“Bouchercon Tell-All” by Sarah M. Chen


I’m exhausted yet still riding this high from the lovefest that is Bouchercon. For those who have never been, it’s the biggest mystery fan convention anywhere. I heard this year it was a record number (close to 2000) and it’s no wonder. New Orleans is one of the most exciting towns and one of my personal favorites for its food and music scene. I can’t even begin to encapsulate the incredible camaraderie and frenzied joy of Bouchercon in one blog post but I’ll try. Here are a few of my personal favorite moments:


I arrived Wednesday in time to do a reading for the Noir at the Bar After Dark. Jay Stringer from Glasgow was the host and asked me to read (thank you, Jay!) along with Johnny Shaw, Christa Faust, Danny Gardner, and Renee Asher Pickup, to name a few. The readings were fantastic and downright dirty. Perfect way to start B’Con!


The free books were done a little differently this year. Instead of receiving the books in your tote bag, you were directed to a ballroom where rows of books lined four long tables. You were given 6 raffle tickets to exchange for 6 books of your choice. Unfortunately, the high-demand books were already gone by the time I picked them up, but there were still plenty on hand to make my choices difficult.


I attended three panels on Thursday. The first was the “Metropolitan Glide” panel with my friend and fellow writer group-er Travis Richardson moderating. This was about writing crime fiction involving police. I learned about a new website (http://police-writers.com) that features cops from all over the country who write.


Then I headed to the “Invisible Touch: Agents & Editors Panel: State of the Industry” with Juliet Grames of Soho Press moderating. This panel included Jason Pinter of Polis Books, a fairly new publisher who is making quite a name for himself already with both Rob Hart and Patricia Abbott’s books being nominated for an Anthony for Best First Novel (both fantastic books too!). Jason said, “We have professionalism, terrific distribution with Publishers Group West, and we’re ‘scrappy.’” They’re definitely a publisher I’m keeping my eye on.


Lastly, it was time for my panel “Murder Under the Sun” with Michael Stanley, C. Michele Dorsey, Jeffrey Hess, and Annamarie Alfieri with Mysti Berry moderating. It was a great discussion about what inspires us to write crime fiction in hot places. There were some great audience questions like does a hot setting inspire you or is it character? (I’m inspired by character or a scene in my head. The setting I flesh out later.)

                                                                laura-lippman wilde-lake

Friday, I had a bookseller/publisher luncheon hosted by Harper Collins to honor Laura Lippman and her book WILDE LAKE. It was a fantastic 6-course lunch with such folks as Sarah Weinman and Oline Cogdill. And of course Laura Lippman. She talked about her husband’s show Treme and getting on a krewe.

hardboiled-book           the_postman_always_rings_twice

Then it was back to the hotel for the “Hardboiled v. Noir” panel with Susan Alice Bickford moderating along with Craig Faustus Buck, Rob Hart, Barbara N.S. Nickless, and Lisa Turner. A few definitions of hardboiled and noir were given, including “hardboiled involves a detective, noir does not. Noir is about losers.” I also liked, “with noir, you choose between bad and worse” or “in hardboiled fiction, heroes fall from a pedestal. In noir, they fall from the curb.”


Lee Child and I!

Saturday was an exclusive William Morrow panel called “Women Taking Shots.” The first 60 people to email got in. I had no idea what to expect but all I knew was it involved Lisa Unger, Alafair Burke, Kate White, Karin Slaughter, and Sara Blaedel, moderated by Lee Child. When I walked in to the room, there was a complimentary bar and chocolates. The discussion turned out to be along the same lines as one I had the night before at the bar. Do men blurb crime fiction for women as much as women blurb for men? The answer is no. The authors talked about how this imbalance is a reflection of our male-centric society in general. Male readers may see a blurb from a female author as a “weaker” story as opposed to a blurb on a book written by a female as “stronger.” Sara Blaedel was the only one who said it wasn’t really the same in Denmark, mostly because nobody blurbs (except her). This was definitely a conference highlight for me as these legendary authors joked around with each other while discussing a timely topic.

“I, as a writer, choose how I want to frame the dance.”

Saturday I attended the “Social Issues” panel with Julia Dahl, Ovidia Yu, Bruce DeSilva, Paul Hardisty, Erica Wright and Gary Phillips moderating. It was an interesting discussion of how these authors stay current when it comes to writing social issues. When Gary asked Ovidia how she wrote about Singapore with its fairly constant changing political and social landscape, Ovidia said something I liked: “I, as a writer, choose how I want to frame the dance.”


A friend and fellow Sisters in Crime/LA writer, Ellen Byron, had her launch party for her second novel, BODY ON THE BAYOU, at an art gallery on Saturday night. There couldn’t have been a better party location for a book set in New Orleans than an art gallery!

Walter Mosley and I!

So what else can I say about this conference? It just shows how supportive and lovey-dovey us crime fiction writers are no matter how hard we try to convince everyone we’re jaded or competitive or whatever. We’re not any of those (okay well maybe some of us are but I have yet to meet them). It’s basically a big reunion and tribal bonding over 4-5 days. The “big shots” have no problem taking photos with us and my friendly chats with Lee Child and Walter Mosley were definitely conference (and life) highlights for me. Whether we’re cozy or noir, big publisher or indie, newbie or veteran, we are all crime fiction writers and readers. Too often we feel all alone in this writing gig, but conferences like this prove we’re anything but.


I’m already counting down the days until Toronto!


                                               author-sarah-m-chen   cleaning-up-finn

Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. Her crime fiction short stories have appeared in “Shotgun Honey,” “Crime Factory,” “Betty Fedora,” “Out of the Gutter,” and “Dead Guns Press,” among others. Cleaning Up Finn is her first book, available now from All Due Respects Books.



Due to the response of our past few guest blogs, we have decided to feature mystery writer J.R. Lindermuth’s guest post, HOOKS, for an additional day. Thanks to all who have participated, and please spread the word to all who would be interested!


by: J.R. Lindermuth

Your first sentence should draw the reader in. The second should compel him to continue reading.

That isn’t sage advice from some great writing seer. It’s my admonishment to myself as I begin each new story or novel. I’ve been using it since a reviewer said she was “hooked after page three” about an earlier book.

Page three is too darned late to hook most readers.

People have short attention spans and we writers need to perk their curiosity from the beginning. And the best way to accomplish it is with an opening that inspires “who,””what” or “why?”

Richard Wrights great novel “Native Son” (1940) begins with:


The second line is taken up with explaining it’s the sound of an alarm clock, which diminishes the impact. I don’t think it would work today. Modern readers are not patient critters.

On the other hand, Elmore Leonard’s opening for “Glitz” (1985)  begins:

The night Vincent was shot he saw it coming.

Now who wouldn’t want to know more about that?

I hope I’ve accomplished something similar for Shares The Darkness with “She didn’t come home last night.” You know someone’s missing. Hopefully you’ll want to know why?

Here’s the blurb for my latest, Shares The Darkness, seventh in the Sticks Hetrick crime SharesTheDarkness2series:

Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.

When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman’s life, as she searches for clues.

As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There’s illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time. And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there’s some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.

Still Flora maintains focus on the murder. Despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Flora’s probing opens personal wounds as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.

Bio: A retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth has published 14 novels and a non-jrlindermuthfiction regional history. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and is a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.


Webpage: http://www.jrlindermuth.net

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jrlindermuth

FB: https://www.facebook.com/john.lindermuth

FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/John-Lindermuth-175253187537/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrlindermuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1005496.J_R_Lindermuth

His books are available from http://torridbooks.com/


Barnes & Noble and from other fine bookstores.





By Jan Christensen

It’s amazing how our minds work, isn’t it? All we know is in there, and often connections are made, and we come up with an idea or a project.secret-exoisyre

Several things came together for my Paula Mitchell, PI, series, some that amuse me (okay, I’m easily amused).

The first decision made was simply that I wanted to write a female PI series. That’s not so amusing, I know. But I like to start at the beginning and muddle, I mean, stride through to the end, so here we are. I appreciate the structure, the need for a feisty character with a sense of humor, and a mystery for her to solve. I have no problem writing in first person, or any person. I’ve written almost a hundred short stories, so have a lot of practice writing in first and third person, a very few in omniscient, and in either male or female or the occasional mummy point of view.

Next I needed a name for my protagonist. I have a terrible time coming up with names, especially for main characters. But I’d heard about how many soap opera stars, or, I guess, their writers, do that, and it amused me, easily. You take your first pet’s moniker for first name, and use the first street name you lived on. Unless it’s too weird. I had a friend who lived on Tuxedo Avenue. I’m not sure Tuxedo would work for a last name. I’m not sure Tuxedo works for a street name. Anyway, because my first pet was a male with a male name, I decided to do something different, but still using my own past to come up with something. Paula is named in honor of my father, Paul, and his sister who was so glad she was born second, or she would have been named Pauline, their mother’s name, which she didn’t like. At all. And yes, I lived on Mitchell Place growing up, where some Mitchells still lived.

Okay! Now I had a character’s profession and name. Next I needed a sidekick. And I admit, I did not consciously chose to make her best friend a lawyer, but maybe you can guess what books I devoured in high school? Yes, Perry Mason. I probably read the whole series and watched, later, every TV show. Of course, Perry was the main character, and coincidentally, Paul (was my subconscious at work here?) was the private investigator he used when he needed to help solve the case. One difference is that Perry had a smart, beautiful secretary who also often helped. My Paula has a very handsome assistant who is studying to be a paralegal. He has yet to help solve a case, but that seems like a good idea. And might amuse me. Was my subconscious at work when I named my lawyer Geri, rhymes with Perry? Honest, I did not consciously think of any of the Perry Mason connections until long after writing the first book. Perry, after all, was not a female PI.

PI stories are generally written in a linear fashion. Someone hires the PI to solve a case. PI runs around interviewing people, getting into trouble and danger, and finally figures everything out. After, of course, finding the person with the best motive, the means to do the deed, and opportunity.

I write by the seat of my pants, sometimes with my hair on fire. I set up a character to be the one to hire Paula or her lawyer friend who then assigns Paula to investigate. The person doing the hiring needs to be in some sort of trouble, of course. In the first book, Perfect Victim, a man is accused of murdering his girlfriend when she breaks up with him. Lawyer Geri is skeptical and has Paula check into the case. In A Broken Life, Paula sees an old high school friend, obviously homeless, and finds out her identity has been stolen. Paula offers to help. In Secret Exposure, a man is arrested and charged with murdering his wife after she files for divorce and accuses him of abusing their son. Geri was his divorce lawyer and uses Paula to investigate.

I simply figured out motives and opportunity for the accused and victim’s friends in each novel, trying to make every one unique and memorable somehow. If I reached a place where I didn’t know what to do next, I made a list of possible things that could happen, picked the best one to use and went from there. At some point I often stop and make a note of what other things Paula could do about a particular suspect or situation. So, basically, my first draft is my outline, all fleshed out, and since I simply go from point A to the end, I usually don’t run into any trouble or have to go back and add anything, but if I do, it’s no more than a scene or three. I don’t often use flashbacks for these novels, and I think that makes it easier to plot on the go and write them than other books I’ve written where the plot is not as linear.

I firmly believe that reading a lot of mystery fiction helps me write my own stories faster and easier. Stephen King, in his memoir/advice-to-writers book, On Writing, says he spends an hour reading for every hour he spends writing. Besides making us better writers, a study just found out that reading a book (nothing else—only a book) for thirty minutes or more a day ups our chances of living two years longer than the people who don’t do that. http://www.newser.com/story/229339/to-live-longer-pick-up-a-book.html

Besides reading a lot, the second trick is to write a lot. Preferably every day. Whether we feel like it or not. Set a word goal, and go!

Now I have to decide whether to go read a book or write some fiction. Since it’s cocktail hour, I think I’ll go read a good book. One that amuses me.



janBIO: Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey. She bounced around the world as an Army wife, and in Texas after her husband retired. After traveling for eleven years in a motorhome, she settled down in the Texas Coastal Bend. Published novels are: Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, Blackout, Buried Under Clutter, A Broken Life, Cluttered Attic Secrets, and Secret Exposure. She’s had about seventy short stories appear in various places over the last twenty years. She also writes a series of short stories about Artie, a NY burglar who gets into some strange situations while on the job. Learn more at her website: www.janchristensen.com

Rose—a “Dinger, PI” Short


She was sitting behind my desk when I unlocked the office door and stepped inside. Crossed black high heels accentuating narrow feet were propped on a corner of the desktop. The black halter-strap dress was hiked above her knees, revealing a pair of slim, shapely gams that seemed to go on forever. Smoke trailed from a lit cigarette held between manicured fingers. Her hair was the color of midnight. It cascaded over her bare shoulders like twin black waterfalls. If I could choose my intruders, this dame would be at the top of the list.


“No, don’t bother,” I said holding up a hand when she made a move to stand. I removed my fedora and hung it on the coat rack standing near the desk. Beneath a strand of glistening pearls I caught a glimpse of cleavage that would make a rush-hour traffic cop forget his business. “How’d you get in, Miss . . . ?”


She took a puff and exhaled as she tapped a half inch of ash into the new ceramic ashtray I’d recently upgraded to. Two butts inside wore the same lipstick coating her pouty red lips. The lips curled into a smile. She picked up a bent and twisted bobby pin from the desk and held it so I could get a good look. “Roseanne Nicholas, Mr. Dinger. Mrs. Roseanne Nicholas. But please, call me Rose,” she said. “I deplore such formality. It keeps everyone apart, like strangers, don’t you think? I’d much rather be friends. Wouldn’t you . . . what is your first name, Dinger, PI? That’s all that was painted on your door.”

I chose the rattier of the two chairs in front of the desk and sat. “Dinger will do just fine, Rose. I got tagged with it during the war. The name stuck. I decided I liked it, so I made it legal when I got back to the States and out of the Corps. Okay, so where’d you learn to pick locks?” I thumbed back at the door. “That lock’s not so easy to tap.”


Rose moved her feet off the desktop and sat upright. She scooted the chair forward and leaned toward me, resting her chin in a cupped hand. I missed those creamy thighs, but the cleavage made up for it. “Now Dinger, you know there are things a girl should never reveal.” Those luscious lips curled into a coy smile. “After all, we’ve just met. Why, we’re still practically strangers.”

I mustered a smile of my own, more smartass than coy. “You just got through telling me you’d rather be friends than strangers. Are you sending me bogus signals here, Rose?”


The smile deserted her face for a moment. Then those red lips recovered. The doll stood, slowly brushed the wrinkles out of her dress with maximum pinpoint effect, and strolled around to my side of the desk. “One thing you’ll learn, Dinger,” she cooed in my ear as she curled onto my lap. “I’m a girl of my word.” She snaked a soft, sleek arm around my neck, leaned in, and planted a kiss on me. A kiss that sent shivers through me I hadn’t felt since I was in high school determined to cop my first feel of Linda Danzy’s gorgeous boobs. “And I’m a firm believer that actions always speak louder than words, honey.”

I’d struck out with Linda Danzy that night. Not so this warm May evening with Roseanne Nicholas. An hour later, after several extra innings of give and take, I hammered a winning home run as the sun deserted the sky and darkened the room’s lone window.


Afterward, we snuggled in the darkness in my roll-away bed, sharing cigarettes and sweet nothings. Rose was a farm girl from some small, nowhere town in Ohio. She’d studied dance since she was six years old, and came west after graduating high school determined to make it as a showgirl in Vegas, using that as a springboard to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It was the same tired story I’d heard a hundred times since arriving in Sin City after the war. I’d been looking for something—anything—to leave the nightmares of the island hopping behind. So far the Pacific had managed to cling to my throat like Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula.

After awhile, I lit fresh smokes and Rose and I got down to business. “You never told me why you’re here,” I said. “Why you picked my lock. A phone call would’ve gotten you in with far less trouble.”


Rose made a purring sound from somewhere deep in her throat. She cupped my chin and her lips and tongue commenced exploring again. “Dinger, sweetie,” she said when finished, “doesn’t my breaking into your office make it all that much more alluring? Anyone can make an appointment.” She sighed and rolled onto her back. “I suppose I thought you’d find me special, more intriguing.” She paused for a moment as she took a drag and exhaled toward the ceiling. “Well, honey, did it work?”

I took a deep pull on the Chesterfield, held it a long time, and then blew a long stream of smoke into the darkness. “I guess it did, considering what we’ve been doing for the past hour or so.” I crushed out the smoke in the plastic ashtray I kept on the nightstand. “Look, Rose, I don’t make a habit of bedding other men’s wives. In fact, it’s against my code.”

She stifled a giggle.

“Yeah, I know how this looks. You come into my office, flash me your wares, and we spend the next two hours getting to know each other in the biblical sense. I got my regrets about it, believe me. You can take that or leave it. But no excuses. You got me wired and I had to discharge the circuits or blow a fuse. Yeah, you had that effect on me. I regret it, but at the same time, I don’t. Can you see that?”

The tip of her cigarette glowed red, and a sliver of moonlight worked its way through the edges of the drawn curtains shading the single window. It illuminated the fine lines of her face like a Greek goddess. “Yes, Dinger, I believe I do. I’d heard it before, from a friend. That’s why I’m here. My friend said you could be trusted.”

The past tense hurt. I sensed a touch of disappointment in Rose’s voice. I felt like a heel. I’d let my guard down for the touch of a beautiful broad. But she’d seemed special at the time, like she’d been sent my way for a purpose; a purpose only I could take care of. Right at that moment I felt like a failure, a nobody, a nothing. I’d failed her test. Not that she hadn’t seemed to enjoy it, but still. “Okay, I’m here. I’m the same guy, never mind what just happened between us. If you can believe that, I’m at your service.”


Rose reached over, touched my forehead, ran her soft fingers down my cheek and across my lips. The red lit up her face with the heavy draw on the cigarette. She sighed deeply as she exhaled. “My husband’s fucking Manny Divino’s moll. I want you to convince him to lay off before he’s cold meat.”

{To be continued}

Don’t Leave Your Crime Story’s Subgenre a Mystery

By Jennifer Leeper

 Whether you’re getting ready to write or publish under the mystery/detective/crime umbrella, it’s important to understand the distinctive subgenres of this type of fiction in order to accurately target both a readership and publishing opportunities.

Private Eye

The private eye subgenre delivers exactly what you would expect, with a licensed private eye solving a crime. Writers in this category include Ross Macdonald and Walter Mosley.

The Thriller

Thrillers emphasize components such as good versus evil, and can include elements of detective and mystery fiction. Robert Ludlum and Patricia Highsmith are popular thriller fiction authors.


Think Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes. Traditional detective fiction represents the roots of modern mystery and crime literature. The general formula is a conventional detective solves a murder mystery where there are several suspects all with motive orbiting the corpse or corpses. As for authors in this subgenre, the iconic Arthur Conan Doyle is the most notable example.


The grittier side of life takes center stage in hard-boiled fiction. No one can be trusted and every character from protagonist to the most minor player is generally broken in some way or in many ways. Action in the form of sex and violence tends to be plentiful and explicit in this subgenre, while dialogue is brief, packing a gut punch.

The Cozy

Agatha Christie is perhaps one of the best-known cozy crime/mystery authors. There is typically minimal or no sex and violence in cozy writing. Whereas hard-boiled tends to emphasize the dark underbelly of humanity, cozy characters are generally more refined and cleaner cut. The protagonist solving a cozy mystery or crime mystery tends to follow individual sleuthing instincts instead of police procedure.

The Procedural

Besides a better understanding of who you’re writing for, whether that’s a reader or publisher audience, a little research beforehand can help you hone your fiction through a better grasp of the mechanics of each subgenre. And, isn’t better writing the mystery all writers are trying to solve?

Check out Jennifer Leeper’s latest crime fiction at Heater magazine, where you can read her short story, Atoll. Later this year, Barking Rain Press will release Border Run and Other Stories, a collection of suspense, crime, and other story themes.

You can also follow Jennifer’s repeat offenses in crime and mystery writing on Twitter @JenLeeper1.

Source: http://libguides.enc.edu/mysteryfiction/genres

Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Jennifer LeeperIndependent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, and The Liguorian. She has had works published or are in the process of publication by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press. In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest. Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press.


@JenLeeper1 – Twitter

http://www.jenniferleeper.net – book web site





A Family Affair?

My husband announced the other day that he is writing a book. For those of you who don’t know my husband, he is a former Marine. I know, there is no such thing as a former Marine, but no one has ever given me a more accurate terminology. In his case, even non-practicing Marine will not work. Until our HOA decided that having Future Marines here (high schoolers who had committed to service but whose entry was deferred until

Husband on Far Right

graduation) was not a “good fit” he was giving twice weekly physical training to the recruits to prepare them for boot camp. So maybe Marine it is. What does that have to do with writing. Nothing. What does that have to do with mindset? Everything. This man will write a book. Not only that, he is convinced that he will make a screenplay out of the book.

Presentation of a K-Bar to an outstanding recruit

I am in awe of the fact that he It’s decided to write, and vastly impressed that he has 30,000 words on paper already. He’s chugging right along and I am dying to see how it all turns out. My husband is an engineer. His lingua franca is numbers, not words. Except for technical journals and books on subjects so esoteric that the titles need interpretation he does not read. Not fiction, not non-fiction (except for the aforementioned books and journals) and not literary works. Although in his defense, he does own the complete works of Shakespeare, Twain, Dickens, Doyle, and the like. And he’s read them, and he knows the content and he can cite chapter and verse in many cases. So, he has read, but does not currently read…non-technical works.

Why thingthen do I have my doubts? I’m not sure that I do. His book is, from that I can gather, science fiction. It will make good use of his technical background. He is also a huge sci-fi movie fan. Again, as in his reading, nothing current, but the classic sci-fi movies of the 1950s and 1960s. He’s a stickler for accuracy, and he picks up the inconsistencies. He has an ear for language, speaks three fluently, so he’s no stranger to the English language, its grammar, and its nuances.

There are also plenty of married couples who write, some apart, some collaborate. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman come to mind at once. Stephen and Tabitha King are another famous writing couple. Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley write in different genres as well. So, it’s been done before, and will be again. It’s fun to have him pick my brain with what I consider beginner questions. How many words are in your chapters? What font do you use? How do you format a page? I introduced him to Scrivener and Scapple and now he’s teaching me how to make better use of both.

I doubt we’ll ever collaborate, but I think there’s plenty of room under our roof for two writers in different genres. And it’s fun to teach the craft and learn it again through his eyes. I hope he remembers to thank me when he wins the Academy Award for best screenwriter. He’s that kind of guy. He does nothing by half-measures.

What about you, do you and your husband share careers or avocations? How would you feel if you did?


By Nancy Cole Silverman

I don’t know why it is writers see mystery in the everyday occurrences. Perhaps it has something to do with the way we’re wired.  I’ve never been certain if artists were more sensitive than, let’s say, engineers or mathematicians. But I do think writers often feel and see things on a more multi-dimensional platform that allows them to slip in and out of reality with ease.  How else could they dream up such bizarre plots with unexpected twists that have their fans reaching for the next book?

For instance, the other day, I stood next to a woman at the butchers while she ordered a half-pound of ground beef. She waited patiently, while I, having also ordered a half-pound of ground beef, felt sudden panic. Visions of Sweeny Todd flashed through my head as I watched the butcher process the meat through the grinder. I noticed his bloody apron and signs posted around the market. No doubt they were of specials, but in my mind, they had morphed into Missing Person Signs. The butcher perhaps?  Thinking back on it, it was crazy.  But, for writers, imagination takes flight at will. Through no fault of our own, the seed for the story is planted and begs to be written, threatening its host with insanity until completed.

One of my favorite authors, Nora Ephron, once said, “Everything is copy.”  That’s one of WITHOUT A DOUBT front SMthe advantages of being an older writer.  We’ve got a lot of baggage.  Things from which we can pull for plot and character.

In my most recent book, Without a Doubt, I took from my own experiences in talk radio for the opening scene.  In it, Carol Childs, my protagonist, is doing a live on-air tour of several Beverly Hills’ chocolatiers for a holiday charity campaign.  Nothing unusual about that. That was until Carol spots Eric, her FBI boyfriend, as he exits Henry Weston’s, with a well-known Hollywood socialite on his arm, right before a bomb goes off and her world explodes.

It’s the type of thing that can happen to a reporter when least expected. Newsrooms are never dull.  Some days are frantic, other days so slow the lead story might be anything from Fido finding his way home, to a birthday celebration for a zoo animal. One news station I worked for even covered the escape and apprehension of a white cobra in the hills above Malibu.

So, did any of what happens to my protagonist actually happen to me?  Yes and no.  Bits and pieces of it, at  different times, and with different stories, but none of it exactly as it happens in my book. And like the ebb and flow of the newsroom, each of my books is of a slightly different tone.  Without a Doubt is more of a caper than a conventional mystery. But in writing them all, I’ve drawn from my experiences and the emotions I felt at the time.

How about you?  As a writer are there experiences or emotions you try to recall as you write to add clarity and believability to your work?Nancy Cole Silverman

Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an
ear for storytelling. In 2001 Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction fulltime. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014 and the second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. Coming soon, in 2016, is the third in the series, Without A Doubt. Silverman also has written a number of short stories, many of them influenced by her experiences growing up in the Arizona desert. For more information visit www.nancycolesilverman.com