Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas’

Sharing from Mystery Readers Journal

November 26, 2013

Are you familiar with the Mystery Readers Journal magazine?  It’s dedicated to all people interested in reading stories and articles related to the broad field of mystery fiction, and, in each issue, features one topic from that field.  For example — the recent issue featured “Mysteries in Transit,” and, since that fit right in with my novel, JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, I submitted an article.  The article was accepted and, with permission, is reproduced here.  For more information, go to

http://www.mysteryreaders.org/Issues/transit2013.html

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WHAT IS IT ABOUT A CHOO-CHOO TRAIN?

Whether you’re eight or eighty, isn’t there something about a train that causes a touch of excitement? These days few have opportunities to ride historic trains, but still, hear “whoooah-woo” and “choo-choo-choo,” and imagination can go crazy. (Need I explain why Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie’s most popular mystery novels?)

My own elaborate train adventures began when six adults (parents, grandparents, great aunt and uncle) decided the time had  come for one seven-year-0ld to experience a ride on a real train. Access to such a train was easy. Near the aunt and uncle’s home in Northwest Arkansas, the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad’s restored 1920’s passenger excursion train makes regular weekly and special-event round-trips from Springdale to Van Buren, AR during most of the year.

Tickets were purchased, and excited adults, accompanied by one rather “ho-hum” little girl, spent a Saturday riding the rails, and exploring the historic Arkansas town of Van Buren during the train’s four-hour lay-over.  Six of us had a terrific time. The seventh had her hand-held whatever.

Wild imagination takes over.

The aunt in this story, name of Radine, is a mystery author with a series of  published novels set at Arkansas tourist treats. Novel number five in the series, A River to Die For, (want to experience thrills at Buffalo National River?) was ready to achieve publication at the time. What next? Well now, how about a story featuring the excursion train?  It would be–um–ah–a–Journey to Die For.

Yes! The train staff welcomes me and my novel idea being born.  For the second time I board the A&M Train and settle into a green plush seat to observe, absorb, and take notes.

Wooah-woo-choo-choo.

So, what if?  That’s how must novels start.

Imagine this: On-going series’ main characters are riding the train as a special anniversary treat for the woman, Carrie McCrite. Husband, Henry King, who’s gift it is, accompanies her, and Journey to Die For begins its opening scene.

Two men, looking somewhat alike, but acting as strangers, sit in front of them on the train, attracting Carrie’s attention throughout the ride, though Henry reminds her several times this is none of her business. He fears her tendency to get involved in others’ complicated lives and problems will, once more, cause trouble and spoil his anniversary gift.

“Van Buren, Arkansas,” the conductor says. “Everyone enjoy the town, and be back here in the train station by 2:00 for the return trip.”

Van Buren was founded in 1809 (as Phillips’ Landing) to sell wood to steamboats on the Arkansas River. Today, unusual details along Van Buren’s vibrantly restored Main Street entertain the reader and Carrie as she browses jewelry and antiques shops, seeing some surprising items for sale. She eventually buys a lovely blue-green pendant that matches her eyes (Henry says) and looks like an emerald–but of course can’t be for the small price asked. Meanwhile, Henry has been sitting on a sidewalk bench, people-watching. When the two of them walk down Main Street to the bank of the Arkansas River (“Looks as wide as the Mississippi at Memphis,” Carrie says), a heap of wet rags seen from a park sidewalk is, at a closer look, a dead body. Is it one of the men from the train?

OOOPS.

Henry, a retired Kansas City Police Major, is asked by the Van Buren Police Chief to help with research into the life of the murdered man. The man’s home was in Kansas City, and Carrie and Henry have already planned a trip there to visit Henry’s daughter and her family. Henry doesn’t want to be involved in the investigation, afraid secrets from his past will be uncovered. Carrie, knowing nothing about this, is “rarin’ to go” to help the chief. She prevails.

One of Kansas City’s tourist attractions is a transportation museum and, while visiting there, Carrie and Henry discover a link to the Van Buren murder. Henry’s friends in the Kansas City Police Department get involved when Carrie is attacked. The couple is then moved from their motel to a safe house while crime research continues.

(Isn’t this fun?)

Eventually, after a fire scare at the safe house and other dangers, we move from trains to steamboats. Treasures that could have come from boats sunk during the Civil War have begun appearing in Van Buren shops. And the “emerald?” Someone sure is eager to get it back.

In the exciting (!) climax, there’s a gun battle in a shop full of china and crystal. Oh, was that fun to imagine. Well, fun for the most part since three people–the good and the evil–do get in the way of gunfire and falling shelves of glassware. But isn’t that all in a day’s work for amateur detectives who will try to solve other people’s problems?

And, for now, that’s all folks!

 

WRITING ABOUT LOVE–AND SEXPERIENCE

January 25, 2013

Are romance writers the only ones who write about love and sexperience?

Gosh,  no.  At the moment I am thinking back to the mystery novels by Dorothy L. Sayers.  If several of those aren’t part romance (as it was seen back in the 1920’s) I’ll eat one of my one hundred hats.  (Yuck — wool, straw, hemp, cotton, and a lot of goodness-knows-what. ) But then, I’m not worried in the least.

People will be people in mysteries as well as most other places.  Detective novels, and many popular mysteries in all the categories of that genre–even a few written earlier than those by the “Dead British Ladies,”– as well as up until present day, include a large dose of romance and even sexy romance.

In my own mystery novels featuring two mature adults and their friends, I manage to stuff in (between crimes and sometimes because of crimes), the meeting and growing romantic interest between widow Carrie McCrite and retired police officer Henry King. When Carrie convinces Henry, her Ozarks neighbor, to take part in an Elderhostel (as they were then called) in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, she explains that if two women can share a room to save money, why can’t they?  After all, there is a private bathroom and two beds!  This works out just fine until extreme danger divides the pair, and one of the things they realize is that they are in love–and it’s about time they did something about it before–horrors–one of them gets killed.

The next series novel, A WEDDING TO DIE FOR, is by far my sexiest book.  Not only are Carrie and Henry concerned about what an appropriate wedding for them would be like, both are dealing with wild concerns about what will happen on their wedding night.  Carrie’s first marriage was, after all, more a business arrangement with her criminal lawyer husband than a love affair, and Henry’s very wealthy first wife cut sex out of their relationship after their European honeymoon.  Though both WERE married, neither is exactly sexperienced.

And then, when they are exploring wedding venues, (and being shot at) there is a scene in the Crescent Hotel elevator when both forget themselves, and, well, later Henry apologizes, saying  ” I felt like I was a teenager again” and Carrie, flying wildly out of her normally ladyfied self, promises great things on their wedding night.   Ooooooo.  (No, this is NOT an X-rated book and is suitable for teens.  After all, it can awaken them to fresh thoughts about their grandparents.)

So, tell me about where you have discovered that true romance can, indeed, be part of all types of crime novels, not just those detective stories with the macho men and beautiful broads flaunting — whatever.   Prepare to have fun!

http://www.RadinesBooks.com

Getting ready for a birth

March 30, 2010

The birth of a new novel, that is.

First there is the tremendous fun of writing it.  (Yes, it IS fun.)  Then there is the challenge of finding the right publisher. Here are three must-happens:  (1) That they like you.  (2) You like them.  And (3), you can work together harmoniously.  )

I had been with the same mystery  publisher through five books, but they closed that imprint after number five came out, and I needed to find a home for number six, already at least half-way done by that time.

Now, after the fact, I can say that there was very little tension during this period because–much to my amazement–when word got out that my initial mystery publisher was no longer in that business, a few small press publishers (I’m a small-press-gal) got in touch with me asking about my interest in submitting to them.  WOW.  This was not at all like the first time around (actually, that was selling my literary non-fiction), or the second (selling my mystery series).  But I still had to decide if any of those who contacted me sounded like a fit.  I communicated with several of the  publishers by e-mail and even had a face-to-face interview with one after a meeting we both attended.  Eventually the answer became clear.  Personalities had clicked, help offered pleased me, goals were similar, and on and on.  In August (at Killer Nashville) I signed a book contract with Tony Burton, my new editor at Wolfmont Press.

And now my book,  JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, will be out in May.  I barely have time to sleep.  I have signed on for at least 30 upcoming appearances, speaking events, seminars– sometimes three a weekend.  And that’s just in April through the first weekend in June!  I am sending out publicity hither and yon, e-mailing media folks, seeing to review sources my publisher does not reach, and ordering publicity items that don’t come from that publisher.   Does anyone outside the writing field understand what this is like?  (See the “Happenings” page on my web site for the events schedule:  http://www.RadinesBooks.com )

Today, being a published author is definitely is NOT sending a book off to be published and then sitting back to relax and enjoy your fame while the checks come.

Nunh-unh.  That is how it used to be, (I am told) but the times have changed.

A word to all those currently working on their first novels.  Decide NOW who your readers will be and how you will appeal to them.  Better yet, decide before you write the first word.  You can adjust your imagination and dreams enough to please that market.  Because, do you know what you will need to include in your submission to any agent or publisher?   Your “platform” which is pub-speak for your marketing plan.

Is it any wonder so many of us look back with longing on the days when the best and most enjoyable part of a writing career was found in what we did most of the time?   That was….writing!

So, writers, get ready for the future right now.

And, for fun away from that computer, all of you are invited to JOURNEY TO DIE FOR’s launch party!  If you are anywhere near Van Buren, Arkansas, come there on May 8 for the National Train Day Festival.  My newest novel opens on the Arkansas and Missouri Excursion Train’s day trip going from Springdale to Van Buren, AR.  Historic, entertaining, exciting.  And, when Henry King and Carrie McCrite King take it…chilling.   On May 8 you can pick up an autographed copy of the book and also, if you choose, enjoy a short ride on an “old-fashioned” train in beautifully restored passenger cars dating back to the 1920’s.     Do come!                                         Radine

More about “travel” writing:

July 9, 2009

(Thanks to Kaye Barley for suggesting I double-post this…it’s on her blog, meanderingsandmuses.blogspot.com too.  SO….)

LET’S GO SOMEWHERE!

I love both travel reading and travel writing. Nope, I don’t do magazine features that begin something like this: “The yellow sand beaches of San Poopio will take your breath away this time of year, and the meals at Nightmare’s Inn manage to surpass my ability to describe them….”
You guessed it! There are better ways for me to travel at little cost. For example, when I want to escape extreme weather:
Ahhh, the driveway is shoveled and my toes are thawing in fuzzy slippers. Think I’ll begin reading one of my new book purchases. Um, which one…?  Oh yes, that one!
Page 1:
“Summer in Benteen County, Kansas, is a season possessed of all the gentle subtlety of an act of war…. A week ago, the thermometer had risen past the unbearable mark…and, in automatic response, the humidity rushed after it–-to a level technically described as obscene.”
(From J. M. Hayes’ mystery novel, Mad Dog & Englishman.)
But it gets hot in the Ozarks, too. In August I prefer escaping into something like Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger, (where you can experience a white-out blizzard and frozen body in northern Minnesota), or Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters.
Good mystery writers are master manipulators, aren’t they? They create atmosphere and location inside minds, take us to places dark and stormy or glaring and sharp, thrill us with chilly caves, steaming jungles, and worlds far away from the familiar. The more skillful the writer, the more willing we are to believe, share, travel, and enjoy–riding along eagerly with characters and events and seeing new places that become real for at least the space of a novel.
Many works of fiction offer this real place reality, some taking us into actual locations where we are intrigued by the story unfolding there. I love this type novel. Readers don’t have to pack a bag, endure airlines, or make long car trips, though quite often they do end up wanting to see the described location for themselves at a later date.
One author who gives readers a vivid location experience is Ellen Elizabeth Hunter, a real place writer sharing the area in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. I learned about her novels while planning a trip to the Cape Fear Crime Festival, a mystery fan convention once held on the North Carolina Coast. Someone recommended Ms. Hunter’s mystery novel, Murder on the Candlelight Tour, as an introduction to the area, but the book ended up being much more than that. My husband and I toured Wilmington by using Murder on the Candlelight Tour as our guide. We visited historic buildings and restaurants portrayed in the story. We even ordered the same dishes Ms. Hunter describes so deliciously.
Hunter is not a Carolina native–perhaps one reason she notices Wilmington details with a newcomer’s freshness and a tourist’s excitement. She says, “I fell in love with Wilmington and wanted to live there, but couldn’t because of my husband’s work. I decided the next best thing to living in Wilmington myself would be creating a character who did.”
(If you’d like to enjoy the Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach area wherever you are, go to http://www.ellenhunter.com.)
Meanwhile, back in the Ozarks, my own fiction writing career was getting under way in the same time period as Ellen Hunter’s. She and I are both relative newcomers in our areas.  My husband and I chose Arkansas for our home after spending time thinking about going “back to the land” in several parts of the United States. My love for Arkansas led to an interest in writing about it, and I spent more than ten years selling articles, essays, and poetry about the Ozarks to publications in the United States and other countries. After publishing one non-fiction book set here,(DEAR EARTH, A Love Letter from Spring Hollow)I decided to try my hand at writing the type of book I enjoy reading most–-the traditional mystery.
My first effort, A Valley to Die For, (St Kitts Press, 2002) was set in the same remote Ozarks area as Dear Earth, an easy location to describe, since it’s where I live. In my second novel, Music to Die For, I sent my protagonist, Carrie McCrite, accompanied by her friends, to another Ozarks spot I love, Ozark Folk Center State Park. (Picture Sturbridge Village with an Ozarks setting and a theater where old-time music can be enjoyed.) From then on, each novel’s setting has been at a different Arkansas tourist destination.
It wasn’t long before I, and my location destinations, discovered it was not only fun to site books in areas enjoyed by tourists, it was good business for the locations themselves. Settings are real enough that, at signings, I give actual tourist brochures and location maps to everyone buying one or more books in the To Die For series.
As a reader, I’m excited when I find a new author who takes me to a real place, tells me about a career I’m not familiar with, and joins these with mystery/adventure puzzles. As a writer, I love telling stories set in places I have chosen to visit, absorb, and share with readers. As a result, many tourist-oriented publications, including airline and National Park magazines, have carried feature articles about my writing.
My next To Die For story takes Carrie McCrite and Henry King to three popular tourist destinations: a ride on a restored 1920’s Arkansas train, the historic district and river front in Van Buren, Arkansas, and The Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City. Danger times three! I had a wonderful time traveling to do research for this novel, and hope you’ll soon enjoy this Journey to Die For with me!