THE THINKING STONE

I can’t remember a time in my childhood when the stone wasn’t there. It stood proudly in the northwest corner of my grandmother’s yard, standing nearly four feet tall with a width to match. It had a grayish hue.

When I was a preschooler, relatives often placed me on the stone when they talked to me. Doing so put us more at eye level. Even at that age, I was drawn to the warm vibes that enveloped me while I perched on the cool, smooth surface. Even more importantly, the stone made me taller, empowering me by lifting me up.

When I was big enough to climb onto its welcoming expanse, it became my special place—my place to think. Since I was an introspective child, this rock afforded me the perfect environment to contemplate, to analyze, and to make important life decisions. The stone also became a symbol of my dear Irish grandmother. She was a true light in my life—someone who encouraged me and believed in me.

The Thinking Process

It was a natural progression that by the time I was old enough to sit on the stone (without having to climb up) it became the place where I spent many circumspect hours. I felt safe there, wrapped in the serenity of the stone, encircled in the cocoon of my grandmother’s love.

On clear spring or summer days, when the sun warmed my back and the sky was so blue I could see right through it, I sat on my polished gray throne and contemplated life’s choices with all their shades of gray, all their subtle innuendo. Ultimately I pulled out the path that I believed would work best for me.

On dark fall or winter days, the sky heavy with promise and meaning, a crisp breeze stinging my cheeks, I felt alive to the core. Thoughts sprang to mind with great clarity. On such days, I could make the hard choices.

On my thinking stone, I saw the wisdom of breaking up with my high school boyfriend of three years, of going away to college when money was scarce, of pursuing my goals of teaching and writing when family members were dead set against it. I chose my life’s partner on that stone. These are a few of the more significant decisions that came to me in that special place.

Affects on writing

I believe my hours on the thinking stone (over the course of my formative years) are what propelled me into writing novels, rather than short stories or poetry. Considering concepts from all angles with no hurry to judgment creates a resonance, a drawing out of perceptions into what I call a tree-like structure, creating branches (subplots) that emanate from the trunk (the main plot.)

The stone remains

Of course, people have told me that it wasn’t the stone at all, that an inanimate rock couldn’t possibly have anything to do with my considered conclusions, my method of selection. But I know different.

My beloved grandmother is gone now, her property sold, the stone removed—I know not where. Yet it is still with me, just as she is still with me. When I need to think something through, even now, I can close my eyes, feel the stone beneath me, and feel my grandmother’s love around me. I know that I am empowered by both, know that I can still find my way.

Who or what sustains you?

Suella

Available on Amazon

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Relationships in the Mystery Novel

GUEST POST: STACI TROILO, author of Mystery Heir

The Role of Relationships in the Mystery Novel

I was blessed to get to create a novel for the Mystery, Ink. line. Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir is in Naomi’s point of view because she was the one I could relate to the most.

  • College professor (her currently, me formerly)
  • Moved a lot (her as a child, me as an adult)
  • Martial arts background
  • Strong familial ties

Most of my fiction has a strong relationship component. The original title of this novel was Daddy Issues because of the powerful and poignant father-child dynamics explored. Just a few of the issues addressed are abandonment, atonement, neglect, and unrestricted love.

Abandonment

Naomi’s best friend growing up, Hannah, came from a broken home. Being raised worrying about money was bad enough, but not having the love and support of a father was even more difficult. Seeing how difficult things were for Hannah stirred in Naomi a fierce desire to obtain justice for children with deadbeat dads.

Atonement

At some point, deadbeat dads may realize what they missed. In addition to guilt, there’s an acknowledgement that needs to occur. In Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir, one such character realizes his mistake. He tries to atone for his actions, but it proves to be too little, too late.

Neglect

Some fathers start out as wonderful parents, but through extenuating circumstances find themselves no longer part of their child’s life. Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir explores the effects neglect can have on a family.

Unrestricted Love

Some fathers are just destined to earn Father-of-the-Year awards every year. There is an example of this devoted father in the novel, as well. In addition to depicting the benefits of a healthy father-child relationship, the story also examines what happens when that love is snatched away.

Relationships and Mysteries

A perusal of old mysteries, like Murder, She Wrote and Perry Mason, shows mysteries to be simply a matter of clue assessment before revealing the solution.

There is little in the way of interpersonal relationships. And that worked for stories of the past. Relationships were confined to coworkers and the occasional friend. Not much was known about family-lives or histories of these detectives, and not much was done to explore those of the suspects either.

Times have changed.

Granted, many readers don’t like to mix genres. Sure, maybe a little suspense thrown into a thriller or some fantasy in a romance is fine. But diehard fans of certain genres don’t want to see an amalgam of other story types entering their form. They are purists.

But even plot-driven stories depend on characters to propel the action.

Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir is a mystery. Plain and simple. There is no romance (although there’s innuendo). There are no sci-fi or paranormal elements. It’s a story that’s grounded in reality.

And the reality is that relationships define characters as much as their reactions do.

Relationships are here to stay. And I’m grateful for it.

Available on Amazon

Stacia

LADY JUSTICE

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LADY JUSTICE

The concept of “Lady Justice” is that justice is blind and therefore cannot be influenced as she weighs the evidence. Since the 15th century, statures of “Lady Justice” are often, but not always, depicted wearing a blindfold, which represents objectivity and impartiality. (One famous and frankly brilliant exception to this is in the novel, Raintree County by Ross Lockeridge Jr., where only one eye is covered.) With the scales in her left hand, she measures the strength and opposition to the case. The double-edged sword in her other hand symbolizes the power of reason and can be wielded for or against either party.

Justice in Mystery, Ink. Novels

For the type of mystery novel we write at Mystery, Ink., however, Lady Justice must carry the full weight of this objectivity, because justice is the all-compelling concept that draws you, the reader, to this mystery sub-genre.

In our readers’ lives, reality is often messy, cluttered, and frankly unfair. Readers come to the mystery novel for a reprieve from such chaos. Within the pages of a well-crafted Mystery, Ink. novel, you begin the story with the concept that all the elements will wrap up at the end and that, in some manner, evil will not win. This is the satisfaction that causes you to close the book with a sigh.

Tension

Of course, it is the conflict of the story, the power of suspense, that glues you to the plot. The page-turner aspect cannot be overstated. Edge-of-your-seat-tension is, therefore, a hallmark of Mystery, Ink. novels.

Expectations

Even so, it is the expectation that, in some clever way in the hands of a professional writer who uses mystery techniques which make it difficult to discern how all the elements will blend together, that somehow—even if it is within the realm of fiction—that at least somewhere “Lady Justice” will prevail in the end.

Lawrence Walsh

Managing Editor

Mystery, Ink. Novels

Goldminds Publications (Nashville, Tennessee)

 

 

 

 

 

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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Serial Characters

In the world of serial mystery protagonists, it’s often the case that personality quirks are what glue the readers to their favorite sleuths. While the tension within the plot is paramount to the movement of the individual stories, it’s the connection to the returning sleuth that draws the reader back to the series, time and time again.

Who of us will ever forget the importance of Columbo’s raincoat, which holds such a strong place in his psyche, that he “can’t think” and solve the cases without it.  The viewer discovered the power of this coat when, in one episode, his wife bought him a new one for his birthday and he deliberately tried to lose it.

In Susan Dunlap’s Darcy Lott mystery series, Darcy has a phobia about going into the woods, which is due to a bad experience she had when she was four years old.

Sara Paretsky’s character, V I Warshawski, is a serial monogamist, following a failed marriage of 18 months, when she was young. Now, she chooses to live alone.

Travis McGee, John D. McDonald’s serial protagonist, owns a custom-built Rolls-Royce which was converted into a pickup truck and painted a horrible blue. He named the vehicle “Miss Agnes” after one of his teachers whose hair was the same color as the converted pickup.

In the first Mystery, Ink. novel, Murder Times Two, our amateur sleuth, Natalie Ryan, owner of the Mystery, Ink. Bookstore, hoards food. This started when she was a child in a house with many children, and, often, the portions of food were small. In those days, to keep her stomach from growling, she would sneak an extra biscuit or a piece of cheese into one of her pockets. Today, with this strong, though unrealistic fear that someday she might not have enough to eat, she is a major hoarder with a hidden pantry, which plays an important part in the mystery.

It’s those seemingly small side issues that add up to a rich, fully-developed character readers will love.

Available on Kindle

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QUESTION: Since Columbo’s first name was never spoken throughout the series, was the viewer ever given a chance to discover it?

WELCOME

Welcome to the Mystery, Ink. Novels Blog. We, Suella Walsh and Lawrence Walsh, are the Managing Editors of Mystery, Ink. Novels, an imprint of Goldminds Publications (Nashville, Tennessee). In the summer of 2011, we were commissioned to create the eerie town of Centerville, the Mystery, Ink. Bookstore, and the sleuths that solve the mysteries in the ongoing series. From there, the authors have created dynamic, page-turner plots that mystery readers will love.

Today Image,as an introduction to the series, we focus on the town of Centerville. The town square has cobblestone streets and brick buildings that surround a lush, green park. Within the park, a dark, brooding watch tower chimes every hour on the hour and a pedestal supports an enormous sculpture of a raven. No one remembers the significance of this sculpture. It’s just always been there.

Two unsolved mysteries keep town gossip going. One happened thirty years ago. Doctor Adams was murdered in the town square, strangled and left to die on a park bench in the middle of the night. The next day it was also discovered that Rita Jennings, a waitress, was found murdered in the doctor’s house, which sits on the crest of a hill, empty to this day. The murders have never been solved.

The second mystery involves Clay Jordon, a janitor who, on one stormy night seven years ago, never arrived home after his shift at work. There is no sign of foul play and no sign of him–ever.

These unsolved mysteries set a backdrop for the tone of this town, which residents believe is jinxed. And as mysteries abound throughout the series, this belief becomes set in stone.

What is the setting of your favorite mystery novel?