It’s a question of body count

I often wonder if other mystery authors start a book with the number of characters that are going to die in mind. I generally don’t. I start with one victim and go from there. It’s just how I work, much like how I live, in a reactionary, fly by the seat of my pants sort of way.

There are many reasons I choose to kill off a character. The most obvious one is the murder moves the plot along. That’s a murder that is essential to the flow of the story, and the one that is usually first.

Then there is the character that I decide to murder because he or she knows too much and I need obstacles for my main characters. A person of interest may be too obvious to keep alive, so the murderer takes him or her out.

There are, of course, the murders I decree because the character is too evil to be left alive. I don’t think I’ve let a single villain live longer than a few books. They never go to jail, at least not yet. I think it’s my own inner sense of justice that predicates those murders. They deserve to die. Sounds simple to me.

Some murders occur to ramp up the emotion of the story. ¬†These are also the characters who usually don’t deserve to die. They are a reminder that death does and should affect us with some proportion of sadness, even if the deaths are fictional. I won’t lie. I’ve cried writing the aftermaths of some of my murders.

I’m currently working out a murder in my head of a character that I hadn’t originally planned on taking out. Let’s just say, this one is tricky, but the best ones usually are. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you soon.

You can’t plan your life or your novel to the letter

Well, I suppose you could do so with the novel, but good grief, how boring would that be? I am currently writing my sixth (good or bad, it is an accomplishment) novel, and though I originally had a rough idea of major plot points, even now, two years into it, details are revealing themselves in unexpected ways, things that would have not occurred to me, had this installment of Bernice Hordstrom’s life been penned any sooner.

It reflects recent changes to my own life. After nine years of disappointment, I have a beautiful, drooling, ever evolving full time job. The things in my life that I thought were pretty much set just a few ago are completely different. There is now a new trajectory in my life concerning everything, goals, values, hopes, priorities. And there is no doubt in my mind, that something else big and life altering will come down the pike and require changes in direction and expectations.

I also believe that novels need to have some fluidity to them. It’s the only way I’ve been able to write. Spontaneity cannot be planned, and I love when quirky, out-of-the blue notions just suddenly present themselves to my brain as I am typing or writing in a notebook. Even as I think to myself, “okay…where did that come from?”, there is a deep understanding that the weird, out of nowhere notion is fitting, is memorable and adds enough panache to what would perhaps be a rather predictable action to keep it fresh and consequently keep the reader’s attention.

Plus, these impulsive revelations make it fun for me as a writer. Otherwise, what would be the point, really? I don’t have an editor breathing down my neck, expecting me to make good on my ginormous advance from the giant publisher. I write to please me, and you, I hope. If it was no longer fun, I’d be better off spending more time making forts out of blankets and coming up with goofy voices to read that long ago memorized book for the umpteenth time. At least for now, I still have the fortitude to do that and write. Please stay tuned. More sex, murder, and mayhem is on its way with some off the wall details. You won’t be disappointed.

Make it count

As a strong woman with an appreciation of other strong women, I was very impressed with the numbers that marched all over the world the day after the presidential inauguration to speak out as a gender. It takes organization, leadership, consensus, a sense of unity and, in this case at least, a very scary cause for so many to gather and combine their feet and voices.

We just have to remember, in this day and age, it won’t be enough. Marching makes a statement. It doesn’t change legislation. It doesn’t change leaders.

As United States citizens of legal age, women, or anyone for that matter, who are unhappy with the state our our government and its officials need to make it count with a vote. Not just in the presidential election, but in every election. Your council members, your mayors, your state congressmen and women, your governor, your federal congressmen and women; federal mandates are one thing, but federal dollars are another. Quite often it’s up to state officials to decide how that money is divided, then districts, counties, townships, and finally cities and villages. You pay all of them. You need to know at least who they are.

Don’t like what the US congress is doing right now with your money? Who are your congressmen or women? Did you even vote when they were elected? Here in lies the problem. Less than half of the US citizens of legal voting age voted in the last election. That apathy not only affected the presidency, it affected all the officials on that ballet, right down to a sheriff or county clerk or state representative. And the percentage is even smaller in a bi-election year when the highest office in the land is not up for grabs.

So, yay, I’m glad, grateful, proud that my gender gathered together in solidarity to make themselves known and noticed. How about showing up to the next election in your area and voting? Go online to your municipality and see what’s up for elections in April, who is on the ballet, and what they would bring to the post.

Even better, get together in numbers and discuss ways to keep up the fight. Do your own campaigning and collect signatures to oust the US congressman or woman whose agenda is hurting you, your family, your country. When those signatures are collected en mass, send them to that representative and contact them often. Let them know that you will fight them with your vote if they don’t change their ways and listen. Whether they like it or not, you are their constituent and you deserve to be heard.

For some it may be a little late. But leaders are elected to the US House every two years, the US Senate every six. 2018 is not that far away. If Trump doesn’t self destruct in the next four years, it’s still possible to restructure the US Congress to take away some of the one sided power. And don’t forget everyone else down the chain.

Battle with will. Battle with stamina. Battle with unerring consistency, and battle with passion and integrity. But most of all, battle with your vote, all the time, every time, before the privilege to do so is taken away.