From all of us here at Motive Means Opportunity, we hope you and yours enjoy the Holiday Season! We’ll be back on January 2, 2017. Hope to see you then!

Before we break for the Holiday Season, a couple of messages!


Our own SHAMUS Award Finalist, Max Everhart, reports that his newest noir crime thriller, Alphabet Land (280 Steps), is now on sale for $1.99. Don’t pass up this chance to read Max’s brilliant crime novel. It’s an impressive read, I promise you! You can get it here:

Support your friendly authors at MMO–you won’t be sorry!



Our good friend and supporter, Kristen Twardowski, has just released her first Crime/Thriller novel, When We Go Missing. You can grab a copy here:  Don’t pass this one up, folks–it’s a doozy!



micki-49-headshotAnother follower and supporter of MMO, Micki Browning, has a featured story in the December issue of “Mystery Weekly Magazine.” You can find Sleighed here:

Here’s what one reader had to say:  

This is a really clever and fun story. Full of little gems — Christmas gems. (“Shhhh! Do you hear what I hear?”). Excellent writing — a fun read for the holiday season.
By Scott Merrow

Micki also has an upcoming novel, ADRIFT, the first in the Mer Cavallo Mysteries. It will be available January 10, 2017 from Alibi- Random House. It can be pre-ordered here:


Well, that concludes Motive Means Opportunity’s first year. When we launched this blog in February 2016, we had no idea if it would sink or swim. Thanks to all of our faithful followers, YOU!, we’re keeping our heads well above the water. Thank you one and all. See you all next year!

Kait, Michael, & Max


I’ll try to be a good half-a-father for you by Bob Van Laerhoven

Baudelaire’s Revenge has been selected as an Amazon’s December Kindle 100. Of course, as soon as we heard that at MMO, we begged Bob to come back. And he has, along with a conversation with some of his very special friends. Links to order Baudelaire’s Revenge for $0.99 follow the post. Don’t miss this opportunity. Kait

Hiiiii-hiiii! Bobbbbb! Roberto, my master, my revered keeper, giant under the humans, bob-and-horsewelcome on my humble prairie! Ay ay ayaaaaaaa ayaaazayayaya, Roberto! What do you think about my little Spanish dance, o master? I may be an Arabian purebred, but I know my Spanish dances.

What herbs have you eaten this morning, you four-legged female fawner? A giant under the humans, huh? I’m five feet seven inches. And your Spanish drawl resembles a drunken Mexican, yodeling to the full moon.

Details don’t count, Roberto! Look around you, grumpy! It’s November, and we enjoy a silky Sunny day! Let’s play Wokka-wokka Bulla-bulla! You are the Indian, and I’ll be the, eh, horse, hiii-hiiii! Or else, if you want, I’ll be the Indian – just stick some feathers in my mane, no doubt I’ll be a gorgeous female sachem – and you can be the horse. Hiii-hiii, I can already picture you running on four legs….Mirth is overtaking me, o human, I think I’m going to roll over…


What is it, Bob?

Nothing. Let’s play.

You’re trying to, but your heart isn’t in it.

Oh, Archimeda.

I can see mist hanging around you.

There is no –

There is someone in the mist, Bob.

Let’s just take a morning stroll to the forest, sweetie. I’m not in the mood for talking or playing.

I’ll walk with you, but the mist will walk with us.

Forget about the mist, Archimeda. Like you said, it’s a beautiful day.

What’s going on, Bob? What are you hiding from me?

I don’t want to be sad on a day like this, Archimeda.

But you are.


Today, it’s fifteen years since my father died.

What is fifteen years?

Time is for humans, Archimeda. You’re blessed to be in the now.

Do you love your father?

Yes I did. He was a very placid man.

You are not.

Maybe that’s why I loved him.

Did you tell him that when he crossed the rainbow?

I don’t remember. Probably not. I was too shy, too young, and too full of myself.

You can tell him now.

Do you think that the dead can hear us, Archimeda?

Our dead can. Did you kill your father?

Of course not! Humans don’t kill their parents.

Humans kill our parents. My father was a proud jumper, but when he was crippled, his master decided he was no longer useful. To the slaughterhouse with him.

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Archimeda. Sometimes, humans are –

Pfrrrrrr…What are you going to do when I’m cripple?

I’ll do everything I can to get you healthy again, and I’ll keep on loving you with all my heart and my soul, no matter the outcome.

Also when I’m over the rainbow? That matters for me, you know.

I’ll love you also when you’re over the rainbow. For humans, that means always.


That’s what my mother said to me: “I’ll always love you with my heart and my soul.” But when I was a six-months-old filly, humans took me away from her. I can still hear her whinny.

I wouldn’t blame you if you hate humans, Archimeda. But not all humans are –

I don’t hate them. I try to understand their cruelty.

Humans don’t even understand themselves, my precious. Is your mother still alive?

She passed over the rainbow moons ago. I talk with her in the herd-sleep. I tell her I love her. She gives me glow. I tell my father I love him. He answers with a proud snort. He’s not crippled anymore. You should see him in his gallant rainbow-gallop.

9781605985480_baudelairesrevenge_cvrWhat is the herd-sleep?

That’s when we come together, we, Equus.

And when the herd-sleep is over?

My loved-ones are present in the grass I eat, in the air I breathe. I hear my mother in the wind: “Over there is a soft patch of delicious grass, daughter, go on, darling, enjoy.” I go, I graze, and it gives me glow. Nevertheless, I miss her cuddle.

I cuddle you each day. And I’ll plant some delicious herbs in our meadows for you.

My father –

I try to be a good father for you.

That’s not the same, Bob.

Why not? I love you as one.

Because I can see you, Bob, I can see you. You’re half-a-horse, half-a-wolf.


What did you say, Archimeda?

Half-a-horse, half-a-wolf.

Archimeda, how do you know that?

I don’t know. Not what you call me. The herd-sleep does.

Archimeda, I’ve used that same image in my new novel The Shadow of the Mole. A character sees himself reflected in the eyes of a dying horse as half-a-horse, half-a-wolf.

Another one of your frightening stories I don’t want to hear?

I’m afraid so.

Hiiii-hiii. When will you write about horses that re-unite when they have crossed the rainbow, and graze in eternally green meadows, the sun on their backs, and their hearts in glow?


When will you write about that light, Bob? I want to know.

I don’t know, my lovely. It isn’t easy.

Why not?

Life is very complicated for humans. I have tried to map the darkness in ourselves, to understand it. As a result, it isn’t easy for me to see the light.

Do you try enough to see it?

I can see it when I’m with you, darling, so I’ll try to be a good half-a-father for you. Look at me, my lovely, look at me closely. Won’t there be a time when you can forget the wolf in me and see the whole horse?

Maybe…If you…

Yes, my darling, tell me, what do I have to do to make you forget?

If you give me a thousand love-kisses on my nose, I think…Eventually…I might… Hiiii-hiiii


Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to share this conversation with my lovely Archimeda, one of the three fabulous horses, our princesses, around our house. The other two are the criollo Bruja aka The Great Queen and the quarter horse Trigger aka The Rascal….Together with our adopted dog-hound Lientje, they are the light of my life….

Bob Van Laerhoven – Flemish authorboblaatste

Baudelaire’s Revenge was published in the US in hardback, paperback, and e-book version, by Pegasus Books. The novel also appeared in France and Canada. Italian and Russian translations are on their way.

The novel won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best suspense novel of the year in the LowLands, and the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category mystery/suspense.

Dangerous Obsessions was published in the US, in hardback, paperback, and e-book version, by The Anaphora Literary Press. The story Hearts Don’t Beat On Letters  in the collection was first published by the literary magazine  Conclave,  journal of character.  Checkmate In Chimbote was first published by  Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  Dangerous Obsessions was voted “best short story collection of 2015” by the  San Diego Book Review.

screen-shot-kindlebaudelaireBaudelaire’s Revenge is available for $ 0.99 in North America. The Canadian and US links are below.

The American link:

The Canadian:




Deciding What to Include in a Mystery Story By Karen McCullough


I believe writing novels is half craft and half art. The craft part includes mastering using agfm_v2_200the language – grammar, word usage, sentence structure etc.  Plus an author has to understand the basics of effective storytelling, which covers a lot of ground. Knowing what a hook is and how to craft one, an acquaintance with basic plot structure, control of point of view – those are all skills that anyone can learn and an author must master.

The artistry of writing is harder to define and probably impossible to master. Even authors I consider very good, if not excellent, say that they’re always striving to do better with each book. There is no way you can ever say you’ve got it completely figured out and there’s nothing more to learn.

As authors, we work to convince the reader that our story is real, that it’s happening right now in a place they’re getting to see in their mind’s eye. The art of writing novel lies in crafting a story that will bring the vision that lurks in the author’s mind to life in a reader’s brain as well.

Beginning writers often mistakenly believe that describing everything in painstaking detail will create that vivid impression of their world. They will painstakingly list all the furnishings in a room to set a scene or supply every measurement of a character and enumerate each feature.

In fact, though, one or two well-chosen details usually work much better than long lists of them. If I tell you that the room has velvet drapes at the windows and flocked wallpaper, do I need to describe the carpet as well? We know it’s going to be plush because the other things already speak of wealth. And unless there’s something particular about the furniture, I don’t really need to describe it in detail either. A reader’s imagination will fill in the blanks.

Then there are the characters. I don’t tell everything I know about a character to the reader the first time we meet him. I may give a few physical details to help the reader form a picture. Height, hair color, eye color and build are the visual things most readers want to know about the people in the story. The truth is I treat meeting characters in a story the same way it works in real life. We see them first from the outside, and usually form and impressions based on gender, physical build, and other obvious characteristics.  But it’s in their conversation and actions that we get to know them more deeply.

Much of the artistic process lies in choosing which details you need to include in a story. The heart of a story is all about what you tell readers and when.

In a mystery, the story is all about introducing the players – the detective, the victim, the witnesses, suspects and other necessary individuals—setting up the crime, and then revealing information about what happened in small doses, spaced out appropriately through the story, until the solution is revealed. Because it’s plot-driven genre, there’s usually not much room for deep character development. And yet, readers love some mysteries and series more than others based almost solely on the main characters.

Because of tight word counts and plot focus most character development is woven into how the detective solves the mystery. Think of Nero Wolfe and the way he sends Archie Goodwin out to gather information because he refuses to leave home. Or Jack Reacher’s lone wolf tough-guy style. Or any of Agatha Christie’s odd assortment of detectives.

But all the lovely little bits that show the character have to be worked pretty deeply into the overall plot. The only time we get to see Nero Wolfe working with his orchids is when Archie goes to fill him in on some important information from the case. Hercule Poirot twirls his ‘moustaches’ while discussing the latest suspect.

In my own mystery novel, A Gift for Murder, the first in my Market Center Mysteries series, I worked in a lot of the detail of trade shows and how they operate when my heroine, Heather McNeil has to explain the job to a newcomer. And then I tried to work in a bit of atmosphere with each little bit of evidence I revealed. That’s been one of my guiding principles in writing – make sure that everything I include serves more than one purpose. Each clue to the mystery is part of the background of the show and helps make the setting more real. I try to be sure each interaction the character has also helps demonstrate character as well as advance either the main or a subplot.

A couple of scenes I included in the first draft did what I thought was an amazing job of showing some of the depths of the main character. One I especially liked was a small section where Heather stopped at a booth showing an assortment of paintings. A couple of them inspired some interesting musings on her approach to life and her work.

Unfortunately, as my editor pointed out, that was all they did. Those scenes didn’t advance the plot in any way, provided no clues to the mystery, and didn’t help establish the setting. She suggested cutting them and I did. When I self-published the book after rights reverted to me, I didn’t put them back, even though I’d like them.

Everything has to carry its share of the weight in a story by serving double duty. Those scenes didn’t and therefore they didn’t help to make the story more real for a reader. Out they went.

Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Daphne, Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, six grandchildren (plus one on the way) and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog



A Gift for Murder Blurb:

The Home and Decorative Accessories Show makes for a long week for the Market Center staff, and particularly for Heather McNeil. As assistant to the director of Washington, D.C.’s, Market and Commerce center, she’s point person for complaining exhibitors, missing shipments and miscellaneous disasters. It’s a job she takes in stride—until murder crashes the event.

Buy links:


The Romance Dilemma By Frankie Y. Bailey


 This is the story of two sleuths – Professor Lizzie Stuart and Police Detective Hannah McCabe — and the men in their lives. Or, not.

With the good news that my Lizzie Stuart books may soon be available again, I have started wfs-coverwriting the sixth book in the series. Lizzie is a crime historian. She is the director of the Institute for the Study of Southern Crime and Culture. She was last seen in a short story (EQMM, July 2014).

Lizzie loves her work. She also loves John Quinn. In the sixth book, they will go to Santa Fe to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with his family. This first meeting with her future in-laws occurs in the early chapters of the book. Then Lizzie and Quinn head home to Gallagher, Virginia, where she plunges into trying to solve a disappearance that happened the night before they left.

That Thanksgiving trip to Santa Fe raises a question that both readers and writers of crime fiction debate. Should mystery writers avoid romantic subplots? With female protagonists, does romance tie a good sleuth down (no erotic pun intended)? Does having a long-term partner – especially if it leads to marriage – make it more difficult for a female sleuth to concentrate on the crime-solving at hand? Does the relationship raise real-life questions she needs to deal with –children, a house, life insurance, a will?

I grew up reading both literary classics and genre fiction. I read both romances and mystery novels. I loved romantic suspense. It was perhaps inevitable that when I wrote my first mystery, my female protagonist would encounter an attractive male character. In the book I was working on when I joined an old friend for a vacation in Cornwall, England, the male character was the police chief of Gallagher, Virginia. Lizzie was in Gallagher as a visiting professor, doing research on a long-ago crime. As a writing exercise, I transported my two characters to Cornwall and plunged them into an Agatha Christie-inspired murder case. John Quinn became a Philadelphia police detective, who was visiting his retired partner.

My vacation pal read the first draft of the book that she had seen me scribbling and expressed her doubts about how Lizzie and Quinn parted. After they had worked together to solve the crime, she had been expecting a “pay-off” at the end. She thought other readers would, too. I revised the final scene. Instead of “nice to have met you,” they kissed. When the Cornwall book was bought and published as the first in the series, the question I heard from readers was, “What’s going to happen with Lizzie and Quinn?”

What happened was that Quinn ended up in Gallagher, Virginia. Over the course of five books in a series that has moved slowly and is still in 2004, they have fallen in love and gotten engaged.  Falling in love with Quinn and adjusting her life to accommodate his presence has made Lizzie a more interesting character. He has certainly been useful as a source of information and access. But Quinn’s presence has presented plotting challenges. I’ve had to avoid having Lizzie end each book as a “woman in jeopardy” who is saved by her male lover. Quinn has his own career. He was out of town during a portion of one book. In another book, he was delayed in arriving in New Orleans when Lizzie went looking for her long-lost mother – and then the poor guy came down with stomach flu. I would never kill him off, and it is fun to watch the two of them negotiate their relationship.

However, when I sat down to create another female protagonist – Detective Hannah McCabe – I gave a lot of thought to whether or not she would have a serious involvement. In fact, in the first book, The Red Queen Dies, there is only one brief scene that reveals she is seeing someone. In What the Fly Saw, her attractive, slightly younger partner tries to find out about her love life when she teases him about his. She is a private person and is evasive. But, later, over a glass of wine, she shares with one of her other colleagues how her last relationship ended. She is trying to cheer him up about his relationship with his ex-wife.

Hannah McCabe is a woman in a profession that is still male-dominated (even in my near-future, parallel universe). Most of her challenges have to do with solving crime. But she is the bi-racial daughter of a liberal white father (a retired newspaper editor) and a (long dead) radical poet black mother. She works in and is a part of a traditional police culture that is paramilitary and conservative. And then there’s her relationship with her brother, Adam, a brilliant scientist. who has recently returned to Albany. When McCabe was nine years old, she shot an intruder – but her brother ended up in a wheelchair.

Hannah McCabe is a complex woman – compassionate, good at her job. There are several men in her orbit. But for now McCabe is content to share a house with her father and focus on her case-load.

Whether McCabe will have a man in her life raises some intriguing questions. Is a strong, competent woman who has romantic relationships without long-term commitments a character that readers of mystery/detective fiction can embrace? Or, do readers, particularly women readers, like to see a protagonist evolve and grow and deal with the challenges posed by being in love. Readers do often complain when characters who are attracted to each other are kept apart by the author. But are the same readers prone to boredom when couples commit and settle down?

What do you think? Should a female sleuth keep her options open or settle down with one romantic partner?  Is it a matter of allowing relationships to develop naturally as they would in real life?

f-baileyCriminologist Frankie Bailey has five books and two published short stories in a mystery series featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart. The Red Queen Dies, the first book in a near-future police procedural series featuring Detective Hannah McCabe, came out in September, 2013.  The second book in the series, What the Fly Saw came out in March 2015. Frankie is a former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Website URL:

Twitter:  @FrankieYBailey

Amazon: What the Fly Saw






My Favorite Mysteries List

By E. Michael Helms

The season of giving (and receiving) is upon us once again. For all you fans of mystery/crime/suspense/thriller, what better to receive (or possibly, give) than books in the aforementioned genres to/from relatives and friends? Therefore, in the spirit of the season, I hereby list some of my favorite crime/mystery/suspense/thriller-related books of all time.

Note: All cover images and brief synopses courtesy of


The Tower Treasure, by Franklin W. Dixon

A dying criminal confesses that his loot has been stored “in the tower.” Both towers of the looted mansion are searched in vain. It remains for the Hardy boys to make an astonishing discovery that clears up the mystery and clears the name of a friend’s father.

I might as well begin at the beginning. I really can’t remember why or how I became interested in The Hardy Boys mystery series, but I scrimped and saved all my hard-earned nickels and dimes to purchase the first 40-plus books in the series. Suffice it to say I was enraptured by brothers Frank and Joe, who inevitably helped their father, Fenton Hardy, solve cases which might have had the elder Hardy stumped. Of course occasionally the boys, with the help of pal Chet Morton (and others), were faced with the arduous task of solving mysteries they would stumble upon themselves. Author Franklin W. Dixon (pseudonym for several authors over the years) provided me with hours of adventure and thrills as I helped Frank, Joe, and the gang solve their many cases. I chose to showcase The Tower Treasure simply because it was the first book in this mesmerizing series.


The Deep Blue Good-by: A Travis McGee Novel, by John D. MacDonald

Travis McGee is a self-described beach bum who won his houseboat in a card game. He’s also a knight-errant who’s wary of credit cards, retirement benefits, political parties, mortgages, and television. He only works when his cash runs out, and his rule is simple: He’ll help you find whatever was taken from you, as long as he can keep half.

Again, I chose to showcase the first Travis McGee mystery simply because it’s the first of author John D. MacDonald’s signature Travis McGee novels. Who could resist a guy who lives aboard a houseboat—The Busted Flush—that he won in a poker game? The McGee novels are fun, fast-paced, and a wonderful escape from the mundane everyday life most of us live. High marks to the author for this series. Note to fans of Travis McGee: don’t forget to check out MacDonald’s pre-Travis McGee novels. There are some gems to be found.


The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett

A treasure worth killing for Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.

What can I add to this classic forerunner of the modern mystery? The movie version starring Bogey is almost as good as the book—a rare thing in Hollywood. As one reviewer put it:  . . . Spade is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold off the police, risking his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for his help, while knowing that betrayal may deal him a new hand in the next moment.

My opinion? You can’t go wrong with any novel by Hammett.


The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe novel. Okay, I’m beginning to sound redundant here, but why not? All of Chandler’s works are worth having. Buy one, consume it, and you’re bound to go back for more helpings. What better recommendation can one give? Bogart’s movie performance is an added blessing.

The Big Sleep (1939) is a hardboiled crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first to feature the detective Philip Marlowe. It has been adapted for film twice, in 1946 and again in 1978. The story is set in Los Angeles, California.

The story is noted for its complexity, with characters double-crossing one another and secrets being exposed throughout the narrative. The title is a euphemism for death; it refers to a rumination about “sleeping the big sleep” in the final pages of the book.

In 1999, the book was voted ninety-sixth of Le Monde’s “100 Books of the Century”. In 2005, it was included in Time magazine’s “List of the 100 Best Novels”


The Galton Case, by Ross Macdonald

Almost twenty years have passed since Anthony Galton disappeared, along with a suspiciously streetwise bride and several thousand dollars of his family’s fortune. Now Anthony’s mother wants him back and has hired Lew Archer to find him. What turns up is a headless skeleton, a boy who claims to be Galton’s son, and a con game whose stakes are so high that someone is still willing to kill for them. Devious and poetic, The Galton Case displays MacDonald at the pinnacle of his form.

Okay, I’m breaking tradition here by not featuring Ross Macdonald’s first Lew Archer Mystery on my list of all-time favorite mysteries. Why? Well, it’s certainly not because I think The Moving Target isn’t worthy of the honor; it’s simply because of all Macdonald’s Archer books, The Galton Case shines. I won’t go into a detailed explanation here. Do a little research and see for yourself. All the Lew Archer novels are fantastic reads (in my humble opinion); and Ross Macdonald is, and shall remain, my favorite author in the genre (he said, expectantly). Enough said. As they say, “Opinions are like a – – h – les; everybody has one.”

It is with my highest recommendation that you cannot go wrong by giving or receiving any of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels. Feast and enjoy!


Deadly Spirits: A Mac McClellan Mystery, by E. Michael Helms

When PI Mac McClellan’s girlfriend convinces him to join the Palmetto Paranormal Society, he becomes embroiled in a case of whooodunnit. The society president, while investigating an old hotel, is found dead at the foot of the stairwell, his neck broken. The man’s secretary and current squeeze stands horrified beside his body. Authorities rule the death an accident. Mac has doubts–no one heard the man tumbling down the stairs. Then the secretary dies in an apparent suicide. Two deaths in two paranormal investigations, and not a peep out of either victim. Mac suspects there’s more going on than a vengeful spirit. Book 4 in the Mac McClellan Mystery series, which began with Deadly Catch.

Well, come on, I couldn’t pass up this FREE opportunity to blow my own humble horn now, could I? Well, okay—but I’m blowing it anyway. In my humble opinion, Deadly Spirits is the most complex and compelling mystery in the series to date. I’m not asking you to go out and preorder, or buy it (pretty please?); but if you do, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the least. Hey, it’s a good read if I do say so myself!

Okay, self-hawking over. Do yourself a favor; buy one or more of these aforementioned mysteries for that special person on your list who enjoys the genre, or who just might become a fan; or, if someone asks you what you want for a present this Holiday Season, well, you now have my humble recommendations!

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful Holiday Season! Enjoy!


About the Author

E. Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, FL, on the beautiful coast of the Florida Panhandle. He played football and excelled in baseball as a catcher. Turning down a scholarship offer from the local junior college, he joined the Marine Corps after high school graduation. He served as a rifleman during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War until wounded three times in one day. Helms discounts it as “waking up on the wrong side of the foxhole.”

His memoir of the war, The Proud Bastards, has been called “As powerful and compelling a battlefield memoir as any ever written … a modern military classic,” and remains in print after 26 years.

 The Private War of Corporal Henson, a semi-autobiographical fictional sequel to The Proud Bastards, was published in August 2014.

 A long-time Civil War buff, Book One of Helms’ two-volume historical saga, Of Blood and Brothers, was released September 2013. Book Two followed in March 2014.

Seeking a respite from writing about war, Helms decided to give mysteries a try. The first novel of his Mac McClellan Mystery series, Deadly Catch, was published in November 2013 and was named Library Journal’s “Debut Mystery of the Month.” The second Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Ruse, premiered in November 2014. It won the 2015 RONE AWARD for Best Mystery. Deadly Dunes followed in March 2016. Deadly Spirits is set to launch January 15, 2017.

With his wife, Karen, Helms now lives in the Upstate region of South Carolina in the shadow of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He enjoys playing guitar, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, and is an avid birdwatcher. He continues to listen as Mac McClellan dictates his latest adventures in his mystery series.

Represented by Fred Tribuzzo, The Rudy agency.


FICTION IS FLUFF.  OH, REALLY? By Radine Trees Nehring

wedding cover.inddI doubt that anyone reading here has ever said, “Oh, I only read non-fiction,” and–perhaps–accompanied the comment with a superior lift of nose?

But, if you’re an author of fiction who appears regularly in public as an author (book talks, signings, interviews, conferences, book clubs . . . ) then I bet it’s been said to you.  Unfortunately, those who say it have usually moved on toward their imagined superior reading sources before the lowly fiction author can offer other than a sputtered “pffft.”  For a number of years, one of the most telling replies I could think of has been, “Have you  read To Kill A Mockingbird, yet? And then, if the speaker hesitates, I smile in (I hope) a friendly manner.

Thing is, a many fiction novels subtly enlighten and change readers who would turn away a_portrait_to_die_for_rev_smfrom blatant instruction or information in non-fiction, especially if it’s on a subject they have already formed an opinion about. Readers, after all, come to fiction only for entertainment. Right?  But, as we all know (because Mary Poppins said so), “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”  Of course there are novels that do offer only entertainment. Whoa, wait a minute. How about getting inside the head of any person in trouble? Sympathy? Understanding? How about turning pages more quickly to see if that person finds answers and help?  How about seeing a way to repel the advances or threats of an unwelcome male, (or female) or to untangle aggressive cattle barons who want your land and its water rights? How about . . . well, you get the picture, and know you can feel sympathy and understanding while being entertained. (Shh, don’t let the secret out.)

river-coverIn my own case I realized recently that–though I do not outline plots–I always begin a novel or short story thinking about a typical human problem that needs solving. I also know that, through danger and darkness, a solution will come, and the solution will lead to the redemption of at least one character in that story. Family trauma and alienation, greed, selfish ambition, the nightmare of seeing and causing death in wartime or during civilian criminal action, or just a yearning to find a lost family member to share love with–I have written about these and much more, and also found in my own thoughts the way we humans (via the book people I create) will find answers and at least a measure of comfort and peace.

fordice-bathhouse-2On another level, my love for the Arkansas Ozarks and a strong desire to share this area with others got me into writing as a mature adult. Want to visit a special tourist attraction or event in Arkansas?  You can do so without leaving home or buying a tour guide by crescent-room-1reading my novels, since I describe each story location accurately “down to the last doorknob or wildflower.”  Stories and crimes are based on what is plausible in any of my real locations, and  history feeding into the present-day story is accurate as well.  No, it’s not an on-site vacation, but a chance to visit vicariously and exercise imagination while doing so. Our most important solutions to any problems we face are usually born within inspired thought, and what does fiction reading give us but acquaintance with what’s possible as we search for answers? An earlier guest on Motive, Means, Opportunity wrote “Fiction needs to change you.” I say amen to author Channing Whitaker and add:  “If we get involved in the story, it always does.”indian_rockhouse_cave

As an example of places to visit in Arkansas, I share here snapshots of three locations where a crime is seen and solved in one of my fiction stories. See if you can figure out a real-sounding crime for each place.  (Maybe reading a chapter from the named novel on my web site: will help.)

Brief bio and links for Radine Nehring

radinetreesnehringFor more than twenty years, Radine Trees Nehring’s magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the people, places, events, and natural world near her Arkansas home.

In 2002, Radine’s first mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, was published and, in 2003 became a Macavity Award Nominee.  Since that time, she has continued to earn writing awards as she enthralls her original fans and attracts new ones with her signature blend of down-home Arkansas sightseeing and cozy amateur sleuthing by active retirees Henry King and Carrie McCrite King.

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Twitter:   @RTNehring


Buy link for Portrait to Die For


What Doesn’t Kill You… Makes a Great Plot Twist

Writers have noisy minds. They have to. Everything they see, touch, overhear (sometimes by accident), and experience is fodder for the story mill. It goes in, swirls around the sense of possibility and probability like berries in a blender and matches up or rejects a million other experiences. When it comes out, it’s unrecognizable from the original event in form, but not in substance.

A snippet of conversation in a restaurant can give rise to an entire short story. A beat-up shoe spotted in the breakdown lane of a highway tells a tale of heartbreak. A woman in a formal dress on the bandstand at Alabama Jack’s on the Card Sound Road in Florida sparks a million stories. What was that woman doing in a biker restaurant/bar? You can read my version of her story in an old True Romance magazine. A plastic bag floating out of the window of a sunken ship became the inciting incident of one of my books. The bag morphed into a hand. A cold, dead, hand.brainstormer

Some ideas arrive full blown and ready to write. Others take a lot more work. Writer’s these days are lucky. There’s an app for that! A writer friend of mine shared her addiction to two that she uses. Brainstormer and Story Cube. Both are available for iPhone and who knows what all else. Brainstormer looks like a slot machine and sounds like a roulette wheel. There’s a wheel mode too that looks steampunk. Spin the wheels (or shake your phone—more fun) and see what turns up. The categories are combinations of plot/conflict, style/setting, and subject/location. I’ve got vengeance for a crime, animal kingdom, hotel lobby. I think I’ll take another spin. Or write a noir about the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.story-cubes

Story Cube has nine dice that roll with the press of an icon. Each die face shows a random character and voila, a story is created, the one I’m looking at now has a turtle, skydiver, lock (closed), clock, open book, airplane, letter, and a lightning bolt. All I’m saying is so much for that skydiver, his time has run out.

If none of those work, there’s always self-help books. One of my favorites is the Write About series. It’s a book of prompts with space to write. To be honest, the prompts have never sparked much for me in terms of story writing, but the act of writing has served to uncork the genie from the bottle.

Now that we’re hip deep in the holiday season, you might want to check out some of these ideas.

What do you do when you’re running on creative empty?

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at; follow her on Facebook at, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at