Welcome to our Blog about Writing

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.

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.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Importance of Pacing Suspense by guest blogger Jean Henry Mead

Murder at the Mansion by Jean Henry Mead 

Writing a series can be an asset as well as a hindrance. An asset because your readers look forward to each new novel and your continuing characters. But you can become bored with your character(s) as Agatha Christie did with Hercule Poirot. In fact, she came to hate the arrogant little detective.

My protagonists have become old friends that I enjoy tuning into each day to listen in on their conversations, no matter how scatterbrained they happen to be. But I've also become bored at times writing about my two older women amateur sleuths, who get themselves into situations that I have a difficult time writing them out of.

I don't outline, unless it's a nonfiction book, and my characters have free rein, so they lead me on some wild adventures. Murder at the Mansion is my wildest novel to date, with my protagonists, Dana and Sarah, running for their lives from Wyoming to Texas, Alaska, Colorado, and back again.

The more I get to know my characters, the more I trust that they won't paint me into a corner or refuse to do what I want them to. In my new release, some of the people they helped to place in prison return to seek revenge, and Sarah decides to dissolve a hasty marriage that she regrets. None of these things occurred to me when I sat down to write, so I blame the devious minds of my two protagonists.

Combine mystery, humor, romance, murder, a quirky character or two, and you have the Logan and Cafferty series, which I hope to continue writing for quite some time.

by Jean Henry Mead

Jean Henry Mead
Bio: Jean Henry Mead is a former news reporter and photojournalist. She’s the author of 21 books, half of them novels, which include the Logan & Cafferty series, Hamilton Kid’s mysteries, Wyoming historical novels, and nonfiction interview and history books, one of which served as a college textbook. She has also served as a news, magazine and small press editor, contributor to the Denver Post, and has been published in magazines domestically as well as abroad.