When two residents in Ellen Lange’s nursing home die, Special Investigator Bill Watts is called to the scene. With the murders linked to others, known as the Ponytail Crimes, it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again.
Bill is a Southerner; Ellen was raised in the Midwest. Despite her efforts to remain aloof, Ellen finds herself falling in love with more than the South…
The Thrill of the Mystery
It’s true mysteries are fun to write, but they do have more underlying structure. The reader should NOT be aware of it, but writers beware:
Stay as linear as possible or frame the story, by dropping the body: OMG and then starting at the “once upon a time”. Fill in the motivations and hints. Develop the characters and establish their interactions.
Never place an object or a person in the plot that has no function. This can easily be said for all fiction, certainly for anything suspenseful. The gun must be shot; the villain must be involved in the evil that men do…
Not a rule, but a bit of advice. Make sure you use everything at your disposal to create characters that live after the plot. Think about the people whom you’ve known in real life – I’m assuming you have a real life you squeeze in when possible. The unforgettable people such as the lady in the red hat and purple gloves; the little old lady who phoned the kitchen from her private room before getting the volunteer to bring in a lunch in my Mortal Coil. The man with a limp who used the cane with the wrong hand, or the shy girl who always ducked first before answering questions. Remember the man standing under the streetlight at the end of Diana Gabaldon’s first book, The Outlander? Where is he now? And who was he?
The reader must care about these people before he or she can regret their murders and follow the author to the killer’s door.
Give as much attention to your red herrings as to your real clues.
Never let your minor characters take over. He or she must not have more words, but most of all he must not be more interesting, or more memorable, or have more action scenes. It’s easy to fall into this trap with villains if you give them too much back story to explain their bad behavior.
Beware of spoilers in sequels. Identify the people who carry over from the previous stories, but don’t refer to the outcomes or any suspenseful scene that might reveal the ending.
There was nothing like physical activity to allay anxiety, so Friday afternoon, Ellen took off work early to tackle cleaning the kitchen and laundry room floors. She had only an hour left before Patti would come in and undo her efforts. She didn’t want her daughter skating around on the wet floor. Ellen had changed into old jeans and a loose-at-the-neck blue T-shirt. Her feet were bare.
Public radio was running a fundraiser, so she turned the living room stereo to the country western station—music to clean by. Ellen had opened the garage doors to take advantage of the warm, dry breeze blowing from the west. She danced around the kitchen, pushing the mop in time with the music. About half of the kitchen corners were now free of dirt, a testimony to what Millie would call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She’d moved the kitchen table into one corner and stacked the chairs on top. A rap on the screen door alerted her to a visitor.
She unhooked the screen and motioned Bill inside. “Watch the wet spots.”
“What are you doing?” he asked, raising his voice to be heard over the loud music.
“Cleaning the floor,” she said, raking the back of an arm over her wet forehead and wiping her hands on her jeans.
“Isn’t there an easier way?” Bill asked. “How about the old Irma Bombeck trick?”
“Any solution in a storm. What is it?”
“I’ll show you. Do you have any old towels?”
“You need to put old terrycloth towels on your feet and dance around the floor.”
“Well, I’ve got the music. Let’s see if I can get some towels.” She placed the mop back in the wheeled bucket she’d borrowed from maintenance and headed for the garage. All the old towels Patti used to wash the car had been washed and dried and left on top of Tom’s abandoned toolbox.
Grabbing a handful, she came back into the kitchen. “Demonstrate,” she said, handing the bunch to Bill.
He wrung out the mop and set it aside. Soaking and pulling the towels through the wringer, he handed them to her one by one. “Okay. Put a towel under each foot and dance like you were dancing, slide, two, three, four, slide...”
Ellen smiled. “Terrific.”
Just then the announcer went to a commercial. They stood there looking at each other waiting for more music. Ellen dropped two more wet towels and stepped on them. Bill shucked his shoes and socks and dropped his towels. The next tune was a bouncy number that set Ellen’s head bobbing.
“More like this,” he said, sliding and dipping in dance mode. “Ever do the Texas two-step?” Bill called over the twanging guitars.
“No. But I’ve seen the contests on TV.”
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About the author:
Julie Eberhart Painter raised in Bucks Count, Pennsylvania, boyhood home of James A Michener, is the author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare from www.champagnebooks.com. Daughters of the Sea, e-book and print. Julie’s first paranormal romance, and Morning After Midnight are available from MuseItUp Publishing.
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thx u for hosting ^^
thanks for the giveaway! :D
The synopsis sounds great but what hooked me was the excerpt. It sounds like there is a bit of fun/humorous times mixed w/some comedy. Now that's what I'm talking 'bout!!!!
I'd like to thank our hostess for the exposure. And yes, Fayth97, there is a lot of humor in the book.
Murders in a nursing home would typically indicate 'angel of mercy' type of crimes, but the 'ponytail crimes' serial killer link looks really exciting.
i loved the guest post! thanks for the inside look at how mystery writers write their mystery stories. and thank you for the giveaway as well!
You make a good point about not revealing the outcomes of suspenseful plotlines in sequels!! I've often picked up a book that caught my eye, only to realize it's not the first one in the series...and in the introductory chapters that recap the characters' relationships, the author will spoil the previous book for me. It greatly reduces the incentive for me to go back and read the previous book if I already know the outcome, especially if it's a mystery story.
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