Tag Archives: Mystery

Being A Stay-At-Home Dad

In order to shepherd my four-year old son through the turbulent waters of Post Toddlerhood, and to ensure that the lad does not get stuck in the school to prison pipeline, I recently quit working and became a stay-at-home dad. First, let me say kudos to all stay-at-home parents out there. This is a rough gig. Very rough. Second, can anyone babysit? Kidding.

Harry, my son, is a spirited young buck and funny as hell, so while I am working on the follow-up to Alphabet Land (and writing “lifestyle” articles under the pseudonym Olive Winks), I started writing a blog called Breakfast With Harry. It’s all about my attempts to feed my little man breakfast.  Occasionally, I rant/muse/complain about kids and parenting and how surprisingly difficult it is to make instant grits. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.  

 

4 Dialogue Commandments

Originally published at MotiveMeansOpportunity.

Dialogue matters.  A lot.  In fact, I have stopped reading many an otherwise solid novel due to subpar dialogue, and I wanted to provide a friendly warning to authors out there: even casual readers can sniff out sloppy dialogue, and that could cause said readers to stop reading, which could mean they write a bad review, or worse, no review at all.  And what happens to the novelist then?  Well, that lack of reviews could lead the writer in question to quit writing and take up drinking, which could lead to the downfall of his marriage, which could lead to him losing custody of his kids, which could lead to more drinking and financial problems, which could lead to getting behind on the mortgage.  The end result: the writer ends up homeless.  . . .all because he wrote piss-poor dialogue. Tragic.

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Anyhew, I’m in the midst of new writing project, and to remind myself not to screw up dialogue and end up drunk, divorced, destitute, and only seeing my adorable son Harry on every other weekend, I’ve jotted down what I’m calling the 4 Dialogue Commandments. Go forth and spread the good word.

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Commandment #1: Dialogue creates tension.

  • Speaking in completely reductive but useful terms, I lump all novel writing to do with tension-building into two broad categories: characters either DO things that create tension, or characters SAY things that create tension. So when writing dialogue remember to allow a character’s true personality come out to play. If they’re mysterious, dole out their words carefully, and with utmost attention paid to timing. If they’re a smartass, dialogue is an ideal place to showcase that particular talent (yes, it qualifies as a talent; otherwise, I would have no discernable talent).

character counts

Commandment #2: Dialogue builds a character’s backstory.

  • It takes a seasoned novelist to achieve what I’m about to suggest, but it can be done and done well: use dialogue to help round out a character’s backstory. Now I’m not suggesting nor do I advocate for information dumps; those take readers out of the story, and defeat the purpose. But if you can weave in memorable (and, occasionally, important) bits about a character’s biography then dialogue is wonderfully efficient place to do so.

dialogue new newCommandment #3: Dialogue helps create separate and unique characters.

  • Every character, from the protagonist to a minor character with only a few lines, should have a distinct way of speaking. This helps brand them as unique characters, and it helps readers differentiate between characters, especially recurring ones who have lots of dialogue.

feelings

Commandment #4: Dialogue, on occasion, reveals a character’s thoughts and feelings.

  • Again, a seasoned novelist will do this sparingly. Unless, of course, the character in question is someone who wears his or her heart on his or her sleeve and keeps up a constant monologue. But still, dialogue is a nice place to, on occasion, toss in how a character feels about an issue (say, the crime in question, for example). This will help cement a reader’s feelings toward the character, and it will also help other characters who are involved in the dialogue parse their own feelings.

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So how important is dialogue to you as a reader? Got any tips on how to create meaningful and memorable dialogue? Would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment.

Ed, Not Eddie (An Eli Sharpe Mystery) Official Release!

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With no humans in sight, Eli shifted the car into drive and pulled into a small gravel parking lot situated to the left of the house.  There, sitting atop a purple and gold ambulance, sat Leland Leviner, the man who’d made the frantic phone call the night before. The man who was now holding a shotgun.

Got time to kill? Got discretionary income? Like to read mysteries? If you answered yes to all three, then go pick up Ed, Not Eddie (An Eli Sharpe mystery) today. Only $4.95 for Kindle, and $14.95 for a paperback. Oh yeah, Split to Splinters (Eli Sharpe #2) is only .99 on Kindle all through April.

The third installment in the Eli Sharpe series, Ed, Not Eddie is my favorite book I’ve ever written (this month, anyway), so you should go buy it, and if you read it, too, so much the better! And if you review it, well, I’ll simonize your car for you. Nah, not really. Don’t do manual labor. Too old. Too out of shape. Anyhew, here’s what some nice folks have written about my little book:

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“With well-developed characters that are colorful and unique, this enjoyable story has a solid plot that flows smoothly and seamlessly from scene to scene, pulling one in as it entertains…. Rich with a well-written story line, vivid descriptions, wit, and smart, snappy dialogue, this intriguing mystery will appeal to readers of many genres and is a welcome addition to any collection.”

—Janna Shay for InD’Tale Magazine

http://www.indtale.com/reviews/mystery/ed-not-eddie-eli-sharpe-mystery

bribe

Ed, Not Eddie is the best written of the Eli Sharpe mysteries. There are strong characters with an intriguing plot. Best of all the narrative flows smoothly. Pages glide by. It has the potential to be a break through book for Everhart…. Eli has become of my favourite 21st century sleuths. Everhart’s series is the best mystery baseball series I have read since the Kate Henry mysteries of the late Alison Gordon.”

—Bill Selnes for Mysteries and More

http://mysteriesandmore.blogspot.com/2015/12/ed-not-eddie-bymax-everhart-third.html

Eli Sharpe is #1. . .and FREE!

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Exciting news item #1: “Pink Elephant,” an Eli Sharpe mystery, is FREE on Kindle right now, AND it has reached #1 on one of Amazon’s bestseller lists. Please, go download this fast-paced story involving a stuffed pink elephant, drugs, and a bad guy named Mr. Spoon immediately. (Thank you in advance for leaving reviews on Amazon!)

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Exciting news item #2: Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3) is out today and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Only $4.95 on Kindle or Nook, $14.95 for paperback. This go round, Eli Sharpe is tasked with figuring out who is sending death threats to a hotshot female knuckleball pitcher in rural Cook, South Carolina. It’s good. I promise. So buy it and read it and review it.

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Exciting news item #3: The Kindle version of Split to Splinters (Eli Sharpe #2) is only .99 all throughout the month of April. That’s right: you can get a brilliantly-written, highly-entertaining piece of literature for less than a dollar. AND, if you’ve already purchased the paperback, you can get the Kindle version for FREE! Just get as a gift for someone else who hasn’t read it. Or read it again on a different format. Just get it, pretty please.

Guest Blog: M. Ruth Myers

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WHEN MYSTERY MEETS HISTORY, SPEED COUNTS

M. Ruth Myers

A mystery writer has to juggle a few more elements than the regular novelist. Set it in the past, and the writer needs to keep even more in the air to avoid painful goose eggs on the head. Here’s what goes up and how to keep it aloft. (Feel free to blow smoke in my face and tell me my story doesn’t check out. I’ve been grilled before)

Any good novel needs certain basics — plot, pacing, character, dialog – skillfully done and in a balance to keep the reader reading. A mystery, in addition, must have clues and red herrings woven through those basics, sometimes sliding by unnoticed, other times producing an “Ah-hah! I’ll bet I know whodunit!” reaction. Writing a historical mystery calls for an additional set of elements which, like clues, must be worked in without slowing the story.

Some of those elements are ones found in any historical novel. If you’re thinking clothing styles, technology and jargon of the era, as well as actual historical events and personages, give yourself a gold star. Then consider additional ones which are particularly important to a historical MYSTERY where people are followed, eliminating a suspect may hinge on the time required to get from Point A to Point B, detectives interface with police and life-or-death chases are known to occur. For starters:

* Streets. Which have vanished or appeared or changed direction between your time period and the present? Certain types of mystery, such as private eye yarns and noir, characteristically tell the route the detective is taking when following someone or being followed — or thinking through the fastest way to get somewhere. A writer can locate a business or house on a fictitious street, or better still, refer to it as “just off” (fill in name of actual street), but keep it anchored to real places in order to give the historical authenticity readers expect.

* When unincorporated areas around a city were incorporated as separate towns or villages. If a suspect lives there, and your detective is going to follow or question him, best know how to refer to the area. Also, differences in jurisdiction might come into play.   Believe me, someone who has lived in the area or is a history buff will point it out if you slip.

* Changes in locations of government buildings, jails and police stations. Even an amateur sleuth may have occasion to visit such a place, so make sure buildings haven’t wandered.

* Changes in laws and speed limits. Some race cars of the late 1930s, when my Maggie Sullivan series opens, could go 100 mph or more. However the speed limit, even on U.S. highways, was 35 mph in most states.

* The attitudes and world-view of people in your chosen time period. This is far too often violated. It seems to me that writers are especially likely to attribute overly modern attitudes to female characters, presumably to make them more appealing to contemporary readers.

What forensic methods were available at the time? Were they widely used?

You may recall I said this information needs to be threaded through the mystery itself. If you periodically dump in paragraph upon paragraph, you stop the action cold. A historical MYSTERY is first and foremost a mystery. Maintaining pace is crucial.

Here are some ways I’ve approached it.

Tough Cookie, the second Maggie Sullivan mystery, opens with the PI in her office. She’s playing jacks with spare slugs for her .38 because: It beat trudging through slush and ice from Dayton’s last snowfall to spend three cents on the Daily News only to learn Herr Hitler was still bamboozling leaders in Europe. We get a sense of time (which becomes more specific later), of the media of the day, and of prices. Just as a new case walks in.

Later in the same book, as the case is starting to break, she waylays a photographer pal from the evening paper to ask him the fastest route to a town between Dayton and Cincinnati:

“Scenic or speed?”

“Speed.”

“State route, then. The national’s better in places, but it swings west so far you lose time cutting back over. Speed limit’s thirty-five on both, so there’s nothing to even out the extra distance.”

“It entered my mind I might risk forty if I took the US route.”

“Adds lots of time if you get a ticket. Or blow a gasket.”

It sounded like the voice of experience.

In Don’t Dare a Dame, Maggie wants to call her client to warn her to expect the police: Going back to the office was faster than finding a pay phone.

Historical details need to become mere threads in the mystery itself. What’s the fast food of the detective’s time? What kind of lodgings does he or she have? Does he walk to appointments like Anna Castle’s Tom Clarady? Hire a horse cab like Susanne Alleyn’s Aristide Ravel? Or does she drive a DeSoto like Maggie Sullivan?

If you’re a mystery fan who hasn’t tried any with a historical setting, try some. You might enjoy them. If you favor historical novels, sample a few that are mysteries as well. You might discover new treats. Those of us who write them think the combination is as satisfying as tea and crumpets… or gin and tonic.

 

Early Praise for ED, NOT EDDIE (Eli Sharpe #3)

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Thanks to Jack Magnus at Readers’ Favorite for a five-star review of Ed, Not Eddie. 

Here’s the full-text:

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Ed, Not Eddie: An Eli Sharpe Mystery is a private investigator mystery novel written by Max Everhart. Eli’s been called to investigate a series of threatening letters that had been received by Ed Leviner, a collegiate knuckleball pitcher who is being seriously considered by the major leagues. While she doesn’t seem all that concerned about the letters, her father, Leland, is, and Eli is working at his behest. The small town atmosphere of Cook County, South Carolina is a far cry from Eli’s urban haunts in Asheville, North Carolina, his adopted hometown, and the more Eli hears about the entangled relationships between the possible suspects, the more he is convinced that this small town harbors a dangerous person who seems bent on thwarting Ed’s major league career, even if they have to kill her to do it. Major league baseball is a bittersweet memory for the private eye, whose own chances at bat were destroyed by his alcoholism. Eli’s determined to make sure Ed gets her turn.

Max Everhart’s private investigator mystery novel, Ed, Not Eddie: An Eli Sharpe Mystery, is fast-paced, exciting and filled with twists and turns. This is the first Eli Sharpe Mystery that I’ve read; however, the author included enough background information to allow me to enjoy this book on its own. Everhart’s characters are complex and authentic, especially Sharpe and his mentor and friend, Ernest Carpenter, but the author makes each and every character seen in this compelling and gritty story stand out in full relief. The plot is first-rate, and I particularly enjoyed the ongoing references to the fictional private eye Jim Rockford and the classic noir mystery writers. Then there’s Ed, the main star of the entire tale, whose story reads like a psychological thriller; one that I’ll be puzzling over for some time. I had a marvelous time reading this book and intend to catch up with the previous books in the series. Ed, Not Eddie is most highly recommended.

 

Nice blurb for ED, NOT EDDIE

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Elena Hartwell, author of the forthcoming mystery ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO, wrote a nice blurb for me. Here it is.

“Max Everhart writes a great story with the twists and turns required for a solid mystery, but the home run in Ed, Not Eddie is his ability to craft dynamite characters. From the wisecracking protagonist Eli Sharpe to the walk-on characters with only a single line, Everhart invents a unique voice for everyone. The small town of Cook, South Carolina, and its division III College, are abuzz with the potentially history-making Ed Leviner. But becoming the first woman to pitch for the majors isn’t the only obstacle dogging Ed (never call her Eddie!). First, she has to live through the big game at the school. Hired to find out if the death threats to Ed are real, Eli soon finds himself embroiled in all the complications of a small town. Sex, drugs, corruption, and baseball make their way into a plot that keeps you guessing. If this is your first foray into the Eli Sharpe mystery series, Ed, Not Eddie will have you scrambling to catch up with books one and two.”

—Elena Hartwell, author of the Eddie Shoes Mystery series

Book Review: One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell

 

Attention mystery fans hungering for the good stuff: One Dead, Two to Go is a full course buffet. Infidelity, murder, and kidnapping are all on the menu, but the main course is Eddie Shoes (great name!), who is an engaging, resourceful, and tough female P.I. Throw in her poker-playing, Mafia-connected, breaking-and-entering mother named Chava and a pot-boiler of a plot, and I finished this book with a full belly, yet starving for more Eddie Shoes adventures. The writing is cinematic and vivid, the characters well-drawn, but the dynamic between Eddie and Chava, which reminded me fondly of Cagney and Lacey, is what makes the story. Fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich should definitely check out One Dead, Two to Go. Recommended.

Note: I was given a free copy of this book by Camel Press in exchange for an honest review. One Dead, Two to Go is available for preorder here.

 

Book Giveaway for ED, NOT EDDIE (Eli Sharpe #3)…bribe offered!

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Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3) is now available for pre-order (click here to do so).  So in an effort to get you to order a book several months before it will be shipped to you, I’d like to offer a bribe.  The first (10) people to email me at maxeverhart30@yahoo.com with a proof of purchase for Ed, Not Eddie can choose (1) prize from below. This bribe is good until October 31st, so act now.

Keep in mind that if you’ve already purchased all of the above titles, I can still give them away to a person of your choosing. All I would need is an email address where the recipient can redeem the eBook.

Brass tax time, people. I need to sell a few dozen more copies of my books in order to receive my very first royalty check (fingers crossed). So if you’ve read my books and enjoyed them, pick up Ed, Not Eddie as well, and then give your prize to another lucky reader.

Best,

Max (struggling novelist/frustrated English instructor/misanthrope/

Guest Blog: Robert J. Ray

Robert J. Rayweekend novelist

“Keys to a Dramatic Scene”

The key to the dramatic scene is an intruder penetrating a closed circle. In society, we form a closed circle when we have coffee with a friend, or invite people to lunch, or gang up on the schoolyard. There can be violence—a burglar with a Glock Nine breaking down a door—but the intruder can also be an unwelcome wedding guest crashing the party.

A good example in the mystery game is the Sleuth’s Reward Scene in The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie—the classical mystery used by Jack Remick and me when we wrote The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, for Dell. Sleuth’s Reward is a modular scene. The word “modular” tags a scene that crosses sub-genres. In hard-boiled fiction, the sleuth’s reward is money or a kiss blown by an out-of-reach dame. In a Christie tea-cozy, the Sleuth’s Reward is admitting that the killer should die.

Jack Remick and I honed our scene-writing skills teaching in the screen-writing program at the University of Washington, where we developed tools for quick scene-building. One of those tools appears below, the Scene Profile. There, we display a template for creating your own scene profile.

Example: The Scene

Profile

Name: Sleuth’s Reward (The Body in the Library)

Character and Stage: Miss Marple recreates the crime for the last time in Conway Jefferson’s sumptuous suite at the Majestic Hotel.

In attendance: Colonel Melchett, Chief Superintendent Harper, Conway Jefferson, and Sir Henry Clithering.

Closed Circle: Upper World hotel suite.

Intruder: Miss Marple, invited inside because she’s the sleuth who solved the case.

Object onstage: Miss Marple’s best evening gown.

Dialogue‑Monologue: Motive (money, the scarce resource base) and method (knockout drug, strangulation, blow to the head, burning) and luring the victim into the trap.

Action: Using words as building blocks, Miss Marple erects a triumphant rhetorical edifice.

Climax: Miss Marple admits she’ll enjoy seeing Mark Gaskell hang.

Symbol/Theme/Ritual: Restoration of order by a proper recreation of the crime.

Summary of the Scene (Useful for submitting your novel to a publisher):

The place of this Sleuth’s Reward scene is Conway Jefferson’s suite at the Majestic, a room with an ocean view. The time is evening, a day or so after the apprehension and incarceration of the killers, Josie Turner and Mark Gaskell. The sleuth wears her best evening gown. The main dramatic device is a series of connected Marpelian monologues ‑‑ facts, motive, the marriage connection coverup ‑‑ climaxed by a ten step recreation of the crime and the sleuth’s admission that she wants to see Gaskell hang.

Analysis

In this scene, Miss Marple is rewarded by her position in society as sleuth triumphant. She solved the case. She saved Basil Blake from becoming a scapegoat. With shrewd sleuth magic, she saved the Bantrys from losing their social position in high society. The scene drips with a proper restoration of order.

Robert J. Ray is the author of seven novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, Murdock for Hire, The Hitman Cometh, Dial “M” for Murdock, and Merry Christmas, Murdock. A sixth Matt Murdock mystery—Murdock Tackles Taos—in process.  Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist and he shares writing techniques on writing on his blog co-authored with long time writing partner, Jack Remick. Ray is a native of Texas and holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he and Jack write at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle.