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John M. Wills

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Science Makes a Great Mystery

Today I visit with J.L. Greger a fellow novelist and member of the Public Safety Writers Association. I’m sure you’ll find her new novel intriguing. Enjoy!reduced flu

Do you realize how many mystery and thriller writers have science backgrounds? Consider Arthur Conan Doyle (physician), Agatha Christie (apothecaries’ assistant during World War I) Michael Crichton (physician by training), Kathy Reichs (forensic anthropologist), and Robin Cook ( physician). Thus, it’s not surprising as a retired biology professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I write mystery/suspense novels with tidbits of science.

Scientists, especially physicians, write mysteries and thrillers for several reasons: 1. Science is a way to add intriguing bits of reality to fiction. 2. Nothing is scarier than a disease which resists known medical treatments. 3. Finding a cure for a new disease or making a vaccine against a new virus is an example of problem solving. That’s pretty similar to solving a fictional mystery but with higher consequences. 4. The stress of medical emergencies bring out the best and worst in real or fictional characters.

Let me tell you how science is integral to the plot of my new thriller: In The Flu Is Coming, a new type of flu — the Philippine flu — kills nearly half of the residents in an upscale, gated community in less than a week. Those who survive become virtual prisoners in their homes when a quarantine is imposed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recruits Sara Almquist, a resident of the community and a scientist, to apply her skills as an epidemiologist to find ways to limit the spread of the epidemic. As she pries into her neighbors’ lives, she finds promising scientific clues. Unfortunately, she also learns too much about several of them and violence ensues when they try to escape the quarantine.

The flu I describe in my thriller could happen.

CDC and the World Health Organization are constantly watching for emerging flu viruses, fearing one will emerge with the virulence of the virus that caused the flu pandemic of 1918. Did you know: One-third of the world’s population was infected with that virus and 50 million died worldwide?

All it would take for another flu pandemic are small mutations in avian or swine flu viruses (not previously occurring in humans) that allowed them to be transmitted among humans. In The Flu Is Coming, those mutations occurred in the Philippines. While scientist like, my heroine Sara Almquist, struggle to find clues that will allow the development of effective vaccines and antivirals, the flu spreads rapidly. Scary but real?

Of course, Sara gets involved in a lot more than science in The Flu Is Coming when she learns too much about the criminal activities of a couple of her neighbors. So, fans of police procedurals won’t be disappointed. They’ll get a snap shot of the problems faced by law enforcement agents during a quarantine.
Why don’t you read The Flu Is Coming and learn a little thrilling science?

Thumbnail of the new novel: In The Flu Is Coming, epidemiologist Sara Almquist is trying to stop two killers: the Philippine flu, which is rapidly wiping out everyone in a walled community in New Mexico, and a drug kingpin determined to break out of the quarantined enclave.

The paperback version of The Flu Is Coming is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Flu-Coming-Science-Traveler/dp/0578423251. The Kindle version at: https://www.amazon.com/Flu-Coming-Science-Traveler-Book-ebook/dp/B07KX3J37W

Bio: J.L. Greger is a scientist and research administrator turned novelist. She likes to include tidbits of science in her award-winning thriller/mystery novels: Murder: A Way to Lose, Riddled with Clues, and others. To learn more, visit http://www.jlgreger.com.

Why She Writes Police Procedurals

My good friend Marilyn Meredith shares her thoughts on this topic. So pleased to have her visit my blog today.

I thought the most appropriate place to give my thoughts on this to be right here on John Wills’ blog. Besides serving many years in various kinds of law enforcement, John is great family man, strong in his faith, and a friend to many—including me.

In addition to putting their lives on the line, men and women in law enforcement have to deal with people who have absolutely no respect for them.

Marilyn in Vegas 1What I’ve tried to do with my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, besides write an intriguing mystery, is to show the family lives of the characters and how what’s going on affects them on the job, and how what’s happening on the job affects their families.

Yes, I do know what I’m writing about. My uncle was a motorcycle cop and later a detective with L.A.P.D. When I was a kid, I had a regular babysitting job with the children of the police officer who lived two doors up the street. My son-in-law was a 15 year veteran of the police department and lost his life in the line of duty. I have a grandson who is a police officer and a grandson-in-law who is a deputy sheriff. I’ve had and still have many friends who work in law enforcement.

No, I don’t think all police officers are perfect, no more than any of the rest of us are perfect. What I know is they have one of the hardest jobs there is, and I’m so thankful there are still people willing to do this dangerous and often unappreciated job.

In this latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, every family is dealing with something: Sergeant Navarro’s mother has broken her hip, Sergeant Ryan Strickland is appalled by atangled web front cover jpeg stranger’s reaction to his baby, Officer Gordon Butler’s wife is not enthusiastic about his trainee, Detective Milligan is worried about his teenaged daughter, and even Chief Taylor has some doubts about her new love interest. And yes, there is a murder to solve.

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

What’s inside? Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.

Link: : https://tinyurl.com/yabj9z9f

Meet Marilyn: F. M. Meredith, who is also known as Marilyn, once lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff. She has many friends and relatives in law enforcement. She’s a member of MWA, 3 chapters of Sisters in Crime and serves on the PSWA Board.

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com
Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com
Facebook: Marilyn Meredith
Twitter: @marilynmeredith

I’m headed over to Creatures and Critters https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/ where I wrote about the real murder that may have influenced my mystery writing.

EDITING TIPS

My good friend and fellow writer, Marilyn Meredith, has recently written a postMe at Danas quilt containing quick editing tips. Marilyn is an award-winning author and prolific novelist with decades of experience. Whether you’re writing your first book or your twenty-first, these quick tips are a great guide or reminder on how to make your work stand out.

First off, if you are self-publishing do not leave an extra space between paragraphs.

Indent for paragraphs. Take a look at a book on your shelf and see how it looks inside.

Read books in the genre you are writing in.

Start your book with something exciting happening to your main character(s).

Make sure the reader can tell right away who the main character is. Don’t wait for several pages to introduce him or her.

Don’t begin with pages of back story, the back story can be added in appropriate places along the way.

Eliminate most exclamation points. Don’t ever put one in the narrative. And if the dialogue is exclamatory enough, you don’t need the exclamation point.

In most cases, stick to “said” and “asked” for dialogue tags–better yet, use action and description as a dialogue tag. Example: “Get out of my way.” Pete shoved the big man in the aisle.

Use the word all right–not alright.

All pronouns refer back to the last person or thing mentioned.

For a quote inside a quote, use a single quote mark. Example: “My dad told me ‘Get out’, and I did.”

Eliminate the word “that” when you can. It, like “just” are often over used. Often that isn’t necessary. There are synonyms for “just”.

Take a look at see what other words you overuse–like “so.” Do a word search to replace some of your “favorites” with other favorites.

Use descriptive actions words rather than adverbs. Look in your thesaurus for other words for walk, run, look etc. Find the word that best describes you character’s action.

Weave your dialogue, action and narrative together. Show us what’s going on.

Never have a character tell another character something he/she already knows.

Don’t use parenthesis in a novel. If something needs to be explained–explain it in the narrative.

Be sure to self-edit. When you think it’s as good as you can make it. Hire an editor.

Snow Angel by Jackie Taylor Zortman

My fellow author and good friend, Jackie, has just released her new novel. You won’t want to miss another Max Richards mystery because it guarantees to hold your attention and have you fully invested in the story.

Here’s a preview:

Snow Angel Cover on AmazonWhen homicide detective, Max Richards, and his sister suddenly inherit their mother’s estate, they find an old wooden box on a shelf in her bedroom closet.  It reveals a secret she kept carefully hidden and connects them to an abandoned Victorian house in Snowflake, Colorado where Max and his wife already own a remote cabin.

During Christmas they fly to Snowflake to investigate the empty and abandoned old house.  Following their tire tracks in the snow, the new city police chief is introduced into their lives and quickly becomes an important part of their tight knit circle of friends.

After the holidays, Max returns to the city emotionally restless. He retires from his thirty year homicide job, pulls up roots and moves permanently to Snowflake where he quickly becomes part of the small police force. Unexpected twists and turns take control of their lives and changes things in ways they never dreamed.

Find out what was in that box that had such power and what paths it led Max, Sami and his sister, Willow, to follow.

About Jackie

Jackie Taylor Zortman is the author of a non-fiction book “We Are Different Now”, first Jackie by Amyplace award winning fiction novel “Footprints in the Frost” and award winning novel “Snow Angel”. “Footprints in the Frost introduced homicide detective Max Richards and explored his life on and off the job. “Snow Angel” continues his story.

She has written and had published numerous articles and short stores for various publications for the last 26 years.  She is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. A contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue”, “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union” and “Recipes by the Book, Oak Tree Authors Cook”.  She also writes poetry, genealogy and history. She has won 10 writing awards in the last four years.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town high in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. When the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain surrounding her home, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.

Learn more about Jackie and her books at Jackie’s Mountain Memos – www.jtzortman.wordpress.com.

Great New Author

It’s always exciting to discover an author who has the ability to capture your attention immediately and then hold it through 400 pages. That’s exactly what happened when I began reading Shot To Pieces by Michael O’Keefe. I initially balked at the length of the story, thinking it might bog down simply because of its page count. I was wrong. O’Keefe turns out to be a terrific writer who has penned a fantastic murder mystery/thriller.

A1Oen5HN44L._UX250_O’Keefe’s protagonist, NYPD Detective Paddy Durr, is a multi-faceted individual. In a sense, he’s a throwback to the days when cops did what needed to be done and damn the bosses and political correctness. His gruff aggressive nature turns some people off, but no one can question Paddy’s heart or his ability to get the job done.

Paddy has a myriad of problems in his life that complicate his world. From his relationship with his wife, to the bureaucracy of big city policing and interference from politicians, his daily journey is a minefield that threatens to explode with the smallest misstep. He has no tolerance for any colleagues that don’t give their all or who take shortcuts. When Paddy is on a case, be assured he won’t rest until he solves it. His total attention to his job, while being a positive attribute professionally, means his private life is practically nonexistent.

Complicating matters is Paddy’s inability to forgive himself for past transgressions. He so desperately wants to please his estranged wife that he convinces himself the only solution is to let her go. Since she has always been the love of his life, he’s wracked with guilt and self-recrimination. He sees no possibility of reconciliation, thus he lives day to day with the proverbial dark cloud hanging over his head.shot to pieces

It’s easy to see that O’Keefe is a tough street-smart cop. Shot To Pieces reads like non-fiction. The characters, settings, and situations jump off the page. The author has a gift for storytelling—allowing the reader to visualize every character, from the punk on the street to the mayor of New York. The scenes and locations are beautifully written so that readers almost feel like they’re watching the action unfold as he writes.

Not only does O’Keefe do a masterful job in describing the murder investigation, but in describing several scenes with his wife I had to reach for a tissue. This tough ex-cop has a romantic side to him that puts him right up there with romance novel writers. To be able to go from describing a brutal murder to developing a tender love scene with a spouse is a remarkable gift. Such talent!

Based on Michael O’Keefe’s debut novel, I predict much success for this writer. It’s hard to imagine that his work can get much better, but I have to believe that we’ll be hearing many good things about him in the future. Well done, Michael!

 

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