Archive for the mystery author Category

Solving Crimes with Detective Jackson

Rules of Crime, Detective Jackson’s 7th novel, released this week. For those who haven’t met him yet, here’s a post in Jackson’s perspective.

Actor Hugh Jackman

“Detective Jackson, Eugene Police Department.” That’s how I introduce myself to witnesses and suspects, so that’s why this series is called the Detective Jackson series and not the Wade Jackson series. No one calls me Wade, except my girlfriend Kera, and she doesn’t do it often.

I wake up most mornings at 5:30, even on weekends if I’m working the first few days of a homicide, which often go round-the-clock. Most days, I’m home long enough to have breakfast with my daughter, Katie, then drive her to high school. I was a single parent even before I divorced, because my ex-wife is an alcoholic and not someone Katie can depend on.

And I’m a workaholic, so my daughter is rather self-sufficient. That’s my greatest struggle every day: How do I be a good father to the person I love most in the world and keep my hometown of Eugene, Oregon safe from violent offenders?

At the department, I check my emails and phone messages like any other public servant, but that after that my day gets interesting. My boss, a big gruff woman named Sergeant Lammers, often assigns me a new case or wants an update on the case I’m working. Those are the easy ones. More typically, I get called out to homicide scenes during a date with Kera or on a weekend spent building a trike with my daughter. Murder has no boundaries or patterns, but I seem to catch the toughest cases at the strangest times.

Whenever I get the call, I drop what I’m doing and get out to the crime scene. I like to arrive before the medical examiner does so I have chance to look at the body and the scene up close. On television, the detective often takes a long look around and announces something like “The intruder came in through the window, grabbed the trophy from the fireplace and conked the victim on the head.”

It’s never like that for me. I get cases where a young girl is found dead in a dumpster without a mark on her—and no leads or witnesses. Or a whole family has been assaulted and killed and the evidence is too messy to make sense of. In my last homicide case, a young veteran was found dead in his car with his throat slit.

Solving murders is often tedious work. Hours spent looking at phone or bank records and days spent tracking down family members, boyfriends, and co-workers to interview. The case often breaks because the killer, in desperation, commits another crime or makes a fatal mistake.

Actor Viggo Mortensen

Or often, it’s one of my task force members who sees the connections that lead us to the guilty party. Or a crime lab technician who discovers a key piece of forensic evidence. We’re all part of a team, and we’ve worked together for years. My detective partners are also my best friends, because they’re the only people I really trust. Chasing criminals will do that to you.

The case I’m working now (Rules of Crime) is personal—my ex-wife has been kidnapped, and the FBI is leading the task force. My partner, Detective Lara Evans, is investigating the assault of a young woman who was beaten and dumped at the hospital. Any minute now, we’ll compare notes and discover how these crimes are connected. I hope you’ll be there for the revelation.

And what do you think? Should Hugh Jackman play my part when I make it to the big screen? Or maybe Viggo Mortensen?

 

Winners & Rules of Crime Excerpt

Thanks again for all who participated in the contest. It’s so fun seeing the creative names everyone comes up with, and I look forward to finding a spot for most of them in this new story.

Here are some of my favorites that I’ll use (but didn’t win for complex reasons): Adam Greene for the eco-terrorist. But the book has more than one such bad guy, so I’ll definitely work him in. And I loved Thistle Caruthers, but my FBI agent is a woman, so he’ll have to be a witness or suspect. Charlotte Fitzroy is a great name, and so is Preston Walker, but I’ve used that first and last name in recent stories.

And Fiona Beatrix Ingram for the FBI agent? Awesome! Thanks, Dani. My character will probably use it as her alias. We’ll see what my editor thinks and how the story progresses.

For now, I’ve picked Russell Crowder for the main eco-terrorist (aggressive tone!), and Jamie Barnes (easy for readers) for the young female FBI agent. But I used Jamie in Secrets to Die For so my editor might veto it. I’ll try to contact everyone individually, but if you don’t hear from me, please contact me and let me know which ebook you want in in which format.

And because I can’t wait, I’m posting an excerpt of the first chapter of Rules of Crime, which will be released in late February.

____________________________________________

Saturday, January 7, 4:35 p.m.

Renee Jackson slipped out of the AA meeting a little early. She felt queasy and didn’t want to talk to anyone after it adjourned. She shouldn’t have come. The secret drinking had been going on for weeks and the meetings weren’t helping. It was time to check herself into rehab, but she couldn’t bear the thought of her daughter knowing she’d relapsed again.

Renee zipped her jacket against the cold, shuddering at the gray sky that seemed to swoop down and smother her. Christ, it was getting dark already.

Could she get away with one more shot of vodka without Ivan or anyone noticing? Probably. She kept a thermos in her car, along with a bottle of mouthwash. Her ex-husband Wade, the detective, would know as soon as she spent five minutes with him. So far she’d managed to avoid him.

She waited for the traffic to pass, then trotted across the street to her car, pumps clicking on the asphalt. She’d parked in the alley next to the vegan restaurant, not wanting anyone to see her Acura RDX near the Jesco building. Not that anyone she knew would be in the Whitaker neighborhood. If Eugene, Oregon had a slum, this would be it.

As she entered the alley, two men stepped out from behind a large dumpster. Renee took in the details in a quick painful breath. Baggy jeans, heavy jackets, and tattooed necks. Gang members.

Her heart skipped a beat. Could she make it to her car, get in, and lock the door? Or should she turn and run? She froze, paralyzed with fear. Too late to dash to her car. Renee spun and started back toward the Jesco building. She wanted to run but was afraid to, feeling like she had a predatory animal behind her that would only be excited by the chase.

Then she saw Dave, the meeting leader, hurrying across the street toward her. Thank god. A car barreled past just as he stepped onto the sidewalk.

“Renee, I wanted to talk.” He smiled but his tone was serious as he reached for her arm.

She glanced over her shoulder. The gang members turned and headed back down the alley. Had they ever been a threat? Was the alcohol making her paranoid already? It usually took years.

“I’m sorry, Dave, but I don’t have time. That’s why I left early.”

“I know you’re drinking, Renee. Can I do anything to help?”

It took every ounce of self-control she had not to burst into tears. God, she hated herself. “I’ve got it under control. Thanks, though.”

She spun and trotted to her car, unlocking it with her clicker. Guilt made the sick feeling in her gut worse. Dave was a good guy, but she wasn’t ready to talk about her drinking. Her fiancé, Ivan, was a casual drinker and she knew she had to make an impossible choice. Renee started the car and backed toward the street. In the growing darkness, she heard the rumble of an engine. Was it the thugs’ car? She peered down the alley, framed by thick shrubs on one side and the backside of the restaurant on the other. Headlights came on.

Renee glanced back at Blair Boulevard, saw no traffic, and gunned her car into the street. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Dave head into the Jesco building. He glanced back at the revved sound of her car and Renee looked away. She raced to the first stoplight and grabbed the thermos of Vodka from under her car seat. After a quick sip, she shoved the metal container back. Her chest warmed and her panic subsided.

An engine rumbled behind her. Definitely not a new-model car. The same sound she’d heard in the alley. She glanced in her rearview mirror. A red low-rider, idled behind her. The driver wore a heavy dark jacket and had a shaved head. Why were they following her?

Renee jumped on the green light and sped through the intersection. To go home, she needed to turn right, cross downtown, and head south. She’d moved in with Ivan a month ago, giving up her apartment by the park to live in his plush, oversized home in the foothills. She wasn’t ready to face him, but had no idea where she was headed. Was she ready to quit drinking? Damn! How had she let herself get into this mode again? Would the cycle ever stop?

Instinctively, she drove toward the university area.

A quick glance in the rearview mirror told her the low-rider was still back there, but not directly behind her anymore. She gave a little sigh of relief. They were just going in the same direction. It happened all the time.

She kept driving, not knowing where, not making conscious decisions. Ten minutes later, she parked a half block from Serenity Lane, an in-patient rehab center for drugs and alcohol that was tucked into a quiet residential area near the campus. The site of the building made her cringe. Renee reached for the thermos and took a long slow belt of vodka. She’d never make it through the door this sober. Grabbing her phone from the seat, she started to text Katie, but couldn’t do it. Not yet. She’d call her daughter later, after she checked in.

Renee clutched her purse and stepped from the car. Would three times be the charm? Would this be her last in-patient stay? Fortunately, she ran her own publicity business now and didn’t have to explain to her boss why she needed a month off. One foot in front of the other, she forced herself to start down the sidewalk, toward the building with the glass door she knew so well.

The low-rider was suddenly there, only five feet away on the street. In the twilight, she felt, as much as saw, two guys burst from the car. Renee screamed and started to run. Her heel snapped and she stumbled. From behind, a thick hand slammed over her mouth and yanked sideways. Another pair of arms wrapped around her torso and dragged her into the back of the car.

In six seconds, she’d disappeared off the sidewalk. Had anyone witnessed it? A student bicycling to class?

The car raced forward, away from the rehab building and student housing. Renee struggled but the alcohol made her weak and the man shoved her to the floor. Strong, thick fingers dug into her flesh and quickly bound her hands and mouth with duct tape. She kicked wildly, panic driving her. She connected with a shin, and the man backhanded her across the face, a stinging blow. She choked on her cry and hot tears filled her eyes.

A knife was suddenly in his hand and her heart missed a beat. She screamed into the duct tape but only made a gurgling sound. The man cut her purse strap from her shoulder, then rummaged through her pockets until he found her cell phone. He shoved her last little hope into his jacket pocket and taped her ankles together. Oh god, what did they want with her? Panic exploded in painful shards in her lungs and she couldn’t think straight.

A few minutes later, the car star stopped in an alley between two buildings. The sun had nearly set and Renee had no idea where she was. The men dragged her from the floor of the back seat and shoved her into the trunk. They slammed down the lid and left her alone in the small dark space, trussed like an animal on its way to slaughter.

Heart pounding, all she could think was: I wish I’d finished the thermos.

 

First Name or Last?

This question comes up dozens of times while I’m writing a novel. Almost every character is given two names (and sometimes a nickname), but what you do you call them most consistently? First name or last? Does their gender and/or role in the story dictate which treatment they get?

I’m reading a John Sandford novel now (one of my favorites!), and I noticed patterns that made me wonder how authors make these choices. Read more

Fast, Fun Mystery!


In case you’re tired of my ramblings, today I’m interviewing fellow mystery writer, Jean Henry Mead. Jean is on a two-week blog tour to promote her new mystery, A Village Shattered. This cozy whodunit is a fast, fun read, featuring senior sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty. The story is Jean’s third work of fiction, but the author has a long career of writing, interviewing, and taking photographs. But I’ll let her tell you in her own words.

What’s your elevator speech for your new novel, A Shattered Village?
Two 60-year-old widows living in a retirement village are suddenly confronted with the deaths of their friends and club members, who are dropping dead alphabetically. A serial killer has stolen their membership roster and their own names are on the list. Dana Logan, a mystery novel buff, and Sarah Cafferty, a private investigator’s widow, decide to solve the murders themselves when the newly elected sheriff bungles the investigation, but not before Dana’s beautiful daughter Kerrie is in danger of being killed in the process. San Joaquin Valley fog hides the killer and helps him commit the murders.

Who are your characters, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, modeled after? Which one is more like you?
I didn’t realize until Dana and Sarah are discussing the first murder of their friend Alice Zimmer that Dana resembles actress Gina Davis, and Sarah looks like Shelley Winters. Dana is tall like me as well as stubborn and a little eccentric. There the resemblance ends.

You were a journalist and nonfiction writer long before you wrote novels. When did you make the switch and why?
I actually wrote my first novel in fourth grade, a chapter a day to entertain classmates, and have always wanted to be a novelist. But I worked for my high school newspaper and graduated to editing my college paper while working as a cub reporter for the local daily newspaper. After I had written my third nonfiction book, Casper Country, a centennial history, I had stacks of research notes left over, because I had read 97-years’ worth of microfilmed newspaper. So I decided to write a novel, utilizing all that research. The result was a recent publication, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, featuring Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch and a kidnapped young heiress disguised as a 12-year-old boy.

Is there other overlap between your nonfiction books and
yo
ur novels?
Yes, Escape is about 50% actual history and 50% dramatization. Most of the real characters are true to life, and I added a few fictional characters to move the story along. With my latest senior sleuth novel, my police reporting came in handy. And my husband is a former highway patrolman, so his advice helped as well. A Village Shattered is the first of my Logan & Cafferty senior sleuth series, which will be followed next spring by Diary of Murder and later, Died Laughing, both of which take place in Wyoming.

You’ve done a lot of work and organization on behalf of western writers, founding the Western Writers Hall of Fame and working for the Western Writers of America? What motivated you?
I was serving as president of Wyoming Writers when Western Writers of America held their annual convention in Casper. A local writer, Bill Bragg was hosting the convention and asked me to do advanced publicity. I joined in 1979 and became national publicity director for WWA. Two years later I established the Western Writers Hall of Fame and wrote Maverick Writers, a collection of interviews with some of WWA’s most prominent members.

You’ve interviewed some very famous people. Who was you favorite person to interview and why?
I enjoyed all of them, but Louis L’Amour, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., and Wyoming governor Ed Herschler top the list. I also enjoyed interviewing Gerry Spence, although it was in a crowded Ramada Inn lobby while he was holding court. Louis L’Amour was downright shy about being interviewed, which surprised me. He submitted to very few interviews and invited me to his home in Bel Air for an hour, which stretched into several hours of talking about his past. He showed me his office, which contained some 10,000 books with hinged floor-to-ceiling book cases that revealed identical ones behind. I expected him to be arrogant, but he was just the opposite and made me feel at home. A. B. Guthrie was full of himself but was hospitable at his modest A-frame home at the foot of Montana’s Sawtooth Mountain range. I felt privileged to have interviewed them both. Governor Herschler was in his golf duds when I interviewed him at the state capitol building in Cheyenne. He was very candid about his life and court battles against his friend Gerry Spence.

What is the one thing in your life or list of accomplishments that you are most proud of?
Having my books published, which will soon number over a dozen, and hearing from my readers, who have said they enjoy my books. What more could a writer ask?

Who are your favorite authors?

I learned to write fiction by reading Dean Koontz’s novels and he remains a favorite. I also read James Patterson (without his co-authors), Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and the classics at the moment. I read Janet Evanovich when I feel in the mood to laugh. I like a lot of writers, who are too numerous to name.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on my first children’s book, The Mystery of Spider Mountain, which is a takeoff on my childhood home in the Hollywood Hills. I’m also working on another western historical about the unwarranted hanging of Ella Watson-Averell, who was nicknamed Cattle Kate by her cattlemen executioners. Reading about the hanging made me angry, which is a good reason to write a book. And, of course, I’ll continue to write Logan & Caffery senior sleuth novels.

Where can we find you on the web?
My webpage is located at: JeanHenryMead.com. I have two blog sites. One is a writ
er’s advice site, Write On! at: http://advicefromeditors.blogspot.com/ and my Western Historical Happenings site: http://awhh.blogspot.com/. I’m also a member of two mystery blogs: Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery.

The rest of my blog book tour is listed at: http://myblogtour.blogspot.com/. I hope everyone will stop by to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing for three of my signed copies of A Village Shattered.

If you have more questions for Jean, feel to to ask!

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LATEST REVIEWS

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
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