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Welcome to our blog! Find out about our current projects and excerpts of our new books and short stories. Check the sidebar for this month's FREE, 99c books, bargain books and giveaways. For aspiring writers, we will also be including some posts about writing fiction. Please also visit our web page. To learn more about our two series and upcoming releases visit our Jeff McQuede and Ardis Cole Mystery blogs.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Read an Excerpt of our newest Jeff McQuede Mystery CRYING WOMAN BRIDGE

            From Chapter 1
            “Did you know almost every part of the country has a story about a ghostly woman and drowned children?”  In the Southwest the tale is called La Llorona.  Are you familiar with that legend?”  For a long while Professor Dawson had rambled on, but this time he waited for McQuede’s response.
            “Can’t say I’ve heard much about it,” McQuede replied.
            Dawson slowed the Cadillac and chose the shortcut to Black Mountain Pass where he was to address the historical society.  Seated beside him, Sheriff McQuede felt underdressed and undereducated—underdressed, because Barry Dawson looked every inch the professor in fancy western jacket that matched his carefully-styled iron-gray hair.  In contrast, McQuede looked rough and rugged in a rumpled suit jacket discovered in the back of his closet that certainly did nothing to enhance his broad shoulders, unruly black hair, and silvery eyes.  Undereducated, because all he had to balance the professor’s expertise on the subject of legends was the knowledge of a few local tales.
            “Many versions of the La Llorona story exist.”  Dawson, whose lectures seldom waited until he reached the podium, continued enthusiastically.  “But basically it goes like this: a poor but beautiful village woman attracts a wealthy lover who doesn’t know she has children.  She drowns her children to be with her lover, who then rejects her.  Realizing her mistake and feeling the anguish of her grief, her spirit cannot rest.  It is said that if you listen closely, you can hear her voice on the winds, calling for her lost children.”
            “There’s a similar story about the bridge up ahead,” McQuede remarked.
            “Yes, it is often referred to as Crying Woman Bridge,” Dawson said.  “In fact, I’ve included the legend behind it in tonight’s talk.”
            Wooden planks rattled beneath them as they started across the rickety structure.  The old bridge’s original girders had been supported by steel sometime in the 1930s.  Since the bridge didn’t get much traffic beyond a few locals using the back road to Black Mountain Pass, no improvements had been made since.
            McQuede gazed through the girders to the thick underbrush and deep water below.  At this point the Trapper River started its downward course, cutting through the high mountains on either side.  As a boy, McQuede had loved this spot, the rushing water, the obstructing rocks that caused rapids and whirlpools.  But with the sinking sun, it lost its allure and seemed cold and treacherous.
            “When I was in high school, the kids always gathered here to party.  But they were spooked by the place, too.”  McQuede leaned back in the car seat, recalling, “In the old days, it was called Mirabella’s bridge.”
            “That’s because,” Dawson explained, “according to local legend, a young pioneer woman named Mirabella got jilted by her lover and threw her baby over the bridge.”
            “All I know is that at night it is rumored you can still hear her wails.”
“Foolish superstition,” Dawson said.
            McQuede attempted to suppress amusement over his friend’s sudden seriousness.  “It’s a fact, for sure,” McQuede persisted, trying to keep the teasing out of his voice, “if you say her name three times, she will appear and bad things will follow.”  
            “Yes,” Dawson echoed, “Three calls and woe to you.”
            “Did you ever try it?”
            “Not brave enough.”  Midway across the bridge, Dawson stopped the car.  “But you are.  I dare you, McQuede.  Call her name three times, and let’s see what happens.”
            Dawson pressed the buttons that controlled the front side windows, and they slid open with an eerie, mechanical sound that mingled with the noise of rushing water.  A gust of wind from the canyon stirred their clothing and hair.  Instead of waiting for McQuede, Dawson called out in a voice loud and clear, “Mirabella!  Mirabella!  Mira—we’re going to be late,” he broke off suddenly, without finishing.  He promptly checked his watch.  “Too late for this nonsense.”
            Dawson, for the first time silent, stepped harder on the gas as they followed the twisting road.  McQuede’s friend always became too involved in these legends, so much so, that they often became fixed in his mind as solid fact instead of mostly fiction.  McQuede, noting the anxiety that had crept into the professor’s manner, couldn’t help smiling.

(from Chapter 2)

            “What’s wrong?”
            “Didn’t you hear that noise?”
            McQuede listened intently, catching what sounded like a distant voice drifting toward them from the center of the bridge.  As they drew closer, the cries became loud and terrible.
            McQuede’s blood froze.  A woman, shrouded by fog, stood squarely in the center—pacing, wringing her hands, shrieking.  Her long, dark hair swept in the wind as did her flowing skirt.  The darkness and wind made her look like the ghost of a pioneer woman.
            McQuede stared toward her, half-expecting the waif-like apparition to float away, but she remained, a solid substance, swaying and wailing.  Her words were now distinct.              “What will I do?  Help me!  Help me!  I don’t know what to do!”
            Dawson braked the car, and McQuede leaped out.  He rushed toward her, gripping both of her arms and holding her fast.  “What’s wrong?”
 She seemed not even to hear his question.  He followed her terrified gaze to the deep drop-off below them.  His voice rose above the gurgling of rapids.  “Talk to me!  What’s happened?”
            “Someone took him!  She took him!”
            McQuede shook her gently, hoping to restore her to her senses.  “Who took what?  What are you talking about?” 
            Tears streamed down her cheeks.  “My baby!  My baby’s gone!  She kidnapped him.”
            “What did she look like?”
            “I don’t know.  I don’t know.  She looked like a ghost.” 
            The more she spoke. the more unbelievable her story seemed.  “Where did she take him?”
            “She drove away.”
            Her words jolted him.  Could there be some truth to her rambling?  “Can you describe the vehicle?”
            She shook her head helplessly.  “She took him away in her dark, ghostly car.”
            McQuede’s attention turned again to the rapidly moving river.  His heart plummeted as he caught sight of a little blue blanket swirling around in the dark water. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Pedro Mummy: Inspiration for Whispers of the Stones


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/The_San_Pedro_Mountain_Mummy.jpgnknown (Life time: 1936) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsption

While living in Laramie, Wyoming, Vickie came across the curious case of the Pedro Mummy.  According to old newspaper accounts the mummified remains of a tiny man had been discovered sitting cross-legged in a cave by miners in the area in the 1930s. There's no  There's no question that the Pedro Mummy actually existed.  It became an object of curiosity and scientific speculation until its disappearance in the 1950s.  It was not a fake.

The little mummy, which was soon nicknamed "Pedro" because he was found in the Pedro Mountains changed hands several times and was sold and resold. For a time, it was displayed in a drug store, then a used car lot, then a cigar shop in Casper.  In the care of Ivan Goodman in the 1950s, the mummy was examined and X-rayed.  It was found the mummy had a definite human rib-cage.

At the time of the Pedro Mummy’s discovery, it was thought to be the remains of a tiny, ancient little man in his late sixties Many people believed that the discovery of the tiny mummy might be proof that the “Little People” of Native American legends actually existed.  The “Little People” are part of the legends and folklore of the Shoshoni, Arapahoe. and many other tribes.  In some tales the tiny men, who remain hidden in caverns and deep in the mountains, are good-natured tricksters, in others they are more mean-spirited and may shoot arrows at their larger counterparts.  In many tales the “Little People” serve as spiritual guides or helpers to lost travelers.

In the 1980s the original X-rays were carefully studied and scientists indicated that the tiny remains were more likely to be those of a malformed infant who had been left in the cave to die instead of a full-grown man.  The infant might have suffered from anencephaly, which would account for the misshapen head.  But it didn’t explain fully developed rib-cage or reports that the mummy had teeth.  Since the mummy can no longer be found to examine, no one really knows who he was or how he got there.
     The last owner of the mummy was New Yorker Leonard Wadler.  After that, the mummy disappeared from history.  Many articles have appeared about the Pedro Mummy, including stories in the Casper Star Tribune.  Since its disappearance, scientists and collectors have had interest in finding the missing mummy, even offering rewards, so it can be examined.

All of this caught our interest and we decided to write a mystery starting with the premise: what if some antique dealer actually had the mummy?  What would happen if such an artifact resurfaced?

In our third Jeff McQuede novel, Whispers of the Stones, Sheriff McQuede investigates such an event.  The details concerning the mummy in this story are as true as we could make them from varying research sources.  The rest, of course, is fiction.

To read more about The Pedro Mummy:

As you read accounts of the Pedro Mummy, you will find many discrepancies, because even in newspapers and journals there are many different accounts of what happened.  When writing our story, we used those dates and sources from what seemed the most reliable references.  Here are some places on the Internet to read more about the Pedro Mummy and the “Little People”.

The Pedro Mummy:

The Little  People:

 Whispers of the Stones

Whispers of the Stones; A Jeff McQuede Mystery by Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An Interview with Author John King

Vickie Britton interviews  author John King and special offer to read HAT TRICK: 3 Novellas: Tales of Love Gone Wrong for free on Kindle May 7 through May 11.

Author John King

Q:  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A:  At the very least by ten years old. In fifth grade they asked us to write poems about the seasons and I loved it. Somehow—I guess from seeing the Beat poets reciting on TV—I knew a poem did not necessarily have to rhyme. My poem was a success and printed on the first page of our “book.” I immediately felt like I’d discovered the path I wanted to take.

Q:  How long does it take you to write a book?

A: I’d say about a year of real work with a lot of downtime in between. I was lucky to be able to write the first drafts of my novels in two weeks each, but then I spent months rewriting them.

Q:  What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

A:  I’ve become a morning person. That’s when I have the most energy. Three hours a day satisfies me in the initial creation of something. But if I am rewriting, then the work can go on all day, and well into the night.

Q:  Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A:  Sometimes it can begin with a question that pops into my head. A “what if” situation. Others times someone might tell me of an event that they heard about or which happened to them. A few times it’s been hearing about a true crime which strikes me hard for its audacity or tragedy.

Q:  What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A:  Reading of course. I like to read so much it can prevent me from writing. At other times in my life I’ve been obsessive about studying French, painting, playing the tenor saxophone, and working out.

Q:  What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

A:  I like when I am rereading something and forget that I wrote it. That I can capture myself so to speak, and find myself wondering, “Where’d I get that idea from?”

Q:  Can you visualize your book as a movie?  Who would have the starring roles as your characters?

A: Yes, I think much of my work could be written for the screen, especially my novels, The Big Mouth and Maid of Honor. As far as casting, I don’t know. Elmore Leonard, whose work has been brought to the big screen many times, said he didn’t like to describe what his characters looked like. Let the reader imagine them for themselves. However, when I was trying to imagine who would make a good Lena, the wife in The Big Mouth, I thought of Diane Lane whom I like a lot. But, my wife disagreed, so there you are.

Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring authors become  better writers? If so, what are they?

A: I’ve published four books so far. I think Maid of Honor is my favorite because the lives of its characters have stayed with me more than the others. Sometimes I wake up hearing them speaking their lines. They are very real for me.

As far as becoming a better writer, I’d say, read books on the craft of writing. Analyze the books you like and the books you want to write. Try to figure out why they work.

Q:  What do you think makes a good story?

A:  Conflict, mystery, and suspense. What makes people stop what they are doing and concentrate on something else? An altercation of some kind. They ask, “What is this all about? What’s going to happen next?” The thing is not only to create conflict, mystery, and suspense, but to resolve it in a satisfying way for the reader.

Q:  Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A: No. Each reader takes away what they will and I can’t control it without being heavy-handed. If I were, then I think they’d tire quickly.

Q:  How much of the book is realistic?

A: I think everything in all my work is realistic. Believability is very important to me. You’ll never find anyone dodging machine gun bullets in my stories. Not that you’ll find any machine guns. I write about real people. It’s important for me that their actions and reactions ring true to the reader.

Q:  Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

A:  That would be telling, but of the three novellas in Hat Trick, I’ll say one began as hypothetical question, one was spawned from a tragic story I heard, and one was a imaginary take off on a personal experience.

Q:  What books have most influenced your work most?

A: I have many favorite authors. Too many to name, but John Fowles’ The Magus is one which I read thirteen times, spent many hours researching, and have written about. I even went to Greece to retrace the steps of its protagonist. I was under the influence of this novel when I created the narrator of my second novel, Maid of Honor. They are both cads.

But I also have to mention Ruth Rendell as an inspiration. Some years ago I became an avid fan, but it was in reading her short stories that I realized that simple narrative tales of suspense written for the mystery magazines could transcend the genre and become art. It was like an epiphany for me, bringing home the most important truth: “Tell a story, stupid!”

I also want to mention Elmore Leonard, whose narrative style influenced my first novel, The Big Mouth.

Q:  What are your current projects? work?

A: I’ve got a few things going right now: a non-fiction piece on two of my favorite novels, another book of short stories, and hardest of all, my third novel.

Q:  What was the hardest part of writing your book?

A: Coming up with a complete plot that goes beyond the initial idea. Many projects just fizzle up because I don’t know where they are going or can’t answer the questions I set up for the reader. An example would be sitting down to write a mystery and not being able to solve it yourself.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other writers?

A:  Read everything and watch everything. Listen to people. Ideas come from all over. But read the types of things you wish to write and read books on the craft of writing. They will open your eyes to issues you might not have thought about. 

Click this link to download Hat Trick  free on Kindle May 7 through May 11.