Welcome to one of the March 4th stops on the blog tour for Related by Murder by Jo A Hiestand, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for excerpt spotlights, reviews, other guest/interview content with the author, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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Every writer starts out somewhere. Can you tell us a story of your earliest experiences with writing and/or publishing? Do you have any early works that you have not yet published?
My earliest writing experience is a novel I began when I was thirteen. Of course I didn’t know a thing about characterization or plotting or even where to send it if I had ever finished it. But that didn’t smother youthful zeal! I have no idea of the title, the storyline, or characters other than an aunt and nephew. The first scene is, unfortunately, etched deeply into my memory. It’s the study of an old Victorian house. The aunt and nephew stand before the fireplace—in the vein of a 1940s British drawing room drama. I remember the opening few paragraphs. “You’re an ungrateful nephew, that’s what you are!” cried the aunt. “But Auntie— “ whined the nephew. “Quiet! You asked for money last week and now you want more money. You shan’t have it! I’m cutting you out of my will today!” Well, you can see where this is leading… A friend still quotes the first sentence when she wants to embarrass me or gently blackmail me into doing something for her. And you know, it works!
The first novel I actually completed was a high school effort. It was a romantic mystery, titled Random Lies. Again, I can’t recall much of the plot, but the two main characters were a Scottish male and an American woman. It took place in the US. I remember one scene, though, because I asked a question of a friend who was into fixing up cars. I had to know the process and the time needed to fix a hole in a car’s gas tank. The woman had been driving to a rendezvous point in order to leave some ransom money. After staying overnight in a motel, next morning she discovers the gas tank has a leak, and she’s stranded in this town. That’s the extent of my memory, so it proves the story was forgettable. I may use Random Lies for an upcoming McLaren mystery. I’d forgotten about it until now. Shame to waste a good title…
I recall sending that finished manuscript to a publisher. Back then the physical manuscript was mailed. I had no idea I should mail it to a house that deals with a specific genre, or that I ought to address the letter to a particular editor. In fact, I wonder if I even had a letter in the package! I certainly didn’t send a query letter first, as is the norm. I just bundled up the pages into a loose-leaf binder with a lovely graphic on the binder’s cover (I shudder to think of all the publishing no-no’s I committed), and sent it to one of the big houses, either Random House or St Martin’s Press or Doubleday (might as well aim high!). I can only imagine how the secretary greeted that piece of mail! An over-the-transom submission with no letter, addressed to no specific editor… And the writing undoubtedly was quite immature. Still, I received a nice rejection slip.
I don’t have that manuscript. I’m sure both copies found their way into the garbage. But the embarrassment still stinks like three-day old fish.
That ended my writing attempts until decades later when I wrote A Staged Murder and it was accepted for publication.
The only unpublished things I have in my possession are articles for magazines and a few short stories. Actually, I think they’re all good and publishable. And hold no blackmail potential. I wrote an article on the technique of change ringing, and tied it into my Peak District mystery novel A Touch of Murder. (That series uses British customs as the backbones of each book’s plot. A Touch of Murder is about a husband who tries to ring two great tower bells on St. Valentines’ Day, and ends up murdered in the bell tower.). A similar article describing the Derbyshire custom of well dressing—its probable origins and the step-by-step process to create the panels that decorate the wells—sits forlornly on my shelf. It’s a companion piece to the Peak District novel Shrouded in Yew. That’s all I can think of in regards to unpublished bits. Unless it’s my puppet show script about Rapunzel’s brush with alopecia—Stresses on the Tresses—but I don’t think anyone could stand its shear terror.
About the Book
Related By Murder
A McLaren Mystery
by Jo A. Hiestand
Published 19 February 2021
Genre: Mystery (British)
Page Count: 362
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
From the moment ex-police detective Michael McLaren arrives at his friend’s house, he’s plunged into a nightmare of a case. Two men, hanged a year apart, each killed on a Good Friday. A barrister. A solicitor. Related careers. Related by murder. Related motives?
Pottery shards, a torn newspaper article, and biscuits are found in each man’s pocket. What do they signify? And the blackmail letters Melanie receives… Are they related to the murders, or are they separate, terrifying in their own way?
Professions, calendar date, McLaren’s attack. Could it all be entwined? Or is the motive for murder something else, something so secret that keeping it is worth attempting a third one?
Currently on sale in Kindle eBook format for $0.99 USD!
McLaren had been there during the daylight hours on his previous visit. Now, at night, the place was eerie, mystical. The circle—one hundred yards in circumference—had originally held forty stones, but now just thirty-three remained. None were upright. Still, if he used his imagination he could easily conjure up the feeling of ancient cultures.
He walked farther into the circle, the grass damp and clinging to his boots, the odors of sodden soil and sheep droppings mixing with wet stones. A small puddle, most likely left from the evening’s rain, glittered from the moonlight that seemed trapped within the dark water, and he stepped around it. A bit farther on, he came to what he hoped would be a good vantage point. He knelt behind one of the taller stones, though none of them were more than a yard tall. From this perspective not only was he hidden if anyone approached from the lane, but also distanced enough from the entrance so no one would suspect he was there.
Minutes passed. The wind picked up, stirring the dampness in the air and pushing it into McLaren’s bones. Or at least that’s how it felt. Even his sweatshirt felt incredibly thin and unequal to keeping him warm. He chastised himself for not wearing his jacket, and rubbed his arms.
A barn owl soared silently overhead, its ghostly-white feathers oddly appropriate in this strange-feeling landscape. It’s appropriate, McLaren thought, watching the bird sail over a copse of trees. We’re both out hunting.
About the Author
I grew up reading Dumas, Twain, duMaurier, Dickens and the Brontes. I loved the atmosphere of those books. Add the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce movies and the moods of 1940s/50s movies like Brief Encounter, Night Must Fall, and The Thirty-Nine Steps, and I knew I wanted to write mysteries, and the books had to be set in Britain. That was a must even though I knew only what I’d seen in the movies and read in the novels. But the British pull was tenacious. Three years ago I discovered that I have literally centuries and centuries of English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. Do genes mean anything?
My first visit to England was during my college years and that cemented my joy of Things British. Since then, I’ve been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there for a year during my professional folksinging stint.
What do I write? Well, at the moment, I write two British mystery series: the McLaren Mysteries and the Peak District Mysteries. The McLaren novels feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who investigates cold case murders on his own. The Peak District books feature a different British custom/tradition that is the backbone of each book’s plot. These are a combo cozy/police procedural, and members of the Derbyshire Constabulary CID Murder team work these cases.
I combined my love of writing, mysteries, music, and board games by co-inventing a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game, P.I.R.A.T.E.S.
I founded the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the international mystery writers/readers organization Sisters in Crime, serving as its first president.
In 2001, I graduated from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. I live in the St. Louis, MO area with my cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.
Jo A. Hiestand will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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