Sunday, September 30, 2012

Comfort Movies: themes for your next book

copyright, 2012 aaron paul lazar

Everyone has their favorite comfort food. For some it's mashed potatoes and gravy, for others.. warm from the oven gooey chocolate chip cookies. I love a container of gourmet pistachio ice cream, or a big bowl of cold Bing cherries. But I also crave my "comfort movies" during a family crisis or trauma. After we've survived the latest bump in the road, I need to snuggle into bed with some good food and a big stack of movies.

Of course, the themes in the movies usually reflect those that resonate with me as a writer and human being - and similar ideas often end up in my own books. Does that happen with you, either in books you choose to read or those you write?

This week, my mother-in-law (who has lived with us for the past ten years and is a sweetheart), needed two new stents put in her heart. It was a long week, with 13 hour days at the hospital, and three excruciating days of waiting for her to be allowed back home. Everything ended up just fine, but it took its toll on all of us, and when it was all over, I needed my comfort food and movies.

Here are just a few of my favorites, and a cursory list of the themes that appeal to me in them. What are yours?

The English Patient
Exotic locale, strong characters, forbidden love, unrequited love, the plane crash, the sand storm, the war element, making due in an old, abandoned house and finding a way to accomplish things with very few resources.

To Kill A Mockingbird
Childhood recaptured, innocence, wrongful persecution of an innocent man, the horrific unfairness of the race issue, extremely strong characters, summertime, father’s incredible example and love, family meals, drama of murdering innocent man, the Halloween scene, Boo.

Shining Through
War drama, fear of discovery – taut suspense in fish market and basement of house. Running through strange city persecuted by Nazis. (How much more frightening/exciting can that be?) Again, initially unrequited love that is finally realized and heroically so. Good resolution to overall story. Very evil bad guys and gals – surprise that friend isn’t a friend. Heroic rescue under unbelievable circumstances.

Sense and Sensibility
Long, taut, drawn-out unrequited love with twists and turns that is finally, finally resolved. Local color, family relations, food, countryside, horses. The sweet sadness of the older man who adores the younger woman, finally resolved. Running through beautiful fields in the rain, the drama of the sister nearly dying.

The Game
Incredibly clever manipulation of one man’s life – the drawing out of his inner sensitivities and true family love through extraordinary experiences that crack the shell of his hard veneer. Going back in time to see father on home movies in his head, the birthday parties, the leap from the roof. History like that is so riveting. Nonstop action.

Father and son reconnecting after loss. So powerful, everyone in the world that’s lost a parent or loved one wants this… needs this. An otherworldly connection through time – so amazing. The smoke burns on the desk. Changing history.  Fascinating.

Double Jeopardy
Innocent, loving woman set up by vile husband – loses child to him for seven years. Outrage at innocent being convicted, sweet revenge when final retribution accomplished.

Corrina, Corrina
The poignant pain of father and child losing mother to unknown death. Strong personalities of parents, father’s struggle to recover, child’s affiliation with new, unusual friend who brings both of them out of their depression with candid humor and love. Recover is possible through unexpected means. Defying societal mores in the fifties– black/white relationship is superb. Unexpected musical talents in most surprising people.

While You Were Sleeping
Intensely different, irreverent, and hysterically funny characters. Unrequited love in beginning, turning even more so when Lucy falls for Jack instead of Peter. Extraordinarily sad, sad, sad scenes of this poor lonely girl who’s lost everyone. Just heartbreaking. Loss, lonliness, need for family, finding family, fear of loss family, holidays alone, bravery in face of great hardship. Dream of Florence, fact that Jack knows her dreams, recognizes, and gives her the snow globe based on this knowledge.

Ability to step out of one’s life into another.  The simplicity of childhood. Absolutely priceless. The need to prove to a childhood pal that he was indeed still a child inside was brilliantly felt and executed. And the tender awakenings of love were splendid.

The Green Mile
Intensely rich characters, unjustly accused innocent, sweet man. Conversation so real. John Coffee is perhaps my favorite character of all time, right up there beside Odd Thomas and Jenner.

Gorgeous farming environment, German language sprinkled throughout, intense unrequited love, strong characters, taut action. The harsh ugliness of the urban life clashes so intensely with the purity of the Amish country and family life. Gorgeous cinematography.

Peggy Sue Got Married
The universal draw of stepping back in time to relive one's childhood - being able to do things over again with the knowledge of an adult and the physique/future of a teenager - was so powerful. Love of family. Being able to visit with grandparents that have passed. Damn, I love this movie...

The Station Agent
Finn, Joe, and Olivia...what an unlikely trio of friends, and how deeply evolved each character is. I am crazy about this movie and the characterizations are superb.

Here are a few more of my staple comfort movies:

Regarding Henry, Forever Young, The Family Man, Dragonfly, The Majestic, Nell, As Good As It Gets, The Birdcage, Don Juan de Marco, The Human Stain, Remains of the Day, Pride & Prejudice, Under the Tuscan Sun.

There are so many more. But now, let me know how you feel about this. What are your comfort movies? List the themes that appeal to you and see if those themes have crept into your work or books you've read in any fashion. It's a fun exercise!
Visit Aaron's website at Check out his eBooks, print, and audio book selections for Moore Mysteries, Tall Pines Mysteries, and LeGarde Mysteries.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sounds of Mystery, by Marcia Applegate

copyright 2012, Marcia Applegate

The other night, I watched a young man follow a woman down a street. As she turned a corner, I caught a glimpse of her face, and she seemed to become aware of being followed. Whoa, I thought, scary, and turned off the mute button on the TV. Instantly the scariness disappeared. The romantic music under the scene told me—without a word—that the young woman had nothing to fear.

I don’t recall the name of the movie I was watching, something from one of the channels that carry stuff from back in the day. I rarely actually watch TV; it’s a backdrop for reading or whatever else I’m doing. I recount the above vignette only to make a point—music in a movie sets a scene, clarifies it. Without music, we guess at what’s going on. In some cases, the director wants us to wonder, to guess, as part of the story. And that’s fine, too.

My post today is about both of those things—how music can enhance the understanding of a movie, TV or radio program, and how silence at the right moment, can do the same thing. I’ll use two scenes that stand out in my mind to illustrate both points.

What music can do . . . In this movie, we know early on who the villain is and we’re pretty sure who the victim will be. The villain is a George Brent type, smooth, mustachioed, and with evil lurking in his heart. The scene I cannot forget takes place on a basement staircase, villain hidden in a basement room, innocent victim on the stairs. With each step down, the music deepens, darkens, intensifies, increasing the promise of horror. When the music reaches its climax and what we’ve known all along would happen actually does, we’re almost relieved.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that my recollection of the intensity of the fear generated by this movie and its use of music has most likely been enhanced by the passage of time, and if I were to see it again today, it probably wouldn’t have as strong an effect.

But it does illustrate my point; music can make such a difference in how we perceive a scene. Going back to the vignette—the man following the woman—the scene ended with her spotting him, racing happily toward him and a happy ending, with sweet, romantic music. If, however, she had spotted him and dashed away in terror, the music would surely have been dark and thundery, increasing the shock as he caught and strangled her.

How silence can enhance a moment of fear . . . In this movie, a panther, big and black and deadly, is loose in a neighborhood. A man comes home, drives into his garage, and gets out of the car. We hear music on his car radio, typical light, pop-style. He closes the car door, and the music is no longer heard. We know the panther is on the garage roof, even though we cannot see it at this moment. The focus is on the man walking out of his garage; there is absolute silence, not even the sound of footsteps, as he leaves the garage. The panther leaps from the roof.

You know the expression “loud silence”? That was the loudest silence I can recall ever not hearing.

Both of these little clips from movies I’ve seen and have never forgotten demonstrate how sound effects—in these cases very different kinds, one music, one silence—can pull you into the mood the director has set up for that scene. It’s almost a game to me today, when I see a movie or watch a TV show,  to pay close attention to the way the director uses sound, and to what degree it enhances or detracts from what I get out of the show.

And I believe that this is especially true in mysteries. The use of music and sound effects is a topic I’m going to come back to many times on this blog, because it has too many ramifications to cover in the length I’ve set for myself for one post, the measurement being to use only enough words to complete my thoughts of the moment.

And these are my thoughts for the moment. I look forward to having you with me for the next round.

Marcia Applegate blogs as  and tweets as!/meladolce

She is a retired communications/media consultant and columnist. For fun, she enjoys reading (and writing) mysteries and studying Italian. She also loves music, her husband and family, her two cats, eBooks, blogging, and her brand-new IPad! Visit her blogs at and

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hoping for publication? Get selling! by Marsali Taylor

copyright 2012 Marsali Taylor

As an aspiring writer, you're focused on getting an agent. Beyond that isn't your problem - your agent will find a publisher, who'll advertise and sell your book, then send you a cheque, so you can you stay at your desk doing the writing you love - right?

Wrong! I soon discovered that selling myself, twenty-first century style, is crucial - and when you too get your agent and publisher, they'll expect it.

Start right now, being organised. I am ... yet I still find myself flicking through files to find something I know I stored here - or if not here, then in one of these folders. Label files and photos clearly, including a date. Open a mailbox for your agent, and another for your publisher, and file everything as soon as you've answered it. Open a folder for each of them, and store copies of everything you send. You'll be glad, when editions 1 - 23 of your masterwork are flying back and forward.

Another thing you can do now is get a professional mugshot of yourself, with permission to use it from the photographer. I was lucky there; a local photographer was doing an exhibition '100 Shetland Women', with photos like Elizabethan portraits, the person surrounded by what was important to them. I posed aboard my beloved yacht, and the 'thank you' was 5 star-quality shots. He's happy for me to use these for author publicity, suitably credited.

Next, sharpen up your approach to presenting yourself as a writer. Attica Press, my publisher, set me up a session with their creative writing consultant, Beth Barany - on a transatlantic conference call, how cool is that! - and here are two of her ideas. Create a one word sentence with a short answer to the question, 'So what do you write?' I write crime novels that let routine-weary city dwellers enjoy solving puzzles in Shetland, Scotland, where everyone’s a neighbour, and the sea’s a highroad to adventure. Learn it, practise saying it until you stop feeling self-conscious, use it as a signature on your e-mails. Write short biographies: 25, 50, 75 and 100 words. I've had regular requests for these, and you can use them for the 'about' section on websites.

Most importantly, how can you use who you are to sell your books? My detective novel, DEATH ON A LONGSHIP, is set in Shetland, and has a sailing narrator, so there were three selling points right away - the Viking connection, Shetland, sailing. Like my heroine, Cass, I'm a keen sailor, with a few hair-raising adventures in the past, like sailing to Norway in a 32 foot yacht in a flying gale ... We share our Shetland background, this sea-indented archipelago half-way between Scotland and Norway, this country life where everyone knows everyone else, and I'm involved in drama, ponies, and tourist guiding. Plenty of 'copy' there!

Attica Press recommended Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest as good sites to begin with. I didn't have a Facebook account, so setting one up was the next step. My Facebook friends circle is like a Shetland-west gossip group, including the minister's wife, the postman and several of my teaching colleagues, so I wasn't very surprised that our kittens got far more likes than I did ... but I've also created a public-access Author page, and that's where I can post anything to do with my new literary career. Of course the stunning cover of DEATH ON A LONGSHIP went up, along with the launch date, but I also put a video of the long-eared owl who chose to grace the garden on the night of our World Book Day party, brief accounts of our writer group meetings, an announcement of the DEATH ON A LONGSHIP launch, as well as things to do with the book's Shetland setting - a video of me sailing Karima, and photos of our Shetland ponies ... anything that might attract readers to the world of the book.

Goodreads is a book reviewing site. It links to Facebook, so my reviews appear on my Facebook page too. Goodreads also creates you an author's page, and there I am, along with a thumbnail of the cover of DEATH ON A LONGSHIP. I'm so looking forward to my first reader reactions. I've also created an author page on Amazon.

Pinterest doesn't have such an obvious connection with writing, but again you're trying to sell the world of your book, without obvious advertising. Some authors use it as a storyboard; warning, if you do this, put up your final picture first, and work backwards. I've gone for a Shetland approach: every week or so I upload another couple of shots showing the changing seasons here, and those photos also appear on my Facebook page.

Attica didn't want to scare me by asking too much too fast, but they did emphasise that a website is crucial. Again, I was lucky here - my husband actually likes computers, and he's happily building my website. First, though, I had to do a 'map' of the site: the categories on the home page, and what was to go in each sub-page. Then I had to supply the text: a list of what I'd written, with web links - a short blurb of each book - descriptions of my principal characters, Cass Lynch and DI Gavin Macrae - and lots of photos. I'd been thinking about this as I'd worked on my Pinterest page, so I already had a folder. I just had to add captions like: busta.jpeg Busta House, once owned by the richest merchant in Shetland. Now it's a hotel, and the film stars and crew stayed there in DEATH ON A LONGSHIP.

Finally, my blog tour was organised by Carissa Weintraub. This was a totally new world. I'd only ever come across one book blog - I know the blogger's parents! - so I had a lot of homework reading to do. Then, when Carissa gave me my blog list, a lot of writing: nearly twenty short articles to be written in the next month. Luckily, as a magazine journalist, I'm used to deadlines, and the topics I've been given are inspiring and interesting.

So, the next time inspiration fails you, or it's within half an hour of lunch (always a dead time for me) then do some of this other stuff. Try writing short blurbs for your book, or a 25-word bio. Join sites that will help you publicise your book when your time comes, and read some blog sites ... but then, if you're reading this, you're probably a lot more computer-savvy than I was three months ago. Maybe you're already a social media success. Me, I had to be dragged into the twenty-first century - and you know what? I'm loving it!

Death on a Longship

When she talks her way into a job skippering a Viking longship for a Hollywood film, Cass Lynch thinks her big break has finally arrived - even though it means returning home to the Shetland Islands, a place she hasn't set foot on since she ran away as a teenager to pursue her dreams of sailing. When a dead woman turns up on the boat’s deck, Cass, her past and her family come under suspicion from the disturbingly shrewd Detective Inspector Macrae.

Cass must call on all her local knowledge of Shetland, the wisdom gained from years of sailing, and her glamorous, French opera singer mother to clear herself and her family of suspicion - and to catch the killer before Cass becomes the next victim.

Giveaway Info
Marsali is giving away THREE prizes; a copy of Death on a Longship at each blog stop on her tour, a 1st place grand prize giveaway at the end of the tour of some silver Viking-inspired jewelry from the Shetland Islands, and a 2nd place $15 Amazon gift card. 

1)    To win a book: leave a comment on this blog post to be entered to win a book (open internationally for ebook or the US, UK, and Canada for a print book). Be sure to leave your email address in the comments so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. This giveaway ends five days after the post goes live.

2)    To win Viking-inspired Jewelry OR a $15 Amazon gift card: Click the link to go to the contest’s website and enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post. A first and second place lucky winner will be selected on October 1st. First place person gets to choose which grand prize he/she wants. The second place person gets the remaining grand prize. Open to every country. 


Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland’s scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  

Friday, September 21, 2012


copyright 2012, Robin P. Waldrop

"Write like the wind, edit like an architect." That is what a dear friend, mentor, and great author, Aaron P. Lazar once told me.

As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on and I loved writing and telling stories. But as I grew older, I found less and less time to read or write. I missed these activities, but I was busy raising my children and attending to other responsibilities.

After I grew older, writing became less of a priority, and was subsequently put on the back burner for many years while I raised a family. As my children grew to adolescents, I once again found time to read and I even started penning short stories.

One cozy winter day, my teens were at school and I became consumed by the urge to read. I picked up a book a friend had given me, poured a cup of coffee, and snuck away to my little corner. Disappointment quickly set in when it became apparent I could not even get through the first chapter. I grew completely frustrated and closed the book. I had no idea what the plot was supposed to be, and the writing was horrible. The author had mixed tenses, and in one loooooooong paragraph, the author changed POV’s three times. I had no idea which character was speaking at any given point. I didn’t know much about the technical side of writing at the time, but I knew enough to understand the book was fatally flawed.

Determined not to let anything get the best of me, I waited a few days and picked up the book again. After thirty minutes of reading ad re-reading, I slung the book across the room. My husband asked me what was wrong. I told him about the writing and how even I could write better than that garbage. Evidently, he took me seriously. He calmly asked what I was waiting for. I just laughed, and told him I was not a writer anymore. However, that day he planted a seed, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it.

Eventually, I sat down at the computer, and started writing what I loved to read—FBI suspense/thrillers. I admit, it took a few minutes to get the creative juices flowing, but once I did, the pages started filling up.

After a few days, it all suddenly came to a screeching halt when I realized I did not have a clue about the technical side of an FBI agent’s career. I had not done an outline, or character sheets, or research, or anything. (Mistake #1) Readers tend to frown when the book they're reading does not seem realistic, even though it is fiction.

Again, my husband said, “Get on the Internet. I know you know how to do that. You’re on it all the time.” After giving him the evil eye, I went to work. It did not go well, to say the least. I was lost in this huge mass of information, and did not know whose advice to follow.

I decided to search for authors who wrote in my same genre. From there I looked at their work and biographies, and I contacted the ones who seemed to have the most in common with me. I told them I was new, and asked for advice, and to my surprise, several were happy to oblige.

I continued writing, and as soon as I finished the manuscript, I started querying agents. (mistake #2) I had been so anxious to be the next great author, I did not take the time to edit my novel. It was so full of grammatical errors no one would touch it. I queried more than sixty agents and all of them ended with rejections.

I was about to give up (mistake #3), until I met a great friend, John Francis, also a writer, and he suggested I write some short stories and offer them for free on various sites to get my name out there. I joined several writers’ sites, met more great people, and began implementing what I had learned. The next thing I knew, I had a blog, a mentor, beta readers, an editor, and almost two thousand new friends on facebook.

I know, I know, you are asking yourself what does all of this has to do with me? In short, this is what I have learned.

First: you need to figure out what kind of writer you want to be, and then you must do research on the subject, and lots of it, before you even think about starting your novel.

Second: you have to figure out who your characters are and develop them, because if you do not, you will end up with a poorly written book.

Third: make time every single day to write. Whether it is thirty minutes, an hour, or five hours. It is not as important what you write, but the fact that you write something every day. The only way to become a better writer is to write.

The fourth and final thing is always finish what you start. There is no better feeling in the world than when you type those final two words…the end.

Oh, and I also want to add; when you become successful—and you will as long as you never give up—please don’t ever forget what is was like when you were a newbie. You will meet people along your journey who will remind you of where you were at one time or another. Take time to help them in some way, even if it is only to give them a little advice. Remember, writing is all about enlightening or entertaining the world, it is not about how much money you can make.


Robin Waldrop is a wife, mother, grandmother, business owner, and author of YA/Urban Fantasy paranormal novels. TIES TO THE BLOOD MOON is book 1 in her series and is available on all digital sites, and also print and audio as well. SHADOW OF THE BLOOD MOON is her current release and the second book in the BLOOD MOON series. 

You can read her reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, and B&N.


Genevieve Labreck is back with a score to settle. Her mom has been kidnapped by Zane, hybrid and all-around monster. Rumors fly that Gen’s mom is holed away in Prague, a city recognized by humans for its serene beauty and intense culture, but Gen and Will know something humans don’t. Prague is haunted by dark, evil forces.

Can Gen and Will save her mom, or will they be too late?

Some will live, others will fall. At what price do you walk away from those you love?

Social Links:

Buy Links:


Monday, September 17, 2012

Reaching Out, by Jack Whitsel

copyright Jack Whitsel, 2012

Three months have passed since the debut of Shadows of Kings. Not only was this the first look at the Dragon Rising series, but my debut as an author. So, the rookie took his swing…sometimes trying to get the base hit, and on occasion – swinging for the fences. There have been both quantitative and qualitative victories – the latter dealing more with the overall experience itself than anything else. But one thing is certain, the journey has been priceless.

When I last visited Murderby4, the article I shared dealt with the love of writing and the discipline involved when taking on this endeavor. This time, I wish to share some of my experiences – all of which deal with reaching out. Most are positive, but to keep it real, I have to include the bad.   

This group is priceless. As a debut author, they were and remain my launch pad.  I can’t say enough about bloggers. There are too many to name and what they offer for writers is wondrous variety. Some offer spotlights, others do reviews, and some offer both. What you get is exposure from their loyal readers at an inexpensive cost. (Cost is generally associated with blog tour coordinators, but otherwise, it’s free.) And at times, there is wonderful feedback in the commentary sections of their sites. The downside…some sites receive little to no traffic, but once again…the price is generally free.

Live Interviews
My experience with interviews has been solely on Blog Talk and other Internet recordings. I have to say… this is a fantastic medium to get the word out. When I did my first interview, it was a thrill to hear someone else mention Shadows of Kings. I never fall short of mentioning my book to others, but when someone else addresses your book and asks questions about the content, you are filled with an affirmation that your work is out there and ALIVE! I have no downside or bad experiences when it comes to this medium. Regardless of the number of listeners, talking about your book in an interview is another way to build experience for public speaking – the next medium on the list.

Public speaking – Signings/Speeches
This is a powerful medium. Thus far, I have had the pleasure of two signings and one keynote speech. There is nothing as gratifying as reaching out to people in a public forum. Hearing what people have to say about Shadows of Kings and answering their inquiries humanizes the writing process, which is generally a solitary endeavor until release. Though the occasions for public forums are not as numerous as Internet visits, I cannot deny the impact. People see you and you see them. It’s personal and priceless.

Social Media

Twitter: I have found that Twitter is resourceful for finding and/or creating a community of authors. Now for the hard love:  At the time of writing this article, I had 968 followers. Out of that bucket, I have developed wonderful relationships with 5% of them. The rest of the 95% neither equated to sales nor friendships.
Facebook: To express how I feel about Facebook I’m going to simply defer to J.R.R Tolkien:
“I know half of you as much as I like, and like half of you more than you deserve” – Bilbo Baggins (Fellowship of the Ring)

I could go on and on about the various social sites, but I can sense the Murderby4 hook coming, so I’m keeping this article reasonably short. 

So…from a debut author to all existing and aspiring authors - thanks so much…and keep writing.

Oceans of Love,

Jack Whitsel

Jack is a native Californian, but has made Oregon his home since 1982. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Finance from Portland State University, but studies medieval history in his spare time. His favorite genres are fantasy and historical fiction with a medieval emphasis. Shadows of Kings, the first novel of the Dragon Rising Series is the love child born of these two passions.
 I love the elements of fantasy when mixed with the gritty aspects of a medieval society. In the worlds I create, there are neither citadels of shimmering glass nor any utopian realms.”
The final contributing catalyst to Jack’s creative process comes from his two sons, Josiah and Noah. They remind him how important an active imagination can be, and are the first to hear his tales of diabolical wizards and valiant knights.

“Because of my boys, I still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

FOR KEEPS, Virtual Book Tour - FREE eBook!

FOR KEEPS (a Sam Moore Mystery) is FREE today, Sept 14th, through Sept 16th. If you miss it this weekend, it will come up free again on October 12th and 13th.

Here's the link.

Writing the Tough Stuff (Or Killing the One You Love)

copyright 2012, Aaron Paul Lazar

It’s not easy writing a scene where you kill the one you love.

Of course I don’t mean your actual spouse or lover. I mean the wife, husband, or sweetheart of your main character.

I’ve done it in FOR KEEPS. Thinking about it tears my heart out every single time.

That’s what I mean by “writing the tough stuff.” Sam Moore—a retired family doctor who is our resident hero in Moore Mysteries—is very much like me, except he’s twelve years older and retired with enough money to putter around in his gardens all day. Let me repeat that. All day!

I hate him for that.

Okay, so maybe that’s a little extreme, considering he’s fictional. Shall we say, I am exceedingly jealous of his lifestyle? Although Sam was a family doctor and I am an engineer, we’re still a lot alike. We both love to plunge our hands into the soft earth and grow things. We both love our grandkids so much it hurts. And we both have spouses with multiple sclerosis. There are plenty of differences, too. I cook, I write, and I take photos. Sam doesn’t. But of course, it’s not a competition. At least I don’t think so…

In spite of the fact that he’s not real (at least not in the traditional sense, LOL), I relate to this man and feel his pain when he’s hurting. Sure, you say, writers should feel ALL their characters’ pain. We have to, to get into their heads and nail the characterization. Don’t we?

But I’ll bet some characters are closer to your heart than others.

Sam’s wife, Rachel, shares many qualities with my dear wife, Dale. They both endure MS, they both love to read, they are both chair-caning artists. Some of their symptoms are the same, but that’s where they split apart. Rachel loves to cook (that’s my job in our marriage), she’s in a wheelchair, and she stays pretty upbeat, considering her challenges. They both adore their grandchildren and both love to read. Rachel’s a tribute to Dale, in all honesty. But she also has morphed into her “own woman,” too, and I love her deeply. Er... through Sam, of course. (Honey, don’t be jealous!)

In the first two books of the Moore Mysteries series, Rachel sticks by Sam’s side, supports him when he’s overcome with grief and is plagued by strange paranormal events, and loves him deeply enough to keep him sane.

That’s why it really hurt when I had to kill her.

In For Keeps, the third book in the series, life takes an awful turn. When Rachel is murdered by a serial killer, it puts Sam back in the psych ward, the same place he was thrown when his little brother disappeared without a trace fifty years earlier. Desperate to fix things, he calls on the power of the green marble, the talisman his little brother Billy controls from afar that whisks him back and forth through his past.

Unlike those of us in real life, Sam gets a “do over.” He flies back in time to desperately try to fix the problems that lead to this gruesome act, and over and over again, he attempts to tweak the past to bring his dear Rachel back to life.

How do you write such a scene without losing it? How do you make it feel authentic to your readers? How much is too much? And how can you be certain that your character’s reaction will ring true?

It’s not easy. Matter of fact, since I loosely base Rachel on my own wife, and since Sam and I are really quite alike, it was close to torture.

I called upon my darkest, most powerful emotions experienced when my father died and also when my own dear wife almost died several times in the past few years. I’ll never forget the time the nurse in the ER called the nun on duty to bring me to a little room where no one would see my reaction to her impending news that Dale might not make it. She carried a box of Kleenex under one arm and a bible in the other. She was so sweet. Yet it was one of the scariest moments of my life. Thankfully, my wife pulled through and is doing okay today.

That hollow-gut, black-sludge-in-your-heart feeling is horrible when you lose someone dear to you, isn’t it? It’s all encompassing. Sometimes you just want to deny that awful truth, and pull away—far away—like Sam does in the following excerpt. I tried to channel those feelings when getting inside Sam’s head. Let me know if you think it worked.

Here’s the setup. Sam just picked up his son, Andy, from the airport and they enter the house after arriving home. Andy’s just arrived from his second tour of duty in Iraq, and this is his long-awaited homecoming. Rachel’s been cooking all morning to welcome her boy home. All day, Sam has ignored the insistence of the green marble, which has been pulsing, glowing, and searing his leg all day from his pocket; little brother Billy—who communicates from beyond through this talisman—was trying to “warn” him that something was terribly wrong.

For Keeps is book #3 in Moore Mysteries, and is now available through Twilight Times Books and The series can be read in any order.


Sam raced toward the laundry room in a panic. Rachel’s wheelchair sat abandoned in the hall, and his son froze in the doorway, hands clenching and unclenching at his side.

Andy’s voice thickened. “Maybe you shouldn’t come in here.” He spun and tried to hold Sam back.

One of Rachel’s shoes lay beside the doorjamb. The brown clogs. Slip on. With lambswool lining. She loved them so much she wore them even in summer.

Sam drifted closer, terror pooling in his stomach. As if in anaphylactic shock, his throat tightened and threatened to close off his air. His heart beat wildly now, in his throat, ears, chest.

Sam barreled past his son and stumbled into the room, his voice hoarse. “What happened?”

Rachel lay on a basket of laundry, her eyes wide open, looking with blank surprise at the ceiling. Sam’s garden shears protruded from her heart. The image danced before him like heat waves on tar, shimmering with unreality. Blood ran from Rachel’s floral print blouse to the sheets stained red in the basket, pooling on the white linoleum floor.

The room tilted. A series of screams of No No No No No resonated in his head. Or maybe he yelled it aloud. He couldn’t tell as he shoved Andy aside and collapsed beside her, checking for the pulse that evaded him like a cruel tormentor. Neck. Wrist. Ankles. No beating met his probing fingers.

“NO!” He drew the shears from her chest, sickened by the soft sucking sound it made, then wadded up a compress of pillowcases and held it over the wound to stem the flow. More blood dribbled from the wound and curled around her pearl buttons. He realized with a start that she was still warm.

He looked wildly about the room, as if a solution lay beneath the neatly folded piles of towels and linen. “Call 911. Hurry!” He cradled Rachel in his arms, smearing the blood between them, and feeling her arms dangle away from him, as if she didn’t have the strength to return his embrace.

Andy cried out, his anguish pinging across the small room. He squeezed between his mother’s body and the washing machine, holding his hand out to his father. “Dad. It’s too late. She has no pulse. I checked, too.”

“NO!” Sam’s mind reeled, his vision clouded, and the scent of blood tasted metallic on his tongue. “Who did this? Is he still here? She’s still warm, Andy. Find the bastard!” He stiffened when his brain repeated a phrase he’d heard during some of Rachel’s favorite shows.

Don’t disturb the evidence.

Panic slewed over him, boiling inside his head, freezing his arms and legs.

My garden shears. The killer took them from the barn. Used them on my Rachel. And my prints are all over them.

A great gulping scream filled his throat, tearing out of him like a primal scream. “RACHEL!”

Her head slumped sideways when he moved away, as if she was rejecting him. He checked her pulse again, muttering under his breath. “No way. No. No.” In a sudden manic thrust, he stood and reached for the marble, searching his pockets, patting madly at his pants and shirt. “My God. Where is it? What did I do with it?” Sam asked aloud. “Billy! Why didn’t you warn me?”

Inside the double-stuffed world that batted him between reality and nightmare, he remembered the marble’s insistent throbbing all morning. Billy had tried to warn him, had tried hard.

“Dad, come on. You can’t help her now.” In spite of Andy’s two tours of duty in the heat of battle in Iraq, the bodies he had seen and possibly created, and his soldier-toughened soul, he wept. Loud and strong, he wept and choked on his words. “Dad. Please. Leave her be. It’s over.”

Andy pulled him to his feet. Sam stared at his son as if he’d never seen him before. His eyes widened, trying to piece together a puzzle. Who is this nice young man? And why does he look so familiar?

Andy took him by the elbow and started to shuffle him toward the living room.

“Come on, Dad. Let’s go sit down.”

“No. Please. My wife needs me. She has multiple sclerosis, you know.”

Andy’s eyes popped open. Tears still streamed from them, and he shook his father’s shoulders as if he could not only snap him out of it, but maybe bring back his mother, too.

“Dad! Come on. Hold it together. Don’t do this.”

Sam stopped and stared at his bloodied hands. His legs weakened to jelly. He stumbled, then braced himself against the wall as sobs wracked him in waves of increasing amplitude. He slid to the floor and buried his face in his hands.


Dear God.

Not Rachel.


Thanks for reading! I hope you were drawn into Sam’s world, and that you might want to see how our favorite retired family doctor gets out of this one.

FREEBIE! The FOR KEEPS Kindle eBook will be free to all readers on Sept. 14th, 15th, and 16th 2012, as well as on October 12th and 13th. Please stop by for your free download here. Also, all of my other books in my three mystery series will be priced at $1.99 during this sale. Check them out at

Aaron Paul Lazar

For Keeps Virtual Book Tour Stops
Sept. 14, 15th, or 16th, 2012:

Kindle Websites:

The Kindle Book Review  “Hot New Release”


Digital Book Today “Great Reads”

Book Bloggers:

We All Make Mistakes in Books Blog Please “like” their facebook page if you visit them. ;o)

Authors’ Blogs:

Amy Manemann

Review Sites