Archive

Archive for the ‘Guest Blogs;’ Category

Guest Blogger Nancy J. Cohen – Far-Flung Family Ties

November 9, 2015 28 comments
Nancy J. Cohen

Nancy J. Cohen

“Far-Flung Family Ties” by Nancy J. Cohen

As we approach the holidays, we begin planning our family celebrations. These may not always be the joyous occasions we’d like. Disagreements, envy, cultural gaps with married partners, and secrets can keep families apart. In PERIL BY PONYTAIL, my recent release and #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, Marla and Dalton Vail embark on a honeymoon to an Arizona dude ranch.

Dalton’s uncle owns both the resort and a nearby ghost town that he’s renovating. Marla soon learns that Uncle Ray had an ulterior motive in inviting them out there. Mishaps have been plaguing both properties, and he suspects a saboteur. With Dalton being a homicide detective and Marla an amateur sleuth, Uncle Ray figures they can help him catch the culprit. But when a local forest ranger is found dead, the stakes escalate.

Marla is happy to meet Dalton’s extended family, especially since his mother isn’t speaking to his uncle for reasons unknown. Uncle Ray is just as tight-lipped, refusing to mention his past. However, he blames neighboring rancher Hugh Donovan for his troubles. Evidently, their animosity goes back to their childhood. Dalton’s cousins are more warm and welcoming. Annie is a dietician in town and Wayne manages the ranch. It’s a good chance for Marla to get to know this side of the family, but as she digs deeper into Uncle Ray’s secrets, she’s afraid exposing the truth might tear her new family apart.

Some of us may not know our extended family too well. We gather for holidays, exchange superficial news, and go on ourPerilbyPonytail merry ways until the next event. It’s not like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where everyone is in each other’s business but is also there for support. Your old childhood roles might surface when the relatives gather. Were you the shy one? The troublemaker? The lazy kid in school who never studied? It’s hard to surpass those reputations. Getting together more often and in different settings than a holiday dinner might be the answer.

So how often do you see your relatives? Do you feel comfortable around them? Would you rather be somewhere else at those times?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Peril by Ponytail.

<><><>

Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12)
Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle—the resort owner—on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns their relative has secrets he’d rather keep buried. As the bodies pile up, she digs deeper to find the killer. With her new family in jeopardy, she’d better figure out who’s adding to the spirits at a nearby ghost town before someone she loves is hurt.

Excerpt from Peril by Ponytail

Marla and Dalton are invited to dinner at his cousin Wayne’s house in Arizona. Present are Wayne and his wife Carol, Wayne’s sister Annie, and their father who is Dalton’s Uncle Raymond.

After they’d eaten a hearty vegetable bean soup, Raymond addressed Wayne. “Did you get that leaky water heater fixed?”

Wayne’s mouth tightened. “Yes, we did. The plumber said a valve had been loosened. Maybe it got knocked open by a broom that may have fallen over, but I think it was deliberate. At least we were able to clean the dining hall in time for the next meal.”

“I told you to put more video cameras in place.”

“Carol is still waiting for an estimate from the security company. Why do you look like you swallowed a lemon pit? I’ll take care of it.”

Raymond gripped his water glass. “I attended a town council meeting today. Hugh Donovan is stirring up trouble again.”

“What did he want this time? Donovan owns the Dead Gulch Ranch on the other side of the mountain,” Wayne explained in an aside to Marla and Dalton.

“His cattle aren’t doing well, and he blames my renovations,” Raymond said. “The guy’s an idiot. We’ve done the proper environmental impact studies, and they were approved. There’s no way our ghost town project can be contaminating his property.”

“Why does this fellow worry you so much?” Dalton asked, voicing the thought in Marla’s head.

“The man has it in for me, and don’t ask why because it’s nobody’s business but mine. I’ll need more approvals for my construction. If the council refuses to issue even one permit, it’ll put us behind schedule.”

“And how does that benefit Donovan?” Wayne said in a frustrated tone.

Marla figured he must have asked his father before about Hugh Donovan without satisfaction. What had happened between the two men to cause animosity?

“He hopes I’ll run out of money if he delays things long enough. I’ve had offers to buy that property, and I suspect he’s behind them. If the council doesn’t heed him, he’ll find other ways to shut me down.”

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/T2Vao7yDIVY
Buy at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Peril-Ponytail-Bad-Hair-Mystery/dp/1432830988/
Buy at Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/peril-by-ponytail-nancy-j-cohen/1121698516

<><><>

Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Vail, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list and been named by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, visiting Disney World, cruising, and outlet shopping.

Website: http://nancyjcohen.com
Blog: http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nancyjcohen
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyjcohen
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+NancyJCohen/

Advertisements

Guest Blogger John Scherber – The Artist Turns Detective

December 8, 2014 5 comments

perf5.500x8.500.inddThe Artist Turns Detective by John Scherber

A lot of people would like to paint, and I’m no exception.  In high school I had a close friend who painted, and I always wondered how well he did with it later in life. I took a run at it myself in those days and bombed badly. Much later I returned to it in a more methodical way and became fairly competent, but I didn’t quit my day job.

What I did learn from painting is that you have to see things differently. There were exercises where, for example, you’d paint a vase upside down. It helped to keep you from thinking of it as a vase––putting a name to it––only seeing the action of light and shadow on the surfaces, which is what you painted. Names come from a different part of the brain and they get in the way.

Later, I wondered whether seeing things differently be any use in solving a crime. My painter character, Paul Zacher, living in Mexico with his historian girlfriend, doesn’t think so when he’s asked to look into a murder by the widow of the victim. He knows he sees the relationships of curves and contours to each other, the different colors within the shadows on human skin. But what would he pick up at a crime scene that the police missed?

That’s the premise of my book, Twenty Centavos, the first of a series of mysteries involving Paul Zacher, his girlfriend Maya Sanchez, and their retired detective friend, Cody Williams. They are mostly set in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial mountain town in the center of México with a large expatriate population. I’ve lived there too for the past seven years.

At thirty-five, Paul is a guy with an irreverent sense of humor who does fairly well as a painter, showing at two galleries, and he likes his life. When the book begins, he is engaged in a series of nudes posed with statues of Mayan Gods against a jungle backdrop. The show he’s preparing for will be called Gods and Goddesses. Getting pulled into a criminal investigation, he finds himself at odds with the local police, and with himself as well, because he sometimes feels like a snoop. As an outgoing guy with an ironic sense of humor, he’s uncomfortable with his new need to be covert and even sneaky at times in order to solve a case.

When I began this book I was on a painting trip, driving down a long curving mountain road outside of Taos, New Mexico, when a scene came to me of a woman coming to pose for a nude portrait at a painter’s studio. She was not an experienced model, but wanted to preserve an image of herself in her prime at the age of twenty-eight. She was also wondering whether it might be fun to engage in a little rendezvous with the painter as well. He was an attractive guy and she knew he liked women.perf5.500x8.500.indd

As it developed, I turned this scene over and over in my mind and virtually memorized it. When I arrived at my hotel in Taos, I immediately sat down at my laptop and wrote it.

Paul Zacher, who already knew he was attracted to his new model, is nonetheless loyal to his Mexican girlfriend. As a painter, he views the naked body as landscape; hills and valleys, outcroppings of bush here and there. But even more, for him the studio is a place of discipline and concentration, and to get involved with a model means chaos. His reaction is complicated by the recollection of an earlier encounter where he had stumbled in the studio. Upon this model’s arrival, a fine misunderstanding follows.

Naturally, solving this case led to others. I found I was already working on the second book of the series, The Fifth Codex, even before I was finished revising Twenty Centavos.

Currently there are twelve published and another in process. They fall into two categories, artifact and relationship. Twenty Centavos is focused on ancient Mayan ceramics, and The Fifth Codex deals with the discovery of a fifth Maya book, where only four had been previously known. The fifth one, Strike Zone, is centered on the recovery of a skull cast from the remaining gold of the Aztecs in the days of the Conquest. These are the artifact books. The ninth concerns an attempt to steal Mexico’s greatest religious treasure, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Brushwork, the third of the series, is about revenge. Daddy’s Girl, Vanishing Act, and Identity Crisis focus on love, loss and greed.

This is a rewarding series to write. I love the backdrop of the upscale expat community in San Miguel, and the continuity and developing relationship of the three core characters. As with so many successful series books, these are the books I myself want to read.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DSC_0005-1John Scherber, a Minnesota native, settled in México in 2007. He is the author of twelve Paul Zacher mysteries, (The Murder in México series), set in the old colonial hill town of San Miguel de Allende, as well as his three award-winning nonfiction accounts of the expatriate experience, San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart, Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and Living in San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter.  In addition, two volumes of the Townshend Vampire Trilogy have appeared, and a paranormal thriller titled The Devil’s Workshop.

His work is known for its fast pace, irreverent humor, and light-hearted excursions into the worlds of art and antiques––always with an edge of suspense. Neither highbrow nor lowbrow, his books are written as entertainments and dedicated to the fun of reading. While he has acknowledged being no single one of his characters, he also admits to being all of them. Find John on Facebook and Twitter, and visit his website at: http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR HARRIETTE SACKLER

March 26, 2014 2 comments
Harriette Sackler

Harriette Sackler

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR HARRIETTE SACKLER

I recently had a short story, Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief! published in the Mardi Gras Murder anthology. Of the thirteen stories included in the book, Queen of the King Cakes by Harriette Sackler particularly caught my attention so I decided to interview Harriette.

1. Tell me about your writing and your motivation to write.

Harriette: Of my many interests, writing is close to the top of my list. When I began writing short stories, I was motivated to continue when my first story, “Mother Love,” which appeared in the Chesapeake Crimes II anthology, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

2. Give me a plot teaser about your Mardi Gras Murder story.

Harriette: “Queen of the King Cakes” is about a young woman who is determined to fulfill her dream of achieving success in an area she is most passionate about. However, one decision changes the course of her life.

3. How did you come to write Queen of the King Cakes? Where did you get the idea for the story?

Harriette: I find that somehow, my stories just come to me. Some of them are based on observations or incidents that have stuck in my mind over time. This story actually revolves around a woman who lived on our block when I was a little girl and the wonderful times I spent with my grandmother who shared a passion similar to my protagonist.MGMFrontCover

4. Did you need to do research for the story?

Harriette: Yes, I did research for this story. I read about the history of King Cakes, the geography of New Orleans, and the Louisiana penal system.

5. Anything else you want to say about the story or the Mardi Gras Murder anthology?

Harriette: I truly hope readers will enjoy my story and would love to hear from them at http://www.harriettesackler.com I also want to give a shout-out to Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo for providing short story writers with another venue for their stories.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Harriette Sackler serves as Grants Chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. She is a past Agatha Award nominee for Best Short Story for “Mother Love,” Chesapeake Crimes II.  “Fishing for Justice,” appeared in the Sisters in Crime-Guppies anthology, Fishnets. “Devil’s Night,” can be found in All Hallows’ Evil,” a Mystery and Horror, LLC anthology. “Thanksgiving with a Turkey,” appeared in a Shaker of Margaritas: a Bad Hair Day; and “The Factory,” was published in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder.

Harriette is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Sisters in Crime-Chesapeake Chapter, and the Guppies.

She lives in the D.C. suburbs with her husband and their three pups and spends a great deal of time as Vice President of her labor of love: House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary. She is a proud mom and grandmother.  Visit Harriette at: http://www.harriettesackler.com.

 

Guest Blogger: Carol Robbins – Enticing the Muse

March 10, 2014 6 comments
Author Carol Robbins

Author Carol Robbins

Enticing the Muse by Carol Robbins

I envy writers who say “It just came to me, the whole book. All I had to do was write it down.” From what I hear, that doesn’t happen for many of us. The muse is illusive, sometimes staying away no matter how desperately we long for a visit. So how might we attract the muse?

When I was an art student, a professor teaching a class in drawing urged me to be ready through disciplined practice, reminding me that the production of outstanding work would not happen without the basic skills. On the days when the muse didn’t show up, rather than doing nothing I was to practice, to hone my skills. Clay fascinated me. Although not my main medium, I may have learned my most important lesson from it. One day at the wheel I felt like I was truly “in the flow,” one with the clay, with everything. It was an exhilarating experience that I’ve rarely been able to duplicate. I’ve tried to analyze what happened that day. I’d prepared following what I’d learned, from arranging my tools, preparing the clay, to throwing the pot. The sequence of steps that I had done over and over, almost like a ritual, made it possible not just to create the piece, but to feel that flow.

So how does any of this apply to writing? I think the process is much the same. We have to learn the basics whether it be through classes, workshops, reading, or other methods. Then we must establish a routine for writing, preferably daily or at least several times a week, putting in the time that leads us to the outpouring of words.

Perhaps you noticed, when relating the experience with the clay, I stopped at the forming of the vessel. Simply forming a lump of clay into a vessel was not the end of the process. The pot had to be dried, trimmed, bisque fired, glazed, and fired again before it was finished. Likewise, even if the muse visits us with divine inspiration, we’re expected to edit and polish. The muse can be fickle, and rarely visits if we don’t do our part in preparation or if, once given the gift, we won’t finish the job.

So how do we entice a visit from the muse? Remember, the muses were sisters. Whether asking how to attract the muse for our expression in music, visual art, or writing, the answer is the same as the punch line to the old joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Carol Robbins Hull writes as Carol Robbins from her home in Montgomery, Alabama. The author of a yet-to-be-published cozy mystery, Catalpa Worm Wettin’ and Caterpillar Crawl, her current project is the completion of My Mother’s Story, a memoir begun by her mother. Previous work may be found in on-line volumes of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave yearly publication, Alalitcom. Her blog site is http://www.carolrobbins.blogspot.com.

Guest Blogger S.L. Smith: Researching Everything Under the Sun!

February 23, 2014 7 comments
Author S.L. Smith

Author S.L. Smith

Researching Everything under the Sun! by S.L. Smith

Few things turn me off faster than books with factual errors. I tend to put them down—permanently. For that reason, it’s important I get it right. If I don’t know it, I research it. I’m talking about the smallest details. Some of the research is almost as fun as the writing. Some of it is a headache.

Let’s start with the enjoyable stuff. I ventured into writing mysteries only because a friend spent thirty-five years as a cop, and agreed to perform a reality check on the law enforcement aspects. One battle won.

It didn’t take long to discover I also needed a contact in the medical examiner’s office. I had to muster the courage to make that call. Thankfully, I connected with a gem. This investigator answered all of my questions for book one, Blinded by the Sight. When the book came out, I met him and gave him a copy. That paid off in spades.

He assisted, again, with Running Scared: The Second Pete Culnane Mystery. At that time, he mentioned several items I should verify with my law enforcement expert. I explained this time my law enforcement expert needed, but lacked, an insider’s knowledge of the St. Paul Police Department.

He lined up two. One is the head of homicide. The other is a retired investigator/detective.  He obtained permission for me to call both men, and provided their direct phone numbers. Thanks to him, both St. Paul PD contacts took my calls and answered all of my questions. I was blown away! I learned so much from them.

I spoke with the St. Paul Fire Marshall to determine which vehicles would be sent to the scene, who would be in the vehicles, and what they’d do on site. Needing answers about hospital procedures and descriptions of the injuries, I connected with an emergency medicine physician. Both of those men were wonderful!

High school kids play a significant role in Running Scared. I called local schools to learn the times school starts and lets out. I had to know the procedures parents follow if their kids are ill. I needed the dress code. After all, the story occurs in Minnesota—in January. I had to put clothes on those kids.

Interviews are the fun part. The rest is interesting—but often a challenge.

The kids also needed names. The Internet provided popular names for the relevant decade. I use that same system to help select names for most characters in my novels.

One kid claims he wouldn’t play a part in the crime, because he’s intent on getting into Notre Dame. The Notre Dame website indicates whether the kid has an acceptance letter by the time the story occurs.

In Running Scared, the victim is struck by a car. The driver had to escape post haste, so the car couldn’t have air bags. Online, I determined the year air bags became01_RunningScaredfront_FINAL standard equipment. I selected a car, and still had to determine if it had air bags. Once I had the make and model, I also had to learn the exterior colors available that year.

The two investigators remark on the vehicle stolen to commit the crime, and the fact that across the street sat the car most commonly stolen at the time. Yup, I had to find out what car was most commonly stolen that year.

This book includes a U.S. citizen who works in Canada. I had to learn whether jobs in Canada are available to U.S. citizens, responsibilities for the selected job, common living arrangements for this transplant, travel methods and time required for this person to return to the U.S., as well as conditions that would delay an emergency trip home.

With help from a Facebook friend, I learned the age of homes in the neighborhoods playing a part in the book. I rode through those neighborhoods, getting a feel for the landscape and houses. I even learned the types of trees.

I wanted to know what the victim and attacker saw, so I could paint a realistic picture. For that reason, I repeatedly traveled the path they followed in the book.

Wondering how all that fits into a single novel? Check out Running Scared.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

S.L. Smith, a lifelong resident of Minnesota, was born in St. Cloud and moved to the Twin Cities after graduating from St. Catherine University in St. Paul.  She is the author of Blinded By the Sight and Running Scared: The Second Pete Culnane Mystery.  When writing mysteries, S. L. draws upon her degree in psychology, a career with vast amounts of law enforcement interaction, and her thrill for the investigative hunt.  A voracious reader since childhood and a lover of mysteries, she uses her knowledge of Minnesota and human nature to create stories.

S. L. is a member of Sisters in Crime.  Feel free to contact her at:

http://www.slsmithbooks.com
slsmithbooks@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627700301

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog: Jackie Romine Walburn – First Fiction for this Reporter: Finding the Truth Inside the Story

December 9, 2013 2 comments

post it walburn post 2First fiction for this reporter:Finding the truth inside the story

by Jackie Romine Walburn

Until starting my first and still-to-be-published novel, this lifelong professional writer- reporter-turned-corporate communications manager had never written a word of fiction. So, how did a reporter switch from journalistic rules of “just the facts” and “accuracy, accuracy, accuracy” to making things up?

It took a downsizing and layoff from that corporate communications job amid the 2008 economic crisis, multiple rereads of Stephen King’s On Writing, a kernel of a news story I covered as a reporter, and lots of days with the door shut writing one word at a time and finding the truth inside the story — just like the Post-it note says.

The yellow curled Post-it still hangs on my computer. In 2009, I gleaned the red-inked advice from King’s opus on writing and taped it to my computer screen, where it still clings. The advice urged this reporter to make up people, places and situations in my first novel, Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone. “Mojo” is in its sixth revision with the help of priceless early readers and my fiction writing teacher and editor Carolynne Scott and our weekly fiction writers group.

This constant revision is another leap for a writer who earned her living in the fast-paced business of reporting and corporate communications (which, believe it or not, IS all nonfiction).

As a reporter, you write a news story or feature; it is edited by an editor, printed and that’s it. You’re on to the next story. Fiction, however, means revisions and more revisions.

Writing fiction also means decisions about point of view; I started with four characters telling the story in first person and now am converting-revising to a third person narrative. Right now, I am also trying to decide if the original but revised prologue is in or out.

A successful reporter-turned-novelist warned me about this revision thing when I first started and I asked how to get an agent, how to get published. He said to worry about all that after your sixth or seventh draft. He spoke the harsh truth, but it took early readers and query rejections to bring the revision reality home to me.

Harper Lee spent several years of full-time revising of her original manuscript “Atticus” with a New York editor to create To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite and oft-reread work of Southern fiction. I’m just saying….

So, I revise, chapter by chapter, trying to make sure I write what is seen, heard, smelled and touched, telling the truth behind the story and omitting needless words – a reporter rule not on my Post-it (and No. 17 in Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”) that is true for all writing.

I continue to refine Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone, a story that starts with the sheriff being tied to a tree by an escaping suspect with rumored voodoo powers (the kernel of the real news story) and explores how a magic spell and a killing affect characters in a fictional community in the Alabama Black Belt.

Still a reporter at heart, I am learning the fiction biz, including how difficult it is to get published in today’s e-book world, and, as Mississippi author Tom Franklin told us at the last Alabama Writers Conclave meeting, “if you’re not revising, you’re not writing.”

It’s all writing, you know. It’s what I do, be it fiction or nonfiction, and I am always grateful and challenged.

King, a pro who writes every day, gives good advice in the 1999 book that helped spur this reporter to fiction, including “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

He encourages all his Constant Readers who are writers or wanna-be writers: “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

I keep drinking, Stephen. Thanks.

Jackie Romine Walburn and Debra H. Goldstein at 2013 Alabama Writers Conclave

Jackie Romine Walburn and Debra H. Goldstein at the 2013 Alabama Writers Conclave

Jackie Romine Walburn is a career writer, former corporate communications manager, editor and award-winning reporter – having reported for The Birmingham Post-Herald, The Auburn Plainsman, The Auburn Bulletin, The Selma Times-Journal and The Birmingham News. Most recently, she’s been published in The Birmingham Arts Journal and the Alabama Writer’s Conclave’s http://www.alalit.com. She is polishing the sixth draft of her first novel, a story of good and evil set in the Alabama Black Belt. She lives in Birmingham and writes the blog http://jackierwalburnwrites.blogspot.com.

Guest Blogger Sally Carpenter: Five Days to Make a Sitcom and Solve a Murder

November 18, 2013 19 comments
Sally Carpenter

Sally Carpenter

Five Days to Make a Sitcom and Solve a Murder by Sally Carpenter

A mystery writer starting a novel has the perplexing task of structure—what events will happen and in what order. Plotters will painstakingly map out each plot point, sometimes on index cards or sticky notes that are endlessly shuffled. Pansters will dive in, hoping that they don’t get stuck halfway in.

One pleasure of writing my new book, The Sinister Sitcom Caper, was that the subject matter provided me with a built-in structure. My protagonist is Sandy Fairfax, a 38-year-old former teen idol making a comeback. He’s the guest star on Off-Kelter, the lowest rated TV show of the 1993 fall season. When a healthy young actor drops dead at his feet, Sandy unwittingly investigates.

I fit Sandy’s sleuthing around a standard sitcom rehearsal schedule of that era. Whereas most modern sitcoms are shot on location and given a laugh track, in the 1900s sitcoms were filmed in studio soundstages in front of live audiences, as with Off-Kelter.

A sitcom took five days to rehearse and shoot (the script and the set designs were finished before then). The rehearsal time ran from Monday through Friday or Wednesday through Tuesday, which allowed the camera crews to work on two shows per week and avoided a logjam of too many audiences on the lot at once.

The first day—Monday, in my book—began with a table read where the actors, director and writers sat around a table and read the script aloud. The actors gave their opinions on lines that didn’t work and the writers began revisions. Usually a lunch break followed with rehearsals in the afternoon and running through Wednesday.

My story begins with the table read, an easy way to introduce the characters as they arrive for rehearsal. To add more conflict, I made the director, Royce Jobbe, an obnoxious person that Sandy had worked/clashed with on a prior show.

The mysterious death occurs Monday afternoon. This allows Sandy only four-and-a-half days to solve the case (a nice “ticking clock”), since after the show is taped he will no longer have access to the studio lot. People are generally not allowed onto studio lots unless they are working on a show in progress or have a guest pass from an executive.

To break up the monotony of rehearsals, I gave Sandy a preshoot on Wednesday. Some scenes in a sitcom may be filmed in advance and then screened for the live audience. Preshoots are used for action filmed on location or in the backlot; a hazardous scene involving, fire, smoke or explosions; special effects; or scenes with children who may be tired during the live shoot. Sandy performs a dance routine in the backlot (actually the scene was just an excuse to have Sandy boogie. He’s a terrific dancer). The shoot turns deadly when he’s nearly drowned by the rain machine.

Thursday is camera blocking. The four cameras and crew are brought in so the camera setups for each scene can be fixed. Camera placements are marked with bits of colored tape on the floor. Since this work is long and tedious, stand-ins are used for the actors. This gives Sandy a big chunk of spare time to do some on-lot sleuthing, which ends up with him tied up by the villain inside an unused soundstage.

Friday is show time! The actual filming the show with the audience makes a natural climax for the book. The day begins with dress rehearsal. At 4 p.m. the cast and crew break for an early dinner. After eating, the actors get into makeup and costume while the audience is brought in and seated. Shooting starts at 7 p.m. A twenty-minute sitcom takes three to five hours to film, allowing time for retakes and costume changes.

Since Sandy only appears in a few scenes, he has time during the shooting to do some investigating. He escapes a death trap, catches the murderer, and puts in a great performance all in one evening!

To gently ease the reader back down after the exciting conclusion, the final chapter takes place on Saturday when Sandy, finished with his work, can relax and tend to family matters.

Not all stories will have such a rigid structure, but this book was fun to write and proved that solving a murder while working on a sitcom is no laughing matter!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sally Carpenter is a native Hoosier, with a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University, who now lives in Moorpark, California.   While in school, her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.

Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do. She’s worked as an actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

Her initial book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel. The second book, The Sinister Sitcom Caper, is due out this month.

Her short story, Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in, appears in the anthology Last Exit to Murder.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet was published in the Plan B: Vol. 2, an e-book anthology. The Pie-eyed Spy, a Thanksgiving-themed short story, will appear in the Nov. 23 Kings River Life e-zine.

Sally blogs at http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com.  She is a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles chapter. Contact her at Facebook or scwriter@earthlink.net.