Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Little Help From a Friend

(We all need a little help from time to time. I'm hosting my friend Marilyn (aka F.M.) Meredith, and she's talking about her new mystery and how friends help in the writing process. The floor is yours Marilyn:)

To be honest, I get a lot of help from friends when I’m writing a book, from my critique group who initially hear the whole story chapter by chapter, and my editor who is also a friend.

Because I write about law enforcement and crimes, and have no past experience of my own, I rely on my police contacts to help me out with a lot of elements in a story. In this particular book, I needed to learn about old skeletons, and also about cadaver dogs.

About both topics, I had help from Dr. Rao who is in my critique group, he shared a book by an expert in identifying buried bones.

Two members of Public Safety Writers of America, Gloria Casale and Ron Corbin gave me lots of information about how dead bodies might look under the circumstances in the story.

I put out a query about cadaver dogs on Facebook and heard from a friend who is a former police officer who put me in touch with a woman named Vynn Stuart who worked for a sheriff’s office for 20 years as a Special Deputy K-9 Handler. We emailed back and forth as she answered my many questions. Once I’d finished the section that I needed her help with, I sent it to her and she made some corrections.

A fun part of all this is she gave me the name for the character, part of her name, and wanted the description to be as she looks. Of course, I did exactly what she asked. She wants her grandkids to be able to recognize her in the book. I hope when she receives a copy of Bones in the Attic she’s not disappointed.

Marilyn aka F.M.

Blurb: The discovery of a skeleton, a welfare check on a senior citizen, and a wildfire challenge the Rocky Bluff P.D.

Bio: Marilyn Meredith, who writes the RBPD mystery series as F.M. Meredith, is the author of over 40 published books. She once lived in a small beach town much like Rocky Bluff and has many relatives and friends in law enforcement.

And she’s a regular on these blogs:
4th Monday of the month: https://ladiesofmystery.com/

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Read an Excerpt From The Bartered Body

Tuesday, February 7, 1899

Chapter 1.

            “She’s gone,” Virgil Follmer said.
            “What? Who?”
            Virgil’s head shot forward, his face going red as he rose up on the toes of his boots in an effort to appear taller than he actually is. “Dammit, Tilghman,” he bellowed, “open your ears. Don’t make me repeat myself. Time’s a-wastin’.”
            Virgil’s our town undertaker and generally the most docile, quiet man you’d ever want to meet. So, seeing him get this excited, I knew something terrible must have happened. “Calm down,” I told him. “I’m not a mind-reader. You’ll have to explain if you want my help. Now—who’s missing?’
            “Why Mrs. Arbuckle, of course. Somebody’s stole her body. Zimmerman’s gonna have a fit.”
            The late Mrs. Arbuckle was Nathan Zimmerman’s mother-in-law. Zimmerman is burgess of Arahpot, which makes him my boss. This news imposed a bit more urgency on my response. “I’ll get my hat and coat and be right with you,” I told Virgil.
            I’d just returned home and was heating up a pot of soup Doc Mariner’s wife had sent over when Follmer commenced pounding on my door.
            He waited impatiently by the door while I took the pot off the stove and got my garments. “If you’d subscribe for phone service a body wouldn’t have to go runnin’ half way across town to fetch you,” Virgil snarled.
            I’m the third of my family to hold the job of sheriff here in Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, and I take my responsibilities seriously. But I have enough people yammering at me during the day at the office and prefer not to make it so convenient for them once I’m home for the evening. Of course I didn’t explain this to Virgil. Instead, as we strode down the hill toward town, I asked, “Didn’t you stop at the office? Cyrus should be there.”
            Virgil huffed. “If I’d wanted your deputy, I’da gone there. Thought this was important enough for your attention.”
            I couldn’t dispute his remark.
            Slush from the last snow made walking precarious and we had to concentrate on where we stepped to avoid slipping. It didn’t prevent Virgil from continuing to harp on the subject of the telephone.
            “I’m sure Miss Longlow would have seized the opportunity for the telephone contract if she’d known about it in time,” he said.
            I couldn’t argue the point. Lydia is one of the most astute business women I know and she certainly would have added the telephone to her various enterprises if McLean Ruppenthal hadn’t got the jump on her with prior knowledge—one of the benefits of being on the borough council, I suppose. He got the telephone franchise and has his sister Cora operating the switchboard. That makes him privy to many of the secrets in town—another advantage I’m certain he hasn’t overlooked.
            Still, this wasn’t the subject on my mind at the moment. “Never mind all that for now,” I said. “Why don’t you fill me in on what happened before we get to your place and I have to face Zimmerman.”
            Virgil gave me a look like a startled deer. “God, I haven’t told him yet. I wanted to talk to you first.”
            “Well, you haven’t told me a thing so far—other than that the old lady’s body is missing. How’d it happen?” I drew my collar closer round my neck against the damp chill of the evening, wishing I’d have thought to bring the nice warm scarf Lydia has knit for me.
            Follmer heaved a sigh and skipped his short legs in an effort to catch up to my longer pace. “I wish to heaven I knew how it happened. We had her all laid out nice in the coffin, set to deliver her for the viewing. Before goin’ out for supper I stepped in to make sure all was in readiness. The casket was empty. Syl, I know that old lady didn’t get up and walk out of my place on her own.”
            “That don’t make a bit of sense, Virgil. Why would someone steal a body?”
            “I don’t know. But they sure as heck did.”
            ‘I take it Floyd helped with the layin’ out,” I said, referring to Virgil’s assistant.
            “Course he did.”
            “Maybe he moved the body and you looked in the wrong coffin.”
            He peered at me as though my remark was the most idiotic he’d ever heard. “Why would he do that? I know which casket I put her in.”
            I shrugged. “Just a thought.”
(Want more? The Bartered Body is available from https://www.sunburypressstore.com/The-Bartered-Body-9781620067567.htm, or https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07C96SBBT/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i9 and from many other booksellers)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Excerpt From a Favorite Novel

All writers have favorites among their books. One of mine is Watch The Hour. It's a tale of conflict between miners and mine owners in the 1870s in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region.
I'm offering here a short excerpt from the book. McHugh, Haley and Farrell, miners accused of ties to the Molly Maguires, have escaped from jail and jumped a train, hoping to elude pursuers:
The conductor approached and McHugh slunk deeper into the seat. He felt Haley stir beside him and Billy Farrell gave a little sigh.
"You're tickets, gents," the conductor said as he stood over them.
"We already gave 'em," Haley said.
"That's right," McHugh added. "We paid when we got on."
Up front, the engineer blasted on his whistle and the train swayed and rocked a bit as it rounded a curve somewhere along the line to Arahpot. McHugh felt the sweat beading on his forehead.  He'd told Haley it wouldn't work.
The conductor exhaled sharply as he stood braced on his big feet before them. "Gentlemen," he said, "I'm the conductor, and you have not paid me for your fare."
"Maybe it was the other one," Billy told him.
"There ain't no other one. There's just me, and you boys didn't pay me."
McHugh jumped up and seized the man by the collar. Billy stood up and took the man's arm on the other side. "Look," McHugh told him, "we don't want no trouble. We just need to catch a ride with you for a ways."
"Damned if I'll let you get away with that," the man shouted
That was when Haley grabbed the pistol out of McHugh's waistband and shoved it in the conductor's face. He snapped the trigger twice but the gun didn't go off. Frustrated, Haley smacked the man across the cheek with the revolver's barrel. The conductor's head bounced back, but he was a strong man and he struggled to free himself from McHugh and the boy.
A drummer across the aisle jumped up. When Haley turned and pointed the gun at him, the man ran out of the car, screaming for help.
"Oh, hell, we're in for it now, boys," Haley said.
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than two of the crew came into the car and strode toward them. Haley raised the gun and fired at them. This time it went off. Three times.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
The first shot passed through the coat of the brakeman. The second bullet narrowly missed the fireman and smashed a window behind him. The third tore off the man's earlobe and he stopped in his tracks, squealing with pain.
McHugh and Farrell released the conductor and made for the opposite end of the car, Freed, the conductor dove for Haley. Haley smashed him in the face with the butt of the revolver and the man fell in a heap at his feet.
"Come on, Humpty," McHugh yelled. "Let's get out of here." He and Billy went out the door and jumped off the train. Haley followed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Fact And Fiction On The Flu

(My guest today is J. L. Greger, scientist/novelist, who shares some interesting information and an introduction to her latest book. The floor is yours, my friend:)

The flu epidemic of 1918-19 is the largest pandemic ever. One-third of the world population was infected and 20 to 50 million people died. Although it is sometimes called the Spanish Flu, it probably first developed in or near a military base in Kansas.

This epidemic inspired not only many scientists but also many authors of fiction.

First, the science. In 2005, scientists reconstructed this H1N1-type flu virus that caused the 1918 epidemic. They believe at least a portion of the human population has some residual immunity to this or similar viruses. That means the virus that caused the 1918 epidemic probably could not cause another epidemic. BUT new mutations of avian or swine flu viruses could create a new flu virus transmittable among humans. In that situation, humans might have no residual immunity to the virus and another pandemic could occur.

Now the fiction. Epidemics are the basis of many famous novels and movies. Consider: The Stand by S. King, The Plague by A. Camus, Arrowsmith by S. Lewis, World without End by K. Follett. Generally, the medical details are incorrect in these novels, and the epidemics resemble a mix of cholera, plague, and flu.

Authors have used the epidemics so frequently in fiction because epidemics are urgent situations which bring out the best and worst in their characters. Probably, the most interesting use of the 1918 flu epidemic was in Downton Abbey. It was a way to eliminate lady’s Mary’s rival for the attention of Matthew Crawley.

The most realistic view of an epidemic occurred in the 2011 movie Contagion. However, this movie didn’t allow viewers to develop much sympathy for victims. The Flu Is Coming realistically portrays what would happen if a new virulent flu virus struck but allows readers to have empathy not only with patients and medical personnel treating patients but also scientists and police trying to control the spread of the flu.

Prescription. Try it, ,you’ll like learning a bit of science on drug development while you’re frightened by the quarantine and what it unleashes among residents of a small community.

Blog: In The Flu Is Coming, a new type of flu — the Philippine flu — kills nearly half of the residents in an upscale, gated community in less than a week. A quarantine makes those who survive virtual prisoners in their homes. The Centers for Disease Control recruit Sara Almquist, a resident of the community, to apply her skills as an epidemiologist to find ways to limit the spread of the epidemic. As she pries into her neighbors’ lives, she finds promising scientific clues but unfortunately learns too much about several of them.

The paperback version of The Flu Is Coming is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Flu-Coming-Science-Traveler/dp/0578423251. The Kindle version at:

Bio: J.L. Greger is a scientist and research administrator turned novelist. She likes to include tidbits of science in her award-winning thriller/mystery novels: Murder: A Way to Lose, Riddled with Clues, and others. To learn more, visit http://www.jlgreger.com