Help us decide where book #3 should take place

On November 13, “Murder Becomes Miami” will go on sale. The terror amps up in the second installment in the “Murder Becomes” series, as The Lee Group tries to deduce who murdered a reviled college football coach (and why).  Find out more at murdermiami.com.

We are already starting to turn our attention to Book 3. To that end, we’re having fun recently asking YOU, the reader, to help us decide where that book should take place.

The two criteria for a “Murder Becomes” location are 1) The location must begin with the letter ‘M’ and 2) The location must have architecture of note. Given that, here are 10 possible locations for the next book. Which one do you think would make the best setting for Book 3 in the series?

Let us know, by sending a quick email to:  info@thecornetgroup.com

1.  Monte Carlo, Monaco
2. Milan, Italy
3. Maui, USA
4. Madrid, Spain
5. Macau, China
6. Mardi Gras, USA
7. Montreal, Canada
8. Moscow, Russia
9, Mykonos, Greece
10. Malibu, USA

The answer is ‘yes.’ And, ‘no.

This fall, I have at least three book clubs reading “Murder Becomes Manhattan.” When I appear at a book club, one question I am always asked is, “How do you go about writing one of your novels? Do you pretty much have the plot laid out when you start? Or do you change it along the way?”

The answer is ‘yes.’ And, ‘no.’

I am a linear thinker, so my tendency is to produce a book in a linear way. But it is almost impossible to write a good mystery thriller that way. That’s because you want the stray comment offered by someone in Chapter 17 to become the vital clue unearthed in Chapter 46. You want the subplot between two characters carefully developed in the first half of the book to take a sudden veer into unexpected territory in the second half.

But that requires some serious planning, some meaningful forethought, and sometimes what we in the industry call “backwriting”. I have backwritten a lot in “Murder Becomes Miami,” which comes out in November. That means I thought of a very cool way to shake things up late in the book, but for the shake-up to make sense, I had to go back and insert a few elements earlier in the book. The result I think is a book that’s more rich, I think, and something different to some degree from what I thought it would be when I launched into it.

That said, if I constantly stopped and shifted and backwrote, I might never finish a book. So here is what I do: I tend to charge forward with a general idea of the plot. I allow for the possibility of twists and turns I didn’t expect along the way but continue barreling forward with the goal of getting the entire story told.

THEN, I go back and refine, and shape, and sculpt, inserting some elements and discarding others, until the final story is ready for you to read.

How do you write? Similarly, or somehow different?

Summer mysteries

It seems summer, more than any other season, ushers mystery and intrigue into our lives. Released from the hubbub of our day-to-day responsibilities the rest of the year, we seem to seek out mystery (or invite it to find us,) during the summer months more than any other.

Who is that new person sitting across from us at the pool and why are they behaving so mysteriously? What do the unusual markings we have stumbled on in the woods during our hike represent? What are those lights we see across the lake from our summer cabin late at night? Does the laziness of summer make us notice, or seek out, intrigue all the more?

Or, have we been trained through years of summer escapism at the movies to expect mystery in the summer months? Just look at this list of suspense films that were released just before, or during, the summer:  Dial M for MurderJaws, The Dark Knight, North by Northwest, Jurassic Park, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho. And, perhaps the greatest mystery film of all time, Citizen Kane.

If you are looking for an intriguing getaway this summer, might I recommend the softcover version of “Murder Becomes Manhattan”, just made available. It’s the perfect paperback to peer over as you study that mysterious individual nearby who is hiding behind their designer sunglasses. Meanwhile, know that this summer I will be hard at work putting the finishing touches on “Murder Becomes Miami,” the second installment in the Murder Becomes series.

How fitting that much of the intrigue in that book will be taking place in . . . summer.

Crafting “Murder Becomes Miami”

Last night I sat down to a plate of calamari and a glass of pinot grigio at my favorite Italian restaurant to map out the plot to my next book, “Murder Becomes Miami.” Even though “Murder Becomes Manhattan” just landed a few weeks ago, I am itchin’ to carry on the tale of Dalton Lee and the architect/detectives who make up The Lee Group.

Mapping out a plot is, I believe, one of the most exciting parts of crafting a book, for it by itself bathes me in a mood of mystery and intrigue well before I have written the first word.

Who will I select as the murderer and how will they be connected to this strange cult known as The Organization? What plot is The Organization hatching and how was the victim connected to it? How will I hide the murderer within the community of people you will meet? Who else will I put forward as possible suspects and how can I best make them suspect without making their innocence too obvious to you?

And most important, how can I push myself to ensure the reading experience I give you delivers twists and turns neither of us saw coming?

Whereas the architecture of the skyscrapers in Manhattan took center stage in the first book, in this next book it will be the Art Deco motifs found in Miami. But an architectural detail will once again play a key role in the solving of the murder.

I look forward to the tale unfolding and to your feedback as to how I can improve on the debut effort found in “Murder Becomes Manhattan.”

Who lives behind the doors?

They seemed to appear overnight. Small, colorful doors, with locks, embedded in tall trees in a greenbelt in my neighborhood. Quirky, intriguing and mysterious.

What I love about these doors is how they represent in such a great way what makes a mystery book like Murder Becomes Manhattan so appealing. The small detail, missed by most (in this case, missed by most passing motorists and pedestrians) yet yielding so many questions.

Of course we know no one, or thing, lives behind the doors. But they conjure up mysteries nonetheless. Who had them installed? Why in that location? What do we think could be behind the doors? Are there others we’ve not yet noticed? All questions Dalton Lee would consider as he wages his hunt for The Organization…

With whom will readers most connect?

As Murder Becomes Manhattan nears its debut (less than 24 hours!), I wonder who within the book readers will most connect with.

Will it be Dalton Lee, the dashing but quirky lead detective whose genius is unquestioned but whose personal life is a wreck? Or will it be Bree, who has a nervous breakdown triggered by a street performer?

Perhaps it will be Roberto, whose devotion to his little sister drives him to desperate measures that threatens the security of all of his colleagues.

But then it might be one of the suspects, like the flamboyant and shrill Carolina Campobello or the totally transparent wannabe, Toni Spencer.

Only time will tell. And I am sure the result will be very different from what I might have imagined. You can pre-order Murder Becomes Manhattan now at Amazon.com, Nook.com, Kobo.com and through iTunes.

Meet architect/detective Dalton Lee

Dalton Lee is a connoisseur of QUALITY items. This is not someone who shops at WalMart or drives a Kia.

In Murder Becomes Manhattan, the architect/detective at one point decides to have a drink at The Constellation Room, a penthouse-level lounge in one of the city’s finest hotels. And he asks the server to bring him one of the world’s finest bourbon whiskeys out there, a Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight.

Now this is no paid endorsement, I promise you. I have had a Buffalo Trace and it is truly sublime. So it just made sense to me that Dalton Lee should savor this expertly crafted elixir.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is distilled, aged and bottled at the most award-winning distillery in the world. Made from the finest corn, rye and barley malt, this whiskey ages in new oak barrels for years in century old warehouses until the peak of maturity. The taste is rich and complex, with hints of vanilla, toffee and candied fruit.

But don’t just take my word for it.

I received a nice email today from the distillery’s CEO, thanking us for calling them out in the book. So should you look into Buffalo Trace the next time you want to nurse a terrific bourbon, know it will not only help make you as debonair as Dalton Lee — it will also connect you to a gentlemanly organization if ever there were one.

Embedding the clues

Murder Becomes Manhattan has essential clues to the killer’s identity, and the victim’s connection to The Organization, scattered throughout it. But they are subtly woven in, delivered in passing. At least, I hope they are.  😉

The importance of subtlety in delivering clues has become more apparent to me as I watch such television series as “Scandal” and “Castle” and “How to Get Away With Murder”.

On the latter show, it was a small detail of background wallpaper in an incriminating photograph that revealed the racy photo was actually taken in the home of the character played by Viola Davis. In another episode, house numbers briefly seen in a video turned out to be integral to identifying someone being somewhere they should not have been.

Last night’s episode showed a newscast with a reporter delivering damning information and in the middle of the report, someone runs past the camera behind the reporter and mugs it. I have no doubt that small detail will loom large later in the show.

With mystery readers becoming more and more savvy, I believe it is becoming more and more difficult to embed clues the reader will not recognize as having importance. What deftly hidden clues have you found well executed in the mystery writing you have encountered?

Murder Becomes eBooks with links

I am very excited that Murder Becomes Manhattan is now available for pre-order at both Amazon and Smashwords.

Available as of October 26 are the eBook versions, which contain links to lots of rich online photos and videos that enhance the murder mystery experience. We expect pre-orders of the hardcover and softcover versions to also be available by November 1.

Downloads of the eBook versions and purchase of the print versions will launch November 11!

Pre-order Murder Becomes Manhattan here.

Novel Concept?

One of the great challenges associated with writing a mystery is how to make it stand out from the 100 gazillion other mysteries out there. I concocted the angle of letting the eBook versions of Murder Becomes Manhattan contain links to pictures, videos and other content that might enhance the reading experience.

Or does it? Most murder mystery readers I have shown the concept to have found it fun and worthwhile. But I do wonder if some will consider those links distractions to the story.

The entire book contains about 40 links. I have tried to scatter them throughout the book, although some of the early chapters have a greater abundance of them than the chapters near the book’s climax. And I tried to focus on including only those links that I felt might be worth exploring. A video of a popular song that causes one of the characters to have a public meltdown. A recipe to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich the primary detective craves.

And of course links to the murder scenes and the apartment lived in by one of the victims.

But what do you think about this — if you will pardon the pun — NOVEL concept. Beneficial? Or an irritation?