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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Top Five Reasons One Particular Editor Rejects a Proposal

Today’s blog ariticle was written by Susan Downs, the Acquisitions Editor of Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, and was originally part of a class about writing cozy mysteries taught by Lisa Harris.


Ah, what mysteries abound in a writer’s world. Is it who or whom?. . .Single- or double-spaced? . . . And what sadistic editor expects me to spell a word like onomatopoeia, much less know what it means? . . .

But there’s really not much mystery involved as to why I might reject a cozy proposal. In fact, I could summarize my response in one word: Ho-hum. (Or is that two words? . . .And yet another mystery!)

For those of you potential Barbour authors who have an interest, perhaps I’d better expound on what I mean by Ho-hum.

I’m really not in the market to contract with an author who offers:

Ho-hum Genre/Guidelines Research.
Probably the number one reason I reject a proposal stems from the fact that the project being proposed is NOT a cozy mystery. It may be a mystery proposal. It may even be a good mystery proposal. Or romantic suspense. Or police procedural. But it’s not a COZY mystery, and my boss is paying me to buy only COZY mysteries. If you haven’t studied the sub-genres under the Mystery umbrella thoroughly enough to distinguish the differences, then the chance that I’ll acquire your proposal for publication is about as likely as hitting a bull’s eye blindfolded. Almost every cozy mystery I acquire will meet certain criteria. (I reserve the right to overlook one of two shortcomings in this area if the proposal shines in other areas, but if I were you, I don’t think I’d risk it.) These required elements are spelled out in our writers’ guidelines, which are available on our Web site or upon the author’s request via E-mail. I’m not gung-ho about throwing money at an author who isn’t gung-ho about researching just what it is I’m wanting to publish. You’ve heard it before. . .I’ll say it again. . .KNOW YOUR INTENDED MARKET.

Ho-hum Characters.
Probably the most notable trait of a cozy mystery is the Quirk factor of its characters. There needs to be something eccentric or out-of-the-norm about your main character and/or main supporting character(s). This can be achieved any number of ways¾by personality trait, physical characteristic, hobby or occupation. Among the proposals I’ve contracted to date, the cast of characters include a worm farmer, an overweight African American granny with painful bunions, a bachelor professor from India, a specialty soap maker, and a failure-of-an-Olympic-swimmer-turned-advice-columnist, to name just a few. Then there’s the housewife and mother of four who, on the surface, seems quite ordinary¾an average ol’ Jane. But, as we delve deeper into the story and she stumbles across the body of a certain grocery store employee/black-mailer in the milk case, we uncover a few idiosyncrasies about our heroine that set her apart and make her a valid suspect in the mystery. (You’ll simply have to join the book club to learn the rest of the story!) The point is, even the character that appears vanilla on surface level must have something that distinguishes her as someone about whom the reader wants to learn more.

Ho-hum Plot Development.
This takes me back again to my advice to study the cozy mystery genre in depth before you write your own. There are plot devices that are germane to all cozy mysteries. For example, the inciting crime in a cozy mystery should occur within the first chapter or two of the story. While the crime of choice in most cozy mysteries is a murder, it should not be portrayed as graphic or gory. Oftentimes the crime occurs “offstage” and is stumbled upon by the amateur sleuth.

One note of advice¾even though Barbour is in the market for romantic cozy mysteries, romance should not overpower the mystery. While we require that at least 20% of the plot focus on a romance thread in our cozy mysteries, I’ve rejected proposals from several published Heartsong romance authors. They can’t seem to shake the romance formula and tone in their cozies. We are not in the market for a romance with a mystery thread. We need strong mysteries with a liberal sprinkling of romance thrown in.

Ho-hum Writing.
On occasion I come across a proposal that describes an interesting plot in the chapter-by-chapter summary, and I’m licking my chops to get into a great read as I turn my attentions to the sample chapters. By the third paragraph, however, my eyes have glazed and I’m longing for a pillow.

Either by creating curiosity, stirring emotion, or intense action, give me sufficient reason to keep reading. Don’t bore me with inconsequential description or plodding narrative. I know, I know, it’s easy to say and not so easy to do. I don’t know that I could even pinpoint what constitutes great writing from mundane. I just know I knows it when I sees it!

Ho-hum (or Worse) Author Reputation.
Are you the kind of author editors love to work with? Or do you e-mail her every other day, requesting an update on your proposal’s status? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Editors talk. Particularly editors who work in the same publishing house. ‘Nuf said.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making Motives Matter

I felt like starting with alliteration, so there. That's my literary contribution for today.

Motives in a mystery matter, and not just to the villain. Let's look at your List of Possible Suspects, those sorry souls who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up under the authorities', or sleuth's, microscope.

What would give someone a reason to murder? Not that he actually carries out the deed, mind you, but something that could make our suspect sit for a moment and dream up ways to "off" someone. I've started a list.

1. Revenge: A dish best served cold. Plenty of murder mysteries have a villain who's nursed a long grudge until finally that last insult, that last wound pushes him over the edge. Or, perhaps not, but one of your suspects may have thought about it. Maybe he confessed this secret desire to the wrong person, or had a public confrontation with the future victim. How else could a vengeful person look guilty, especially if he hasn't carried out his plan?

2. Passion: "If I can't have you, then no one will." This can also be linked to motive #1. A spurned lover or suitor's misguided romantic notions can spill into obsession that kept our poor victim looking over her shoulder…but never expecting the true killer. And what if the former suitor changed his ways? What if he's gotten over our poor murdered victim? Maybe her family's the first to jump on the bandwagon to have him questioned.

3. Money or Possessions: Someone else has it. The suspect wants it--badly. Enough to kill for it, perhaps? Note: In the world of a cozy, this could be something very simple, but believable. Did Maisie poison Great-Aunt Betty to get her prize recipe collection? Is that enough reason for murder? Only the writer can make it so.

4. Knowledge of Secrets. "The Man Who Knew Too Much." This can make for a great cat-and-mouse chase in a story. However, if our poor victim knew a suspect's deep dark secret—perhaps something that could make him lose reputation, position, or livelihood—now that could be a reason for murder. What if our suspect tries to keep covering up this secret, only making himself look guiltier all the while?

I invite you to share what you've discovered about suspects. What makes a person guilty, but not of the crime that's been committed? The list can be endless.

Sprinkle these scenarios throughout your story and you'll keep readers wondering. These are the first ideas I came up with, but I encourage you to sit down and brainstorm your suspects' motivations. Everyone's got a secret, even the retired piano teacher next door. Is that flower bed in her back yard really a new hobby? Did her husband really go on vacation? Hmm…

Don't forget our July contest. Leave a comment letting us know you are interested and you could win a free chapter critique by a published author.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Book Winners!

We had two winners for our first contest in the month of June. Congratulations to Frances and Lynetta who both won a copy of Wanda Dyson’s spine tingling suspense novel Abduction! Check out Wanda's books at www.wandadyson.com

Want more?

Remember, we are still running our July contest. Leave a comment letting us know you are interested and you could win a free chapter critique by a published author.

We’re continuing to add to the site, so please pass on our link to your friends and feel free to add our link to your own site. You can sign up to receive our informative posts to your personal email box by signing up at the top of the page.

And lastly, if you have a writing related question that deals with suspense, mysteries or cozies, this is the place to ask them! Just leave us a post and we’ll get back to you!

Your Keep me in Suspense Hosts

Saturday, July 22, 2006

To Murder or Not To Murder

This is a paraphrase of a question recently posted to the blog. Here’s the original: I heard you don't always have to have a dead body. What other crimes are fitting for a cozy? The one I'm brainstorming calls for something like a missing artifact or forged relic. Would that work?

Short answer. Possibly. In combination with another crime. I’ll explain after I digress into a deeper explanation of cozies, and from that, I think, you’ll understand my answer.

Cozies are an interesting child in the family of mystery and suspense. At first glance, they seem tame. A good cozy, whether secular or inspirational, has no blatant sex or violence. This doesn’t mean such things don’t occur behind the scenes, but they don’t happen on stage, written in the pages of the book.

In reality, the most well written cozies aren’t tame at all. They explore the depths of the human psyche. Characters seethe with emotion, which is often hidden by the veneer of civility. I’m sure some people think a cozy mystery is easy to write, as far as mysteries go. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Suspect characters, as Lisa said in her blog entry, are essential. That means a large cast of people. The characterization alone makes a cozy difficult to write. Each of these suspects needs to be identifiable and needs the motivation to have committed the crime. That means a cozy mystery writer has to understand what makes people tick. The author must be willing to explore the depths of human emotion. Greed, jealousy, hatred, anger, revenge, lust. . . And then the author has to be able to slowly and subtly reveal those emotions in the actions of the characters. That’s not easy to do. Each character must be different, with their own definite personality. I think that’s partially what is meant by “quirky” characters. Often a small quirk is what makes a character memorable.

A personal observation here: sometimes inspirational writers want to sugarcoat their characters. They are uncomfortable in exploring the depth of sin it takes to commit a murder, for example. And some Christian authors avoid depth of conflict. This is probably because they don’t like conflict in their own lives, and they don’t like to think about the ugly side of life. I have only to point to the Bible for a good example of conflict and depth of sin. Every evil motivation known to man is contained within the pages of the Bible. In addition, the only way to keep the interest of the reader is conflict, conflict, conflict. As Donald Maass says, think of the worst thing that can happen to a character, then make it more horrible.

Okay, back to cozies. The reason that murder is often used in a cozy is whatever crime is committed must be significant enough to make a sleuth willing to pay the price to solve the crime, and the villain willing to pay the price to hide and/or stop the crime from being solved.

Here are some rules to remember:

1. A crime must occur at the beginning of the book. In most cozies that crime is a murder. It doesn’t have to be, but whatever it is has got to be significant and propel the sleuth into action. Murder can also be committed in the course of another crime. Or additional crimes can occur along the way.

2. The sleuthing must start shortly after the crime is discovered. And the sleuth needs a good reason to be solving the crime.

3. You must be fair to your readers. All the suspects must be revealed before the middle of the book. The clues the hero/heroine discovers along the way must be available to the reader. Don’t throw in facts that will determine the solution to the crime toward the end of the book without foreshadowing them at the beginning.

4. You must have a sufficient number of suspects to keep the reader guessing.

5. The mystery has to be investigated and solved. The hero or heroine can’t just bumble along, stumbling over clues. The main character must actively solve the crime, even if law enforcement solves the crime, too.

So, back to the original question. A missing artifact or forged relic would work in combination with another crime. For instance, perhaps a collector realizes that one piece of his priceless collection is a forgery. It is, in fact, a replacement for the original. Because of this realization, somebody is murdered. Maybe the collector. Or a family member. Or the forger. Make it significant. Make it cost somebody dearly. And then make everyone who matters pay a steep price in the resolution of the mystery.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


If you been following my posts, we've already looked at characters and setting, but what are the dynamics of plotting a cozy mystery? I’ll share with you the outline I use when writing a cozy mystery that will in turn help you organize your own cast of characters and turn your protagonist into a sleuthing sensation.

No matter how you write, a cozy will take a bit of planning ahead of time. This outline is like a character sheet with a twist. Notice that every suspect has a secret, a link to the crime, and a motive. This adds layers to your story and helps turn your story into a puzzle to solve. I’ve used snippets from my own series below to show you how it works and get you started, but you will want to write as much detail throughout here as you can.

When you get to your clues, here’s a good point from Barbour. “Create clues that point to one or more Suspects. Include Red Herring Clues. Organize in such a way that the Solver is led down a certain paths in the maze that redirect her back toward the RA.”


STORY SUMMARY: Pricilla Crumb’s guest list has just turned into a suspect list. . .for murder. Pricilla Crumb, superb cook and articulate hostess, plans an informal buffet for her son, but the dinner party turns to chaos when a guest is found dead after sampling one of her salmon-filled tartlets. Pricilla’s determination to save her reputation and find out the truth begins her unofficial career as a novice detective.

• Pricilla Crumb- heroine (I, II, III)
• Penelope- Pricilla’s cat (I,II,III)
• Nathan Crumb- Pricilla’s son (I,II,III)
• Etc.

(note: this list is important when you are writing a series, thus the reason for the numbers showing which books they appear in.)

SPIRITUAL THEME: “How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7

MYSTERY: CHARLES WOODRUFF is found dead in Pricilla Crumb’s son’s hunting lodge. At first, Pricilla is convinced that her appetizer was the reason for his untimely demise, but it soon becomes evident that fowl play was involved. When her son is taken in for questioning, Pricilla is determined to save the reputation of both her son and his lodge.

PROTAGONIST: Pricilla Crumb is a cross between PBS’s Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances and Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. Determined to discover the truth, this unconventional busybody follows one lead after another, dishing up laughter and suspense along the way.

REAL ANTAGONIST (RA) AND MOTIVE: I’m not telling who mine is, but you need to know who this person is. LOL


• VICTIM: Charles Woodruff is a cutthroat business man who is liked by few people. . .

• (RA):

• SUSPECT ONE: Clare Woodruff

1. SECRET: Had an affair with one of the suspects. . .

2. LINK TO THE CRIME: Found him with the body, had opportunity. . .

3. MOTIVE: For financial reasons, her husband will not divorce her, but there’s another man in the picture. . .





CLUES: Make your list of clues that you will use throughout the story here.

RED HERRINGS: Write in your list of red herrings here. These will come from the innocent suspects and their motives, secrets, etc.

SOLVING THE CASE: How are you going to wrap up the case with a bit of a twist?

So, have fun and remember we are running a contest to win a free critique on a chapter, so leave a comment and let us know if you are interested!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Interview with Veronica Heley

With over fifty books published, I suppose I must get this suspense thing right now and again. I spend hours agonising about it, I copy tricks of the trade used by other writers, and I obey my editor when she says Do It This Way! (Well, sometimes she’s right).

First, I’ve learned that you must have a cracklingly good blurb. Don’t leave this to your editor; struggle with it until you get it right.

Your first sentence should raise questions in the reader’s mind. ‘She was being watched.’ That’s the start of the first book in the Eden Hall series. Yes, the reader soon discovers who was watching the heroine, but the why isn’t revealed until the end of the book.

‘It was a bad decision.’ That’s another teaser, which starts off book three The Secret of the Hall. The reader assumes it was a bad decision, which makes her fearful for the heroine…but doesn’t find out till the end whether she is right or not.

Many suspense books concern a conflict of some sort - perhaps between good and evil, perhaps over moral choices - so to keep up the suspense the protagonists should be evenly matched, and the outcome in doubt right to the end.

The police procedural works differently, because here the reader is joining in a hunt for the wrong-doer. And a hunt – however much we try to pretend we are too civilised for such pastimes – is exciting. Two steps forward and one back is usually how these work.

How can you generate suspense if your story starts quietly? One way is to take a section from the end of the book where the hero or heroine is in danger of losing everything, and pop it in as a preface. That way the reader knows that the protagonist is going to be in trouble, even if the book starts with the heroine worrying about housework. I use this trick in the Ellie Quicke series, because my heroine is a middle-aged woman who is as concerned about baby-sitting her grandson as she is about solving crimes in the community.

Make your protagonist sympathetic, so that the reader will want to find out what happens to him or her. In Murder of Identity I introduce Ellie Quicke, heroine of eight crime stories like this: ‘Ellie Quicke, a fiftyish widow with a comfortable figure, did not consider herself to be a brave woman. She’d never learned to drive, and her efforts to fend off a bullying daughter had met with only partial success. On the other hand, she had managed to bring various wrongdoers to justice without having to spend time in hospital. Until, that is, she undertook an errand for a neighbour…’

Get the reader to identify with the protagonist, start with a bang and ensure that the dilemma he or she faces is a very real one.

Set up the problem on page one, and solve it on the last page.

VERONICA HELEY has had 55 titles published so far, including crime and historical for adults, and many books with a Christian background for children of all ages.

She is currently writing the Ellie Quicke Mysteries for HarperCollins and Severn House - most of this series is in large print and audiobooks - and at the same time she is working on the romance/suspense EDEN HALL series for Zondervan.

Married to a probation officer, she lives in London, England.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Are you in the middle of writing a proposal that fits into the suspense, mystery or cozy genre? Would you like a free critique from a published author? Well, now’s your chance. Leave a comment between now and August 1st, let us know you’d like to enter the contest, and you stand the chance to win a free critique on one of your chapters!

Stay tuned for more chances to win a free critique as well as free books from some of your favorite authors.


Your Keep Me In Suspense Hostesses

Friday, July 14, 2006

Where the Story Begins

Okay, last time I talked about the murderer's story as being the story behind the story. The reader-hooking question is: So where do I start?

With Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, or any mystery for that matter, you need to start the action soon. From page one, preferably. In the first chapter, definitely. You've gotta have that dead body, and that makes for a great end-of-the-chapter hook.

But what to do until then? It's very tempting for a writer to launch into her heroine's journey, and let the reader know as much as possible about the heroine right away before revealing the aforementioned dead body. After all, you want your reader to like your heroine, hopefully enough to cheer for her. (I'm saying heroine for simplicity's sake here, since I'm sure there's writers out there who have a male protagonist.) Give her an immediate problem that gains the reader's sympathy in some way.

My heroine's troubles? Her coffee pot broke. She's running late. She forgot her watch. She's on her way to her homemade soap shop, where a high-maintenance bride and bridesmaids will soon arrive. Then when my heroine gets to the store, she discovers a break-in. This all takes place by the end of page two. I've also given readers a sketch of the town through my heroine's eyes.

However, the break-in isn't the real crime. There's a dead body by the end of chapter one. And off we go...

The thing to remember is to keep the mystery in the forefront. If there is a subplot, bring it into the mystery somehow. Keep the crime on the heroine's mind. At one point during the story, my heroine says, "Most sleuths have to earn a living. I knew I did. I couldn't run around chasing leads with a business to run." So there's room for some backstory and subplots--especially in a cozy, subplots give flavor to your mystery--but don't get heavy-handed with those flavorings.

I don't claim to be an expert, but I'm happy to share from what I've learned. You might not begin your story like I did, but the important thing is to hit the ground running and don't look back...too much.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Law Enforcement—The Facts Versus Literary License

I’m privileged to work regularly as a volunteer secretary in my local sheriff’s office police academy. What began as a simple desire to help some really nice people by doing paperwork has turned into a wonderful opportunity for me to learn first hand knowledge of police procedure and up-to-date law enforcement policy. Along with my regular administrative chores, I get to participate in some of the training scenarios for the recruits. If I want to, I can go on some of the field trips. (My latest was to the medical examiner’s office to observe autopsies.) Even minor chores help me, like unpacking boxes of uniforms and equipment for the recruits. Now I know what the deputies wear and when they wear it. That might not seem like a big deal until I begin to describe a deputy in a manuscript. It's nice to be able to get it right.

I have to admit I’m a stickler for correct law enforcement facts in my books. I feel I owe it to my readers to represent law enforcement accurately. Like historical readers who know the mores of their favorite historical time period, die-hard suspense and mystery readers are quite knowledgeable, and more today than ever, due to the abundance of factual shows on cable and satellite. I don’t want to lose a reader because they read one wrong fact in my book and no longer trust me.

That said, I do write fiction. There is such a thing as literary license. I can bend the rules, but I need to know them before I allow my characters to break them. I also need to know what the consequences will be if the rules are broken. When a police officer acts contrary to the norm, there has to be a good reason. (By the way, that’s a great way to add to a character’s internal/external conflict.)

I am blessed with a generous and knowledgeable consultant who works for the sheriff’s office where I volunteer. He told me that the one word I need to keep in mind for my fictional detectives and police officers is LAWYER. A law enforcement officer needs to think about defense lawyers at every turn in a criminal investigation. Dot every I. Cross every T. Because chances are, whatever a police officer does will come back to haunt him or her in court, especially if it’s sloppy police work.

The setting for my present cozy mystery series is the State of Maryland. Law enforcement standards in Maryland are more uniform than many other places. That is especially true in the areas where I’ve placed my fictional town. And many of the law enforcement agencies in Maryland are accredited, which means they have to meet certain requirements. So, when I write police procedure for my fictional agency, detailed or not, I need to keep in mind that certain standards are the norm, and a normal officer or deputy is not likely to bend rules. A cop who does will be a renegade. And police departments that allow officers to get away with not following procedure are bound to end up in the news—and not in a good way.

So, how can I use something like that in a book? How does knowing the facts help me if I’m writing about an officer who breaks the rules? Tons of scenarios come to my mind. Say a police detective screws up an investigation because he’s a hot shot. Maybe just something minor, but enough to get the bad guy off. Then that criminal commits another crime. The detective blames himself, as do all of his colleagues and the crime victims’ families. He wants to investigate again and do it right this time, but because of the previous screw-up, he’s relegated to a minor role. He has to prove himself. Will he mess things up again while he’s trying to regain his reputation? In order to write stories like that, I have to know the law and the investigative procedures in the area where my story takes place, even if I use a fictional agency.

I'll return in a few weeks with more bits of information I've picked up. In the meantime, thanks for visiting Keep Me In Suspense.

Candice Speare

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The World of a Cozy Mystery: Part Two


Almost like a character of its own, the setting is also very important part of the cozy. You need to limit your suspects so you don’t end up with the population of New York City on your list. Most cozy mysteries are set so that the list of suspects is narrowed down to a handful of interesting people. A shopping mall on a busy Friday night isn’t a cozy setting.
A mountain resort, secluded island, isolated mansion, or private dude ranch with a small town sheriff in the wings is much more. . .well. . .cozy. J

I set Recipe for Murder in the Colorado Mountains at a small, upscale hunting lodge, so I could limit my suspects to the guests and staff. Remember your amateur sleuth isn’t going to have a great knowledge in forensic science and will need to rely on her own skills to solve the crime. A good setting will help her be able to do this.

Weather can also play a part in the cozy. Bad weather might isolate the suspect for example. Susan Davis’s upcoming Homicide at Blue Heron Lake with Barbour is set on a small chain of islands called Grand Cat Island. The secluded setting and occasional bad weather helped to not only set the scene, but make it become another character in the book.

Lastly, if you’re writing a cozy mystery, take a good look at your setting.

· Is it unique enough that it becomes a character of its own?
· Does your setting allow you to limit the number of suspects involved?
· Does it have that cozy feel?

If you said yes to these three questions then you’re on your way to a solid cozy setting.

Happy writing!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hook, Line, & Keep 'Em

Hook: You read about it in every writing book published, hear about it at writer’s conferences, and know it’s crucial, but exactly how do you “hook” your reader and keep them reading? In suspense, you better do it in the first couple of paragraphs or more than likely, you won’t keep them around long enough to do it at all.

Line: In suspense, your opening line could well be the very thing that hooks your reader and keeps them reading. You want your opening line to: introduce your reader to a character (and not necessarily your protagonist), provide some forward moving action, and set the stage for the rest of the book.

And Keep’em: Once you’ve hooked your reader, exactly how do you keep them reading page after page? With action, suspense, pacing, and endless questions to be answered. Notice that exposition isn’t there? Your reader doesn’t have to know everything about your character, the town, the people, or the weather to latch on to your character and keep reading.

With suspense, it’s all about the set-up. The anticipation. The uncertainty. The “suspense” of it all. Why is she walking in the woods at midnight? Why is he hearing noises coming from the attic? Why didn’t they call the cops when they found that dead man in their pool? Raise the question in your reader’s minds and then take your time answering it. Feel free to raise a couple of questions… then keep your reader hanging – reading for the answers.

Be generous with questions and stingy with answers. Ask a mystery lover why they love mysteries and they’ll tell you that they love to try and figure it out, spot the clues, ponder them out, and then keep reading to see if they’re right. Suspense and mystery fans love to be tortured and then they love being able to say, “Oh, man…I was so sure it was the butler, but how obvious it was the cook, and I never saw it coming.” You get a reader to say that about your book, and they’ll be back to buy the next one you write.

In my first book, I had tons of email from people telling me that they were sure, and then they weren’t, and then they were, and then they weren’t, and it was driving them crazy because they just couldn’t say for sure exactly WHO the bad guy was. That’s the kind of reaction you want. Keep them guessing. Make them work for it. Hide the clues. Toss in those red herrings. And then bring in a new suspect. Or at least raise a question in your reader’s minds. Could he be…? And then give your guy an iron clad alibi. Or is it iron clad? Maybe he paid off the girl to give him an alibi?

If you haven’t read Jim Bell’s “Presumed Guilty”, I don’t want to give too much away, but he does a brilliant job when he has a man practically confess to the murder of the girl. But what did he actually confess to? Hmmm… you have to read it to find out, but Jim did a wonderful job with that plot twist.

Even I, old and jaded as I am when it comes to suspense, sat up and went, “He did do it! I knew it!” only to find out uh-uh… wrong. I love it when a writer can get to me.

There’s a book I’m reading now and I won’t recommend it because it’s secular, but in the first chapter, something strange or tragic happened to the police chief and he’s not exactly over it yet…. But I’m on page 146 and I STILL don’t know what it was. It’s eluded to from time to time, lest I forget the question is still unanswered, but I keep reading to find out what happened to him before the book ever started as much as to find out who the killer is.

It’s all about hooking them with an opening line, and then keep’em reading!

So my version of hook, line and keep’em is this…. Hook them with a strong opening that is action in motion, line up the questions, but not the answers, and keep’em reading!