for life which I find refreshing. Samantha is cautious and reserved, but Nana Jo and the girls are helping her see that life can be exciting and unpredictable, which is something I often have to remind myself. Kellye Garrett:I love writing all my characters for different reasons. One because she talks only using acronyms. Another because he never uses apostrophes. My main character, Dayna, because she has the exact same sense of humor as I have. However, my favorite character to write is Dayna’s best friend/roomie Sienna. Sienna is determined to set a Guinness World Record for only wearing red and says whatever she wants, whenever she wants. My fave exchange is from when Dayna and Sienna are trying to tail a suspect:“We should take turns following her so she’s not suspicious. Whatever we do, we don’t want to get burned,” Sienna said.“What the fudge does that mean?” I asked.“No idea, but it can’t be good. STDs. Forest fires. Freshly baked cookies. Burning is never a good thing.” Laura Oles:While my protagonist, Jamie Rush, has been wonderful to write, I have to say that her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, has been the most fun.  His charisma and sense of humor play so well off her deadpan demeanor. His love for Hawaiian shirts is second only to his loyalty to Jamie and their crew. I tend to hear his voice first in my head, and his words come easily.  Cookie seems to be a reader favorite, and if I’m being honest, he’s at the top of my list with Jamie.  Kathleen Valenti:I have a feeling that the answer to “Who is your favorite character to write” is supposed to be my protagonist. After all, Maggie O’Malley is the hero of not only my debut novel, Protocol, but the entire series from Henery Press. But if I’m honest, the answer has to be Constantine, Maggie’s best friend.A goofy cutup with a fondness for Lucky Charms and Star Trek memorabilia, Constantine does more than act as a sidekick or play comic relief to Maggie’s straight-man routine. He’s a complex character who brings his own story and his own personality, with all of its attendant strengths and foibles, to the page. Like Maggie, Constantine is smart, loyal, and funny. However, Constantine’s funniness, his predilection for gallows humor, and his knee-jerk reaction to cover discomfort with wit, is at the very core of his personality. He’s fun to write, and because he’s handsome and sweet, he’s fun to imagine as the perfect BFF or life partner. I’ll always love Maggie, but when it comes to writing dialogue, Constantine has my heart. And my pen.  Surprised? Which of their characters do you most love to read? Let us know in the comments or over on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/missdemeanorsbooks  Bios:  A retired police captain, Micki Browning writes the Mer Cavallo Mystery series set in the Florida Keys. In addition to the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel, Adrift has won both the Daphne du Maurier and the Royal Palm Literary Awards. Beached, her second novel, launched January 2018. Micki’s work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines, and textbooks. She lives in South Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.” Learn more about Micki at MickiBrowning.com.  V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Receiving the Agatha nomination for Best First Novel has been a dream come true. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com.  Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, was recently nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, will be released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the TV drama Cold Case. The New Jersey native now works for a leading media company in New York City and serves on the national Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime. You can learn more about her at KellyeGarrett.com and ChicksontheCase.com.  Laura Oles is a photo industry journalist who spent twenty years covering tech and trends before turning to crime fiction. She served as a columnist for numerous photography magazines and publications. Laura’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Murder on Wheels, which won the Silver Falchion Award in 2016. Her debut mystery, Daughters of Bad Men, is a Claymore Award Finalist and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is also a Writers’ League of Texas Award Finalist. Laura is a member of Austin Mystery Writers, Sisters in Crime and Writers’ League of Texas. Laura lives on the edge of the Texas Hill Country with her husband, daughter and twin sons. Visit her online at lauraoles.com.  Kathleen Valenti is the author of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. The series’ first book, Agatha- and Lefty-nominated Protocol, introduces us to Maggie, a pharmaceutical researcher with a new job, a used phone, and a deadly problem. The series’ second book, 39 Winks, releases May 22. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running. Learn more at www.kathleenvalenti.com.  

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Killing in C Sharp, a Gethsemane Brown mystery

  KILLING IN C SHARP She saved Carraigfaire—but can she save her friends? Gethsemane Brown fought off an attack by a sleazy hotel developer who wanted to turn her Irish cottage into a tourist trap. Now she must face a vengeful ghost determined to exact revenge for her murder centuries ago. This ghost’s wrath spares no one—not Gethsemane’s students, Inspector Niall O’Reilly, fellow teacher Frankie Grennan, or a group of ghost hunters descended on Dunmullach to capture proof ghosts exist. Proof Gethsemane has to quash to keep Eamon, her resident ghost and friend, from becoming an internet sensation. As if a spiteful specter wasn’t bad enough, a crooked music reviewer turns up dead in the opera house orchestra pit, a famous composer is arrested for the crime, and Gethsemane must team up with a notorious true-crime author to clear his name. If she doesn’t, friends will die, a ghost she cares about will never know peace, and she’ll star in a final act gruesome enough for any opera.       TRACEE: Alexia thanks for going us today. LAUNCH DAY for Killing in C Sharp!  ROBIN: First, since we’re celebrating, a toast! To Book 3! TRACEE: Does everyone have an “Alexia favorite”? I follow her on Instagram and know exactly what she likes. (Whiskey anyone?) SUSAN: I will also toast your success, and I’ll ask if you have a signature drink for this celebration. ALEXIA: No, but I should have. Thanks for the suggestion. TRACEE: Before we get too far “into our cups” – do people still know what this means? – any real book questions? ROBIN: I’ve been really curious, maybe because setting has been on my mind so much this week – why Ireland?ALEXIA: I love Ireland and all things Irish. (Hibernophile is a real word.) I needed a setting where my main character would be out of place and I needed a place where a ghost wouldn’t seem unusual. Ireland fit the bill. ALISON: I’m still looking forward to the launch of my first book. Does this feel different from the launch of your first two?ALEXIA: Launch day #3 is less nerve-wracking than the first two. Between my day job and working on book 4, March 6 snuck up on me. I also didn’t buy the amount of swag for book 3 that I bought for the first two books. Just pens this time, and bookmarks. No mugs and posters and stickers and t-shirts, and… TRACEE: Can you give us a peek into your creative process for Gethsemane Brown’s third adventure? (Is it possible you had a very bad experience with a music critic? Care to name names?)ALEXIA: No bad experiences with music critics (not that I’d admit it if there had been, I know better than that.) Since this is a series, I already had my characters. I decided on the murder first, who and why, then I chose a topic that interested me (a legend I’d heard about a princess being walled into a castle to save her kingdom–I always wondered what the princess thought about being sacrificed against her will. Why couldn’t she have her revenge?), then I chose music to tie everything together. TRACEE: As an aside, in India there is a legend about a man being walled up in a fort as part of a ritual sacrifice to safe the people from an invading army. Then I saw the marker and realized it wasn’t a ‘legend.’ The fort did stand, and the people were saved…. Still. Now I have to look into the revenge aspect. MICHELE: I’d love to know how you plans to age Gethsemane over the life of the series. In real time or pokey a la Kinsey Millhone?    ALEXIA: I think I’m going ageless, a la Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. TRACEE: What about the ghosts! Tell us more! Is there research involved?ALEXIA: Does watching Ghost Adventures count as research? I love ghost stories. M.R. James is one of my favorite authors and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is one of my favorite movies. I like the idea of the living continuing to interact with the dead (at least in fiction where I can control the outcome). TRACEE: How are you spending launch week?ALEXIA: Working at the day job. On launch night, I’m attending the first lecture in a series called “Drinking Through the Decades with North Shore Distillery,” on the history of cocktails sponsored by our local community center. Research with samples. CATE: We knew it. There will be a special cocktail after all! TRACEE: Congratulations Alexia, and enjoy launch week. Fans can find links to learn more about Alexia and the Gethsemane Brown series here.    Killing in C Sharp available at:Amazon: amzn.to/2meis9YBarnes: bit.ly/2CJR8qgiTunes: apple.co/2CP33TTKobo: bit.ly/2CU9sRa Alexia Gordon BIO:A writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, released July 11, 2017. Book three, Killing in C Sharp, comes out March 6, 2018. Murder in G Major won the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best New Novel, and was selected one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts. I listen to classical music, drink whiskey, and blog at www.missdemeanors.com, voted one of Writers’ Digest magazine’s 101 best websites for writers, and http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/              

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Chatting with Bruce Robert Coffin about his John Byron series

  TRACEE: Bruce, thanks for joining us on Miss Demeanors today, particularly since I know you are deep into edits for your next book. I promise we’ll get to that later. First, the question that has been on my mind since we first met. As a homicide detective, your professional life was deeply rooted in murder. What made you decide to write about a closely related setting? BRUCE: I’m not sure this was a conscious decision on my part. I hadn’t written fiction for nearly thirty years when the writing bug bit again. One day I sat down and started banging away on my iPad and a crime novel began to spill out. It really was that simple. I guess John Byron was trying to get out into the world. TRACEE: Did you first conceive of your protagonist, or did the series evolve from a particular issue you wanted to confront? BRUCE: John was really my way of projecting many of the qualities, both good and bad, that I observed in the men and women I worked alongside throughout my career. I wanted my protagonist to be representative of what it is like to be a homicide detective while trying to hold together a personal life outside the job. As for the series, I had hoped to insert as much reality as I could into a murder/mystery series while still taking the reader on a thrill ride. TRACEE: Did you have a ‘line in the sand’ in your mind when you began writing the John Byron mysteries? Meaning subject matter either in the lives of the officers, or in terms of the crimes you would portray that you wouldn’t touch? BRUCE: Not really. I think my rule at the beginning was if I was comfortable writing it then the readers would be accepting of the subject matter. But as writers we tend to develop and reach for more. I think the longer a series runs the more risks in subject matter we are willing to take. My goal continues to be to write this series honestly without becoming preachy. I guess my only steadfast rule has been to avoid writing about actual cases. I figure if I wanted to do that I’d be writing true crime. And after nearly three decades on the job, I’ve had enough true crime. TRACEE: You’re known for using your know-how in creating characters, dialogue and the scenarios in your books. It seems to me that ‘civilians’ have a fixed view of some professions. When you write about police situations do you write with an eye and ear toward presenting reality of policing within a story or do you consciously or unconsciously adapt the reality of police work for a broader audience? BRUCE: I think we all tend to stereotype professions based on what we see representing them. My goal is to try and allow the reader a look behind the veil of policing. Police officers and detectives are real people. They work crazy hours and are expected to solve all of societies ills while remaining impartial and incorruptible. I want to show the struggles each character faces on a daily basis, and the feelings that they are forced to suppress, or confront. While I strive to give the reader a realistic portrayal of the stresses, horrors, and occasionally the humor of the job, I try and avoid writing scenes that are overly graphic. I’d rather set a situation up for the reader and let them imagine the rest. My goal is to pen novels that put the reader in the middle of the action, and keep them there. Striking the right balance for the broadest possible audience is always the hardest part. TRACEE: Before I ask about John Byron’s next case, I have to mention that you are also a very talented artist. I have a host of questions about this, but since we’re here today to talk about your books I’ll stick to how do you choose your subject matter? BRUCE: As for subject matter: My subject matter generally evolves from an idea. Having attended hundreds of death scenes I have a vast collection of memories from which to draw detail and feeling. Thinking about those scenes in combination with the “what if” ideas all authors use allows me to go almost anywhere with a story. In Among the Shadows the overarching theme of the story was Byron’s own past combined with a murder that might not be what it seems. I like the idea that both the reader and the protagonist might misdirect themselves by jumping to conclusions. In Beneath the Depths I wanted to explore the homicide investigator’s struggle when dealing with a victim who they despised. That idea that no life is worth less than another is sometimes a difficult thing for people to wrap their heads around. The thing detectives are forced to keep in mind when investigating the murder of a despicable person is that there is the possibility of somebody worse out there. The killer. TRACEE: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what’s next for John Byron? BRUCE: I am currently finishing up revisions on Byron #3, tentatively titled Beyond the Truth. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that this case will test John like no other. His ongoing relationship with Diane Joyner will be tested, as will his faith. TRACEE: Thanks so much Bruce. Fans can link to more about you and the books below!   Bio:Bruce Robert Coffin is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mysteries and former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.

Among the Shadows and Beneath the Depths, the first two novels in the Detective John Byron mystery series, have been well-received by fans and critics alike.

New York Times Bestselling Author Gayle Lynds called Among the Shadows “A first rate novel. Suspenseful and highly entertaining.”

Award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan had this to say about Beneath the Depths “Terrific! Fast-talking, smart, and cinematic, this entertaining page-turner is so knowingly authentic only a genuine cop turned storyteller could have written it.” His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016. Bruce is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular blog contributor to the Maine Crime Writers and Murder Books blogs.

He lives and writes in Maine.  You can learn more about Bruce at: brucerobertcoffin.comTwitter: @coffin_bruceFacebook: @brucerobertcoffinLinkedIn: Bruce Robert Coffin   

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Popcorn and Mysteries

Okay, I admit it. This blog is not about writing or reading. It is, however, about something critical to the creative process: what you eat while you watch your favorite mystery. My taste in mysteries and suspense runs the gamut. I have a special place in my heart for the BBC. I’ve watched all 19 seasons of Midsomer Murders. I love Endeavor, Shetland, Loch Ness, Luther, Inspector Lewis, Foyle’s Wars, Wallander, Agatha Raisin, Inspector Lynley, Father Brown, Jonathan Creek, Zen and anything Agatha Christie old or new. I also happily watch Winter and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries for a taste of Australia. New Zealand has The Brokenwood Mysteries.  Then there’s Elementary, Psych, Longmire and Bosch for something with an American accent. I could go on, but I won’t. While the shows may change, my snack of choice does not. It’s always popcorn. If I’m watching by myself, the topping will be whatever strikes my fancy. If I’m curling up to watch a mystery with my daughter, we tend to top our popcorn with truffle butter and parmesan. If I’m watching with my son, it’s frequently butter mixed with hot sauce from Belize. (My sister-in-law is Belizean and introduced the family to Mary Sharps. Our lives have never been the same.) If I’m making popcorn for the entire family, I usually stick to the classic butter and salt. I find high-fat, cultured butter is best because it has, to my taste buds, the right ratio of fat to milk solids. Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter is one of life’s true pleasures. My salt of choice is Baleine coarse salt ground in a salt grinder, but I’ve had great results with black salt from Maui and pink Himalayan salt, as well. I use an old air popper, carefully drizzling the  melted butter on the popcorn as it drops into the bowl. When all the popcorn is popped, I add eight to ten turns of ground salt and place another bowl on top so that I can shake the popcorn until the butter and salt (or parmesan) are evenly distributed. For me, there’s nothing better. It can be a meal in itself…and has been more times than I should confess. Having said that, I’m always on the prowl for both new mysteries and new snacks. So, what do you watch, and what do you eat while watching it?   

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Stormy Weather

 I’m scheduled to host a book signing today (Thursday) to promote my second novel, Death in D Minor. I’ve booked a venue and a caterer, I’ve ordered pastries from the local bakery, I have swag and gift bags. And I have my fingers crossed I don’t get washed out. Horrid, extreme weather has hit my area with the force of a crashing meteor. Flooding, power outages, early business closures. A sharknado spinning by wouldn’t surprise me. The dark clouds that rolled across yesterday’s morning sky made 9 a.m. look like 9 p.m. Traffic was more terrifying than a Doré engraving. The weather people predict more of the same for today. Please let them be as wrong as they are when they predict sun on my days off. Yesterday’s bad weather did get me thinking about weather in literature. Weather, usually extreme, often sets the scene and creates an atmosphere without which the story wouldn’t be the same. Would The Shining be as terrifying on a warm spring day? Would Cat on a Hot Tin Roof feel as sultry and on-edge in the dead of winter? Can you imagine Usher’s house falling at noon in the summer sun? Moving beyond “a dark and stormy night,” weather often plays a more pivotal plot role than atmospheric backdrop. A drought sets The Grapes of Wrath in motion. A tempest does the same for The Tempest. Dorothy needed a tornado to get her to Oz. Robinson Crusoe needed a storm to shipwreck him. Arctic cold saves the world from the Blob. Weather is sine qua non in Gothic fiction. It mirrors characters’ feelings, foreshadows events, and highlights action. Weather can even be a character. The titular tornado in Twister proves a formidable foe. What are some of your favorite works of mystery fiction where weather serves as a plot device?And, if you’re in the Lake Forest, IL area, hope for decent weather and stop by LifeWorking Coworking, 717 Forest Ave, for a book signing (and food!) between 5:30 and 7:30 pm

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It's only for research purposes

 My second novel, Death in D Minor, officially premieres tomorrow, July 11. I’ve been busy revising the third book in the series, A Killing in C Sharp, so I haven’t had time to freak out about release day for my sophomore effort. I resisted the urge to repeat my debut novel swag buying frenzy. With Murder in G Major, I put my book cover on everything—hats, t-shirts, posters, calendars, tote bags, mugs, pens, stickers—you get the idea. For Death in D Minor, I limited myself to pens, postcards, bottle opener key rings, and combination flashlight/laser pointers. I’ve scheduled a book signing on July 13, my first official book signing not associated with a conference panel. Stop by if you’re anywhere near Lake Forest, IL. I’ve also been doing research for future novels. When you write about ghosts, research consists of streaming episodes of Ghost Adventures on Sling TV, listening to paranormal podcasts on Stitcher, and—my favorite—listening to M. R. James’s ghost stories on Audible. Montague Rhodes James, a respected medievalist scholar, college provost (King’s College, Cambridge and Eton), and museum director, wrote the most disturbing ghost story I’ve ever read—”Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” The. Most. Disturbing. Ever. I had issues with bed sheets for months after I first read it. (No spoilers in this blog. You’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.) James possessed a gift for turning the disarmingly bucolic English country village into the scene of your darkest nightmare. Think Jane Austen tossed with Stephen King, seasoned with a dash of razor-edged satire on the English academic establishment. And a sprinkling of golf jokes. James pokes fun of golfers a lot. His biography attracted me to his ghost stories as much as his writing style. I’m looking at a photo of the man as I write this. He looks like you’d expect an antiquarian scholar/college administrator to look: conservative haircut, receding hair line, wire-rimmed glasses, appropriately stern look. The son of Anglican clergy and a naval officer’s daughter, he had what sounds like a well-adjusted childhood, an excellent education, and a satisfactory career. He never married, spent most of his adult life in an academic setting, and won an Order of Merit. No reports of family dysfunction, childhood traumas, scandals, nervous breakdowns, or any of the other drama so often associated with authors of dark fiction. The mind that translated the Apocrypha and, according to Wikipedia, wrote a Latin hagiography of Aethelbert II of East Anglia also penned dozens of tales featuring cursed objects, demonic creatures, and horrible deaths. The normalcy of the man who wrote such paranormal tales makes the stories seem all the creepier. Still waters run deep.  The best thing about James’s stories? He read them aloud as Christmas presents to friends and students. Christmas presents! No socks or puddings from Professor James. Oh no. How about a demonic painting found in an old book in a church library? Field glasses made from human bones? A killer ash tree?This aspect of his stories—their oral presentation—inspired me to take the advice given in the introduction to a volume of his collected works to experience the stories the way they were meant to be experienced and listen to someone read them. I started with You Tube where I found a surprising collection of audiobooks. Then I discovered Audible. With Audible, I could not only listen to James’s stories, I could listen to them read by Derek Jacobi and David Suchet. And never again look at the English countryside—or a sedate college don—the same. (Images public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

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The Series. Where to start?

 Do you start at the beginning?  As a mystery writer I am also a mystery reader. Many (most?) are series. I’m always looking for a new book, new writer, new series….. but that is where the dilemma starts. Do I read the current one? Or do I go back to the beginning and start there? I remember discovering Michael Connelly (apparently, I had been living on Mars in an isolated space station, that’s the only explanation for joining the party late).  There were simply too many…. I jumped in at the current point and since then have dipped back in time whenever the mood strikes. I’ve liked picking up Harry Bosch and Micky Haller at various points in their lives, skipping forward and backward, knowing what was coming or learning what got them there. When I latched onto Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone I started with A is for Alibi and went from there (maybe it was the alphabet that made me feel obligated to march in lock step). As a writer I like to see how the characters have changed over time, how the writing had changed. Do the characters age a year between the annual publication dates (as do Louise Penny’s) or do they remain in an artificial era? PI Kinsey Millhone stays fixed in the 1970s whereas Martha Grimes’s Inspector Richard Jury works has moved forward in time, trusting that the reader will ignore the fact that he was a child in the Second World War (it works for me, but I was raised on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot who was old during the First World War and kept on solving crimes well after the second war ended. Always old, never precisely older.). What makes series so successful? The ability to return to the comfort of a character who is an old friend? I think that’s what I look forward to the most.

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