Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Little History for Memorial Day

After more than forty years, many of the “little stories” about the Vietnam War have been lost. That’s too bad because I suspect George Santayana was right: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Thus, when a friend, who was a medic in the secret war in Laos in the early 1960s, offered me his notes, I was thrilled. As a medic, my friend treated men covered with hundreds of leeches, a baby monkey, and Hmong children with yaws and vitamin A deficiency besides lots of wounded soldiers. He also received survival training in the Philippines, served as a medic for the Hmong general Vang Pao, and was sent home after he earned his fourth Purple Heart. 

My problem is I’m not a historian. I write modern thrillers and mysteries with a woman protagonist, Sara Almquist, who is too young to have first-hand knowledge of the Vietnam era.

I decided to set the novel, titled Riddled with Clues, mainly at the VA Center in Albuquerque because my dog Bug and I are a pet therapy team there. We’ve met Vietnam era veterans in the rehab programs at this large VA center. Many homeless veterans also roam the campus and its over seventy buildings. I realized the convoluted nature of the layout of buildings would be great for a chase scene, and the veterans in rehab units could be the basis of colorful supporting characters in the book.

Are you curious how I used the notes? Sara, a scientific consultant for the State Department, gets a mysterious summons to the VA in her hometown of Albuquerque. She discovers Xave Zack (her old friend from previous novels – Ignore the Pain and Malignancy) was seriously injured while tracking drug smugglers.  He hands her a note he received before his accident. The note is signed by “Red from Udon Thani.” However, he doesn’t know anyone called Red, and the last time he was in Udon Thani was during the Vietnam War. 

Xave proceeds to tell her potentially relevant details from his wartime experiences in Laos. (The experiences are all based on my real friend’s adventures). After Sara listens to his rambling tale of all the possibilities, both are assaulted. Xave is left comatose. Sara must determine whether the attacks were related to events during the war fifty years ago or to the modern-day drug trade. As she struggles to survive, she questions who to trust: the local cops, her absent best friend, the FBI, or a homeless veteran who leaves puzzling riddles as clues. 

Sound exciting? I hope so. Wouldn't it make great reading over the Memorial Day weekend?

I also hope you’ll gather “historical” information from older friends and relatives and use the details in your writing. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Guest - Marilyn Meredith - Explains Her Compulsion to Write

Marilyn Meredith is the successful author of two series of mysteries. The newest book in her Rocky Bluff P.D. series is Unresolved. It's number 13. Does that make it lucky?

After the blurb, Marilyn will explain why she continues to write even though she is over eighty (I think, but she's never admitted her age to me.)

Blurb for Unresolved
Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Marilyn talks
Though I’ve never been a best seller or made much money from my writing, I have never entertained the thought to quit writing.

I’ve always written—something. As a kid I wrote stories that had a great resemblance to whatever book I just read. I wrote plays for the neighborhood kids to perform. In middle school I wrote and published my own small magazine.

After I was married, I wrote and edited PTA newsletters, plays for my Camp Fire Girls to put on, a couple of books I did nothing with, the writing I had to do while going to college, and then after my kids were grown, I wrote an historical family saga based on my genealogy. After many rejections and rewrites, the book found a publisher. I wrote another, and it also found a home.

Because I mainly read mysteries, I decided to try my hand at those. And yes, I did find a publisher for that first one too. I continued writing mysteries, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and I’m still writing both.

When blogs became popular I started one of my own. Today I have many guests on my blog and I’m a regular on two others. On http://ladiesofmystery.com  I have to write a new post once a month, on http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/ I submit a post twice a month. And no, it’s not a chore, I’m a writer and I love to write.

Doing a blog tour as I’m doing now, means coming up with a new and fresh topic for each blog that I’m visiting. To me, it means writing, something that I truly love to do.

Besides, if I didn’t write, what would I do?

Tomorrow I'm visiting http://katsclues.wordpress.com and I’m giving some Dialogue Tips.

F.M. aka Marilyn Meredith

Friday, May 5, 2017

How I Chose the Title for RIDDLED WITH CLUES

The title should tell you something about the book. The Book Seller of Kabul by ├ůsne Seierstad is an informative title, which tells the reader about the setting and a major character. Most titles are more symbolic, but hint at the topic. Examples are Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, which is a memoir about his mother, and my thriller I Saw You in Beirut, which is set in the Middle East.

I struggled to name my latest thriller/mystery, Riddled with Clues. Here’s the blurb:

A hospitalized friend gives a puzzling note to Sara Almquist. He received the note signed “Red from Udon Thani” while investigating the movement of drugs into the U.S. However, he doesn’t know anyone called Red. The last time he was in Udon Thani was during the Vietnam War. After Sara listens to his rambling tales of all the possibilities, both are attacked. He is left comatose. As she struggles to survive, she questions who to trust: the local cops, her absent best friend, the FBI, or a homeless veteran, who leaves puzzling riddles as clues. 

Early in the writing process, I realized that a number of the clues in the book could be riddles. I also realized I could add tension to the book with the riddles. My heroine, Sara Almquist, and the law enforcement agents in the novel would know the riddles were important clues but they couldn’t make sense of them. 

I thought a play on words might be fun. Riddled can mean filled. Certainly, “Riddled with Clues” sounded more interesting than “Filled with Clues.” Do you agree?

Riddled with Clues is available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938436237

It is also available at Treasure House in Old Town Albuquerque. I'll do a book signing there on Sunday, May, 28 from noon to three. I thought it was appropriate to do a book signing during Memorial Day weekend because many of the scenes (especially chase scenes) are set at the VA Center in Albuquerque and several veterans are characters in the book.

For more info on Riddled with Clues, check out my website: http://www.jlgreger.com.