The holidays are upon us, and I wish everyone a very happy, safe, healthy holiday season! May this time be filled with love, joy, and good cheer for all.
I hope you all have been busy with your writing, as the 2023 writing competition will be open for submissions as of January 1. Barbara Hodges has done a great job as the Writing Competition Chair person, and I’m sure she will have more information in her newsletter submission. The info is also posted at the PSWA website. You could be an “Award Winning Author!”
I would like to address an issue that has come up a few times in recent months, that being inappropriate content in the PSWA email listserve. The rules for posting, and what not to post, are clear, and were posted to the PSWA listserve Dec. 1. If anyone did not see it, I have copied the list below. Please take a few moments to review it, and make sure you adhere to the guidelines.
Listserve Posting Guidelines:
- This document is sent to the list once each month as both a reminder to veteran list members and information for new members.
- Be nice. We are peers and colleagues; no one is better than another. You are free to disagree with an idea or opinion posted to the list (that’s what makes discussions interesting), but confine your criticisms and differences to the idea, not its author. Personal attacks will not be tolerated.
- It’s okay to promote yourself and your work, but don’t sell things here. If you want to direct people to where your work is sold, consider placing that information in your signature line.
- Ask questions. There is a considerable body of experience and knowledge here. Questions can be about technical aspects of law or police procedure, fire science or medicine, how to get past writer’s block, or whether it’s better to read paper books or electronic versions. If a topic gets too far afield, someone will speak up. It hasn’t happened yet.
- Be nice.
- Recognize there are “hot button” issues that may be interesting to some but distract and polarize people. Politics and religion immediately come to mind. Please avoid these.
- There are three ways to get listserv messages:
- Individual e-mails are sent to you as soon as they are posted to the list. If you reply to these and make no changes to the header, the subject line will remain the same (with “Re:” appended to the start of the subject line for all replies to the first message), and the reply will be posted to the entire list.
- If you wish to reply privately to the sender, either copy their e-mail address and paste it over the “To:” entry in your reply or look at the very bottom of the message and click on “Reply to sender.” If you are receiving messages in Text Mode, you may not see this link.
- Daily Digests are sent to you once per day and will contain all messages posted since the last Digest. If you reply to a message in the digest and don’t change the subject line, your reply will carry the subject line “Re: Digest Number XXX.” This can make it difficult for listserv members to associate your reply with the subject of the discussion. It’s best to copy the subject line of the message you want to respond to into the subject line of your response.
- Web only: only administrative messages (like this one) are sent to you. You have to go to the Google Groups website to read anything else.
- You can change your delivery options anytime you like by going to the Google Groups website (https://groups.google.com/my-groups)
- Individual e-mails are sent to you as soon as they are posted to the list. If you reply to these and make no changes to the header, the subject line will remain the same (with “Re:” appended to the start of the subject line for all replies to the first message), and the reply will be posted to the entire list.
- We are a pro public safety group. Public Safety includes but is not limited to Police, Fire, EMS, Corrections, Military, Hospital, Dispatchers, social services, and other career paths. Please refrain from making derogatory comments about agencies or operational procedures.
- Recognize each state and municipality has different laws and regulations. SOP may be different from what you know, and just because your local agency does it one way does not make that the best and only way to achieve a public safety goal.
- Recognize that individuals are members of the PSWA as writers and do not reflect the professional opinion of their departments (past, current or future). Anything said as a PSWA member should not be taken as official statements but as a personal point of view.
- Be nice.
I have seen several new members joining the PSWA over the last year. Most have been referred by other members, which is great. It’s the best way to get the word out and increase our membership! Many thanks to our members for their efforts. Our membership stands at 150, give or take a few.
Lastly, a reminder of the 2023 PSWA Conference July 13-16. The registration form and info is posted at the website, and we are accepting reservations for the Thursday, July 13 workshop and the conference itself, July 14, 15, 16. I urge you all to sign up and take advantage of the early bird price, terrific panels, the great solo presenters, the networking opportunities, and the camaraderie. Bring your books to be sold at our “bookstore,” and maybe pick up a couple of other member’s works. We have an amazingly talented bunch of people in the PSWA!
I hope to see you all in July at the Orleans Hotel, especially the new members. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
On a personal note, I am pleased to announce the release of my seventh book, An Echo of lies, a story of demonic possession, and the pending soon release of book #8, Southern Justness, #5 in the Vince Torelli thriller series.
As 2022 ends, I hope you all can view this year as productive. Ideally, you all reached your writing, reading, and personal goals. Thinking about 2023, what are your future goals?
Regarding writing, I’d like to think your membership in the PSWA somehow aided you. This brings me to one of my goals for 2023. I would like to see the PSWA grow. However, controlled growth is what keeps our organization thriving. Our membership has always been about quality. Good people who want to help fellow writers and are open to learning more about both craft and aspects of Public Safety.
So, my challenge to you as members is this. Make a connection with someone you know and personally invite them to join the PSWA. Tell them how the PSWA helped your writing. Unpublished or well-established, who do you know that could benefit from membership?
Speaking of benefits. If you are not getting emails from the PSWA email list double, check your SPAM folder. In addition, add the group email (email@example.com) as a contact in your email system to prevent future emails from going to SPAM.
Also, multiple members have commented to me about other writing groups using slack. Many of our email inboxes are flooded. Messages get missed or forgotten about. A focused chat channel can help. So, I have set up a Slack group for the PSWA. Anyone wanting to join this link will be allowed access. No obligation to join if you are not into real-time chat like Slack. However, this is one more benefit of being a member.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and wishing you all the best for the New Year!
Vice President, PSWA
The Christmas holiday season will soon be upon us. What we at PSWA would like to do is call to your attention some things you can do to make the holiday season safer and more enjoyable for you and your family. Unfortunately, the holidays are not only a time to be joyous, but they are also the season to become a victim. The PSWA board would like to share a few thoughts told to us by a retired crime prevention officer and member of PSWA can make the holidays happier and safer for you and your families.
Not all gifts for the holidays can be bought from catalogs. We wish they could, but that just isn’t going to happen, and sooner or later the shopping malls will beckon. When you go to a mall during the Christmas season, see if the mall provides a valet for parking. If they do use it. Don’t walk across a crowded parking lot with arms full of bags and packages in an attempt to save a couple dollars. Let the valet go into the parking lot and bring your car curbside. You can then load the car with your purchases right in front of the door to the mall. The few extra dollars you spend paying for parking and tipping the valet will pay bigger dividends for the holidays and your family than life insurance or medical insurance policies.
If the mall doesn’t have a valet available and you must walk across the parking lot; shop with a companion so you are not alone when walking to your car. If no one is available to shop with you and you must walk alone, keep your cell phone in your coat pocket preset to 911 so it is easily accessible if you need the police. If your car has an alarm system, keep the keys in your hand so you can press the alarm button and immediately sound your car alarm if approached by a suspicious person. Also, walk with the points of your car keys protruding between your fingers. If attacked you can use these to scratch, poke, and yes, even stab the attacker about the face.
Once you’re done shopping and in your automobile, make sure you immediately lock your doors for the ride home. From a well-lit part of the mall, use your cell phone to call home so family members know you are done shopping, on your way home, and when they can expect you to arrive.
If you need cash from an ATM, do not go alone – even if it is a drive-up ATM. Have your passengers keep surveying the area to make sure you are not being approached by someone intent on robbing you. If a person does approach you, leave the area immediately. If you have an automobile alarm system, hit that red button and sound the alarm to scare the intruder away as well as attract the attention of people passing.
When shopping, make sure you get your receipts and your credit cards back after making each purchase. Keep track of purchases and check them against your incoming bills to make sure no one obtained your credit card number and made purchases against your account. Identity theft is on the rise.
We at PSWA want to relieve your holiday shopping stress and make shopping a little more enjoyable during the holiday season.
Here’s hoping you have a safe, healthy and happy Christmas and Chanukah.
Today (at this time this was written) is Thanksgiving. It’s a family tradition for us to go around the table before we eat and say what we are thankful for. As I was walking my basset hounds in the park this morning, I was thinking about what I could say beyond the usual, friends and family. I am thankful for them, but I wanted to go deeper into my thoughts.
What am I really thankful for? The first thing that came to me was the beautiful day I was strolling in, the warm sun, and not five feet of snow. I don’t like snow. Across the park from me, a bunch of people were having a fun time playing basketball. I’m thankful they have the freedom to do so. I wished a couple, sitting on a bench a “happy thanksgiving.” They just looked sourly at me. I’m thankful they have the right to their sourness.
Then I thought about my younger brother who cancer stole from me a year ago. I hate that he isn’t here, but I’m thankful for the time we had together. I have a lot of fond memories of family time, but there are moments only he and I know about. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I miss having him to share those moments with.
I spoke with my Mom the other day about a memory of my dad. He’s been gone now over 25 years and it hit me. With my brother gone, she’s the only one I can share those memories with. My sister is 10 years younger than me, we don’t have the same memories to share. My mom is 92. That brings me back full circle to being thankful for friends and family.
With PSWA, and our conference that I’ve attended many times, I feel that I’ve made many friends. So, I’m also thankful for you.
Before you know it, it will be Christmas, then New Years. I’m looking forward to seeing what words you will be sending my way for the Writing Competition. Next year’s awards ceremony is something I’m looking forward to. I hope to see all of you there.
—Barbara M. Hodges
Writing Competition Chairperson, PSWA
The Holiday Season
It’s the day before Thanksgiving as I write this and I’m sitting here on a rather unseasonably warm day (55 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago) considering all the things I have to be thankful about and one of them certainly is the PSWA. Although our next conference, “Elegant Eighteen,” is set for July 13th through the 16th at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, the board has long been at work on it. In fact, the work started last July as the last conference ended. Hmm, maybe I should reconsider being thankful about that.
Actually, all kidding aside, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was originally a member of the Police Writers Group a number of years ago. The organization faded into oblivion and emerged as the PSWA a few years later. The PWG was only open to writers in the police field, and the PSWA wisely expanded its membership to non-police personnel as well, so long as they had an interest in writing about some aspect of public safety. This allowed the entrance of many talented people and the organization grew into what has got to be the finest writer’s organization of them all. I’ve learned so much from my fellow members who are always ready, willing, and able to offer their expertise and support. And the PSWA Conference is the best of the best.
Elegant Eighteen has already gotten a fabulous line-up of featured speakers. Nick Chiarkas, who grew up in a housing project on New York City’s lower east side, is going to present The Seven Touchstones for Writing a Crime Thriller. Nick’s been an army paratrooper, a New York City Police Officer, the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime, and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. Along the way, he received a Doctorate from Columbia University, a Law Degree from Temple University, and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. He’ll also be more than happy to sign and talk about his outstanding novels. This will be Nick’s first conference and I’m looking forward to meeting him.
Former police officer and FBI agent turned college professor, Pete Klismet will also be on hand giving you a shortened version of the course he used to teach at the FBI Academy at Quantico. Criminal Profiling for Mystery/True Crime Writers gives you the lowdown from the man who practically wrote the book on the subject. While many people, and certainly police officers, claim to know about criminal profiling, very few really understand what the concept is all about, or how determinations are made. Pete has tailored this presentation specifically for writers who are working on mysteries and true crime projects. A successful author himself, Pete has been published both foreign and domestically and this presentation is guaranteed to knock your socks off as well as giving you a factual baseline to add credibility and realism to your writing. He’ll give you a crash course in the “nuts and bolts” of how trained profilers look at circumstances involving a crime, or evidence from a crime scene in a completely different manner and use these observations, behavioral clues to gain insight into the personality of the offender.
PSWA Vice President, RJ Beam has a dynamite session on the Modern CSI Skills and Technology. RJ, who’s been both a police detective and a police academy instructor, knows his way around a crime scene and is an expert at the latest techniques and technology, from gathering fingerprints to using seemingly magical gadgets. This real-life CSI will separate the fact from the fiction about how to handle a crime scene. During this presentation, he will also explain how a lot of what you see on TV, while real, is not in use at the average department as of yet. Hopefully, RJ’s boss will allow him to bring a few of his “toys” to the conference for demonstrations. That is, if the TSA doesn’t freak out.
And rounding things out for our solo presenters is a double treat. Ms. Jo Wilkins, who was unable to do her scheduled presentation at the last conference due to a sudden illness, will be back doing a joint session with her marketing manager, Jenni Curtis, as they talk about Your Book From Inception to Marketing. This tag-team presentation by these two industry professionals from Mystic Publishing begins with the introduction of how your book idea can be spread across a marketing platform and progress to a full-scale performance execution. They’ll explain how such a platform should intertwine with the publishing process from beginning to end. Jo is the Chief Executive Officer and Acquisitions Editor for Mystic Publishing and has been a stalwart supporter of the conference for a number of years, and you may recall that Jenni was at our last one after agreeing to stand in when Jo couldn’t attend. They will discuss how to apply these principles whether you are going to use the traditional publishing route or are contemplating taking the plunge into self-publishing. They’ll review the things that every author should and must consider and how to apply them to your marketing plan up to and beyond the release of your novel.
I’ve got a lot of plans for the pre-conference workshop as well. Join me and fellow instructors Mysti Berry, Kelli Peacock, and hopefully the legendary Marilyn Meredith as we explore writing techniques on a more personal, one-on-one basis. As always, we’ll each be doing an instruction segment, and offering personal, individual critiques of up to 30 new manuscript pages. The workshop requires a small, additional registration fee to cover the expense of the room, but I’ve been told it’s well worth it. It starts at 900 am on Thursday, July 13th, and runs until the conference check-in begins at 300 pm that day.
We’re also expanding the Writing Competition Awards Ceremony to a Saturday night full scale event. The contest has been gathering attention from publishers for the past few years and this time it’s going to be more spectacular than ever. So don’t pass up your chance to become an “award winning author” and have the PSWA Award certificate pictured on the cover of your book. The writing contest is currently accepting entries so see the information listed on the PSWA website for more information on how to enter.
That’s far from all. I’m already getting people lined up for a new bunch of great and informative panels. While I already have a lot of suggested topics, I always welcome more ideas. Send me your suggestions at DocAtlas108@aol.com. Please indicate your preference for being on a panel at the conference on your registration form. I’ll do my best to accommodate you.
And don’t’ forget to bring your books. As always, our bookstore personnel will be on hand to sell them for you. All you have to do is sit back and sign them.
So, there you have it: great featured speakers giving you the lowdown on several important topics, fun panels, great food, and a chance to mingle with a lot of really nice people. It’s been said that the PSWA Conference is the most affordable event of its kind, and I’d also like to add that it’s the friendliest as well. I’m looking forward to seeing you all this July at Elegant Eighteen. Register today while the early bird price is still available.
See you in person in July at the Orleans. Be there.
—Michael A. Black
Program Chair, PSWA
She wasn’t expecting much traffic tonight
Holidays had their ups and downs alright
The worse part were the memories of home
There were some good ones before she’d grown
Sitting around the table expecting a good meal
Smells from the kitchen how they made you feel
Her younger brother and sister quieted with a shout
As her mother put a scrumptious cooked turkey out
The honk of a horn broke the spell as she approached
Using the words and acting as she was coached.
A man leaned over from the driver’s side of the car
I’m looking for sex how much do you charge
She went with the man and did what was expected
Her pimp would be by later money to be collected
She ran away from home after her father was arrested
Fourteen years old when she was sexually molested
Her pimp found her and made her feel wanted
Love turned to money and her nights were haunted
Threats and violence, money for sex became her lot
Her worthiness became how much money she got
Thanksgiving for her was a hamburger and fries
She’d live through the degradation and the lies
She believed that one day a normal life would arrive
And she’d be thankful if she could just survive
—Joseph B. Haggerty Sr.
WHY DO A GIVEAWAY?
Writers often give away one of their books. I’ve done it numerous times. Often in a contest on my blog or on someone else’s blog. I’ve done it on online magazines. Sometimes a trade paperback, but more often a Kindle version.
The giveaway that works the best is giving away a Kindle version of you book on Amazon if it is part of a series. Pick one of the older books in the series.
Why does this work? Because if the readers who take advantage of the offer like the book, they’ll buy others in the series.
If you have a publisher, you’ll have to ask them to set it up on the Amazon Kindle site for you. If your self-published, you can set it up yourself—follow their directions.
The most expensive way to do this is through BookBub.com, but I don’t use them for several reasons, #1 is the cost. For a big-name author with lots of reviews, this works well.
Being a lesser-known author, I’ve figured out what works best for me.
If you are an author, you’re probably already getting email offers from online advertisers who want to help you sell your Kindle books. I’ve used a few of them.
The most effective one (ant the most expensive of the ones I’m going to share with you is The Fussy Librarian. https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/advertising They only promote your book for one day—but the results are more than most of the other advertisers.
My second favorite is https://bookmarketingtools.com/ I like it because once you’ve filled out their form and paid the small fee, they have the places for you to promote one after another.
There are many others and you can do a search online to find them, ask for something like places to advertise free books.
I usually find out what information each place will ask for and set up a page on WORD with all the information wanted. Usually it’s your name, email address, name of the book, the AISN #, the full Amazon address for the Kindle version of the book, how many pages, how many reviews, the genre, a summary of the story different from the one on Amazon, how much the Kindle version usually costs, and how much now, a short author bio, the starting and ending days of the sale.
And of course, you will want to advertise your sale on Facebook, and all your listserves. I also write something new about the book on my blog every day of the sale—and let people know on Facebook and Twitter.
If you have a publisher, it’s not as easy to find out how well your free book is doing or what happens after the sale.
What you can check on during the free days is the ranking for the Kindle book itself, the lower the numbers the better.
If you’re self-published, you can check every day. When it becomes apparent that your freebie has worked is afterward when you can see the sales of the other books in the series.
I’ve done this several times in the past and it has always worked for me.
If you have a series, give it a try.
And a big thank you to the PSWA members who took advantage of my recent free Kindle book offer.
Who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series as Marilyn Meredith
AUGUSTE DUPIN VS. SHERLOCK HOLMES
The auditorium darkens and a hush comes over the noisy crowd. Thick tendrils of cigarette and cigar smoke drift about in the stagnant air, and the spotlight centers on the square ring in the center of the immense room. Both contestants have entered the ring, standing in their respective corners, their chief seconds gently massaging their charges. When the pervasive silence seems omnipresent, the announcer grabs the lowered microphone and holds it close to his lips. “Laaaadies and gentlemen,” he says. “Welcome to the most anticipated bout of the Nineteenth Century, as the two undefeated champions of detection square off for the Ratiocination Championship of the Wooorld. In this corner, weighing in as the first fictional detective, with a record of three and oh, fighting out of Paris, France, is C. Auguste Dupin.” The crowd roars with approval and the thin Frenchman lifts his gloved hands and acknowledges the applause. “And in this corner,” the announcer continues, “a man needing no introduction the world over, the star of television, movies, and books, with a fine record of fifty-four victories and only one defeat (Reichenbach Falls), the one, the only, Sheerrlock Hoooolmes.” Again, the crowd roars with approval. The referee moves to the center of the ring and motions the combatants forward. The two chief seconds, Dupin’s unnamed narrator, and Holmes’ Dr. Watson, move forward behind their respective champions. The unnamed narrator rubs Dupin’s thin neck, while Watson, showing that British reserve, carefully adjusts the warm towel he has draped over Holmes’ muscular neck and shoulders.
“I went over the rules with each of you in the dressing rooms,” the ref says. “I expect a good, clean fight. Protect yourself at all times, and may the best man win.”
Hey, wait a minute. As much as I like the detective characters of both Poe and Conan Doyle, I’d have to say that this one is pretty much a no contest. Although C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s dilettante detective, popped up first in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” in 1841, he subsequently appeared in only two more short stories (“The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842) and “The Purloined Letter” (1844). He dropped out of sight after that. Thus, with only three outings, he was hardly in Holmes’ weight class. Sherlock, as we know, started out investigating A Study in Scarlett, and kept going for three more novels and 56 short stories, not to mention all those movies, television series, radio shows, and pastiches.
Still, the idea of these two legends squaring off is an intriguing one. Back in the day, when I was in grad school, I actually wrote a story in which Homes and Watson travel across the English Channel one stormy night so that Sherlock can engage in a game of chess with C. Auguste Dupin. In my tale, the two ratiocinators sit down at the table and begin, when a cry for help comes from the constable of the small village in which the game is set: A mysterious, locked room murder has occurred. Neither detective shows any desire to forfeit the game, and they leave the investigation of the heinous crime to Dr. Watson and the unnamed narrator of Dupin’s tales. Together, the two intrepid narrators investigate and solve the crime. When they return to the scene of the chess match, they discover that the game has reached an intractable impasse. Luckily, that story is now lost forever.
But who would win in a match-up? Physically, the edge would have to go to Holmes. I mean, he was in his prime about fifty years after Dupin’s three cases, and Holmes was no stranger to the martial arts and pugilistic endeavors. Mentally, it could be closer, since both men were pretty darn smart. The edge in experience would certainly go to Holmes, who did detective work for over two decades, whereas Dupin’s adventures only spanned three years. Of course, Dupin’s ratiocinations were most likely cut short by Poe’s premature demise, and the French dilettante was the original consulting detective. It could be argued that all that Holmes knew, he stole from Dupin. And don’t forget that Conan Doyle actually got so tired of the character that he killed Holmes off in “The Final Problem.” Doyle relented, and brought him back after a decade or so, but it still remains a blemish on Holmes’s impressive record.
How about their monikers? We don’t know how Poe came up with the name, C. Auguste Dupin. In fact, I’m not even sure what the C stood for. Conan Doyle originally wanted to call his creation Sherringford Hope. Thank Doyle’s wife for pointing out what a bad choice that was. The good doctor then took the names of Sherlock from Alfred Sherlock, a famous violinist, and Holmes, from the esteemed U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Poe had a weakness for alcohol, and it led to his premature death. He never received the notoriety he deserved during his lifetime, and Conan Doyle never appreciated his. Doyle once said, “If, in one hundred years I am only known as the man who invented Sherlock Holmes, then I will have considered my life a failure.” He also became heavily involved in spirituality after the deaths of his brother and son in World War I. After hearing a strange, whistling noise during a lecture he was giving at Carnegie Hall, Doyle was immediately convinced that a member of the dead was trying to communicate with him. He called out to “the spirit,” only to have a member of the audience explain that his hearing aid had made the strange noise.
So, the question still remains: who would have won that match-up, if both men had stood face-to-face in their respective primes? My guess is that the two of them were so evenly matched, it would probably have ended in a draw.
—Michael A. Black
- Auguste Dupin in “The Purloined Letter“
Michael A. Black’s latest Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Girl on the Black Velvet Swing,” is in the recently released anthology, Sherlock Homes Consulting Detective, Volume 18, from Airship Productions.
Until about 200 years ago, in order to keep the public safe officials exacted a toll on offenders, which often was an inanimate object.
The year: 1638. John Briant lies crumpled in the dirt, bleeding, with cuts and scratches. His body crushed into a broken bulk. Poor, poor John—nothing left except for his friend to write the obituary.
The place: Mattapany, Maryland. Who killed planter John Briant, and who shall pay? A careful examination of the crime scene shows John Briant pinned under a large, felled tree. A jury of twelve men upon their oath swears the tree killed John, and therefore the tree must pay.
The sacrificing of inanimate murderers of humans, probably steeped in superstition, dates back to the eleventh century. English Common Law referred to the fatal offending object, or to a lethal animal, as a deodand. This meant animals and nonliving assassins of humans, or their worth, must be handed over to the king and God. This ancient statute of deodand continued on in pre-colonial Maryland.
Debates over how much of the object must be confiscated ensued, because a family might rely on the confiscated object for their livelihood. If someone fell from a wagon, would the family need to forfeit the whole wagon, or just the offending wheel? Would they need to give up the horse that pulled the wagon, and what about the items within it? If a horse trampled a ploughman, the family could lose their means for cultivating fields. They could suffer a double hardship if the dead ploughman happens to be the father or son.
Sir William Blackstone, noted for his commentaries on eighteenth-century English Law, questioned how much of the object must be sacrificed. He concluded if a wagon wheel ran over a person, then only the wheel would become the deodand. If a person fell from the wagon, then the entire wagon must be given. Such clarification after six centuries must have eased the minds of many.
Then an ingenious invention challenged the law about inanimate objects and animals that murdered men and women. In 1804 the first steam locomotive hauled iron from Wales, after which the business of railroads expanded. Trains became ubiquitous, along with numbers of people who died from crossing the tracks. The absurdity of relinquishing each deadly train engine to the crown and God maddened railway companies. In 1846, the House of Lords and the House of Commons voted, and with Royal Assent, killed the ancient law of deodand.
–Charlene Bell Dietz
Your first sentence, your first paragraph, should grab your reader… maybe even by the throat, like a good murder!
Writing a mystery book or series is akin to putting together a puzzle with a thousand pieces. Where should you begin? Do you start the puzzle with the corner and edge pieces, providing details on the main characters including the heroes and criminals? Or do you start in the middle, revealing upfront the murder and complexity of the story plot?
Whether you start with corners, or centerpieces, what matters is sticking with your structure and then pacing the plot. You need to keep it moving forward by creating suspense with clues and mysterious happenings.
In the television mystery series, “Columbus,” the murder always took place at the beginning of the story. The seemingly flustered but persistent detective follows various suspects and clues to eventually catch the murderer. In other television mysteries, you follow the path of an ordinary citizen—writer, baker, doctor, librarian or florist—who is captivated by certain events and incidentally gets involved in solving crimes. These amateurs just can’t seem to help themselves, even when following the clue leads them to danger.
From these types of mysteries known as cozies to film noir with gangsters and hard-boiled detectives to terrifying thrillers, mysteries have long appealed to the reader and viewer. As a writer, you can choose your own style, your own way of creating characters and stories of murders and mayhem, and your own way of presenting clues and suspects leading toward solving the crime. Yet, there are certain elements essential to a good mystery, which can take the reader on a fascinating ride through a criminal’s mind and the minds of those who reach into that mind to catch them.
Yes, everyone has a right to remain silent! Even you… right to the end. Of course, you eventually have to get the bad guys to talk or confess or have someone give them up. Along the way, you are also on the chase with your characters through conflict, danger and mystery. However, your intent is to capture your readers!
You want your readers to become involved and interested in your story so they follow the clues you leave, and they attempt to solve the crimes along with you. Don’t make it too easy: there should be a number of possible suspects. Enhance the plot with character conflict and red herrings that might confuse and steer the reader away from the real murderer. The bad guy can also lead the reader astray by placing suspicion and blame on someone else.
A good mystery story includes: an intriguing plot, interesting characters (often with unique characteristics), descriptive places and locations that set a mood, interesting and controversial dialogue, clues (real and false) leading to the bad guys (and gals), and a bit of humor. Be clear about your point of view. Is it from the perspective of the main character as in Sue Grafton novels or a third person as in Raymond Chandler mysteries?
Ultimately, you want to be able to explain your characters’ motivation for their criminal behavior. Common sources are anger, hate, power, money and, of course, revenge. Revealing truths, secrets and lies with stories of betrayal and vengeance with surprise endings leave your reading wanting more—especially in a series!
Although you might think it strange, I suggest you ask yourself what your motivation is for writing or wanting to write mysteries. In my mystery series, “The Senior Sleuths,” the actions of my senior characters, Dick and Dora, often reflect my truths about life and relationships.
I grew up in an unusual, and sometimes outrageous, environment. It wouldn’t take a genius, a psychiatrist or a palm reader to figure out the geneses of my fascination with crime and criminals. In my series, “The Senior Sleuths,” Zero the Bookie is a version of my dad, and several other characters are based on a few of his many associates.
Our history and experiences can define us, inspire our actions, and, as writers, impact our words and stories. Mine most definitely have. My father was a small-time gangster. Really! No doubt, thanks to my father, writing mysteries is in my DNA.
Marcia Rosen (aka M. Glenda Rosen) is an award-winning author of eleven books including The Senior Sleuths and Dying To Be Beautiful Mystery Series and The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (Menus by her son Jory Rosen). She is also the author of The Woman’s Business Therapist and the award-winning My Memoir Workbook as well as a member of numerous writing organizations. For 25 years she was owner of a successful national marketing and public relations agency.
March 2023: “Marcia Rosen’s new book, “an Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock and Me: Murder at The Zoo” is hard to put down! The characters are engaging, and you enjoy getting to know them as you read this mystery. I enjoyed discovering the world and people in Murder at the Zoo and can’t wait to read more from this author!”
National Steinbeck Center
David Dean has had two collections of short stories published by Genius Books recently. The first was Tomorrow’s Dead And Other Stories of Crime and Suspense which came out in July. The second was just released and is titled The Wisdom of Serpents And Other Stories of Tragic Misunderstandings. Most of the stories were originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine or in themed anthologies of crime stories. Both are available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback form. A third collection will be coming out in the New Year–probably February–that is titled The Wedding Funeral And Other Tales of Terror and the Supernatural.
LYNN HESSE ANNOUNCES:
A Matter of Respect the sequel for Well of Rage will be launched in December:
2380 Main St. in Tucker, GA 30083
Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022
The Monroe Walton County Arts Center
205 S. Broad St.
Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022
The front cover combines a stock photo of an officer playing taps and a photo of a cross craved into a stone chimney. Photo by my husband, Dean Hesse. He took the shot of Africatown on the north side of Mobile, Al. where the crime novel is set.
The demolition of Africatown is imminent…
It’s 2003 in the Warner County Police Department in Mobile, Alabama, and Officer Carly Redmund’s life looks bright. She applies to take the sergeant test and her new boyfriend treats her like a queen, but tragedy strikes. Her buddy, Officer Gerald Brown, is killed by an armed robbery suspect that Carly arrests off duty. The rumors fly she didn’t pat down the perpetrator, and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents want to know how the suspect could’ve had a knife in his possession. Somebody needs to shoulder the blame because the video of the murder at the jail’s sally port and pertinent parts of the call printout are missing.
Now, her personal life isn’t an easy situation either. Her sister, Lizzie, leaves her abusive husband and moves into Carly’s loft bringing along financial difficulties and the angst involved in a child custody battle. Awful family secrets come to light.
Carly follows the money trail in Brown’s case and finds corruption and deceit that put Africatown’s continued existence in peril, her love life in turmoil, and her belief in the justice system into question.
Available on Amazon and a Christian website, scribblersweb.com for a 10% discount.
Oh, No Moment: My book “A Matter of Respect” the sequel to “Well of Rag” has gone into production and should be out by the end of November. After hundreds of edits, on the last look at the paperback proof, I found a misstep/ miswrote. I’d named a ‘bad guy’ Theo with a Greek accent. Theo is a common Greek name; however, I realized one of my fellow writers, Theo, that I respect lives in Mobile, Al. where “A Matter of Respect” is set. Quickly, I changed it to Nico. We all need a professional editor but only the writer can catch some errors.
An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock, and Me Mystery
After a body is tossed into the lions’ habitat at the zoo where she is the senior veterinarian, Miranda and Detective Bryan Anderson find themselves investigating several murders and dealing with a group of bad guys, while gangster friends of her father are trying to protect her. Plus, Miranda and Bryan alternate between flirting and fighting off romantic feelings. Murder seems to keep getting in their way!
A clever, intriguing, and gripping new cozy mystery filled with exciting twists and turns, bizarre murders and fascinating characters, including several dead authors who seem to speak to Veterinarian, Miranda Scott. A fan since childhood of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Sherlock Holmes their voices seem to live in her head frequently telling her what to do…and not do. Especially when it comes to solving mysteries. Murders, deceit, revenge, a gangster father and godfather also often get in the way of a fine romance! Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock, and Me: Murder At The Zoo, published March 14, 2023, by Artemisia Publishing, (www.apbooks.net)
Marcia Rosen (aka M. Glenda Rosen) is an award-winning author of eleven books including The Senior Sleuths and Dying To Be Beautiful Mystery Series and The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (Menus by her son Jory Rosen). She is also author of The Woman’s Business Therapist and the award-winning My Memoir Workbook. For 25 years she was owner of a successful national marketing and public relations agency.
Marcia has frequently been a speaker and/or program moderator at organization meetings and conferences, bookstores, libraries, and Zoom presentations. Topics she has taught and presented over the past twenty years include: Encouraging the Writer Within You, Marketing for Authors, Writing Mysteries…Not A Mystery, Writing Your Memoir and recently “Anatomy of Writing A Murder.” Many articles on these topics have been published on mystery reader blogs and in newsletters and magazines including “Mystery Scene Magazine” and “Mystery Reader International Journal.”
She is a member of Sisters in Crime National and New Mexico (Croak & Dagger), Southwest Writers, Women Writing the West, Public Safety Writer’s Association, and National Association of Independent Writers and Editors—for which she is also a board member.
“Marcia Rosen’s new book is hard to put down! The characters are engaging, and you enjoy getting to know them as you read this mystery. I enjoyed discovering the world and people in Murder at the Zoo and can’t wait to read more from this author!”
National Steinbeck Center
“A delightful and charming new series filled with twists and turns, unexpected events, and wonderful characters including several dead authors!”
Author of 21 books.
Books by Author Marcia (Glenda) Rosen:
Dying To Be Beautiful Mysteries:
Without A Head
The Senior Sleuths Mysteries
Dead in Bed
Dead in Seat 4-A
Dead in THAT Beach House
The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (With son Jory Rosen)
My Memoir Workbook
The Woman’s Business Therapist: Eliminate the MindBlocks and RoadBlocks to Success
Awards and Endorsements for Previous Titles
Winner: The Gourmet Gangster (with Jory Rosen) New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards Finalist: Dead in THAT Beach House New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards Winner in Fiction: Dead in Bed, The Hollywood Book Festival Recognition in Fiction: Dead in Bed
Public Safety Writer’s Association Winner: My Memoir Workbook, New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards Numerous awards and accolades from entrepreneurs and business and professional women’s organizations for book and presentations: The Woman’s Business Therapist, including Winner: 2000, “Women of The Year” East End Women’s Network (Hamptons and Long Island)
“I found myself laughing and biting my nails at the same time. Sure, her characters Dick and Dora Zimmerman are no spring chickens, but they’re every bit as feisty and resourceful as her younger detectives in her Dying to be Beautiful series. What a ride!” Claudia Riess, author of eight books, including The Art History Mysteries
“Exquisitely prepared food and organized crime ventures have long gone hand in hand, and Marcia Rosen knows a lot about both of them. Her latest, The Gourmet Gangster, (Recipes by her son Jory Rosen) is another delectable entry to her fabulous menu of excellently written books. Be sure to savor this one like a fine dessert.” Marilyn Meredith, author of The Deputy Temple Crabtree Mysteries
“Unique, clever, wonderfully written and tempting recipes…A must read for all mystery book fans!” Inquiring Minds Books
“What a fun read! It’s a wonderful plot, starting with a severed head in the sink of a beauty salon in Dying to Be Beautiful! The characters, including a beautiful setter dog named Watson, brings humor to the whole. I loved it” Book Soup Books, Los Angeles
RJ Beam announces February release date for Cops & Hitmen
Every town has one. A mostly harmless eccentric person who makes thinly veiled claims about being tracked by the government. For Officer Stu Thompson that person is Bob. A man who has never been in trouble so the police don’t know his real name, just a nickname Bob.
That is till the day Bob gets hit by a car. As Officer Thompson tries to identify Bob he finds murder warrants. Professional hits with connections to organized crime.
When the mafia finds out about Bob’s accident, they need him silenced. Small Wisconsin towns are not the typical playground for mafia hitmen. Which puts Officer Thompson out of his depth as he races to unravel the truth about Bob.
Cops and Hitmen releases on February 20, 2023. It is now available for pre-order