Perched above the light radiating anger he stalks, clenching fists and grinding his jaw muscles fiercely. A man in blue wearing a star, oblivious to the ticking time bomb, coasts to a stop preoccupied by time slipping by.
The tormented man hears a voice, “Yes, do it!”
Another of his voices says, “You can’t, you mustn’t!”
Zombie-like, he slowly grabs the luke-warm handle of his safety blanket, and cooler than the other side of a pillow, marches on to entertain the war that rages.
The traffic light remains red longer than normal, causing the unsuspecting man to curse and examine his surroundings. He peers left, and then right, noting nothing spectacular.
Again the voices scream, “Do it!”
“Do it you coward!”
The volley of pain finally consumes him. He lifts borrowed steel, aims, and fires. The crackle erupts, scattering feet drowned only by screams. The waiting cop never had a clue. At the foot of his cruiser, weathered life escapes the victim, while a mixture of gunpowder and smoke become one. Slowly they ascend to salvation seeking refuge for his soul.
Can We Successfully Combine Drama and Humor in a Mystery?
The simple answer? Yes. I write two mystery series, and they’re both lighter with a little humor. There’s a great big “however” here. However, murder isn’t funny, by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore, the books contain some drama, too. I’ll never make light of a killing.
Back to humor, you can find some in the characters solving the mystery, and in some of the situations in which they find themselves. There’s so much drama in today’s world that I believe we need something to lighten our moods sometimes. Hopefully, that’s a need I’m addressing.
In my Sandi Webster series, she’s a female P.I., has a menopausal mother, employs a klutzy guy, and has a partner who always wants to watch her back — although he usually ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She frequently finds herself dealing with quirky or eccentric people. These traits often equal humor, and they’re traits I’ve found in people in my own life over the years.
I’ve worked in law enforcement (in a clerical capacity), part-time in a shoe store and a lingerie store, and for a state transportation department, among other jobs. Like Chris, I could sit down with you for hours and hours and tell funny stories. Of course, some are only humorous after the fact – like the time I had to search a Ladies Room for a bomb, with no training. There was, after all, a time when you wouldn’t expect to find a bomb in a john. Then there was the time a woman was turned down for a clerical job in law enforcement because she didn’t have the qualifications. Death threats followed, even though I’d only given her the typing test. Ah, those were the days.
My Bogey Man series features Chris Cross, who’s a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart, and who manages to walk the walk and talk the talk. Bogart is his muse, his hero and his idea of how a man should act. That is, the Bogey he saw in the movies. He’s very good at rolling his lip under like Mr. Bogart did. Chris is married and has a step-son, and they sometimes remind me just a little of a modern Thin Man family.
Humor keeps most of the characters going. We need a good laugh in our own lives once in a while, and so do fictional characters.
In both series the characters and their lives grow and change over time. So do we. Time seems to pass slowly in a series. Occasionally that would be preferable in real life, although there are other times when we wish we could speed things along.
One new book in each series was released in March of 2014.
Death Comes in Threes is the latest Sandi Webster mystery. She has to face a longtime foe, although things seem to happen on his terms rather than hers. He wants to kill her, and of course, she’s saying, “Nope. Not gonna happen.”
Awkward Moments features the Bogey Man. Someone sent me a joke that said, “Awkward Moments: When you’re digging a hole to bury a body, and you find another body already buried there.” This short joke inspired a whole book. Imagine trying to bury the small body of a bird and finding bones from someone who was buried there many years ago. You just never know what you’ll find. Right?
So now you know a tiny bit about me and my books. If you need a little entertainment, I hope you’ll look for it with either Sandi or Chris.
Needless to say, I hope you’ll try Grey Ghost by Chris Swinney first, but don’t forget me.
Thank you for inviting me in as a guest today, Chris. I’ve really enjoyed speaking out a little.
**NOTE FROM ME (CHRIS). THANKS for coming on my blog and sharing your wonderful work. I wish you tremendous success and I’m here for you if you ever need anything.
The SECOND EDITION for Gray Ghost and the e-versions will be out end of this week!
Grab a Copy of the first edition 🙂
Thanks so much everyone for the support. I appreciate it.
My look when I heard about second edition!!
The Sacrificial Lamb
An Excerpt From The Vesuvius Isotope
A teenaged couple was crossing the bridge in front of me, holding hands. I could hear the footsteps of the strange man behind me. Nobody else was in sight.
The street that led off into the seafood district was much darker than I had thought it would be. The only sound I could hear was the rhythmic lapping of the waves against the sides of the bridge, and their ebb and flow washed away my confidence that the restaurants would still be open.
The teenaged couple entered the castle through its arched opening. Instead of turning left and entering the seafood district, I followed them.
The man behind me followed as well.
The castle was wide open; there was no ticket booth of any kind. It appeared that one could just meander through at leisure. A stone walkway wound upward toward the top of the castle. Over the high wall bordering the walkway was a drop to the street of the seafood district below. The couple strolled up the path and I followed.
The walkway passed by a series of dungeons, and the couple faded slyly toward one of them. Wordlessly, the young man pushed his mate roughly against the bars of the gate barricading the dungeon and began kissing her with abandon. As he advanced from the girl’s mouth downward and began hungrily kissing her neck, she tipped her head back and caught my eye. His hand was snaking its way into her shirt. Her glance told me to get lost.
I ducked beneath an archway and began briskly climbing a staircase through a dimly lit passageway.
When I heard the footsteps behind me advance to keep pace with my own, I began to understand that I was not just being paranoid. This man had been following me from the start and was now deliberately staying only steps behind me.
I reached the top of the staircase and stepped under another archway. To my horror, I suddenly emerged onto a large terrace. It was open almost three hundred sixty degrees around and offered panoramic views of the Bay of Naples. Short, squat cannons pointed out in all directions through low openings in the waist-high stone wall. Beside them were small piles of cannonballs at the ready.
I ran toward a cannon and reached down for one of the cannonballs, but it was far too heavy for me to throw with any accuracy. I let it fall back onto the pile.
The only other object on the terrace was a spindly statue depicting a centaur-like creature. It stood a few feet from the stone wall, positioned as if the centaur was looking out over the water. The statue was clearly too thin to hide behind.
As I hurriedly scanned the expansive space, I realized all too clearly the purpose of it. This had been a formidable fortress. Both its location and its structure were perfect for the function. There was no way to sneak up on the inhabitants of this castle.
I quickly realized the irony of my situation. On the terrace of a two-thousand-year-old fortress designed to offer failsafe protection from invaders, I was suddenly completely exposed and simultaneously trapped. A wrong turn had traded the narrow, cryptic passageways of the castle for a sacrificial altar, and I was the lamb. Except for one skinny statue, there was nothing to hide behind and nowhere to go except back through the archway. And the man from the train station was coming through it.
I ran behind the statue. It provided abysmally thin protection, and the backward cocked head of the centaur suddenly seemed mocking.
The man emerged from the archway, and suddenly the darkness surrounding me was not nearly complete enough. I could see into his eyes. They still bore that same cold, emotionless expression.
“Katrina!” he said.
As if reeling from a physical blow, I scrambled backward until I felt the stone wall slam into my lower back. “What do you want?” I practically screamed.
“I have a message from Jeff!”
But his hand was reaching into his pocket, so I gripped the wall with both hands and jumped.
Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and long-time resident of San Diego, California. She lives with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. Please visit her websites at www.kristenelisephd.com and http://www.murderlab.com.
Back cover blurb for The Vesuvius Isotope:
When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.