Meet Marv, our cowboy/coroner sleuth

GUEST POST – MICHAEL D. SMITH, AUTHOR OF MYSTERY, INK. NOVEL – THE LIST

Being a ninth generation family farmer like myself allowed me to approach the idea of getting into Marv Henderson’s head with a unique perspective. While I did not attend veterinary school like him, I did grow up on a 240-acre farm and raised beef cattle, which I still do. It is a lifestyle that will course through your veins and seep into your marrow if you are around it long enough. As such, it never quite leaves you even if you do go off to be an arts and entertainment editor at a major newspaper or teach high school social studies at a private school. The experiences gained while growing up on a farm/ranch and being out in nature with domesticated animals and wild ones alike provide a heightened respect for life in general, something which I attempted to infuse into Marv.

Marv and I also coincidentally share a major life tragedy – he lost his father when he was 17 and I lost mine when I was about to turn 16. This commonality between us allowed me to deeply relate to him because that sense of sudden loss at a critical age does not go away no matter how old you become. It is from that experience that I was able to infuse a degree of loneliness into Marv, something which he is comfortable and uncomfortable with at the same time. There is also a heightened sense of self-reliance that comes with it. There is a fear of looking weak if one has to ask someone else for help and a reluctance to accept it if it is offered freely. The impact of this creates a proverbial crater on the social landscape as the ability to easily make friends, to work well with others, to have romantic relationships, etc. is muted to a significant degree. It is a disconnect that is difficult to hurdle.

While creating Marv I also drew upon a multitude of experiences I have had with various large animal veterinarians. He is in many ways an amalgamation of all their collective personalities. Each one I have known over the years has had something unique or memorable about them that I added to Marv. This ranges from his cantankerousness to his flashes of a temper to how he walks and more. So it was these experiences and traditions I used in the hopeful attempt to breathe life into the template of Marv Henderson.

Available at Amazon.

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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT.

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In the predawn hours of a recent summer night, I was sitting on the deck of our cabin on Table Rock Lake when I looked up and saw what, for a mystery writer, is a gorgeous, mystical night sky. Of course, my first thought was to remember the opening line of Madaleine L’Engle’s novel, A Wrinkle In Time, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Now that line is considered to be a cliché, but that was not the case when Madaleine L’Engle wrote it.  Even so, it is a powerful image, and it reminds me of why I became a mystery writer and later an editor of mystery novels—one of the elements mystery novels have in spades—eerie, macabre, unnerving images that can be visualized to evoke strong emotions within the reader.

I only have to look to the master, Edgar Allen Poe, to conjure up such images and bring the muse.

A small sample of Poe’s dark magic:

Clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens

Insufferable gloom

Desolate

White trunks of decayed trees

Bleak walls

Vacant eye-like windows

Dreary tract of country

And that’s just on the first page of “The Fall of the House of Usher!”

My process:

I often read that page and then easily come up with such adjectives as:

Chilling

Deathlike

Morbid

Unearthly

Ghostly

Ghoulish

The list goes on and on.

So when Lawrence and I created the Mystery, Ink. Bookstore, I knew immediately that, among other things, it must possess an unnerving gargoyle, unearthly skeletons, low-wattage lighting that cast dark, macabre shadows on the walls. And the chilling effect of the huge black cat, Hercule, Nattie’s personal pet, who sizes up every customer with those enormous cat eyes.

Legacy of  “dark and stormy night”:

Writers may not use those exact words, which virtually all mystery writers know, when they create images, but the legacy of those words lives on in other, more indirect ways. When you read your next mystery novel, consider whether or not you see that legacy.

Suella Walsh

Managing Editor

Mystery, Ink. Novels

 

 

 

 

MEREDITH AND ME

 

GUEST POST: Paffi S. Flood, author of the Mystery, Ink. Novel, A Killing Strikes Home.

In this novel, the sleuths are the twenty-five-year old Dotson twins, Naomi and Penelope. Of the four sleuths in the series—Natalie Ryan, Sylvester (Sly) Jones, the Dotson twins, and the cowboy/coroner, Marv Henderson—Paffi will explain why she chose the twins to write about.

MEREDITH AND ME

Imagine my surprise when I went to the doctor’s office, at eight weeks into my pregnancy, and was told I was carrying twins. My first thoughts were: two car seats, two cribs, and worst of all, two college educations. I’m sure Meredith Dotson, Naomi and Penelope’s mom, in my novel A Killing Strikes Home had a similar experience but that’s probably where the analogy ends. While I imagine Meredith to have had a fairytale multiple birth, with the twins being delivered naturally on their due date, at the average healthy weight of around six pounds each, whom she took home at the end of her hospital stay, mine was much different.

My twin baby boys arrived nine weeks early and together, they weighed about five pounds. When I was wheeled out of the hospital, my babies weren’t with me. Near the exit door, I passed a new mom, also in a wheelchair, who cradled a pink bundle in her arms while the dad, carrying a massive pink balloon, walked beside her. The emptiness I felt at that moment will be with me always.

Every day for the next five weeks, still recovering from a C-section, I made the longest walk of my life. With a baby bag, full of tiny bottles of pumped milk, slung over my shoulder, I oohed and aahed, in pain, as I inched through long hospital corridors to get from the elevator to the NICU.

After they came home, four weeks shy of their original due date, the real fun began. Sleepless nights which were spent feeding and changing them and then marking in a log which baby was fed and which one was diapered. That way, in my delirium, I didn’t feed and change one twice and leave the other one starved and dirty.

Thirteen years on, these kids now play the violin and soccer and are a permanent fixture on their school’s honor role.

I’m in the midst of their teenage years and the banter that goes on between Naomi and Penelope is something I witness on a daily basis. Although my boys have similar interests, they’re not unlike the Dotson twins in that they disagree and bicker. Rather than do it about shoes and annoying habits, mine squabble about cars. One sees the merits of the green car, Tesla, while the other is full-on for the gas-guzzling Bugatti. Then, there are the theories of why something works the way it does and how it could be changed to be more useful, more interesting, more this, more that. On and on. But I wouldn’t change a moment.

In the end, the main thing Meredith and I share is our love for our twins, the one thing that matters the most.

Paffi S. Flood is a freelance writer who resides in Kansas City. Her debut novel, A Killing Strikes Home, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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THAT IMPORTANT LINE

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 GOT YOUR ATTENTION?

THAT’S THE POINT!

   You enter the bookstore, head straight for the mystery section, and begin to browse. Still it’s only a casual relationship between you and the books on the shelves. You, then, see a cover that catches your attention. Your interest is peaked. You read the first line of the novel, and if it’s well written, that’s the moment when you are hooked.

Mystery readers know the significance of that all-important first line. Through such devises as vivid action, a strong sense of character, or a rich setting, that sentence must compel you to turn the page. The driving force in a mystery novel is tension, and you, the mystery reader, want it from page one.

Excellent Examples of Mystery First Lines:

“When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter.

No Second Chance by Harland Coben

“I wasn’t thinking about the man who’d blown himself up.”

   DeJa Dead by Kathy Reichs

“Gordon Michaels stood in the fountain with all his clothes on.”

Banker by Dick Francis

“He seemed incapable of creating such chaos, but much of what he saw below could be blamed on him.”

The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

Why do these words create such great openings? For many reasons, of course. But primarily because each of them creates a question in the reader’s mind, a question worthy of further reading in order to discover the answer.

Examples of Mystery, Ink. Novels First Lines:

“I didn’t know her for very long, but when I heard she left town, I worried.”

The Girl My Town Forgot by Markus Kane

“He’s going to take it all away from me, everything I hold dear.”

A Killing Strikes Home by Paffi S. Flood

At Mystery, Ink. Novels, it is our goal to bring you into the fictive dream with a catapulting jolt, and hold you in that dream until the last word of the novel.

QUESTION: If the first line of a mystery novel was, DO NOT ENTER, would you enter and keep reading, or would you put the book down?

Suella Walsh and Lawrence Walsh

Managing Editors

Mystery, Ink. Novels

Goldminds Publishing (Nashville, Tennessee)