A big welcome to Jean Rabe as part of her blog tour with Let’s Talk! Promotions for Dead of Summer.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?
My writing career started in newspapers, and in various cities in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, my beats were education, courts, and crime. I ended up covering so many murders and fires and other awful things that I looked for a change and went to work for a game company, TSR, the then-makers of Dungeons & Dragons. My new path was filled with long hours, great fun, and while there I started writing fantasy fiction on the side. Eventually I jumped ship to be a full-time writer and ended up with a couple dozen fantasy and science fiction novels to my credit. And then … I needed another change. Just a topic shift this time. I write mysteries now. I have four out so far, three Piper Blackwell books and one standalone set in Italy. And I’m plotting the next Piper.
What are your writing and personal goals for 2019 and beyond?
In addition to writing more Piper adventures, I want to tackle a novel with dinosaurs and swashbucklers … it has a mystery in it. But as for Piper, her next adventure starts out with a reunion of my main character’s Army buddies. There’ll be a murder in the mix. There’s always a murder in the mix.
My personal goal is to reconnect with some old friends. I had too many friends die the past many months. It emphasized how very short life is. So I’m planning a couple of road trips for face-to-face sit-downs, one with a college buddy and another with a former writing group. I also hope to go to a few museums (I love museums) and outdoor concerts. Oh, and to play with my dogs. I’d say that’s my biggest personal goal … spend time with my dogs. Time spent in the company of dogs is never wasted.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
This go-round it was finding the time to write. I’d managed to break my arm and dislocate my shoulder (cement and a big dog was involved). Surgery and rehab took some time and backed up my schedule. Since I’m a busy soul, I had more than one project on my plate … some editing work, short stories, and a ghost-writing assignment. Piper got squeezed out for a while. So the hardest part was making time to finish The Dead of Summer. I had originally hoped it would come out the end of May … not the first of August. I was soooooooooo happy when I was done and it was away to my editor.
Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
I always learn something from writing a mystery novel. I strive to be accurate in my police procedure, so I have a couple of go-to law enforcement souls who are kind and walk me through various issues and what if scenarios. One of them sent me a TON of police manuals, which will be the springboard for future stories. And the gentleman who runs our local gaming campaign (something like Dungeons & Dragons) is a county prosecutor; he helps me with the legal action and repercussions. I’m quick to call a coroner or two for answers on causes of death, etc. I’m always learning from those people. Sometimes I’m learning grisly things.
This Piper novel required me to learn about the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the inspection of carnival rides. Did you now that Homeland Security is responsible for inspecting rides? I hadn’t. Fascinating. And they tackle elevators, ski lifts, and the like. I love research. In short, I learned how carnival rides are inspected, who takes care of any accidents that might result, when the courts get involved … and I also learned about vintage comic books. My novel has comics in it, too.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I always have advice for writers. Sometimes it is hard to get me to shut up about it. But I’ll keep it short and just mention a few tips based on my slush reading for a magazine:
• Stop using clichés. Write fresh. It makes your writing more interesting. It’s a piece of cake to throw the baby out with the bathwater as the crow flies in the nick of time. You can do better than that. Write fresh.
• You don’t have to use “said” after every quote. Sometimes attribution is obvious.
• Characters can have mannerisms beyond nodding or shaking their heads. I counted two dozen “nods” in the first two pages of a manuscript I read today; yes, I stopped reading and rejected it. I wouldn’t have read it that far, but I was curious if the heads would keep bobbing.
• Open with something interesting and dynamic; avoid the travelogue.
• Vary the length of your sentences.
I encourage writers to join a group where they can share their work with other authors. Writing is a solitary life, make it more social. You can help others and get great advice in return. If you can’t find a group in your area, there are groups on Facebook.
Shouts of delight turn to screams of terror when a carnival ride goes berserk at the Spencer County Fair. Sheriff Piper Blackwell must contain the chaos and investigate the possible sabotage, even as she tries to solve a local businessman’s horrific murder.
But managing two investigations with at least one killer on the loose pushes the young officer and her tiny staff to their limits. Can Piper catch the murderer, or will the summer’s body count continue to rise?
Just when you think you’ve read the best from author Jean Rabe, she throws the thrill ride of a lifetime into her latest mystery. The Dead of Summer starts with a bang, a scrunch, a twist, and screams…lots and lots of screams. The book hooks you from the start.
—Mary Cunningham, author of Andi Anna Jones Mysteries
Jean Rabe immerses you in the sights, sounds, and smells of summer in rural Indiana, as she subtly weaves characters, clues, departmental interactions, and high-speed action into a satisfying criminal confection worthy of a blue ribbon as Best Summer Mystery. Not quite a cozy, but a helluva whodunnit.
—Donald J. Bingle, author of the Dick Thornby Spy Thriller series
She stood in the shade of the Red Baron banner and watched the Octopus. It was an eight-limbed tilting and spinning ride with a cage at each end, all of it painted purple. It looked like each cage could hold four riders. It didn’t look like an aggressive ride, but nothing she’d buy a ticket for. Millie doubted she’d step onto anything more adventurous than something like the Strawberry-Go-Round ever again.
The operator looked to be in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, fit with muscular arms, and well proportioned. He’d be clothes model bait if his head didn’t look like a jug, his face flat. His hair was blond and curly, maybe natural, but probably a perm, she thought.
Homeland Security watched the Octopus cages turn, made notes on the clipboard, circled the ride and kneeled to check something with the engine. After several minutes, he returned to the operator, briefly spoke, and moved on. Millie wondered if she should have stepped up and eavesdropped. Maybe Rocco was doing that on the other side. She started toward the Octopus just as the operator reached into his front pocket, pulled something out and held it to one nostril, then the other, shook his head and grinned, and replaced the object.
Millie stared and kept her place, waited and watched as he shut down the ride. He polished one of the cabs, then reached into his front pocket, looked around, and held something to his nose once more.
Drugs, Millie thought. Someone taking drugs was operating a carnival ride, and Homeland Security clearly hadn’t noticed when they talked to him. She patted the cuffs hanging from her belt, then cautioned herself. Check it out. Make sure he’s not taking some prescription allergy inhaler. Check it out.
She walked toward him, inwardly giddy. Maybe it wasn’t allergy meds. Millie hadn’t made an arrest yet; Pops said her first one would be a drunk driver. DUIs were the number one ticked offense in the county. Maybe her first arrest would instead by a drug bust at the county fair.
“I’m with the Spencer County Sheriff’s Department,” Millie said.
“Yeah, I can see that. Out here to ask me about Vernie, right? Ben texted me you were headed my way.”
Millie figured Ben had texted all the other operators.
“Never spent a lot of time with Vernie. And the Octo is pretty far from the Odyssey. Didn’t see it actually break. I shut this down right away, got my riders off, and—”
“What’s in your pocket?” Millie posed. There probably was a better way to do this. He probably didn’t have to tell her what he had on him. She might have to take him down to the office.
He didn’t hesitate, pulled out a small tube of model glue. Dropped it back in his pocket.
“No drugs, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m clean. I don’t do drugs.”
Millie’s mind tumbled over Indiana’s laws.
Jean Rabe … Mysteries, Suspense, and Uncozy Cozies
I WRITE…A LOT.
And I write with dogs wrapped around my feet. I get to wear sandals or bedroom slippers to work, and old, comfortable clothes. When the weather is fine I get to write on my back porch. I love summer. I am working on promotions for The Dead of Summer right now, the third in my Piper Blackwell series. It has a nifty cover … which fits where the story kicks off. The first two books in the series are The Dead of Winter and The Dead of Night. Yeah, someone ends up dead in each book. Gotta have a death to make it a murder mystery. and I put a good amount of death in this latest book.
I started getting published when I was 12, studied journalism at Northern Illinois University, then went to work as a news reporter…eventually for Scripps Howard, where I managed their Western Kentucky bureau. Getting itchy feet, I moved to Wisconsin and went to work for TSR, Inc., the then-producers of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I dipped my itchy feet into the fiction pool and wrote Dragonlance novels for several years.
I’ve written forty SF, fantasy, mystery, and adventure novels (including a couple of ghosted projects), more short stories than I care to count, and I’ve edited magazines and anthologies.
Right now it’s all about mysteries…thrillers, suspense and uncozy-cozies. I had to change genres from SF and fantasy ’cause my feet were itching again and I needed to do something different.
I attend game conventions–as I am a geek about boardgames and rpgs, work as a mentor for graduate-level writing students, and toss tennis balls for my cadre of dogs.
I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here
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