As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Mark W. Danielson is visiting my blog today, with an article about how he developed the plot for his latest release, Spectral Gallows. To read Mark's bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Mark is running a contest for a free autographed copy of Spectral Gallows, the cover art for which appears above. Mark will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the name in a comment on this post.
In the book, Maxx Watts and partner Blaine Spartan blow through the door of The Chuck Wagon Diner, grabbing a table before the lunch crowd hits. They quickly pick up on a heated dialog at the next table concerning police fabricating a suicide ruling. "I tell you, it was murder!" spits out a hulky man dressed in black, slamming his fist on the table. Confronting the two men, "Hulk" bails out, leaving his companion behind. The detectives are told the argument concerned an uncle who hanged himself in the Scott Theater over forty years ago. Riveted by the man's claim, Watts and Spartan visit the dungeon where the death occurred. The phenomena they see and whispers of murder commit them to resolving the case. Had the dead man's spirit been leaving clues or had this all been a diversion so another murder could take place? Uncertain whether to believe in the netherworld, Watts must confront his father's past to determine his future with CSI tech Daisy Woods.
Sounds like an interesting read to me! Below is Mark's article.
I’m probably going out on a limb by saying that every novel is inspired by real-life events, but I do believe it. I found this especially true for my latest release, Spectral Gallows – a story I never planned to write. At the time, I was well into the sequel for Writer’s Block, the first in my Maxx Watts detective series, when I returned from an international trip, exhausted. For those who have spent long hours on an airplane, you know how changing time zones and endless vibration can transform you into a Zombie. Multiply that times ten and you can understand how physically demanding an airline pilot’s two week trip can be.
As I lay in bed, my body trembling, my brain struggling to shut down, an idea came to mind. Why not write about a character who is drunk on sleep? The premise excited me so much I jotted it down before I drifted off. When I was mentally prepared to resume my writing, I set the first sequel aside. Who knew that agonizing unrest could be a muse for murder mysteries?
For reasons I cannot explain, my shattered physical state easily transferred to a down-and-out Vietnam Veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the opening scene, the vet and his much younger buddy are arguing over a forty-plus year old death in Fort Worth’s Scott Theater. The veteran was insisting it was murder, not suicide when Homicide Detectives Maxx Watts and Blaine Spartan walked in, referring to the actor who hanged himself in the theater’s basement. Later, as the detectives visit the theater to see where the death occurred, they hear unexplained sounds like someone calling out murder, except there is no one else around. By the way, the Scott Theater is a real location that has been certified as haunted by a dead actor’s spirit.
As I said, I didn’t stumble onto this story – it was sent to me in my sleep. And since my writing comes from subconscious thoughts, I allow my characters to lead me through their stories. Of course, I could not write this novel without first researching paranormal activity and quantum mechanics. My paranormal and physics experts’ contributions were stunningly illuminating.
By coincidence, paranormal themes seem to be “in” right now, but that isn’t why I wrote Spectral Gallows. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about our suffering veterans, past and present, and imagine how difficult their lives must be. Hopefully my readers will recognize these veterans’ sacrifices as they are drawn into this story. It was fun pitting believers against non-believers while keeping the reader guessing as to its outcome. I should mention that although I’ve never had a ghostly encounter, evidence suggests there is far more to our existence than our present dimension.
While every author’s writing style differs, there are only two ways to create. You either outline or you don’t, and from my experience, the split is nearly equal. But regardless of which technique is used, a well-written story will always transport its reader to another place. That’s the beauty of fiction.
Beth, thank you for having me as your guest. Spectral Gallows will be released on November 15, 2013 in published and e-book formats. More information about me and my books can be found on my website.
Thanks, Mark! Now, who has a comment or question for Mark W. Danielson? Good luck in the contest!