Friday, June 1, 2012

EARL STAGGS: THE STORY BEHIND MEMORY OF A MURDER

It is our pleasure to have Earl Staggs back to talk about the making of his novel MEMORY OF A MURDER which  earned a long list of Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N.  A two time Derringer Award winning author, he has had many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.  His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for writers online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. Visit his Website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com and  friend him on facebook.com/Earl Staggs. E-mail him at earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net~~~

THE STORY BEHIND THE NOVEL

I find it interesting  how authors come  to write a particular novel or story. With that in mind, this is how a short story of mine eventually led me to write my first mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.

“By the end of this class, each one of you will have written a short mystery story.”

The instructor made that announcement the first night.

Gulp.

When I signed up for a class at the community college called “Writing Mystery,” I thought someone was going to teach me how, not make me do it right away. Okay, I reasoned, she’s a professor at the college, so if she says we can do it, I suppose we can.

I had no idea where to start, but not knowing how had never stopped me from doing anything before.

We had to come up with a protagonist, of course. I decided to write about a former FBI agent who is now a private investigator. That would give him the training and expertise to pursue the bad guys. I named him Adam Kingston. He would also have some psychic ability. I’d always been interested in psychic phenomena and loved reading about real-life psychics using their gift to help law enforcement agencies solve crimes. These were not the storefront psychics who wear flowing robes and put on a bizarre show. They were also not the kind who will tell you everything you want to hear over the telephone for three dollars a minute. They were ordinary people who lived ordinary lives when not using their special gift.
Adam wouldn’t see dead people. A medium does that, not a psychic. When he touched an object related to a crime or visited a crime scene, he would receive fleeting images which might lead him in the right direction or might only confuse him. That’s how it is with real-life psychics. They don’t always understand what they see. As Adam himself explains, “It’s not an exact science.” For the most part, Adam would rely on his FBI experience and old-fashioned police work.

By the end of the class, as the instructor said, I finished my short story. I called it “The Missing Sniper.” After more than a few rewrites, the story was accepted by both a print magazine and an ezine and appeared in both at the same time. Never before or since then have I known that to happen.

Recently, “The Missing Sniper” was republished as an ebook novella by Untreed Reads.I received a lot of excellent feedback about “The Missing Sniper.” People seemed to like Adam Kingston and how he used his gift. That led me to the  idea of featuring him in a novel.

That’s when I learned how little I knew about writing a book.

For the next couple years, I read a lot of books telling how to write books and pushed ahead on my own book one slow and agonizing chapter at a time. Eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime in rewrite hell, my novel was finished.


Another two years dragged by before MEMORY OF A MURDER was actually published, and I’m happy to say it received a long list of Five Star reviews.

I was honored to receive a blurb from legendary crime writer Warren Murphy. Murphy wrote or co-wrote more than 200 books, most notably The Destroyer (Remo Williams) series and screenplays, including Lethal Weapon 2 and The Eiger Sanction. His awards include the Edgar and Shamus (both twice). He said, "Memory of a Murder by Earl Staggs is a stunning book, an absolute wow of a novel. It is beautifully plotted, its characters -- especially Adam Kingston, the retired FBI problem solver -- jump off the page with life and once you're drawn into the author's world, there's no putting this book down. It's hard to believe this is a first novel. One only hopes that out in Hollywood, someone is paying attention because this story belongs on the big screen. Right away. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to more novels about Adam Kingston."


EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE



“Adam Kingston! Get your skinny butt out of that bed.”


Her voice cut through his sleep and made him cringe. He pulled his face out of his pillow, forced one eye open, and turned his head far enough for a squinting glance around. Yes. He was in his own bedroom.


He opened the other eye and focused on the figure standing at the foot of his bed. Slim, well-dressed, skin the color of cocoa, arms folded across her chest, dark eyes boring into him. He plunged his face back into his pillow and mumbled, “Dammit, Ellie.”


“Get up.”


“What time is it?”


“After eight.”


“How much after?”


“A minute or two. Get up.”


“I can’t get up. I’m dead.”


“You can die later.”


Adam pulled the sheet over his head only to have it quickly jerked off him. He groped for it with no success. He rolled onto his back and checked to see if his skivvies were covering what they were supposed to cover, then looked up at Ellie. “Where’s Phil?”


“Home in bed.”


“How come Phil gets to sleep and I have to get up?”


“Today’s his day off.”


Adam groaned. “It’s my day off, too, dammit. Come on, Ellie—” He interrupted himself with a yawn that shivered all the way down to his toes. “I just got back from a trip and didn’t get to bed till after three. What the hell are you doing in my bedroom at this ungodly hour?”


“Junior’s in trouble, and I need you to do your thing.”

      —To be continued—
You can read  the rest  of   Chapter One and learn more about MEMORY OF A MURDER on Earl's website at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

You can purchase his book at amazon.com and B&N.

                                                                                               ~~~~

If you like mysteries, who is your favorite hero in a book or in a TV mystery/crime series? What traits make him likeable?

9 comments:

Ruby Johnson said...

Earl:
What a great "behind the story" tale. After reading the excerpt I ordered your book! I sure others will give it a read also. Thanks for sharing.

J. A. Bennett said...

I agree with Ruby, very inspiring. I love the excerpt too! Thanks for sharing :)

George said...

Thank you Earl. A lot to think about and a couple of hints in here for how to help writers.

kimberlypackard said...

This is great! Thank you, Earl!

Earl Staggs said...

Ruby, I'm so happy you ordered my book. I'll be even happier if, after you've read it, you liked it.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment. Much appreciated.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I thought I commented on this post, but I'm not here, so I guess not. I loved MEMORY OF A MURDER and eagerly await the next Adam Kingston book.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I agree with Caroline. I very much enjoyed Memory of a Murder. It's a well-written mystery novel. I took the time to review the novel because I wanted to let other mystery readers know.

Jacqueline Seewald
DEATH LEGACY
THE TRUTH SLEUTH

Earl Staggs said...

Caroline, thanks for coming by and leaving kind words behind. I'm happy to report the sequel to MEMORY is in the works, and no one is more anxious to see it finished than this guy.

Jacqueline, it's always a pleasure hearing from you. Many thanks for the comments and warm regards to you.

About Bobbi C. said...

Earl--I love these "behind the book" stories. Thanks for sharing yours with us. Happy trails! bobbi c.

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