Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mysteries and the Minor Characters

By Rebecca M. Douglass, author of "The Tide Waits."

I thought today I might introduce a couple of the characters from "The Tide Waits," and talk a little about what went into writing them.

The story is set in an unspecified historical period, but when I first met the characters, they were a bit disconnected from the real world. So I ended up with Lira, a female bartender and general problem-solver for a small fishing village. I like writing strong female characters, so I went with the woman who came into my mind: a bartender who can toss unruly drunks out on their ears, then turn around and outwit the people who would destroy the peace of her village. There's an element of fantasy in the story, not because anything magical happens, but because Lira hasn't been burned as a witch!

The story is Lira's, but I wanted to set her off against characters who were unlike her, perhaps blunted by lives spent fishing. The one who wandered into my story was Huw, who fishes alone because he's too old to go out on the boats with the others. Imagine my surprise when Huw turned out to be far more important than he looked at first!

On reflection, I should have known. Minor characters in mysteries so often are more than they appear. Huw is no exception--so I found myself having to learn his history and personality, not just handing him a body and moving on.

Huw's an old man now, but one thing we learn quickly is that he wasn't always old--and he knows the sea and land around the village and the Goblin's Head inside and out, perhaps better than anyone else.



The incoming tide made it a tricky scramble around the base of Goblin’s Head, but not impossible.

Like most of the villagers, Huw had been atop the sea stack many times. But this time he didn’t mount the steep, half-scrambling route up the rock. He had climbed it enough times in his youth, like all the others who had helped to carve the path, whistling at the danger to prove their manhood. More than one had died for that proof. Climbing around the base on the rocks the Goblin had shed wasn’t a whole lot safer.

Death had visited Goblin’s Head once again. Huw reached the body that sprawled on the rock, and took in the rough homespun pants and coat before lifting the man’s shoulder to look at the face. He knew the man.

Decades of gutting fish and mourning those lost at sea had hardened the old fisherman. What he saw made him regret his breakfast, but experience won and the meal stayed put.

He moved from rock to rock with deliberate speed, not haste; to injure himself here would mean death as the incoming tide swept over the rocks. On this morning, he was safe until about a half hour after the sun rose—and that sun now lit the top of the Head.

Thanks for stopping by! Ready for more? Please check out Tick Tock, A Stich in Crime now available for Pre-order and releasing May 1. We look forward to seeing you on our Tick Tock's Facebook Page -- jump in and say hi! 

Rebecca M. Douglass

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

                                                         WHAT ARE HEROES MADE OF by Jessica R. Ferguson
When I learned my story, The Little Girl in the Bayou, had been accepted for publication in the IWSG Anthology, I was sitting in a hospital bed awaiting heart surgery. For an instant, it seemed like a cruel joke—after all, how would I do the edits or meet any other publishing or marketing requirements? As you can see, all worked out. I’m alive, doing well, and to the best of my ability I’m meeting my obligations. I’m thrilled to be a part of this collection.

About my hero:
Construction worker Joe Mack Crawford (known as Mack in this story) came into my life in the mid-eighties. He’s a composite of all the heroes I’ve ever known: my quiet introspective dad along with his own hero Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke; the neighbor across the street who lifted me high over his head, muscles bulging; the pastor who baptized me in our little country church, and my grandpa who always knelt beside the pew to pray. No way can I forget my handsome 6th grade Texas history teacher—even if he did accuse me of tracing that buffalo! And of course, my husband who introduced me to Joe Mack, and did a lot of brainstorming and plotting.

Joe Mack Crawford is the type of guy who will right wrongs or die trying. So when he found a picture of a child wrapped in fish net, looking fearful, no way would he ignore it.
He wouldn’t be able to sleep or focus on his job until he found her. The terror in her eyes screamed at him to do something. She couldn't be more than nine or ten. He wondered if she would ever smile again or if they’d already pushed her too far. He wondered if she was still alive.  

Life has a way of teaching hard lessons, and Mack knew if the kid was still alive she’d already learned the hardest at a very young age. She might never get over it.

      He got up, paced the floor, and watched the bayou meander behind his apartment. He couldn’t get the little girl’s face out of his mind. Was she asleep now? Having a nightmare? Crying for her mama and daddy? He didn’t know whether to pray for her to be alive or pray that God had saved her by taking her home.

Mack lives in three manuscripts: two short stories and an incomplete novel, but to me he’s out there somewhere—alive and well—much more than a fictional character. He’s all the good men in my life—men who were (and are) heroes.

Where do your heroes come from? A memory? A dream? Pure fiction?

I’m anxious for you to read The Little Girl in the Bayou and meet Joe Mack Crawford. And I hope you'll like him as much as I do.

You can purchase Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime from

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

IWSG With a Touch of Horror, Crime & Mystery

Brain Child of Alex J. Cavanaugh

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

The awesome co-hosts for the April 4 posting of the IWSG are

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Optional Question of the Month: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

When I'm in a writing funk, I shut down everything I'm working on and pick up a good book. Nothing snaps me out of rainy-day-writing blues faster than to read someone else's writing. I know they must have had rotten moments while they were creating the story. I know they must have walked away, shaking their head and wondering why they ever thought they could write. And yet, there that book is with thousands of words that draw me in and keep me reading.

I had real doubts that I could write a mystery-thriller-suspense story. I almost didn't, then one of those accidents happened. I stumbled onto an article about the great Chicago fire, and because writers' minds are nothing but a labyrinth of subterranean connections, I came up with the idea for Heartless. I knew I wanted to set the story at the time of the fire, so there would be two races against time: one to save a life and one to escape the flames. 

Now I'm writing another novel, and I'm half-way through the first draft and totally stuck! Even worse, I had a computer malfunction and lost my latest version (about 2K words weren't saved in my backup) I've had more rainy days than California has in a decade. I've cried on my critique partners shoulders and slumped over my desk, asking, "Why did I start this?"

Stay tuned. I'll be blogging about this one for a while. And you? What's your rainy-writer's-day strategy?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Before One More Minute

The short story I wrote for the Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime anthology is about a woman who is making a major change in her life. She faces great danger in doing so and has a limited amount of time to pack up her life and leave. The title is One More Minute.

S.R. Betler (Three O'Clock Execution) created these amazing badges for each of our stories.

What I love about having my first mystery/crime/thriller story published in an anthology is the great collaborate effort all the authors and publication team are making to promote the book. Each story is unique, yet holds true to the theme: a time sensitive story.

The main character in my story is someone who has kept a journal throughout her adult life. I shared an excerpt on C. Lee McKenzie's blog (Heartless) this week, on how they got their Golden Retriever Bo. I'll share another entry here.

March 25, 20--
Well, Mother Nature had her last laugh. She dumped several inches of snow on us last night. Bo, in true puppy form, wasn't daunted in the least. He leapt out the door and immediately stuck his nose into the snow, coming up with a comical goatee. It reminded me of when the boys were small and I shared my ice cream cone with them. They took a taste, looked up with big eyes, and stuck their tongues out for more, licking their lips trying to get all the creamy sweetness. They each had a dollop of ice cream on their noses, just like Bo's snow wash!

I'd rather be prepping my gardens today instead of shoveling snow. I bought the boys light shovels so they can help me. Of course, Grayson just drove over the snow and went to work.

Bo becomes a loyal companion to this lonely mother and wife. Read about her and the rest of the unfortunate characters in Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime anthology from Dancing Lemur Press. Coming May 1, 2018. It will thrill and delight you!

Want to join the community of people talking about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime? Add the book on Goodreads or like our Facebook page. 

Mary Aalgaard is a playwright and piano/theater teacher, living in the heart of Minnesota. She writes theater reviews and supports the arts through her blog Play off the Page. She teaches youth theater workshops in the Brainerd lakes area, writes articles for regional magazines, and works with both seniors and youth in multi-generational programs to enhance quality of life and build community. Her website is You can follow her on her Playoff the Page Facebook page, @MaryAalgaard on Twitter, and email her at

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mystery, Mind Games, and Murder

Imagine, if you will, that you have one week left to live. You’re innocent, but the jury found you guilty anyway. No one believes you. Your last appeal has failed. To top it all off, the person who killed your spouse is still out there, and soon they’ll have gotten away with two murders. You have one last interview, one last chance to tell the truth and hope that someone, anyone, believes you. And someone does. But you might just wish he didn’t.

Such was the scenario that ran through my head and eventually gave life to Maurice Oyler and Matthew Devlin in Three O’Clock Execution.

When I first heard the Insecure Writer’s Group (IWSG) was holding their annual anthology contest, I was excited. But then I realized the topic was crime. Eish. I’m a fantasy writer, through and through. What do I know about crime? Sure, I love reading it, but writing it is a whole different beast.

However, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge (even when I really, really should), so I sat down and considered something I think about from time to time: what if you’re put to death for a crime you didn’t commit? The thought is terrifying. So, in other words, perfect for a crime anthology.

I’ve always been a big fan of psychological thrillers, so I wanted to approach crime more from a psychological perspective; not while the murder is being committed, but the mind games that follow. And Mr. Devlin sure is good at mind games.

I'd like to introduce you to the characters, just briefly, with an excerpt from the beginning of Three O'Clock Execution.

The clock outside chimed three times as Mr. Devlin clicked the recorder on and took his seat at the metal table.

“Today is the eighth of April, at three o’clock.” His words were crisp and biting, as chilly and sterile as the visiting room. “Will you state your name for the record, please?”

“Maurice Oyler.” The chains clinked against the table as he wrung his hands.

“Do I have your permission to record this?”


“Then, let’s begin, shall we? As you know, I’m Matthew Devlin. I’m conducting some research on death row inmates. Thank you for agreeing to see me.”

“Well, you were very persistent.” It wasn’t a compliment. In fact, Mr. Devlin had become downright insufferable, and if Mo had to die, which the state was determined to make happen, he wanted to at least be allowed to do so in peace.

“I think you’ll find, Mr. Oyler, that I take my work very seriously.”

“I’m afraid I won’t be of much use to you, then. You see, I’m innocent.”

“With all due respect, every sane person says that on their way out.” Mr. Devlin paused to rearrange some folders in front of him. “Some of the less-than-sane ones, too.”

“Right.” Mo licked his lips and leaned forward, making sure their eyes met. “But I’m telling the truth. I didn’t kill my wife.”

So, what would you do if you were convicted of a crime you didn’t commit?

To find out what Maurice Oyler did, you can preorder Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime at the following retailers (release date is May 1):

Want to join the community of people talking about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime? Add the book on Goodreads or like our Facebook page. 

 S. R. Betler: Writer. Reviewer. Failed ninja. Collector of stray people and animals. Torturer of characters. Creator of worlds, people, and sometimes bad ideas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Until Release

by Jemi Fraser

Back in September, I posted this on Facebook...

3500 words
7 different pov characters
1st attempt at a short
Genre I don't normally write
What could possibly go wrong...?

The Theme for the newest IWSG anthology had intrigued me.

Theme: Tick Tock. The story revolves around a clock, is time sensitive, or has something about a specific time. 

The prompt for the contest had my brain ticking (pun intended!). I saw a clock counting down, but counting down to what?

The first character to pop into my head was a grieving mother. Then the man who caused the grieving.

This man was being released early from prison, for good behaviour.

Other characters popped in until I ended up with 8 points of view in the story. I'm used to juggling 2 points of view and am comfortable with both male and female viewpoints. But 8? Yeah, I thought I was nuts, too. And, yes, another character clamoured to be added after my FB post above.

Added to the mess, none of the characters came with names, but they did come with evil intentions.

I had so much fun writing the first draft! And the fun increased with each revision round.

First up in the story is Ashley...

It proved impossible to paint nail polish neatly while imagining her fingers wrapped around that throat.  Squeezing until the pulse ceased to beat and the life was gone.
Like her Matt’s life.
Four years, three months, and thirteen days gone. Less than five years to pay for the death of her son. Snuffed out at nineteen. Run down like he meant nothing.
It wasn’t enough.
Walker had to pay like her Matt had paid.
Ashley took a deep breath followed by three more. Then picked up the polish with a steady hand.

I hope you'll be picking up a copy of Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime when it's released! And don't forget to add us to your list on Goodreads! Join us on Facebook too!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

#IWSG: Count Your Blessings and A Stitch in Crime

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and all the co-hosts this month:  Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner (Me!). 

This month's optional question is: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/finish a story?

I put the first draft of the cozy mystery I'd been working on aside to write a short story sequel to offer free in order to generate interest--before the novel comes out.  It was complete at about 12K words when the Insecure Writer's Support Group short story anthology announced they were accepting submissions in the mystery genre! 

Perfect! I really only write cozy mysteries. And the timing of the announcement was fortuitous because I'd just finished my short story. The only problem was the length: 6000 words too many. I wondered if I'd be able to cut that many words--it was half my story! But I did it and submitted my story. Goal accomplished!

I knew that making it into the anthology was a long shot. There are so many talented writers out there and I know I'm not the best. Plus, my stories are lighthearted and sweet in a world that thrives on adrenaline and angst.  

No one was more blown away than me when I learned that my lighthearted paranormal cozy mystery won the feature spot!

Here's where my insecurity comes in. I've just completed reading all the stories in the anthology. And they are GOOD! Better than mine. I have to wonder if someone made a mistake. 

HOWEVER, I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm thrilled, grateful and so honored! I'm celebrating by counting my blessings which I hope to never take for granted. My story touched a chord with enough of the judges to be selected. So maybe it's not always the best that wins, but the one that touches the strongest chord at the time.

How do you celebrate when
you achieve a writing goal?
Even cozy characters have their problems. Here's a look into Indigo Eady's life: 

EXCERPT from A Stitch in Crime:
“Bagels, croissants, snickerdoodles, macaroons…” I looked up and met Badger’s eyes. “Okay, spill the coffee beans. This is serious indeed.” I twisted the bag top into a tight taper and pushed it away, then sat back and crossed my arms. “You’re not here on a Friday night for my titillating company.”
“You wound me.” He splayed his hand over his heart as if I’d punctured it with an arrow.
“Yeah, yeah. Come on, you brought all my favorite junk foods, so out with it.”
He sighed. “You’re right. This isn’t exactly a social call.”
He didn’t meet my eyes or answer right away. Instead he crossed to the cupboard and pulled out a plate, then made a big production of untwisting and smoothing out the mangled bag. Pastries were arranged to their best advantage. “As it happens, I have a friend in need.”
“Uh-huh.” I snatched a macaroon and bit it in half. The sweet and chewy coconut seduced my taste buds. I shoved the rest in my mouth and continued. “Let me guess. This friend of yours has a mischievous ghost who’s creating havoc and making life miserable.”
“In a word, yes.”
I sighed. “I’m not a ghostbuster. I need a real job.” I’d applied for numerous positions with no response. I dreamed of eating real food instead of ramen noodles every night.
“I know.” He plucked a blueberry scone from the pile and broke it in half. “But it’s a paying gig, and let’s face it: you need money.”
Someone had a big mouth. Probably me. “How much?” I may not like dealing with spirits, but I could be bought for the right price. Like a steak-and-potato dinner, perhaps with a nice bottle of Cabernet thrown in.
“The going rate,” Badger said. He shoved half the scone in his mouth and chewed while I waited. “A thousand pounds.”
The macaroon lodged in my throat, trapping coconut-coffee juice at the back of my nasal passages. I managed to swallow the lump before anything shot from my nose, but a coughing fit ensued. Once that subsided, I wiped my watery eyes on the back on my hand. “When do I start?” I choked out.
“Don’t you want to know what it is first?”
“I’d exorcise the devil himself for a thousand pounds,” I said, then hesitated. “It’s not the devil himself…is it?”

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