Friday, July 3, 2020

FIRST FRIDAY! Iyer, Lewis, Sartor!

It’s First Friday, stories in about 150 words on one picture by three very different authors. This month it’s Polly Iyer, Howard Lewis, and L.A. Sartor.

Please join in and add your take on the photos (150 words) in the comments. 


A construction crew unearthed the forgotten kudzu-covered shack while clearing

land for a new development. Roots and rot destroyed everything inside except for six photos of little girls, lovingly framed and tacked to the plank wall.

Detective Janet Forman recognized only one of the faces. Eight-year-old Violet Hamm had gone missing over sixty years ago. Other girls had disappeared then, too, but Violet was a local girl, and her fate had become the warning of every mother in town: “Be careful, or you’ll get snatched like Violet Hamm, never to be seen again.” Janet had heard it from her mother.

“Is there a basement?” she asked one of the officers.

“Yeah, but it’s full of mud and critters, and the stairs are rickety.”

“Show me.”

Halfway down the flight, she detected the tiny mounds on the basement floor.

“Get a crew in here. Dig it up, and be careful.”


Pacing, his body remembered her shiny, blond hair, crystal blue eyes, and smooth, silky skin that glowed like only a thirteen-year old girl’s could. He couldn’t wait to touch her, to feel her, to taste her. His hands stroked down his chest to his belly.

He smiled thinking about his first, Abigail.  Her screams. That first month, she screamed a lot. He should have probably let her go after two. A mistake he wouldn’t make with Grace.

The bathroom door opened revealing her in silhouette. She looked shorter and wider. Stepping into the light made it worse. Her blonde hair had turned curly and dirty. Her nose was wide and broken the way porcelain breaks. She looked like a forgotten picture from the last century.

This couldn’t be the same girl. This girl made him want to scream. “Grace?”

“I think you met my great, great, great granddaughter, Abigail.”

That first month, he screamed a lot.


“Leave it alone,” Mom quietly reminded me every time we visited the cabin.

Now the run-down cabin was mine, and it was time to rid the place of that ugly picture.

I gripped the edges of the antique frame and pulled. Nothing, except a muscle quiver in my arms.

Grabbing my crowbar, I pried upward beneath the frame. An instant later a shimmery wave flowed through the cabin. The walls buckled, then held. Well, Quantico was nearby, perhaps they were testing something new.

Not to be defeated, I grabbed my cordless saw and cut the rough wood wall around the frame, cheering as it fell to the ground and the glass shattered. Obscuring those haunting eyes and broken nose.

The wave hit again, knocking me to the ground. Moments later, a child stood in front of me, her blue eyes glowing, her nose broken.

She smiled. “Your turn.” 

I watched through shattered glass as she walked out the door.


 Polly Iyer

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of nine books of suspense and mystery, one novella, and four sexy romances she writes under the pseudonym Maryn Sinclair. She started out as a fashion illustrator and storyboard artist, importer, and store owner before embarking on her fourth, and last career as an author. Her novels include four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash, and The Scent of Murder; five standalone novels, Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and one novella, The Last Heist, from the anthology Lowcountry Crime. One reviewer described her stories as "...making heroes out of damaged people."

The Scent of Murder 

Two independent cases involving missing women vie for the attention of psychic Diana Racine and her life partner in crime, NOPD Lieutenant Ernie Lucier.

At Amazon

In the first case, Diana and Lucier search for the missing mother of a street boy they've taken under their wing. In the process of finding her, they expose the secret underbelly of crime and corruption among some of the city's most upstanding citizens, while putting Diana's and the boy's life in jeopardy at the same time.

An eccentric socialite pressures Diana to rid her mansion of her twin sister's ghost in the second case. With no clues to go on, Diana and Lucier must first prove the missing sister is dead.

Howard Lewis 

It's your reality. Own it or change it.

The longer I live the more important I find laughter, although you couldn’t tell it from this story.

I’ve written three books—a cozy, a romance, and a young adult. I prefer to think of myself as versatile instead of wishy-washy. Right now, these books only live on my hard drive. If you want to read one, let me know, but please, please don’t take my hard drive.

I ended up in the foothills with two horses, a mule, three dogs and some pretty fish.

In my spare time, I teach tai chi, write, ride and work wood.

It’s a good life!

For more pictures of my guys, blogs, and a few videos, check me out at 

L.A. Sartor

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar…

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at 

Stone of Heaven 

At Amazon
A treasure hunter disappears in the Yucatan jungle. Her twin sister, a reclusive jeweler with none of the skills necessary to do so must rescue her. Then comes along her sister’s untrustworthy, but experienced ex-partner!

Friday, June 5, 2020

FIRST FRIDAY! Blackburn, Lovely, and Vidler

The Delivery Guy © Alberto Jorrin Rodriguez |
It's First Friday again! One picture, three short pieces by three very different authors. Check them out. 


Send in the Clown
   Tips, baby. It’s all about tips. And so I wear this mask … sometimes. Because it’s also about who answers that door. If a woman answers, she screams, yanks the pizza from me, and slams the door. If a guy answers, he shakes my hand, and tips me well. And if little kids are in the house? Oh, baby! Then, whoever answers the door tips me well, because children love my mask.
   So it’s also all about guessing who will be on the other side of that door. Houses with kids are easy to spy—toys and other junk strewn outside are sure giveaways. Now, if I could only master the kid-less households ...
   But this delivery was pretty obvious. A two-pizza order in a warehouse? Didn’t think I’d be disrupting a ladies’ bookclub meeting, right?
   I was right! Four guys sitting around a rickety card table playing poker. Cha-ching!!


   Joe’s brain cells were sparser than the pepperoni stingily dotted on the pizzas he delivered. It was Joe’s first night working for Harry’s Pizza, and customers were emailing to gripe about the foul smell of the pies he delivered. He didn’t realize his dearth of brain cells was balanced by tear-inducing body odor, and his technique of wedging pizza boxes against his ribs exposed them to his potent armpits.
   Why were customers upset? He reasoned it had to be the medical mask he was ordered to wear. It scared them. “People who stick needles in you wear those masks,” Joe thought. “I have a friendlier one from last Halloween.”
    Pleased with his solution, Joe rang the bell for his first clown-masked delivery. A woman opened the door, screamed, and fainted.
   “Was it bad breath?”
   Joe exhaled into his hand through the large hole in his mask and sniffed. “I’ll chew gum before I make the next delivery.”


   This had to be the dumbest idea ever.
   But Boyd, his best friend since kindergarten, insisted his wife was having an affair.         “Dianne thinks I’m out of town.” He handed Jason the pizzas, a red shirt, and a mask. “She’ll open the door. Blame the mask on COVID-19, and whoever’s with her will want to see it. And I’ll know who he is.”
   This wouldn’t turn out well, but Jason couldn’t reasonably refuse. Reluctantly he dressed and checked the mirror. His moustache showed through the mouth. He sweated beneath the hot mask; Dianne would surely recognize him. And Boyd would be watching from the car.
 * * *
   Dianne answered the doorbell. “I didn’t order piz— Jason?” Laughing, she grabbed him and hugged. “Come in, quickly.”
   “You?” Boyd bellowed from the car. “My best friend?”
   Jason took a deep breath and turned. All he could see was the gun in Boyd’s hand.

About the Authors

Cindy Blackburn

Cindy Blackburn writes cozy mysteries because she thinks grim reality is way overrated. When she's not thinking up unlikely plot twists and ironing out the quirks and kinks of her lovable characters, Cindy is feeding her fat cat Betty or taking long walks with her cute hubby John. A native Vermonter who hates snow, Cindy divides her time between the south and the north. Most of the year you'll find her in South Carolina. But come summer she'll be on the porch of her lakeside shack in Vermont. Yep, it's a place very similar to Lake Elizabeth. Cindy's favorite TV show is Young Sheldon, her favorite movie is Moonstruck, and her favorite color is purple. Cindy dislikes vacuuming, traffic, and lima beans.


Welcome to Lake Elizabeth, Vermont, where Santa Claus is due to arrive any day now, and Cassie Baxter is going nuts. Who wouldn't go nuts? This is her first Christmas with her adopted son Truman, and she's determined to make it memorable. But that human skull the kid found when he was searching for Christmas decorations in the attic wasn't exactly part of the plan. And Joe Wylie, Cassie's supposed boyfriend, isn't making life any easier during this frantic week before the holiday either. Then there's Cassie's father, and her best friend Bambi, and her other best friend Sarah, and all those crazy, quirky, kooky neighbors that make Lake Elizabeth--Lake Elizabeth! Santa's sure to have a jolly good time when he finally does come to town! Ho Ho Ho

Linda Lovely

Linda Lovely, the author of eight mystery/romantic thriller titles, finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She hopes readers have half as much fun reading her novels as she has researching and writing them. Amazing how much better she sleeps after finding a really cool way to do away with fictional villains who share personalities with real-life hypocrites and bullies. Her goal is to deliver thrill-packed reads, while ensuring justice is served, laughter is plentiful, and love triumphs. Though not perfect, her heroines and heroes are smart and determined. A long-time member of Sisters in Crime, Lovely also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. When not writing or reading, Lovely takes long walks with her husband, swims, gardens, and plays tennis.



The plot for BAD PICK, Lovely’s latest mystery, is as current as today's headlines. But you'll also find plenty of laughs and a delightful side of romance. Vegan Brie Hooker lives with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. In BAD PICK, Brie’s fun farm outreach backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship.  Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault. Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets. 

Ellis Vidler

Ellis Vidler lives and writes in the South Carolina Piedmont. She's also an editor and has taught fiction writing. Ellis’s books can be found at Amazon.
All Ellis’s stories have some degree of romance, a little bad language, and a lot of suspense.  The McGuire women psychics and the Maleantes novels are available in audio, print, or eBook and her short stories are available in eBook.


Suspense with a love story. When a New York ad exec’s husband is murdered before her eyes, only her wits can save her from the long reach of a ruthless crime lord.
Madeleine Schier heeds her husband's panicked call to come home, only to witness his brutal murder by a crime boss and become a target herself.

Friday, May 1, 2020

First Friday! 3 visions, one photo--by Hallinan, Lane, Monajem

Reposting these great little stories from years ago. I loved these First Friday gems.

Hooray! It's First Friday again, and three great authors have described, in 150 words or less, what they saw in this picture. Each one had an entirely different idea. This is how creativity works. Wonderful examples.

For thirty years, Andres played his guitar in the corner of the little Barcelona bar as the clientele changed from working-class people to thugs and gangsters from the wharves, to slumming aristocrats, and finally to gay men and women. But Andres played on: seguedillas, flamenco, classical.  On the night Andres didn't show up for work, the bartender went to his one-room apartment and found it empty, except for his guitar.  No effects of any kind.  The bartender brought the guitar back and leaned it against Andres' chair.  In the 1990s the bar was closed and shuttered for the last time.  A year ago, the building was scheduled for demolition, and the workmen found a room rotten with damp, the walls cracked and peeling, everything shrouded in plaster dust.  But the guitar leaning against the chair in the back corner: it looked like someone had dusted it every night for years.
“Thank you . . . thank you.” He nodded to the enthusiastic crowd that overflowed the smoky basement club. Breathing in the sweet smell of weed, he flashed his best boyish grin at the table nearest the stage. Three sexy chicks, all giving him the eye.  He’d go home with at least one of them – shit, maybe all three.  If a good looking guitar player couldn’t get laid…
He shifted his butt on the stingy-seated folding chair and struck a tentative chord…
His wife’s voice shrilled down the stairs. “Damn it, Mort, can’t you shut the basement door?  You couldn’t play guitar fifty years ago; you can’t play it now, you old fool.”
         The door slammed; the nightclub disappeared. Alone in the dank, mildewed basement, Morton sighed and watched another leaf of paint peel loose and drift, like a discarded dream, to join the others littering the floor.
Rafaela DaVinci bared her fangs. “You put my guitar in the dungeon?” 
“Strictly speaking, it’s a cellar,” I said mildly. Damp, with peeling paint and fractured linoleum, sure—but it was also the closest time portal. “I propped it against a chair.”
She snarled, all flying hair and furious eyes.  “That guitar cost ten thousand bucks!”
“So it’s the perfect bait,” I said. “Titus can smell an antique from eons away, and if he opens the portal to take it…”
“I can get back to the future.” Where she wouldn’t have to hide her fangs.  “Where I’ll have to buy back my own damned guitar!”
“That’s where my brilliance comes in,” I said. “I’ve rigged the pickup inside the guitar. Any noise in there and we’ll hear it. You’ll have ten seconds  to cross the portal, snatch the guitar—
The portal opened, squawking a warning through the pickup. Rafaela ran.


Timothy Hallinan

Street Music
Edgar, Shamus, Macavity and Lefty nominee Timothy Hallinan has written twenty-one published novels, all thrillers and mysteries, all critically praised. He currently writes two series, one set in Los Angeles and the other in Bangkok, and in 2017 he also revived his earlier series, written in the 1990s about the overeducated slacker private eye Simeon Grist.

Eight years ago, Poke Rafferty, an American travel writer, and his Thai wife, Rose, adopted a Bangkok street child named Miaow, forming an unconventional intercultural family. That family has weathered extreme challenges—each of its three members carried the scars of a painful and dangerous history—but has stuck together with tenacity and love (and a little help from some friends). His blog is in his website.

Vicki Lane

And the Crows Took Their Eyes
Vicki Lane is the author of the critically acclaimed Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries from Bantam Dell -- Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony- nominated In a Dark Season, and the recent Under the Skin, as well as The Day of Small Things, a standalone.  Vicki draws her inspiration from the past and present of rural North Carolina where she and her family have tended a mountainside farm since 1975. Learn more about Vicki and her books at .  There is also a daily blog with lots of pictures
... . . .

During the Civil War, in bitterly divided western North Carolina, Confederate troops execute thirteen men and boys from a rural community opposed to secession. A microcosm of the deep horrors of civil war, the Shelton Laurel Massacre as it came to be known, pitted neighbor against neighbor, touching every family with violence at their own front door. Told by those who lived it; Confederate and Unionist alike--Keith, who ordered the execution, Polly, whose children's death precipitated the massacre, Judy and Marthy, who bore torture to protect their men, and Sim, conscripted by the Confederates and haunted by his part in the Massacre—the novel offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of five people tangled in history's web, caught up together in love and hate. And all five will bear the mark of the massacre long after the event, struggling to come to terms with the bleak consequences of civil war.Based on an actual event and historical characters, And the Crows Took Their Eyes is a richly imagined portrait of a dark and bitter time—illuminated by gleams of humanity at its best.

Barbara Monajem

Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and now historical romance. Today’s little e
ffort is her first stab at science fiction.
 Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen
Lady Rosamund Phipps, daughter of an earl, has a secret. Well, more than one. Such as the fact that she’s so uninterested in sex that she married a man who promised to leave her alone and stick to his mistress. And a secret only her family knows—the mortifying compulsion to check things over and over. Society condemns people like her to asylums. But when she discovers the dead body of a footman on the stairs, everything she’s tried to hide for years may be spilled out in broad daylight. First the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus, implicates Lady Rosamund in a series of scandalous prints. Worse, though, are the poison pen letters that indicate someone knows the shameful secret of her compulsions. She cannot do detective work on her own without seeming odder than she already is, but she has no choice if she is to unmask both Corvus and the poison pen. Will Corvus prove to be an ally or an enemy? With the anonymous poison pen still out there, her sanity—and her life—are at stake.

Stop and say hi to these super authors. Tell us what you think or join in. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Those Pesky Apostrophes

Plurals are formed by adding s or es to the root word. That’s it. Nothing else. This is a simple rule but apparently it’s a difficult one for some people to learn. When I see an apostrophe s instead of plural in a book, I think it’s a typo, but when I see several, I figure the author or editor doesn’t know how to form a plural. When I see misused apostrophes, I usually see many other grammatical errors too, which confirms my impression.
Here are a few examples:
One dog is a dog. Three dogs are dogs.
A single person named Jones is Jones. Two or more people named Jones are Joneses.
One potato, two potatoes 
Photostock image
One tomato, four tomatoes

Photo by Taoty

The Mertz family moved into the neighborhood. There are four Mertzes in the family and one mother-in-law, Mrs. Sartoris. The other Sartorises live in Timbuktu.
Wrong: The Jennings’ live across the street. The cricket’s are loud tonight.

Shall I go on to possessive, the way to show ownership? Might as well. This is where the apostrophe comes in. To show possession for a singular noun, add ’s.
The dog’s bone is buried there. Four dogs bones are buried in the garden.
The horse’s hooves kicked up dust in the ring.
The Mertzes house is at the end of the street. That’s Mary Mertz’s bicycle in the front yard.
This is true in most cases, but there are a few exceptions. The Chicago Manual of Style, which I use, says the possessive of singular nouns is shown by the addition of ’s except in a few cases, such as species and series, in which it’s generally better to use of as in Darwin’s The Origin of Species or of the as in the last game of the World Series.                                                                       
Right: Ms. Sprouse’s office
BK Photo
Wrong (or possibly AP style): Ms. Sprouse’ office
Someone may chime in with the AP Style (journalistic) on possessives. I think (but I’m not certain) it recommends adding only the apostrophe for the possessive of a noun ending in s. That style evolved in the interest of saving space in narrow newspaper columns.
That’s my rant for today. Does poor grammar turn you off? What makes you roll you

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

One Picture, Three Views, Three Authors

Photo by Sunny Forest
From a few years ago. I asked Parris Afton Bonds, Yves Fey, and Rebecca George, three wonderful authors with backgrounds in romance, to give this a shot. The rules, as always, are to tell what they see in this photograph in 150 words or less. 

Her steps lagged as her eyes took in the old place. It had always been a retreat, a respite from the dutiful demands of family, work, and, yes, even her public persona. She had bought the little house with her first royalty check, as meager as the house. Over the years, as her checks had increased, she could easily have afforded to restore the place to a quaint luster. Yet she had kept its genteel shabbiness, something to hide behind, something real, something authentic, when she no longer knew who she was, when she needed to escape the demands of everyone, waiting for her to solve their problems. Now the children were in college, her husband claimed by someone else, her work schedule less demanding but more rewarding. And the little house was no longer shabby but serendipitous, for inside awaited, at long last love. Her steps quickened.
Standing in the rough grass, Cassie looked at childhood home, the sting of salt air sharp on her skin, salt scents teasing her nostrils.  Teasing her memory.  She’d been isolated here.  Lonely.  Protected - the doors and windows roughly carved with runes, curtains woven with spells, dreamcatchers snaring nightmares.
Silence embraced her.  Not silence without.  Even on the most sunbaked summer day, the air weighted with heat, the sound of waves crashing on the rocks floated over the cliff’s edge.  Sometimes, like now, a gull screamed.
But blessed silence reigned within.  The rising cacophony of voices – voices of minds screaming, souls screaming – they did not carry here.  They did not invade her.
Cassie walked forward, then gasped as a cold spike of fear pierced her spine, pinioning her where she stood. 
Someone waited inside.  Hid inside.  Anticipating.  What?
Had she not chosen to come here? 
Had she been summoned?
She walked toward the cottage.
Fifteen years, she thought, and it looks the same.
Her heart began to beat faster as it would have fifteen years earlier.
Would he still look the same, she asked herself, and now questioned her decision to come back to Ireland. When she left, it was never to return. Yet here she was.
She had changed her name and, with a new identity, achieved a certain peace in Dallas. For fifteen years she believed she had buried the past. Then his letter came, and it was as if those years meant nothing.
Please,” he wrote, “come home. Until now, I did not know why you left. If only I had  known the truth then, I would have done everything in my power to stop you.”
Would you, she wondered as she opened the door.
He stood tall before her.
“Hello, Harry,” she said.
“Hello, Kathleen.”

Parris Afton Bonds
Parris Afton Bonds is the mother of five sons and the author of thirty-five published novels. She is the co-founder of and first vice president of Romance Writers of America.
Declared by ABC’s Nightline as one of the three-best-selling authors of romantic fiction, the award winning Parris Afton Bonds has been interviewed by such luminaries as Charlie Rose and featured in major newspapers and magazines as well as published in more than a dozen languages. She donates her time to teaching creative writing to both grade school children and female inmates.
At Amazon
Yves Fey’s debut mystery, FLOATS THE DARK SHADOW is set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. Aspiring artist Theodora Faraday and Detective Michel Devaux clash in their search for an elusive killer who has already claimed too many children.  Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris.  Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France. Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.
At Amazon
Rebecca George is the award-winning author of five novels. Her newest, SO WHISPERS THE HEARTwas released recently on Kindle. Of her four previously published  books, DAPHNE  was a Romantic Times award winner, Best Historical – Love and Laughter, and was considered by Aaron Spelling Productions for a TV movie. CALL HOME THE HEART was a runner-up for Best Historical.
A native of Georgia, Rebecca was raised in the Tidewater region of Virginia. She went to the University of Georgia and majored in history. She lives with her four rescued dogs in a historical district in Upstate South Carolina.

Join in and tell what the picture says to you. Post 150 words or less in a comment.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Inside the Mind of a Killer: Researching your Antagonist

I came across this article by author DV Berkom, written a few years ago but well worth re-posting. Here it is.
Author DV Berkom
So there I was, minding my own business writing one of those truly twisted novels that grabs hold of you and has to come out when I came to the killer's debut. I'd never attempted to write a character quite so creepy and wasn't relishing that first passage. In fact, I continually wrote around him, putting off the scene until I felt I could do justice to him instead of creating a killer cliché. Yes, I could have abandoned the effort and gone on to something else, but a disturbing dream I'd had several months prior provided the inspiration for the story and I felt compelled to follow it through.
How do you write a fresh psychopath? Readers today have been clubbed over the head with serial killers (pardon the pun) to the point that it's become a joke in many literary agencies and publishing houses. The only way I could think to do it was to go to my default: research. I love learning new things. Researching has a way of surprising you with oddball connections, often to be used in ways you'd never expect. A reference here, a notation there, it's similar to a treasure hunt. Like I said, I love research. 
Until I started to investigate killers.
The information I came across in my search made my skin crawl.
Now, I haven't lived what anyone would call a sheltered life, but I'd so far avoided learning specific details about the habits of serial killers. The information I came across in my search made my skin crawl.
Reality is so much more frightening than fiction.
The information creeped me out to the point I'd find myself vacuuming the living room, unsure how that Hoover ended up in my hand. One thing to understand about me: I don't like housework. I'll let dust and dirt accumulate until I can't find the couch or someone decides to visit. Apparently, I found something I like even less.
I followed this routine whenever I delved into the bizarre world of a psychopath, and though you could eat off my living room floor, my manuscript was going nowhere. No closer to fleshing out my killer, (I know- another pun. Sorry) he wouldn't budge from the twisted caricature of a human being I'd created and I was close to giving up. Sure, I could give him odd quirks and mannerisms, but it felt as if I was making him play dress up: all show, no substance.
"an ocean of ideas began to form around what my antagonist's early life was like, his taste in music, food, what made him tick."
That is, until I dug a little deeper and discovered the science behind the psychopath. A series of articles on discussing the biological basis for psychopathic behavior led me ever deeper into the complexities of a killer's mind. Fascinated, I began to read white papers on personality disorder, multiple personalities, cannibalism and the like. Where once I'd been stymied by what motivated someone to kill, an ocean of ideas began to form around what my antagonist's early life was like, his taste in music, food, what made him tick.
Soon, I had seventeen pages of articles, notes and sketches, all revolving around my antagonist. I knew him, knew what made him get out of bed in the morning, why he chose the victims he did. Most importantly, I knew how he justified killing. That was my 'eureka' moment.
Understanding my antagonist helped me move past the visceral recoil from the heinous crimes I read (and wrote) about and gave a more human face to the killer. I learned there's an entire area of scientific inquiry emerging that uses genetic testing and MRIs to map the brains and biological processes of psychopaths, on occasion admitting the results of these tests as evidence in court trials.
Can the fact that a person has the genes and/or brain structure associated with violent behavior be enough to reduce a defendant's culpability in a trial? It's a new take on an age-old question.
"I can't wait to write the killer's scenes  . . ."
At Amazon
Whatever the answer may be, for now I can't wait to write the killer's scenes and try to work in some small kernel of research to help the reader understand him better. Yeah, still pretty creepy, but it worked.
Now, where the heck is that couch?
DV Berkom is the USA Today bestselling author of two action-packed thriller series featuring strong female leads: Kate Jones and Leine Basso. Her latest Leine Basso novel is Absolution.
Available at Amazon:
Former assassin Leine Basso has severed ties with everyone she loves to keep them safe while she hunts for the ruthless terrorist, Salome. There are rumblings that the French-born assassin is planning another attack and Leine’s determined to stop her before it’s too late.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reposted from DV Berkom's Awesome Authors–Ellis Vidler

My guest today on Awesome Authors is the fabulous mystery-suspense author, Ellis Vidler. I’ve known Ellis since I found the supportive writer’s group, Sisters-in-Crime, and their sub-group, the Guppies. Ellis is an author, editor, and speaker. She grew up in North Alabama, studied English and art at All Saints College for Women, and thoroughly enjoyed studying creative writing under the great Scott Regan. She also taught elements of fiction at a community college. Her home is now the South Carolina Piedmont with her husband and dogs.

(From the author’s bio): As a child in the South, Ellis spent long, hot days imagining herself an Indian or pioneer or musketeer. At night she (and her whole family) read. From Tarzan and D’Artagnan to Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew, she lived them all. No angst in her childhood. So what did she do as an adult? Write fiction, what else? She loves creating characters and making them do what she wants, but mostly they take off on their own and leave her hurrying to catch up.

Hi Ellis! Thanks for joining us. J  Tell us a little about yourself and your writing:

EV: I grew up on everything from Tarzan to Nancy Drew and Jane Eyre, and I’ve always loved reading and writing. My career began with illustrating and morphed into editing and technical writing. Now I write fiction and love it.

DV: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

EV: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer.

DV: What compels you to write?

EV: The characters in my head—they want to have their stories told, even though the stories evolve and shoot off in new directions as I write them.

DV: What do you enjoy most about writing in the crime genre? Dislike? How much research goes into one of your books?

EV: Suspense is what I aim for, but there’s always an element of romance. Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer. I can’t stick with the required elements long enough for them to be called romances. For example, in Prime Target, the main characters don’t meet until Chapter 10, a no-no in romance, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s a love story on my terms.

I research everything, trying to get the details right. It’s an obsession, but it’s also a good way to get sidetracked. One interesting fact can lead me down a lengthy detour.

“Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer…”

DV: Sounds familia . J In the McGuire Women series, your protagonists have psychic abilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your main characters? What were the challenges you faced?

EV: My grandmother was psychic. I think hers was considered telepathy. She knew when any of her family was ill or injured, no matter where they were. I was there and saw it, so I know it was real. After Haunting Refrain came out, I found out her brother had the same ability. Psychic ability has always fascinated me, in spite of the charlatans. One of my cousins has some of it; however, none of the family “gift” passed to me.

DV: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?

EV: Yes, they do work their way in, but I alter them to fit the story. My main characters tend to like what I like and experience many of the same things. In Cold Comfort,
Claire is with Riley in a small plane. The events of the flight and the storm actually happened to me and my husband—proof that ignorance is bliss.

DV: What are you currently working on?

EV: I just approved my first audio book, Time of Death and Haunting Refrain will be Prime Target and get it to my beta readers. I love it, but the story is different, and I don’t know how it will go over.
out next month. I have two terrific narrators and can’t wait for the books to be released. Also, I’m trying hard to wrap up

DV: That sounds intriguing! I can’t wait… What’s your process when you write? Do you outline or just get an idea and run with it?
EV: Until now I’ve been a pantser, running with a vague idea, but I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.

DV: I know that feeling. J Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?

EV: Study your craft and persevere. My first book, Haunting Refrain, was much more luck than judgment. I had no idea how little I knew. It’s amazing that a publisher actually wanted it. I’ve been both traditionally and self-published. There are pros and cons to each. Writers have to decide which one suits them. Personally, I like the control I have in doing it myself and intend to stick with “indie” publishing.

“…I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.”

DV: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?

EV: Ideally, I’d like to have several more books out. Ebooks are becoming more and more popular, but I don’t think print books are going to disappear. With the advent of earbuds and tiny players, audio is gaining too. It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story. That won’t change.

DV: What strategies work best for you when promoting a novel?

EV: Goodness, I’ve tried so many. Twitter, Facebook, freebies (I doubt if I’ll do any more of those), ads on certain reader sites… I have a blog with lots of articles, I but rarely post now.

Luck, timing, and word of mouth are the best, and you have no control over any of those things.

“It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story.”

DV: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go and why?

EV: I wouldn’t give up electricity, hot water, the microwave, or the Internet. I like my creature comforts. J  I’d probably go back to my twenties (a long time ago) and get serious about my writing sooner.

DV: Hmm. Good idea. Now, if I could just figure out where I put that pesky Time Machine… Thanks so much for stopping by today, Ellis! Good luck on your new releases!

If you’d like to find out more about Ellis and her work, please check out the links below:

NOTE: This is reposted from DV Berkom's blog (with photos updated).