Absolutely happy to have Jo back here with me. And, for a plotter like myself, Jo’s post is heaven.
Related By Murder: A McLaren Mystery by Jo A. Hiestand released a couple of weeks ago in the British mystery genre.
From the moment ex-police detective Michael McLaren arrives at his friend’s house, he’s plunged into a nightmare of a case. Two men, hanged a year apart, each killed on a Good Friday. A barrister. A solicitor. Related careers. Related by murder. Related motives?
Pottery shards, a torn newspaper article, and biscuits are found in each man’s pocket. What do they signify? And the blackmail letters Melanie receives… Are they related to the murders, or are they separate, terrifying in their own way?
Professions, calendar date, McLaren’s attack. Could it all be entwined? Or is the motive for murder something else, something so secret that keeping it is worth attempting a third one?
The book is on sale for $0.99.
McLaren sat up and leaned against the remnant of a broken-off column. How long had he been there? Forty-five minutes, his wristwatch announced. It was time to end this farce.
He didn’t, though. A beam of light near the river changed his plan. He crouched down, hugging the column, and watched.
The torchlight moved up the riverbank, a slow and steady progress that implied the walker was picking his way over rocky ground. The light bobbed several times as the person holding it evidently lost his footing. But it remained focused ahead, toward the main grounds of the Abbey. The progress was now more sure, signifying the rocks and sand had been left behind and the walker was now on firm soil. The light never flicked from side to side, as it would if the person was unsure of the land and was looking for obstacles. Several times the light slid behind a portion of the stone wall or a taller column remainder, but it always appeared again within seconds, still moving straight ahead.
Who the hell would be here at this hour?
Suggestions whispered to him, and he moved quickly to the cemetery section of the Abbey. Hoping to blend in and look like another pile of rocky foundation, he crouched beside a stone coffin. He turned his head and held his breath, not wanting any sound to give away his location.
When he looked up, the light had vanished.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I grew up reading Dumas, Twain, duMaurier, Dickens and the Brontes. I loved the atmosphere of those books. Add the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce movies and the moods of 1940s/50s movies like Brief Encounter, Night Must Fall, and The Thirty-Nine Steps, and I knew I wanted to write mysteries, and the books had to be set in Britain. That was a must even though I knew only what I’d seen in the movies and read in the novels. But the British pull was tenacious. Three years ago I discovered that I have literally centuries and centuries of English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. Do genes mean anything?
My first visit to England was during my college years and that cemented my joy of Things British. Since then, I’ve been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there for a year during my professional folksinging stint.
What do I write? Well, at the moment, I write two British mystery series: the McLaren Mysteries and the Peak District Mysteries. The McLaren novels feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who investigates cold case murders on his own. The Peak District books feature a different British custom/tradition that is the backbone of each book’s plot. These are a combo cozy/police procedural, and members of the Derbyshire Constabulary CID Murder team work these cases.
I combined my love of writing, mysteries, music, and board games by co-inventing a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game, P.I.R.A.T.E.S.
I founded the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the international mystery writers/readers organization Sisters in Crime, serving as its first president.
In 2001, I graduated from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. I live in the St. Louis, MO area with my cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.
To me, mystery stories are very hard to plot. All those details that must add up, the timing… is that something you find hard when you write?
Yes, it is hard for me! I have a lot of scraps of paper and word files of notes for each book. In my main outline, which is actually a lot of chronological paragraphs about what events take place in what scenes, I use red-colored type to denote the investigation day and date of each day. Like, Day 1: March 4; Day 6: March 9, and so on. This helps me find a section quickly if I need to refer to a character or action, and it keeps the plot flowing in my mind.
If there’s an event in the story, like fishing, I look up the open and close seasons and put that in my notes—I don’t want a character fishing during the closed season, for example! Same with sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times if that’s important to the plot. I realize most people won’t look that up to see if I’ve goofed, but it’s just part of my need to be accurate.
I keep track of houses and buildings, and what street they’re on by drawing a map of the village. I also have a map of the surrounding area so I consistently refer to the stone circle being one mile northwest instead of north of the village, for example.
I also make a precise timeline of the actions and whereabouts of the murder suspects. Example for Arrested Flight:
Person Time Place Alibi
Gemma 12:00 am home sleeping, can’t prove
Lilwen 12:00 ish wood with Brad, kissing and talking, went home to sleep
Jack 12:00 am house talking with Megan about Brad and business
Megan 12:00 am Jack’s talking with Jack about Brad and business
Stuart 12:00 am village can’t sleep, walking around. His hobby is photography – his photos are on the pub walls, can’t prove his whereabouts.
Owen 12:00 am in car sleeping in car, parked at friend’s house but friend not home. Sleeping off his drinking from the pub; can’t prove he was there
Gareth 12:00 am circle walking around the stone circle to get inspiration and think. Yes, it was late but he was thinking through his new project and the place has always inspired him
Rev. Pat Redfern 12:00 am village help couple w/ domestic issue, they didn’t phone police. They since divorced and moved: he to Liverpool, she to Ottawa, Canada; couple vouched for part of the time with him but still left time if he killed Brad
This keeps the timing straight in my head so I don’t say Jack was sleeping in his car, for example, and thereby goof up Megan’s alibi.
I keep track of characters’ physical appearances and personalities by my matrix. I have columns in which I type down the character’s name and occupation, age, hair and eye color, body build. A second column lists his/her objective in the story: does she want a better job, does he want to get married to another character who’s already engaged, does he want to overcome his fear of the village bully… The middle column shows the character’s personality point that’s important: he’s a bully, she’s afraid of her husband… The fourth column is where I jot down any key points that influence the person and/or the story: he wants to prove he’s not a liar, she was arrested five years ago but has kept it a secret… The last column shows the character’s opposition. This could be a struggle against nature or another person or a personality flaw like fear. The opposition should be in direct contrast to the objective. I think it’s important to have this sorted out. They are details that can make or break a story. Just more things to keep track of!
What is the most difficult aspect of writing a story like this one?
Thinking up and placing the clues has always been my struggle, and I’ve written twenty-six books! I feel like they are so easily spotted that it will spoil the story for readers. I realize it’s because I know what they are, but it still doesn’t lessen my anxiety or the dread of coming up with clues and then plopping them into the storyline. There’s always somethin’, isn’t there!
This post is part of a Tour. The tour dates can be found here: https://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2021/02/vbt-related-by-murder-by-jo-hiestand.html
- a $20 Amazon/BN GC