Books: Velda Brotherton!


new VeldaFrom History to Mystery
by Velda Brotherton

Only recently I learned the huge difference between researching and writing historical romances and sexy, dark, and gritty mysteries. Because that’s precisely what I did. After nineteen years of writing western historical romances, and regional history, I decided to try my hand at another genre. Mostly because of all the experience I had working as a reporter on a small newspaper. I wanted to use the characters, locale and occurrences from all those years to create a mystery series, because I thought it would be the most fun. Besides, mysteries are popular and it pays to follow trends as long as we like what we’re doing. I reiterate that last phrase. Don’t write trends cause they are trends, but do take advantage if one comes along and you’ve always wanted to write something in that fits.

First off, contemporary doesn’t require the big blocks of research into the past. There are so many places where we can be tripped up though. Especially in mysteries, we need to know something about forensics, police procedure, weaponry, etc., even if our protagonist is a civilian. If a lawman is involved, there’s even more research necessary. And all those little things that can trip you up. Is there a dog? What do you know about the breed? A cat? The same question applies. Where will you set the story? Some place familiar, or an exotic locale you know little about?

It didn’t take long for me to see that my approach to the plot had to be different too. Writing by the seat of my pants because I love history and usually know something about the era before I begin, did not call for red herrings, the planting of real and imagined clues, creating suspects, and the like. I’ve never outlined a book in my life. Would I need to do so with this, my first mystery? Maybe. I figured I’d see as I began to gather ideas for the story. There was a lot of painting myself into a corner and having to rewrite, or hauling up short because I didn’t know anything about a specific subject.

My books are all character driven and contain a lot of dialogue. Sometimes I write an entire scene in dialogue only, then go back and add internalization, sense of place, the five senses, and the like. Could I do this with a mystery? Well, the answer to that is yes and no. Yes when I was writing a scene that revealed more about my characters than about my mystery; no when I was planting the clues, casting suspicion on the wrong person or the right person for that matter, or trying to show who could not have done it because he was doing something else.

It didn’t take long for me to see that this would not be easy, this changing over to writing a mystery. I probably rewrote this book a dozen times, and I mean rewrote. Took out entire subplots, changed a character from good to bad or vice versa. It was a constant battle to figure things out, but I finally got it done. I ended with a book rich in characterization, a sexy relationship that was such fun because the bad boy could be so bad and still be lovable, and I ended with a woman strong enough to make him toe the line when push came to shove. And the mystery turned out to be unusual and fun to solve, to say the least.

The idea of using twisted Poe titles for each book of the series didn’t occur to me until I began to search around for a title. I’m so bad with titles but then I saw mention of Poe’s Purloined Letter, thought that I had something purloined in my book. What if I used part of his title? One thing nice about titles, they’re not copyrightable. Of course I didn’t want to use the same exact title. Then after I realized what I’d chosen would work, a writer friend said she happened to know Christopher Allan Poe, a descendant of Edgar Allan and he might write me a blurb. Really? And so why not twist Poe titles for each of the series? Yes, that would work.

I wrote Christopher and he jumped at the chance, read my book, said he loved it and wrote me a great blurb, which hopefully will be on the back of the book cover. That’s in the works now. Hey, If Christopher Allan Poe likes my book, I’m a shoe-in, right? Well, time will tell, but this has been a lot of fun, and even though I’m still writing western historical romances, I’ll continue to have fun writing the next in my mystery series. Let’s see, which of Poe’s many titles shall I twist? Guess I’d better wait till the story begins to unfold.


Cover 1Here’s an excerpt from The Purloined Skull:

Along the road that curled out of Cedarton, a speeding white car left a trail of dust in its wake, its roof reflecting bright shards of light. Sheriff Mac headed for the crime scene, and as usual he was flying low, lights flashing, siren silent so as not to stir up the cattle grazing on both sides of the road. The curious animals raised their heads, jaws moving, and stared at the interloper.
She rose and waved both arms over her head.
The patrol car went into a skid that put its front wheels on the narrow lane to Kyle’s place. Out of the ford of the creek, another wild slide and the SUV rocked to a stop near her Jeep, bumper dripping water. You’d have thought she’d reported a shoot-out in progress.
For a moment a dust cloud obscured the cruiser. Out of that settling debris two men appeared like aliens off a mist-shrouded spaceship. Just like in the movies. She expected to see men in black with dark glasses, outrageous weapons in their hands, perhaps even a little green monster or two. Instead, there appeared the lanky sheriff in his gray Stetson, a roll of crime scene tape dangling from one hand, and beside him a stranger. Tall, well built, with skin like tarnished copper. A black tee shirt showed off wide shoulders and a flat belly, tight jeans hugged some fine equipment and long muscular legs carried him toward her with the mere vestige of a limp.
Sometimes God was good.
This had to be that new guy the department had hired. According to her friend Tinker, who worked at the sheriff’s department, he was an ex-narc off the streets of Dallas. And hot. Tinker always did know her men. He was part Cherokee and rumored to be a psychic or something. Tinker wasn’t exactly sure what.
“Some Indian thing,” she’d said. “He communes with the dead or demons or spirits. I’m not sure.”
A strange thing to contemplate. But he definitely looked like all of the above, tough and mean and on the warpath. Whatever the dead told him, he wasn’t too happy about it. His black, wide-brimmed hat sported a rattlesnake skin band that matched his boots. Probably caught the reptile barehanded and bit its head off. As for that psychic crap, it was a pile of just that. Crap. But that was her opinion. Some put plenty of stock in it. Maybe he would talk to the bones, solve the case right off the bat.


4 responses »

  1. Interesting post, Velda. I didn’t know Poe had any descendants! I thought he had married his 14 year old cousin and that there was no issue form the union. So I’ve learned something new today. Good luck with this new venture of yours.

  2. Great post, Velda. I enjoyed reading how you had to do things differently while writing your mystery, a different genre from what you’re used to writing. How fortunate, too, to have been thinking about Poe and his poems to fit your story title and then along comes a living descendant to give you a blurb! Writers sometimes have the best luck! The Purloined Skull is on my TBR list 🙂

  3. Two great stories, Velda! Yours of learning – and daring – to write mysteries, and your excerpt. Now I’ve GOT to read the rest. (You know how I am about men in cowboy hats! 😉

  4. Velda, what a challenge you have issued to aging writers and to all ages! The Purloined Skull is sure to be a good read. Thanks for the clues to writing mysteries and encouraging aadventures into new genres.

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