Sometimes authors are inspired by actual events. Sometimes people inspire characters for them. For me, it’s always been places.
My daughters can testify of my habit, while we traveled or walked around, of finding great places to hide a body. I even have a tee shirt to that effect. I particularly remember scaring a grocery clerk with a discussion of how dumping the body in a ditch would be too obvious. My daughter spotted her nervous expression. “My mom’s an author.”
“Oh, I hoped it was something like that.” That discussion will be forever impaled on my memory.
As will the time when I spotted the soles of cowboy boots sticking out of a clothing donation box. Seriously? That barely even took any imagination at all. The body dump practically wrote itself. And I expect to use it someday. But no, it wasn’t a body. Yes, I checked. Well, one of my girls checked. Hey, I was driving!
So settings inspire me. The postcard that I found of Broadway of the Southwest inspired my first book A GIANT MURDER. And images of the Adolphus Hotel bridged both that book, set in 1926 and my newest book A TROLL FALLS, set in 1948.
This story’s mystery just fell together when I learned some tidbits about the house that inspired the Halling Estate in A TROLL FALLS. The inspiration for the estate is the DeGolyer House at the Dallas Arboretum that looks out onto White Rock Lake. I was there with a group of recent high school graduates. My twins and their friends had honored me by letting me come and bring my camera. While they wandered all over the gardens, I engaged a worker there at the house and learned a lot more than I expected.
First, I learned about the tragic story of Mr. DeGolyer who committed suicide when he learned of a terminal health issue. He died in his library and that room was one of a kind. Mr. DeGolyer had collected rare books all his life. Most of them are now part of the collection at Southern Methodist University.
The second thing I learned, I can’t really share because it reveals too much about my story. In this case, there is a little curiosity about that building that I played up and developed into the mystery. Yeah, it made for a super-simple story, but a nice juicy little mystery.
I hope you get a kick out of it!
By the way, today is the last day to enter my Goodreads giveaway. You can get a free copy of A TROLL FALLS. Use THIS LINK to enter the sweepstakes. If you do decide to purchase a copy, send your Amazon receipt to ATROLLFALLS@gmail.com along with your shipping address. You get a FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE in your mailbox!
This isn’t your typical benign musical. But then again, most of the original fairy tales are a little on the gruesome side. And even the Disney versions involve murder, intrigue, and good vs. evil. So my little murder mystery actually fits in perfectly!
My new book that releases next week is A TROLL FALLS. It’s based on a little-known fairy tale called “Snow White and Rose Red.” Now, this Snow White is NOT the original Disney Queen. Snow and Rose are sisters who live with their widowed mother.
In my story, their names are DEFINITELY changed. Rose isn’t an oddity, but Snow? I’m sure there are several named Snow nowadays, but it is a little on the rare side. So my characters are named Opal and Ruby. I’ve known women with those names. In fact, my great aunt (Mawmaw Bobbie’s closest sibling) was named Opal.
Besides the family connection, though, the fact that my characters are named after gemstones is no coincidence. See, at the end of the original fairy tale, a mean troll spreads his treasure of gold and jewels in the sunshine to dry them after he cleaned them. My troll in this story doesn’t actually have gold and jewels, so Ruby and Opal serve a dual purpose by being the jewels in the story as well as the main characters.
Another main character in the fairy tale is a ferocious bear. He shows up in my book as Eric Bjorn, because Bjorn is Swedish for bear. Yep, that wasn’t a coincidence either. In the fairy tale, the bear is a poor victim. Not so much in A TROLL FALLS. In fact . . . wait. I don’t want to give too much away!
Did you know with fiction, the author has to keep a certain camera lens while telling the story? In most fiction, a character tells the story. You, as the reader, slip into the skin of the character and experience everything from that point of view. In A TROLL FALLS, Opal serves as the main character, so most of the scenes have a focus from her. Not only what she sees and hears, but her thoughts (internal monologue) tell a lot of the story. And her thoughts are influenced by her values and background.
I know that’s sort of technical, but in A TROLL FALLS, both Opal and her sister Ruby tell the story. And you’ll notice a difference between their perspectives. Opal is very shy and a rule follower. Ruby is a little more on the spunky side and willing to push the envelope. In truth, Ruby has a way of finding herself in all sorts of uncomfortable situations, but Opal is the one who . . . oh, wait. I’m doing it again.
Suffice it to say, this is Opal’s story, despite Ruby’s outgoing personality. But don’t worry. With Ruby’s outgoing personality, she can’t stay in the back seat for long. She has her own story coming next year. A WOLF’S EXTERMINATION is a play on “Little Red Riding Hood.” The perfect story for Ruby!
Get your own copy of A TROLL FALLS from Amazon by clicking the book cover here!
Oh, and send your Amazon receipt to ATROLLFALLS@gmail.com along with your shipping address and get a free gift with your purchase sent to you!
I barely missed being a 5th generation native Texan. I know that sounds small, but it really is a big thing. At least to me. My third-great-grandfather, Judge James Hall Stevens moved from North Carolina to Coryell County, Texas after doing a judgeship stint in Arkansas. His son, John Allen Stevenson was born in Coryell county as was his grandson, my great-grandfather, Robert Lysander Stevenson.
Robert Lysander’s final child, my grandmother Bobbie Zefflah Stevenson (yes, Zefflah. I think Great-Grandmother chose a Z name for this, her eighth child in eighteen years! LOL!) was born just south of Dallas and she moved in with her next older sister and brother-in-law during the early 1930s. My mom was born downtown as were all four of my kids.
So the fact that my mom and dad went over the border (into Louisiana) just before my brother was born and left just after I was born is downright devastating.
Okay, that’s probably a stronger word than is necessary. But I remember my mom had a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Native Texan.” Isn’t that a silly thing to want?
I do love doing research into the early days of Dallas, though. My new book, A TROLL FALLS, is set in Dallas in 1948. About that time, my grandfather, “Red” Morin, was a fire captain at one of the Dallas stations. Declared 4F during the war due to hearing loss (just like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life), Papa Loyd was an air raid warden when he wasn’t at the firehouse. He and my grandmother lived in Oak Cliff, just southwest of downtown Dallas. So as I worked through this book, it was really personal to me.
I’ll share a little more with you soon, but you can preorder your own copy of A TROLL FALLS at THIS LINK. See what makes this book so special and enjoy a special free gift with purchase! Just email your name and shipping address to ATROLLFALLS@gmail.com.
They must have gone together at some point! See in the 1940s, when my book A TROLL FALLS is set, Dallas had the most amazing downtown. Elm Street was still considered the Broadway of the Southwest. And then there was the Century Ballroom at the Adolphus Hotel.
The Ice Skating shows began in 1943 and ran until 1965. This article actually has a film clip from many of the shows at the Adolphus itself.
When the ice show ended, a dance floor skimmed into place over the ice and Herman Waldman and his Orchestra continued to play long into the night. This was the date that my character, Ruby Stedman, had with her new beau. Ruby, with her perfect complexion and elegantly coifed brunette hair must have looked amazing in the Dior creation that Mrs. Halling let her borrow. Even if it was a couple of seasons old.
Ruby might have been a looker in the 1940s, but the young woman, an orphan by all accounts, merely served as a companion for an elderly woman in return for her room and board. How amazing it would have felt for her to wear such a dress and join the society of Dallas with a handsome, debonair man at her side.
Well . . . now that I think about it, amazing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In fact . . . let’s just say that Ruby has a habit of finding herself in trouble. She gives her older sister Opal all sorts of reasons to worry and pray!
It’s been a minute! Actually, it’s been closer to a year and seven months since my last release. And it was a year and eight months for the release before that one. Blows my mind how time flies!
But I do have a new book that I’m so excited about. I enjoyed releasing A GIANT MURDER as part of the historical “Ever After” mystery series. That one was set in Dallas in the 1920s, and I had a blast doing research on my grandparents and great-grandparents and their lives in my hometown.
Well, I got to revisit Dallas history again with this new book, A TROLL FALLS.
This time, the era is the late 1940s. While the first book focused on downtown, this second one actually takes place closer to where I grew up.
White Rock Lake is the backdrop for this story. My mom swam there before they closed it to swimming in the early 1950s. I used to take my kids there as a homeschooling field trip, and I still visit the beautiful Dallas Arboretum near the shores of the lake. It has the most magnificent view of downtown which is six miles away.
One of the main structures of the Dallas Arboretum is the DeGolyer House, built in the mid-1930s. It looks like a Spanish Hacienda and I had fun “borrowing” it to create the Halling Estate in my book. The house I created might be fiction, but the vistas and the sprawling lawns and gardens are very real! This is actually a postcard with the image of the DeGolyer house on it from the 1940s.
Stick around for more details about 1940s Dallas and information about A TROLL FALLS!
Wow! I can breathe again. I’m reading (well, listening to) this series in a mixed-up order, but each book has been so full, with a riveting story, twisted plot, and engaging characters.
Set near the Mississippi River, the story involves likable characters amplified by an amazing vocal performance by Rachel Dulude. I’ve been listening to books more often nowadays. Some, like this one, are SO well done! (Seriously, I’ve listened to a few that I’d rather hear a computer voice than the narrator.) Rachel Dulude’s performance enhances the book like cream cheese icing on a red velvet cake.
And this book is already that scrumptious. The story amps up from chapter 1 and only gives a few chances to breathe as it progresses. I teared up and even laughed out loud, but mostly, I just braced myself as Emma and Sam tracked through confusing clues while dodging stalkers and even bullets.
Speaking of the characters, I really liked Emma. At first meet, I got the impression of a little slip of a thing ill-equipped to step beyond her safe haven of documenting historical details and leading tours. Boy, was I wrong! Sure, she has a passion for history, but she enjoys archeology and investigating it as much as sharing it. And the stubborn streak in this gal can substitute for a Glock anytime a weapon is needed.
Her counterpart, Sam, isn’t quite as stubborn, but really close. He’s a little kinder about it, but resolute, especially when it comes to trying to keep Emma safe. . . Safe being a relative term.
Romantic suspense and mystery lovers will love this winning story!
Here’s a little more about it:
Natchez Trace Ranger and historian Emma Winters hoped never to see Sam Ryker again after she broke off her engagement to him. But when shots are fired at her at a historical landmark just off the Natchez Trace, she’s forced to work alongside Sam as the Natchez Trace law enforcement district ranger in the ensuing investigation. To complicate matters, Emma has acquired a delusional secret admirer who is determined to have her as his own. Sam is merely an obstruction, one which must be removed.
Sam knows that he has failed Emma in the past and he doesn’t intend to let her down again. Especially since her life is on the line. As the threads of the investigation cross and tangle with their own personal history, Sam and Emma have a chance to discover the truth, not only about the victim but about what went wrong in their relationship.
Yesterday was the beginning of my publisher’s annual We Love Our Readers Sale and Sweepstakes. The publishing company does a lot to bring this opportunity to you, but many of our authors contribute and sponsor the event as well. I want to share about two other of our sponsors – these two both write mystery/suspense!
Julie Cosgrove is an award-winning author of sixteen novels as well as short stories. She developed a passion for words at a young age. She began with word search puzzles. Then she solved the word games in the daily newspapers. She and her mother shared many fun hours playing Scrabble and Hang Man.
Then, another passion developed―whodunnits. She loved the Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot movies that played on Saturday afternoons on TV. Nancy Drew and the romantic mystery novels of the late Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt kept her eyes dancing over the pages through her school years.
Later in her adult life, her passion for Christ spurred her to write faith-based fiction and devotionals for several publications, which she has been doing since 2009. Her blog, Where Did You Find God Today? now has readers in over fifty countries.
But her passion remains mystery, the cozier the better. Now, she has mysteries stacked up on her watchlist on Britbox and a long list of cozies on her e-reader’s to-be-read list. She loves to write them as well.
You can find all of her fiction and nonfiction books as well as her blog’s link on her website,www.juliebcosgrove.com.
Her completed “Relatively Seeking Mysteries” is on sale this week because We Love Our Readers! Click the image to find out more about these three friends that get into some deep, hot water when they innocently begin investigating their ancestries. Who would think that something as benign as looking back into history could be so terribly dangerous? Learn more about book 1, One Leaf Too Many, HERE!
Suspense author Dena Netherton has a three-book series as well. “The Hunted” series is an edge of your seat psychological suspense dealing with a stalking situation that was inspired by real issues from the past. Now based in Wyoming, Dena writes with a goal to give you stories that are compelling neough to keep you up all night.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied music and theater in the Midwest and in Colorado and taught music for thirty-five years. In the 1970s, when Dena was just a teenager, her family took a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, ending with a stay in Anacortes, Washington, and a ferry ride through the San Juan Islands. She was captivated by the beauty of Washington’s west coast and vowed she’d one day move to the area. Forty years later, not only did God move her to the beautiful area, He inspired her with stories set there.
Dena’s prayer as a Christian author is that her stories inspire and encourage your faith. Her goal is to write stories compelling enough to keep you ‘up all night.’ Find Dena on her website: denanetherton.me.
Haven Ellingsen enrolled in Life Ventures Therapy Camp in the Cascade Mountains to help her heal from horrible memories of her mother’s violent death at the hands of an armed robber. But now, a greater fear dogs her steps. The rustle of leaves or the snap of a twig could be nothing. Or it might signal the sinister presence of the stalker who won’t stop following her. It seems like a cruel trick from God to throw Haven into another dangerous situation only a year after her mom’s murder.
He hides near her tent and listens to the girl talk with the counselor. Mostly she talks about her father. She’s unhappy, and he can’t stand to listen and do nothing about it. He needs to rescue her. He needs to make sure she doesn’t ever go back to that man. His own father was the cause of his mother’s death. And Ruth’s. He can’t let that happen again. Not with this girl. When the time is right, he’ll take her away to his hidden cabin where she’ll be safe. And he will feel peace for the first time in years.
Can one month of survival training equip a girl to face all that the rugged wilderness and a madman can dish out?
All three books of the series are on sale this week. Click the image to reach the series page on Amazon HERE.
Don’t forget to also enter our sweepstakes. We’re giving away a free Kindle Fire, a selection of books for it, and a $50 Amazon gift card to boot! You’ll not want to miss out on this opportunity. Visit WriteIntegrity.com for the scoop!
I’m so happy to have rejoined the Suspense Sisters group! Oh I missed being part of that little circle! My first article last month was about good mysteries. You can see it HERE!
Now you know I love a good mystery! But exactly what is it that makes a mystery good?
I’m convinced that it isn’t only one thing, but a combination of stellar qualities that makes a juicy mystery truly memorable. One that stands out in my mind right now is by Colleen Coble, Tidewater Inn. I won’t give you any spoilers, but when the main character is doing a video call (or something like that) with her best friend, the other woman is kidnapped while she looks on. And that’s just the start of the suspense.
I think I read that book about seven years ago and it still makes an impact. Now that’s a good mystery. And yes, I know it was technically a suspense, but the best suspense stories have a juicy mystery involved. (And I’ll put COUNTER POINT and BREAKING POINT in the category of suspense with mystery).
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some of my thoughts on what makes a great mystery, but you can get things rolling. A free copy of COUNTER POINT is up for grabs to one commenter answering this question: Name a mystery you recently read (or saw) and share what made it memorable.
First, introducing the newest release from my publishing house! 6 DATES TO DISASTER by Cynthia T. Toney — When Wendy’s family faces financial hardship, she must find a way to see Mrs. V and Sam again—but will she lose David forever in the process? When Wendy’s stepfather loses his job, she needs personal and urgent help—the financial kind. The family’s plan to visit Alaska on vacation is headed down the sewer like a hard Louisiana rain. How will Wendy ever see Mrs. V or Sam again? An opportunity arrives in the form of tutoring Melissa, one of the Sticks, and Wendy’s money problems appear to be solved. Until the arrangement takes a turn that gets Wendy into trouble like never before. In the final months of ninth grade, she might lose everything she counted on for the future. (YA from Write Integrity Press)
Bella Natale! by Marianne Evans — An aspiring American artist and the widowed, Italian owner of a premier art gallery meet and fall in love in Florence when he champions her work, but there are her American family’s expectations and his five-year-old son to consider. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
With this Kiss by Marianne Evans — A kiss stolen in a midnight snow. A jealous colleague at Jonathan’s firm is bent on revenge…revenge that puts Isabella’s store into legal peril. Will love be enough to see them through? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
Mistletoe Daddy by Deb Kastner — Bubbly Vivian Grainger bids on gruff Nick McKenna at Serendipity Texas’s annual Bachelors and Baskets for one reason–to help her build her hair salon; but once Nick finds out she’s pregnant, he does his best to build a path to Vivian’s heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
A Hero for Heather by Marion Ueckermann — When a “homeless” man she’s been helping rescues social worker Heather Blume from a vicious attack, she’s so grateful she violates one of the most important rules in her profession–she takes him home to tend his wounds. But the mysterious Paxton Rathbone is no homeless man…he’s a gentleman. When feelings grow, and Paxton’s past beckons, both he and Heather discover there’s a fine line between gratitude and love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
A Husband for Holly by Marion Ueckermann — Holly Blume loves decorating people’s homes, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to play house. Believing a house is not a home without a woman’s touch, Reverend Christopher Stewart is in the market for a wife. What woman would consider him marriage material, though, with an aging widowed father to look after, especially one who suffers from Alzheimer’s? Despite their differences, Holly resolves to finish her job of redesigning the Stewart home, while Christopher determines to re-form Holly’s heart. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Tina Radcliffe — Twelve years after she married another man, Rebecca Anshaw Simpson is back at Joe Gallagher’s ranch as his physical therapist. But healing his body is nothing compared to guarding his heart from the woman he never forgot. Becca won’t let regret and a surly rancher get in the way of her job and the chance to start over with her little girl. But Becca never expected she’d fall all over again for her first love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Christmas Cookie Mystery by Naomi Miller — With Christmas right around the corner, Katie Chupp and The Sweet Shop get involved in a mystery when a certain dear family finds an unexpected package at their door. (Cozy Mystery from S&G Publishing)
Michel: The Fourth Wise Man by Katheryn Maddox Haddad — This descendant of Daniel, also a wise man, sacrifices everything – his wife, his father, his home – to do what he is convinced God needs him to do, then finds out he was wrong (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)
Five Nights with Pharaoh by Kristen Reed — Shortly after entering Egypt with her husband, Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s harem as his newest, most favored concubine. The breathtaking, ageless beauty is forced to cling to her faith in God as she prays for the strength to accept her new position and endures a series of mysterious plagues that can only be indicative of a wrathful deity’s divine judgment. Discover a remarkable reimagining of Sarai’s plight in Egypt, where she humbly set aside her own honor to protect the man through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Historical – Independently Published)
A Pony Express Romance by Misty M. Beller — Pony Express rider Josiah English and the station master’s sister, Mara Reid, fall in love, but when the Express shuts down and Mara’s family home is in peril, the danger looming over Mara’s life may not be half as destructive as that threatening her heart. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig — A former Green Beret is confronted by past mistakes as he and his team battle a centuries-old plague and the terrorists bent on rewriting history. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])
Hazardous Holiday by Liz Johnson — Just in time for the holidays, navy SEAL Zach McCloud returns home from deployment–and discovers someone wants his family dead. When he married his cousin’s struggling widow, he vowed to help her and her seriously ill son, and now he’ll risk everything to protect them. Even if their arrangement is only temporary. Kristi’s certain an unhappy client from the law firm where she works is determined to hunt her down. But when a sniper bullet wildly misses its target, they begin to question whether it’s really her someone wants dead. Working together, can they figure out why they’ve been attacked…and keep little Cody from the nefarious forces dead set on making this Christmas their last? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Christmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman — When Commander Jake Marsh loses control of a hostage situation and Tessa Long is injured, guilt eats at him. He blurs the line between the professional and personal, and visits Tessa at the hospital. But when a man tries to kill her in her hospital room, Jake disregards all of the rules and regulations that have allowed him to control his world and vows to keep her safe no matter what. Trouble is, the situation brings back memories from his childhood of the loss of his entire family, and for the first time in twenty years, he fears he’s no longer in charge of his life, and knows when he’s out of control bad things happen. Very bad things. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Though immersed in witness protection, Jen is discovered by an associate of her husband, the head of a human trafficking organization. Relocated again from the small Florida town, this time, she ends up in England. But even there, surrounded by federal agents, she’s pursued, separated from her safety net, and eventually held captive in a beautiful mansion. She’s not the type to accept defeat, however, and uncovers and twisted plot full of greed and betrayal.
I found this story intriguing from the beginning. It took a number of turns that I didn’t anticipate. Even the setting changed drastically, throwing me a bit, but then suspense stories often put me in uncomfortable positions.
I liked this story. The main characters were fully fleshed out, though I did get a bit frustrated with some of the ancillary characters. In particular, the change of location took out some characters that I’d gotten to know and like. But that issue didn’t change the well-written plot with a strong element of faith.
The betrayal and lies mounted throughout. I felt despondent and alone right along with the main character. Seriously, every time she felt she could trust someone her faith backfired. And indeed, who can be fully trusted except the Lord Himself? As misplaced faith seemed to be the theme of this book, it also displayed that even the most well-meaning can be persuaded to do the wrong thing. Even to the point of believing the actions are for the right purposes.
I would certainly recommend this book to readers who like edgy suspense laced with realistic situations. It isn’t the type of book that I’d share with my high school daughters due to some mature situations and a little foul language, but most suspense readers will LOVE it!
Your Turn: What book is on your bedside table right now? If you’ve started reading it, what are your thoughts so far?