Monthly Archives: July 2014

Good ideas??

First, a quick progress update. Stacked to Death, Jamie Brodie #7, is finished, in that the story is entirely written, but now it’s being edited. Things have been moving slowly right now because my readers and editors all work at the same place I do, and we’re all feverishly getting ready for fall semester, which begins in four weeks.

I’m getting ready to go on location, in a way – I’m going to be walking the 80-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall Path in England over the next two weeks, and while there I’m going to be using a friend’s archaeological expertise to write a big chunk of Stoned to Death, Jamie Brodie #8. 

In November I’m going to use NaNoWriMo again to write #9, Talked to Death.

#10 will be called Filmed to Death, and #11 will be Played to Death.

Beyond that…

People keep giving me ideas for Jamie Brodie mysteries. Sometimes it’s just a title and I have no idea how I’d make it work. Sometimes it’s a one-line synopsis.

Here are some of the other ideas I have. I’d love to know what you all think of these!

Rehabilitated to Death – this was actually the title of a blog post I saw, about deaths at a Chinese camp for people addicted to the internet. I don’t think that’s the scenario I would use. Maybe something to do with “pray away the gay” camps?

Framed to Death – a student or young professor kills someone, and uses social media to frame her ex-boyfriend, a much older man, either a professor or retired.

Surveyed to Death – this idea was born when several of us at work were talking about the number of dumb surveys we get in our email that the administration wants us to complete. This could tie back into Elliott Conklin’s research on survey design.

Promoted to Death – intrigue and murder related to academic promotion. I’m the chair of our college’s faculty promotion committee this year, so this one should be easy.

Accounted to Death – something involving shady business practices that can involve the business librarians at UCLA.

Launched to Death – Jamie, Pete and Steve go to Florida for a rocket launch and get involved with a body found on site.

Forgiven to Death – the man who caused the auto accident that killed Jamie’s mother is released from prison, then found murdered.

Other potential ideas for which I do not have titles:

  • A story involving Jamie’s old boyfriend Eric, the paramedic – something medical.
  • A story involving Jamie’s brother Jeff and either animals or farming

What do you think? Any suggestions out there?


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Points of view

I am fortunate to work in the same building as several other fiction writers. We have a discussion group that meets once a week, where we critique each other’s work. I’m presenting a section of Stacked to Death to them this afternoon.

One of the other members is the director of our college writing center. She writes urban fantasy – her first book was about vampires; now she’s writing about dragons, with a few vampires thrown in. She asked me a question the other day that got me thinking – do I know things about my story that my main character doesn’t? Her reason for asking was her concern about plot holes. If there is information that the reader needs, but the main character doesn’t know it, how do you tell the reader, if you write in first person POV (like I do) or third person limited POV (like she does)?

My answer to her: if it’s information that the reader needs to know, otherwise there will be a plot hole, then a character that does know the information has to tell the main character, or she has to discover it somehow. It may be awkward to create a conversation with another character to get that information to the reader, but it has to be done.

Our talk made me think about what my protagonist, Jamie, knows. Jamie isn’t omniscient. He only knows what he learns or sees himself, or what others tell him. This is especially true of off-page characters. An example – a character that was mentioned briefly at the end of Psyched to Death, Robbie Harrison’s wife. Jamie doesn’t know her, never met her. The only source of information he has about her is Robbie, who at the moment is very angry with her for having him followed – he calls her a bitch. Jamie tells him that’s not nice – but he doesn’t know the woman. For all he knows, maybe she is a bitch.

But she’s not. I know her – I created her, right? Ashley Harrison, a beautiful blonde, stay-at-home mom to her two girls. I based her on someone I used to know, a woman married to an insurance company executive – a great mom, loved to entertain, was very generous, but was hell on wheels when she was angry. Ashley is a great mom, but she’s not perfect. Her marriage hasn’t been good for a while, but she hasn’t done anything about it, because she likes not having to work and she likes the well-to-do friends she’s made as a result of Robbie’s profession. She likes her big house in a wealthy neighborhood and she likes spending Robbie’s money. She thought Robbie was having an affair with a woman, and the discovery that he’s been seeing a man has sent her temporarily off the deep end.

But there is no way for Jamie to know any of that, because Robbie doesn’t tell him. Ashley’s character is not germane to the plot, and I’m not going to put the brakes on what is the climax of the story for Jamie to ask Robbie to please tell him all of Ashley’s good points.

I got accused of misogyny by a reviewer because Robbie called Ashley a bitch. The reviewer even said that it was Jamie that called her a bitch, which of course it wasn’t. Jamie was raised better than that. 😀

I guess there are two morals to this story. First – as a reader, remember that first person POV means that Jamie doesn’t know anything more than you do. Because you only see things from his point of view, you only have what he sees and hears.

Second, if you want to accuse a writer of a particularly egregious trait, don’t base your accusation on such a minor character. Take a look at the characters that are fully drawn. The characters that Jamie knows well and interacts with himself. In this case, Liz, Ali, Mel, Dr. Bibbins, Dr. Loomis, Valerie, Abby, Barb, Connie…etc.

And remember – if Jamie’s getting misled, so are you. 😀


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Authors: There’s a Thief in Your House, and Here’s How To Narc on Them.

Please read, and don’t buy books from these sites!

The Amazon Iowan

Huge, mammoth hat tip to Bree and Donna for teaching me the magic that is Whois. And for translating it because I still don’t understand. Now, let me tell you a scary story, then hand you a machete.

This site is selling works without permission. So is this one, but Devin on twitter says they have similar stuff in the guts or something computer-ish that I don’t understand, which boils down to they’re probably the same joint. Except they seem to have different hosts, so maybe they’re twin assholes.

If you’re a reader and you’re going HEY CHEAP BOOKS, please know this is worse than piracy. This is someone illegally selling works they have no rights to. For that measly $1.90, I will receive nothing, ever, nor will my publisher, and thieving jerks will receive everything. These people will also have all your contact information, and your credit card…

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Details, details

Now that the next book in the Jamie Brodie Mystery series, Stacked to Death, is with the beta-readers, I’m working out the plot lines for the book after that, Stoned to Death. Jamie and Pete go to the UK for their month-long vacation, to investigate the disappearance of Pete’s great-great-grandfather in 1915. The investigation will take them from Oxford, England, up to the Orkney islands at the very top of Scotland. Stoned to Death will include a lot of relationship stuff between Pete and Jamie, too.

The setting includes a lot of places that I’ve been myself – Oxford, Orkney, Iona, Edinburgh, Fort William, and more. I’ll be writing part of it while I’m actually in England, walking across the country on the Hadrian’s Wall Path. I have the opportunity to include a lot of local color and detail about what the boys are seeing on their travels.

But how much detail? Some readers like details about what Jamie is seeing and doing; some hate them. It’s a balancing act, keeping enough description without going overboard.

How much detail about setting and character movements do you like?


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