Some mystery/thriller writer friends and I have challenged ourselves to blog once a month about a topic related to mysteries and/or thrillers. Join us each month on the 13th for the #Lucky13MysteryBlogHop!
When you’re a writer, you never take vacation. Everywhere I go, especially in new places, I enjoy watching people, and (yes, I know this is a bit twisted) thinking about how to kill people and dispose of bodies. That urge to create and solve a mystery follows me everywhere.
Fatal Impulse was inspired by a story I heard when I was 10 years old. My family vacationed in Colorado, near Salida. At some point, Mom talked to a cashier (or a waitress maybe?) about the mountain roads, the steep drop-offs, the dangers of driving. I remember that woman telling a story about a car that went off Highway 50, somewhere near Monarch Pass. The woman said the woman’s body wasn’t recovered until the next summer because the ravine was so steep and rugged that it was too dangerous for rescue crews to go down. The car was left there, a mangled mass of steel. The idea of someplace being so rugged that a body couldn’t be recovered stuck with me. I thought, what a great way to get rid of a body! (yes, even at 10, I thought that way – is it any wonder that I devoured Stephen King novels in my early teens?)
Tell me about a vacation you’ve been on – where would you suggest as a good setting for a mystery?
I finished the rough draft of Diamond in the Rough last week. This is the second in the Diamond J series, set in Missouri, featuring Aidan and Gina. If you haven’t read Denim & Diamonds yet, make sure you do before Rough comes out next year!
It was incredibly exciting and fulfilling . . . an adrenaline fueled push to that last scene. I knew what had to happen, I just had to get there. I took two days off work and PUSHED myself. I wrote over 10,000 words in those two days. Once I got going, the words were flying from my fingers so fast. It was . . . awesome. And I don’t mean that in the overused way that it falls from our tongues these days. I mean it in the true sense of the word. I was in awe of the way the words flowed through my fingers and appeared on the screen, as if I did not actually play any part in the creation of them.
It gives me chills just to think about it.
Now, that manuscript is on the back burner. It needs to rest for a bit. I’m too close to it now. I’d never be able to see the flaws that I know exist, because in my mind, that manuscript is perfect as it is right this moment.
And, in a way, it is.
Simply because it exists.
So, for the month of November, I will escape into another Widow’s Web novel . . . The Danger Within. Sophie Kendrick will be chattering away in my head, as she goes on the run and tries to escape the clutches of Blake Chaney. First, I need to decide . . . will this happen in Maine, Colorado, or Missouri? What’s your vote? Reply to this post (or comment) and let me know where you want it set.
In my recent journaling, trying to mine the depths of my soul for writing, I received a tip to explore my wild side. Yeah, right . . . I may have had a wild side when I was younger, but my days now consist of work, taking care of our furbabies, watching TV and going to bed, with a side of laundry & housekeeping for good measure. If I drink 2 glasses of wine, I’m sound asleep. I don’t drink and drive, don’t do drugs, don’t smoke. BUT . . . those times when I have pushed myself, I felt more alive than I ever have before.
We took a rented Jeep up & over Tin Cup Pass – a 4×4 trail in Colorado. That was exhilarating as all get out. It was fun, exciting, challenging. I remember two main things about that day: (1) having to pee so badly when we were above the tree line that I dropped trou & hunkered down behind a scrubby bush – just as a bunch of 4-wheelers came down the switchback trail above us. My ever-so-thoughtful husband snapped a pic. And (2) when we reached the summit, it was like being on another planet. Truly awe-inspiring beauty and solitude.
I went on a police ride along last year, during the downtown night shift. The officer who took me was very helpful, glad to answer questions and allowed me to experience more than I ever though I would get to. I remember a couple of intense moments from that night: (1) the ability of the officer to maintain his composure even when the perp puked towards him, (2) the strain in the officer’s voice when he was responding to an attempted suicide that turned into an attack, and (3) that moment when I was locked in the SUV in a rough part of town with flashing lights strobing around me and thought, “Holy cow, what on Earth am I doing here?”
So, what have you done that was a walk on the wild side for you? Something that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
In my current work-in-progress, someone dies (shocking, I know). The novel was inspired by something that happened when I was a kid of about 12. We were on a family vacation in Salida, Colorado staying at a quaint little “guest ranch” just this side of Monarch Pass. The towering Fourteeners all around us were awe-inspiring, but what I really remember were the sheer drops as we drove up into those mountains. At one point, my mom started talking to one of the locals about how easy it would be to drive right off the edge of the mountain and someone said something about a mangled guardrail. The local told us about a woman who had driven her car off the road in the middle of a snowstorm. She said the car was still down there, at the bottom of the ravine. Said it was too dangerous to try to retrieve her body. That has always stuck with me. Very much made an impression on me.
Although that was an interesting story, writing my novel required research. I went on a ride along with a police officer and asked questions about how the officers would react if a woman were found standing on the side of a road, where another individual appeared to have gone over the edge. If you are writing about crime, I encourage you to go on a ride along. Most departments will allow you to do so, and it’s a fairly simple matter to apply. You will likely have to pass a background check. Before you go on the ride along, do a little research. There are lots of resources, but I recommend the article at PoliceLink, which you can find here.
I have only been involved with planning a funeral once, so I did a little research about funeral directors. YouTube is a great research tool for writers. I ran across an interesting short documentary (For Life) which gave me ideas for dialogue and action. If you use YouTube for research, look for documentaries or first person reviews.
Another part of my story that required research related to death was that the body isn’t recovered. That brings up some interesting questions, about how the individual is declared legally dead (this is known as death in absentia). In Missouri, this is a statutory question and requires that the person be missing for five years. If you have legal questions, you can usually check the Revised Statutes for your state. These can also give you ideas for plots. For instance, Missouri laws cover details like the definition of dead (think medical thriller) and disposing of the body (what if a funeral director cut corners to save costs?).
So, now you know how I spend my free time. :o) What have you researched lately?