Category Archives: mystery novel

Writers, watch out for those troubling anachronisms

Oh, dear. Like any reader, I enjoy reading other writers’ works. But I don’t like to come across obvious anachronisms in a novel that takes place in the past.  All can be forgiven, I suppose, if the plot takes off like a rocket, throws you side to side in your seat and deposits you, breathless, at a welcome pausing point.

But, really, mentioning a place or incident that didn’t exist when the story takes place means an author didn’t do homework. Can he or she be be trusted with further suspension of disbelief? Let’s be clear, I am speaking of mysteries, crime novels, or thrillers rather than science fiction, which is a free-for-all from the start (no offense to sci-fi writers! If I’d read more, I might know where Google Glass will take us!).

For example, I write my novels set in the Rocky Mountains, about a reporter named India Katherine Banks, with a setting of pre-2001. I am careful to mention only the newsroom technology known and used at the time, even allowing for older equipment which might have been in use in a small-town news operation. There was no Twitter around then, trust me. ‘Mobile phones,’ certainly.

But I am reading another author’s work that is popular, presumably best-selling, and yet running across many oddities that jump off the page.  Such as incredibly powerful cell phones that act like iPhone5 rather than Nokias of the day.  Or, mention of a dinner that cost about the same as [insert brand-name shoes here] by a virtually unknown designer of the day.  But today, the shoes are a household name. Oops… I’m also reading mention of technology and computer equipment in popular use waay too early, well beyond the floppy disks in wide use at the time.

As a writer of mysteries, I will no doubt stumble on this creative bump from time to time. But I certainly strive to do homework to prevent it.

I owe it to my readers.





How can fiction writers tackle research?

Last week, I listened to three best-selling novelists talk about their research habits. They all stressed that every writer must determine his or her own best practices.

The first writer creates stories featuring a female protagonist. The writer himself is a man. So how on earth does he create a believable  character when his own lifestyle is far different?  He finds a model.  He happens upon a wonderful real-life character who inspires him as he goes on to create three novels with her personality as the centerpiece.

The second writer captures the local color of his culture and city with such exacting veracity that his books could be paintings. He does it by paying attention and listening. Whether he is in a coffee shop or visiting a school, he pays attention to the carriage and habits of the people around him. He is always observing. And remembering.

The third writer advises only doing enough research to suit the purpose. And she often researches her areas after she has written portions of her books.

Wait, what? She does just enough research to illustrate her subject, then refines and adds a little more homework after she knows where her story is going.  She says, and she is correct, that too much research elbowing its way into a story is disruptive, not helpful or enhancing to the reading of the novel. And she, too, makes use of every minute in a coffee shop, or in line as she waits for something to get rolling. Every conversation she hears is fodder for her imagination to rework or repeat.

So, dear writers, do as much research as you feel is needed for you to master your territory. Sadly, much of that information will never meet the readers’ eyes.

All the better for your writing to shine.

‘The Murders at Elk Bend’ for Amazon Kindle readers


A copy can be downloaded at the link below.

Newspaper reporter India Banks has returned to an old mountain resort in the Rocky Mountains where she spent many youthful summers. She brings her big-city investigative expertise to this small town where a series of killings is causing a crescendo of fear.

The Murders at Elk Bend for Nook readers

Nook readers can download 'The Murders at Elk Bend'

Nook readers can download ‘The Murders at Elk Bend’

Readers with Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-readers can enjoy ‘The Murders at Elk Bend’ by downloading it at this link:

Coming in 2013: “Wherever’s Benjie? An Elk Bend Murder Mystery” . . . News reporter India Banks and the newsroom crew of the Elk Bend Daily Mountain Bugle investigate a child gone missing from an upscale summer camp. The uproar begins, and a bright light is shone on an old, traditional establishment.