I am super excited about the new release from my fellow Story Empire writer, Joan Hall! I can’t wait to read this one as I loved the prequel! But I’ll let Joan tell you about it.
Thank you, Jan. I’m excited to be here to talk about my newest release. Cold Dark Night is the first novel of my Legends of Madeira series. Each book begins with a historical event that ties to modern-day. Today I’m going to talk about the musical inspiration behind the book.
I like silence when I’m writing, but music often inspires me to write. Cold Dark Night was partially inspired by a song. Growing up in a music-loving family with a brother twelve years my senior made me appreciate the song of the sixties as much as (maybe more) than those of “my time,” the 1970s.
One of the albums my brother often listened to was The Band’s first solo album, Music From Big Pink. Among the songs that stood out for me was “Long Black Veil.” The idea of someone singing from the grave about his own death intrigued me. First recorded in 1959 by Lefty Frizzell, several artists have recorded the song, but The Band’s version has always been my favorite.
“Long Black Veil” inspired the opening chapters of Cold Dark Night. The circumstances between my character Adam McLaury and the person in the song differ somewhat, but those familiar with the words will recognize some similarities.
In the following passage, Lillian McLaury visits her husband in jail. He’s awaiting execution for murdering a man on the streets of Madeira.
“I’m not sure I even want to live if you’re gone.” Lillian hung her head.
“Don’t talk like that. Isaac needs you. So does our unborn baby. You’re still young. Much too young to pine away. Someday you might meet someone else. If you do, it’s okay. And one day, in another life, we’ll be together again.”
She straightened, then wiped the tears from her eyes. “You believe that?”
“Of course, I do. I’m prepared to die. I can go to my grave with a clear conscience, knowing I’ve done nothing wrong. There’s one other thing I ask of you.”
“What is it?”
“Find the person responsible. See to it justice is served.”
“I promise to do everything I can.”
“That’s all I ask. And don’t give up. I’m still holding out for a miracle.”
But three days later, Sheriff Bass walked Adam to the gallows to die for the murder of William Skinner.
At the bottom of the steps, Ethan stopped. Scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m sorry, Adam. I truly hoped someone would come forth with evidence implicating the real killer. I know you’re innocent. Don’t need proof, but—”
“You were doing your job. I understand.”
The hangman stood at the top of the gallows. His no-nonsense demeanor had been the subject of several conversations among Madeira’s residents. Many of them thought him to be unfriendly. He motioned toward the crowd. “Come along, Sheriff. Can’t keep these good folks waiting. It’s time to get this over with.”
“Then, you do it. I did my job bringing him here. I’ll have no further part in it. I believe this man is innocent, and I’m washing my hands of his blood.”
And Pontius Pilate said similar words when he handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Adam nodded to his executioner as he ascended the steps on his own. Divine intervention hadn’t come. His knees buckled as he looked at the rope that would soon be placed around his neck.
Reverend Potts, the local minister, rushed to his side to steady him. Compassion shown in the older man’s eyes.
The hangman showed no sympathy. He took Adam by the arm, led him behind the noose, then placed it loosely around his neck.
Adam scanned the crowd. Entire families had turned out for the event. Some sat together in buggies, while others stood on the courthouse lawn. Children laughed and played, as if blissfully aware of what was about to happen. One small girl peered around her mother’s skirts, her eyes wide. A teenage boy peddled refreshments.
Why would anyone allow a small child to see something like this? There had been hangings in Madeira before, none of which he’d cared to attend. He wouldn’t bring his wife, much less his son. But many people acted as if hangings were a source of entertainment.
At last, he saw Lillian. She stood near the back, ramrod straight, not shedding any tears. Maybe she’d cried all she could cry. Perhaps she’d taken his advice to be strong.
The crowd began to sing “Amazing Grace.” When the song ended, Reverend Potts asked, “Do you have any last requests?”
“Look after Lillian, will you?”
The older man nodded. “Of course, my son.”
Adam met Lillian’s eyes again as she mouthed the words, “I love you.”
Her face was the last thing he saw before the hangman pulled the hood over his face. He would go to eternity confident in Lillian’s unwavering love for him.
Thanks again for hosting me, Jan. Cold Dark Night is available on Amazon. It’s on sale for .99 through June 15. After that, the price goes to $3.99, so this is a good time for readers to grab a copy.
New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.
Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.
But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s history, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.
Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, her husband will be the next to die.
Seven women have disappeared from bars only to be found murdered after asking for an Angel Shot. Detective Rick McCoy is handed the case after returning from leave following his wife’s horrific ordeal at the hands of the serial killer, PPP. Criminal psychologist Patricia Holmes lost her husband to the same killer and when her current partner makes her life miserable she jumps at the chance to work with Rick again. When they determine a man currently jailed for the crimes could not have committed them the mystery deepens.
But that is the least of Rick’s worries. An imaginary alter ego appears warning him his wife is suicidal. Will they be able to solve the riddle of the Angel Shot before another victim loses her life and save his wife from taking hers?
Two favorite passages:
“You have been busy, haven’t you? Thanks for interceding on my behalf. The thing is, I’ve been thinking of giving everything up and going back to lecturing. Besides, I won’t work with Pepperdick again, and apparently, all the other sergeants think I’m a liability and won’t partner with me.” She took another drink and looked back out of the window, blinking rapidly.
“Pat, you know as well as I do most cops are a superstitious lot. All you need is one more good investigation, one where you don’t get shot or stabbed, and there would be a long line of guys who would want you as their partner. Do you think if you had another chance, you could get through a whole case and not get wounded or slap your boss?”
She had been swallowing and choked as she laughed at his humor. “Depending who my boss would be, I could try,” she offered when she recovered, then turned her serious gaze on Rick’s.
“Yep. So, show me what you’ve got. Let’s say Brandon is not our killer. Have you got enough to profile who is?”
Pat made a pantomime of patting her pockets and looking around her, including under her chair. “What are you doing, Pat?” he asked, though he suspected what her answer would be.
“Oh, I was just looking for my magic wand; I thought I left it lying around here somewhere.”
They both laughed for a moment, and Rick’s heart swelled. They fitted together so perfectly. He shrugged, forcing the feelings down, which he had been doing with Pat for a long time.
“I don’t have much, Rick, but here are some thoughts.” She paused, composing her ideas. “People generally think rape is about having sex, yet we know often it’s not. That is the result, yes, but the cause is more about control, or even to some extent, sadism. Sometimes the rapist cannot achieve orgasm, which makes him more violent, so, we can postulate sex may not be a motivating factor; cruelty is. So, that’s the first point to consider. Second, not only was Ingrid Stapleton brutalized, but then strangled. Strangulation is a very hard, upfront, and personal way of murdering someone. Sometimes we see it in a case of domestic violence, where the killer is angry with someone else to the point of losing control. So, we can draw from that the man was angry with Ingrid, but why? On the face of it, Brandon O’Toole fits that description, he was rejected by her, and that could cause uncontrollable rage, rage enough to strangle, yes, but, in that case, not rape, do you see what I mean?”
Rick nodded slowly. “Yes, I think I do. If we are assuming O’Toole didn’t take Ingrid, then maybe the killer watched her in the bar, perhaps witnessed Ingrid’s altercation with O’Toole, and tried to rescue her. Possibly, he comforted Ingrid after O’Toole left and because he fancied her that could explain the Rohypnol and subsequent sexual assault. But why kill her by strangulation?”
Her brown-eyed gaze bored into his. “Rick, I think we are looking for someone in part with severe issues of anger and hatred toward women, yet in another way, he has a natural desire for them too. He couldn’t let her go because she would identify him. This man could have some sort of dissociative disorder, or dare I say even possible multiple disorder syndrome, and if that’s the case….”
“He’s killed before, or after. Jesus, Pat, you’re saying this could be a serial killer who got away with murder?”
Why did you write a Glimpse 4, wasn’t it meant to be a trilogy?
Well, yes, originally this was to be THREE deadly glimpses. I wanted to tell a story of inappropriate workplace desires and the effect on four people during three murder investigations of three different serial killers. I think in the same way good actors like a mini-series to be able to really portray a character, I wanted three books to tell the story with all the nuances two married people would feel who were attracted to each other. I believe I did tell that tale to the best of my ability, but after book 3, Glimpse, The Tender Killer was published, a groundswell of public and reader opinion made itself known by way of emails…..It seemed my readers, including my narrator, and editor wanted to know what happened to my characters next. Quite frankly, I was stunned by the response
I was genuinely flattered, but as a writer, I had ‘moved on’ and had other projects I was working on such as Winter at the Light, and a full re-write of Domin8, yet the calls for more continued. I truthfully never expected that, and was deeply moved that my characters struck such a chord with readers. But, still the ethos of the Glimpse series was to take the reader inside the minds of three separate serial killers and show why they were the they were, so to create a fourth instalment would require another killer, and that wasn’t so easy to do.
I am deeply fascinated by all things psychology, and in particular, what circumstances create the triggers which cause some people’s minds to fracture and create a serial killer. In Glimpse, The Angel Shot I use 3 quotes from one of America’s worst serial murderers, Ted Bundy, to give an indication how these types of people think:
“Murder is not about lust, and it’s not about violence. It’s about possession.”
“We serial killers are your sons; we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow.”
“What’s one less person on the face of the earth, anyway?”
For me, this is not only some of the most chilling words I have ever read, but deeply, and yes morbidly, interesting. So, for me to create another serial murderer for Patricia Holmes to profile, wasn’t easy, and it took some time to come up with the answer. My wife inadvertently came to my rescue when we were out one night at a social function and she said to me when she returned to the table, “You’ll never guess what is written on the back of the lady’s toilet door.” I looked up and joked, “Jeez, I hope it’s not my phone number advertising for a good time.”
Obviously, she is used to my warped sense of humor, and gave me a withering stare, until I asked her, “No, darling, what is on the back of the door?”
Her answer was like a bolt of lightning hitting me, and my two all-time favorite words came to mind: “What if…”
My loving wife gave me all I needed to create a man so troubled by his dysfunctional marriage he wants to rape and murder vulnerable women when they asked for help to be rescued from a troublesome date.
One thing about me readers may find interesting:
I am fascinated by how the human mind can fracture and have a tremendous respect for psychologists, and psychiatrists who try to help patients put the pieces back together. A good friend, and his wife are both prominent psychologists, and my daughter has degrees in criminal psychology and justice. I often wish I had studied the subject myself, but at that age I was far more interested in rock music, free love, illegal substances, and telling stories. The Glimpse series is named that because in each book I try to offer the reader a look into the killer’s mind set, and offer an answer to the question most people want answering; why.
One thing about Glimpse 4 I think readers will find interesting:
A character named Jolly appears in Glimpse, the Tender Killer as the evil alter-ego of the schizophrenic serial killer, Bobby Cornhill, whom the media nickname, The Biblical Killer, because of the religious quotes written in blood on the victim’s walls. I received a lot of emails from readers demanding not only to bring him back, but asking the question, was Jolly a real entity or just a figment of Cornhill’s very troubled mind. While I loved creating this character, I was stunned that readers wanted more, and in Glimpse, the Angel Shot, Jolly features a lot more. This time one of the main protagonists, Rick McCoy sees, and talks to Jollly. The question again is: Is Jolly real, or is Rick slowly going insane?
Who is Jolly?
I am genuinely staggered by the number of readers who wanted to know more about my character, Jolly. I wanted the reader to wonder, is Jolly real, or just a figment of a very troubled mind? And boy, did they.
I loved Jolly, and felt I was crossing the border into the supernatural, as if I was writing like my more famous namesake. I put a lot of effort into making Jolly feel real to not only the murderer, but make the reader ask that question, is he somehow real and chooses who he appears to?
I had so many requests, when I sat down to write Book 4, The Angel Shot, I knew I had to bring Jolly back, and, I did with a vengeance. The hairs on the back of my neck still tingle when I read about Jolly, and I know what happens next! I hope those readers who wanted to see him again are satisfied, and they can finally decide if he is just imaginary, or somehow, a sentient character who chooses who he will appear to, and influence. How could he appear to Bobby and make him murder liars in an internet chat room, yet confront Rick McCoy and offer a lifeline to save Juliet, his wife? And, then, when Jolly appears to Juliet and offers a way to find solace, and help to keep her sanity, is he helping, or hindering her recovery?
Suffice to say, my beta readers, my editor and narrator, enjoy the juxtaposition that Jolly creates. While Rick worries, he is losing his mind, supposedly, all Jolly wants to do is save his wife’s sanity, and life.
Could such a thing actually happen? As Pat says to Rick when he finally admits to her he is seeing Jolly “We all need help at different times in our lives, sometimes more than others. Often, speaking about what is inside us helps our fears and anxieties dissipate by bringing them into the open and letting you examine them in the cold light of day. I can see Jolly seems real to you, which of course, he would, wouldn’t he? If it weren’t so real, you’d shrug it off and laugh. A psychosis, no matter how severe, is always real to the person experiencing it. It should never be shrugged off, laughed at, or ignored for that matter. You’ve been under more stress than anyone should have to bear, I’d be amazed if you didn’t come through it without some, shall we say, quirks. It doesn’t mean you’re mad or need locking up or can’t function as you are. But I think the first step for you is to understand why this is happening. Guilt is one of the most powerful motivators there is, and I think once you accept that, work with it instead of trying to fight it, you will see Jolly less and less.
Will Jolly appear in a future story?
Hmm, I am honestly not sure. From my perspective, he is a wonderful, rich character to write for. Intelligent, deep, and he keeps quoting the bible to suit any given situation. So, maybe he will. I’m not saying Jolly is appearing to me, but I sometimes, in the still of the night, hear him whispering to: “Stephen, bring me back…”
I have been asked many times, will there be more Glimpse stories?
During writing Glimpse, The Angel Shot, I believed it was to be a standalone story, and a finale for my characters, Rick, Pat, and Juliet. But, I am frequently reminded of the James Bond quote, “Never say never!”
In fact, there is now a Glimpse 5, called Glimpse, The Dinner Guest, released 13th of November 2020. This is a special project I was invited to submit a story to, and I was humbled to be selected. Me? an ego? Nah, surely not.
The rules seemed simple and interesting enough. 13 authors each publishing a dark thriller, of only 13000 words. It must feature a broken mirror, and use the words, Friday the 13th. I jumped at the chance to make my favorite all time character, Patricia Holmes take a starring role in a scary, stand-alone story, without her protector Rick McCoy to ensure she doesn’t get hurt again.
Here is the blurb:
Detective Sargent and clinical psychologist, Patricia Holmes, has been invited to a murder mystery dinner party at a small luxury hotel located in Western Australia. The dinner is a reunion party for the psychologists and psychiatrists who work at Perth’s largest mental hospital, which treats the criminally insane.
But there is an uninvited guest–a former patient who is hungry for revenge. In fact, he is ravenous. He will stop at nothing until he murders the doctor who gave him painful, electroconvulsive therapy.
Detective Sargent Holmes must stop a frenzied killer on a vicious spree—but can she save the other guests, or will she be the last one left alive?
Here is a short excerpt:
Pat knocked on the door of number ten and hoped she had caught Ruth before she went downstairs to the bar. From inside, she heard a muffled woman’s voice. “Can you get that, Tony,” The next moment, the door was yanked open, and a tall distinguished looking man wearing a tuxedo performed a double take when he saw her.
“Jesus Christ, are you all right?” he said with concern in his voice, and Pat realized the effect her slashed and bloody top had on him.
Pat gave a small laugh, which, when she glanced again at his face, grew louder, and threatened to become hysterical. “I’m fine, thank you. Dress scary, the invite said, so I did. I’ve got to say; your tuxedo isn’t scary at all. I’m Patricia Holmes and would like to have a few words with Ruth, if I can, before festivities get underway.”
He grinned and stepped back, beckoning with his head for her to enter. “Yeah, we don’t do fancy dress-ups, sorry. We’re far too dull in our old age. Come in. Ruth is applying her make up with a trowel. I’m Tony. I don’t think we’ve met?”
“Thanks, Tony, please call me Pat, everyone does. I left Graylands quite a while ago now, and even when I was there, I was only part-time. I consulted to the criminally insane, the lifers, worst of the worst. By all means, call me morbid. These days, I’m with the police.”
He pointed to the chair by the desk for her to sit then turned his head to the bathroom. “Hon, it’s Patricia Holmes. She wants a word with you before we go downstairs. Do you want me to hang around, or can I go down and mingle?”
Ruth Hawthorne stuck her head around the doorway with a lipstick clutched in her right hand. “Hello, Pat, bloody long time no see, how are you doing?” She turned her glance to her husband, “You can leave us girls. We can go down together. Is that all right, Pat? My God, I love your outfit.”
“Thanks, Ruth. I thought I’d have a bit of fun. Going down together works for me. I need a private chat anyway…”
“Sounds ominous. You get off, Tony. Pat joined the dark side and is with the police now, but I don’t think she is here to arrest me.”
Pat shook her head and smiled as Ruth disappeared back into the bathroom. Pat sat down on the seat to wait, and Tony acted like most people do around detectives; nervous and in a hurry to get away.
“Righto, see you downstairs. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Holmes.” He scampered out the door quickly, eager to either get away from her, find a strong drink, or both.
My crazy world of irony:
I love some of the ironies and humor, I created in this short story. Pat, who used to consult with murderers attends a murder mystery dinner, dressed as a murder victim and is the only police officer in the remote location to try to stop a murderer kill all the attendees. I found it funny to write that she is the only guest to use fancy dress as the invite instructed her to do. This once happened to me, many moons ago when I dressed up as Count Dracula, but the other fifty or so guests at the party wore ‘normal’ clothes. I felt like an idiot all night, though I did meet a woman who became a playmate for a while…She thought I was interesting.
In Glimpse 4, Patricia was shocked to learn that most of the other detectives in the Major Crime squad don’t want to partner her because she had been badly injured in two previous cases. In Glimpse 5, she must face a man suffering extreme paranoid schizophrenia, intent on ridding the word of as many psychologists as he can, and Pat is a psychologist.
Why a short story in the Glimpse series?
I am reminded of the adage, less is more, and for writers, that means the less you say, the more impact it can have. So, the challenge for me was only writing 13000 words featuring a character I love writing for, when sometimes I could just write, and write and write… Then, before I know it, I’m approaching 100,000 novel limit. When I read through The Dinner Guest, as I have so many times now, I realize just how much I was able to say, with so few words, and I am thrilled with the result. I am tempted to perhaps write a few more short stories, or novellas for Pat, and Rick, in their own anthology. We shall see how Book 5 is received, and if there is a demand from my loyal reader.
Well, as I said earlier, never say never.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, and the chance to chat about my Glimpse world.