Category Archives: Planning a novel

Can you have a pleasant but misguided protagonist in a Murder Mystery?

I read a great deal of crime, although my choice of reading is an eclectic mix, including historical fiction, humour and even romance to a lesser degree. I prefer romance as a part of life rather than per se.

Sometimes I find the harsh world in much crime fiction difficult to read; the graphic, gory descriptions, the hard language – a world where swearing is in every sentence. My writing isn’t like that, not out of choice but because I can’t be true to myself and be absorbed in a world that is inherently evil at every turn. To write a novel you have to ‘live’ the world you are imagining for months. I could not do that.

So, what inspired me to write a murder mystery?

Ordinary people can be murderers – right or wrong?

I was inspired by an unsolved murder of a young lass from  the island of Jersey back in 1919 in the village nearby where I lived in Bedfordshire. The mystery surrounding her death intrigued me and the more I researched the stronger the ideas formed in my mind of ordinary people being accused of murder ~ how a murderer might be your spouse, your child, your friend or neighbour. They just need a strong enough motive, which may be triggered at any time in life, or it may be a spontaneous act – unpremeditated.

Suspects may have no obvious motive

The next thing that caught my imagination was that people may become suspects even though they have no obvious motive – being in the wrong place at the wrong time or leaving traces at the scene of the crime.

Proving yourself innocent has always been difficult 

It was fun writing two parallel murder mysteries in 1919 and 2019. Weaving the suspects into the plot and linking those from the twentieth century murder to the one in 2019 led to a few sleepless nights ~ although I did solve a few plot twists and turns in my sleep! My interest in family history came into play here.

The sins of the fathers …

Is it difficult for families to shed the shame of a member accused of murder. Is it likely or even possible that the gene which leads a person to murder can be passed on through the generations? I didn’t answer this one, but it was in my mind when writing.

Evil has a way of being found out

Even a century later evil can be uncovered ~ or can it?

Many are hooked on Family Intrigues 

However hard a family may try to suppress its secrets, this intrigue feeds on the curiosity of an individual to find out the truth. This in turn may become an unhealthy obsession.

Now you know what triggered my Murder Mystery. You also know what my writing is not like. If you’d like to find out more then:


Available on Kindle

‘Murder Now and Then’ will be free on Kindle

from Monday 10th July to Friday 14th July

If you do read it and enjoy it, I would be grateful of you could leave an honest review.

Much appreciated,  Diana

Leave a comment

Filed under Bedfordshire, Murder Now and Then, Planning a novel, Research, Writing a novel

Characters in the Box ~ Guest Author Karen Dahood talks about her inspiring mystery characters

KarenDahoodCharacters in the Box 

What decides the physical appearance of a mystery series character? Does it change?

Miss Marple, she is not. My American eldersleuth, Sophie George, is meant to be much more up to date than Agatha Christie’s revered observer of village life who is so good at upending unpleasant domestic affairs (including murders). Jane’s people have marital difficulties, mainly, or anxiety about inheritance, typical midlife worries of the 1930’s-1960’s. Sophie’s clients in the 2000’s suffer from the agonies of aging: financial woes, estrangements from children, loneliness, heartbreak, bad health, a lifelong desire for revenge. Like Jane Marple, my retired librarian has an ally in a local detective – who is also her steady date. But Sophie is not a spinster. She is a widow and has a son. She is financially independent while Jane, who never was employed, receives support from her nephew. Sophie, raised during the Great Depression, was not educated like Jane, who went to school in Rome, yet she is equally brainy, some would say “street smart.” Her Bridgewater Village is hardly St. Mary Mead; it’s a new Florida condo development around a synthetic (but not entirely safe) fishing pond.

In the most recent TV interpretation, Jane Marple has shed her rather ponderous first movie appearance (Margaret Rutherford) to become quite svelte (Geraldine McEwen). Likewise, my Sophie is slender, keeps up an exercise regimen, and cares about nutrition. That is much more in keeping with today’s expectations.

Still, when I captured this bulky woman in black heading into the walled garden at The Bishop’s Palace, London, I Fulham Palace May 4 2014 (22)wished I had seen her before I invented Sophie George. With her back to the camera, the commanding figure is going someplace. I followed her, so I know it was to see the first purple irises. She was probably a garden volunteer. Her long fingers look useful. Or maybe she is a benefactress, as she has elegant earrings, though they may be old ones her deceased husband gave her in 1950. (I extrapolate from the man accompanying her that she has a driver.) The coat and hat and clunky shoes seem to have been in her closet for a very long time. (My Sophie seldom wastes money on clothes.)

In WINDOW ON THE POND Sophie is recognized as a New England native by her housewifely cotton skirt. I don’t show her face. It’s not important. I want you to imagine it.

026Last year I looked for characters with my camera as I rode around on London buses. I like the messy hairdo under a felt hat on this younger woman in the seat in front of me. Now I am thinking if I imagined it dark it could be Sophie on a future investigative commute. And I am hoping to create a character who looks something like this barrister (probably) who was studying his briefs on a train.

Karen Dahood lives in Tucson, Arizona. Her posts can be found on and her book reviews at (Norm Goldman).


Filed under Guest author, Planning a novel, Writing

Welcome to Author of Ghost Stories with a Difference ~ CR Hodges

Chuck Iceland‘And now for something completely different!’ With titles like ‘Three Quarters Martian’ you must expect original thinking when you read CR Hodges work. He is joining me now all the way from Colorado and we ‘met’ taking part in a blog hop a while back. (The wonders of modern technology)

Hi CR,

 Thank you for appearing as a guest on my blog. I’m having a mix of visitors this week, authors of quite different genres. I know that you write about ghouls and ghosts and other supernatural beings. What inspired you to do this?

 I’ve never written about ghouls, but you did just give me a new story idea there, thanks for that. As to ghosts and such, I was always more interested in what the ghost thought about being undead, or the valkyrie thought about being wingless, than what the poor helpless human thought of encountering one of the above. So I write a lot of my ghost stories from the spook’s point of view, not the spook-ee. What does it feel like to be alive one instant and dead the next, but still conscious, still observing?

Weird I should think.

Can you describe your current novel in less than thirty words? A tall order, I know.

I stink at compacting 90,000 words down to 30, but for you Diana, I’ll give it a go. This is for my WIP urban fantasy novel, Ragnarök Willie:

A noted archeologist, thirteen valkyries, a blue-bearded giantess, and Lasse Nordberg, college dropout, are all searching the ruins of Valhalla for an ancient weapon of mass destruction. Lasse finds it.

Do you prefer to write short stories or full novels and which is your favourite short story? ….Can you add a link for people to find it too please?

Mostly I’m a short story-ist, with 14 publication credits and another under contract. Not to mention 20 more in various stages of writing, rewriting (I do that a lot), and submission. Writing shorts allows me to try a lot of different voices, plots, points of view and even genres (see below), and it’s arguably easier to get from beginning to end to publication than longer works. That said, I’ve written a couple of novels, one of which, Ragnarök Willie (see above) is almost done and one of which, Gho, I compacted into a novella and sold (see below)

As to favorite short stories, my editors’ and readers’ favorite is clearly “Three-Quarters Martian,” a science fiction short that won a writing contest, got produced in audio format, and martianeven made honorable mention as one of the best online short stories of 2011 in the Million Writers Award. But my personal favorite is a mythica short, “Queen Méabh,” about an archeologist who inadvertently releases the ghost of a 5500-year-old faerie queen in modern-day Ireland.


Congrats on your success! I’ve been having discussions on different ways to plan a novel on my blog. Do you have a method which works for you that you’d be happy to share with us? It sounds like you write straight from your vivid imagination.

I’m an engineer in daylight hours so you’d think I’d be a meticulous planner, but I’m not. I’m a pants-er for the most part, meaning I just write by the seat of my pants. I generally try to get a complete draft on to paper in a very rough form and then go back and work the plotline. That said, I’m a spreadsheet junkie, which I use for timelines, character briefs, and backstory tracking. I should really plan more, as a tend toward really complex plots, but all too often my characters take it upon themselves to deviate from plan, so I just have to write down what they do.

 And who is your target audience? Is it mainly YA?

I started out writing YA but I think I’ve migrated more to New Adult, with a fair amount of adult genre as well. My first novel, Gho, a YA ghost story from the ghost’s point of view, will be published in novella form next month in the Bardic Tales and Sage Advice, Volume 6 anthology by Brads and Sages Publishing. I also have a few YA short stories published, including “Preschool War Games” in Cricket and “The Steamer Trunk” in Metro Fiction. But Ragnarök Willie is New Adult fantasy, and the majority of my shorts are either New Adult or adult fantasy or science fiction.

For the authors reading, can you give any tips as to the most successful tool you have used for marketing your work?

 Oh, I stink at that too. Honestly, I think plain old networking works best. Talk to people, make real connections, don’t just count Likes. I try to learn a lot from other writers, both aspiring and successful.

Finally, what about the future? Have you any thoughts as to what projects you will be working on in the next couple of years?

 The future is, maybe, novellas. I’ve always liked the shorter forms, but there has historically been a big gap publishing-wise between short stories and full length novels. There are many many markets for short stories, and of course both TP and SP outlets for novels. But novellas have been in no-man’s land. But I think, just maybe, that this may be changing. The success of Kindle Singles, which range from 5000 to 30,000 words, along with general shortening of attention spans of all of us in the digital age, give me hope that there may be a resurgence for novellas. Besides Gho, I have several more novellas in the early stages, including another valkyrie tale (working title “Riding Hel’s Horse”), an expanded version of “Queen Méabh” and a faerie apocalypse (working title “Beyond the Pale”).

 Interesting. Quite by chance I think my next work launched to the public will be a novella too. I hadn’t thought it through like that though. Where can readers catch up with what you are doing?

CR Hodges’s online haunts can be found at:

For his fellow short story writers, he also maintains a list of over 100 paying speculative fiction markets at


Many many thanks for joining us CR and good luck with your next projects.

1 Comment

Filed under Book reading, Events, Planning a novel, Writing