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A Year Filled with Blessings!

Who would have thought that 2018 would bring about such wonderful growth for Higher Ground Books & Media!  At the beginning of the year, I had a couple of goals for our little publishing company.  One, I wanted to sign two new authors.  Two, I wanted to publish at least five new titles.  These were fairly conservative goals and I wasn't sure we would be able to accomplish either of them.  Things were slow at the beginning of the year.  Lots of starts and stops.  A few sour grapes along the way.  Some unfortunate incidents with less than reputable individuals who were not dealing above board.  And a few months of weary soul-searching about whether or not it even made sense to keep going.  And then, suddenly...a breakthrough.

I prayed and prayed for God to help me figure out the direction I needed to take.  And He delivered the most awesome message to me.  He said, "Trust Me."  And in the midst of conflict and disappointment, I handed it all over to Him once again and…

The Mystery of Mysteries...

By Rebecca Benston

As a mystery writer, I'm always trying to come up with new ways to surprise my readers.  After ten books with the same character, it's possible that I may be running out of ideas.  Most of my favorite mystery authors have written the same characters for twenty or more books and they are still kicking.  Sadly, my favorite author, Sue Grafton, passed away this year before being able to pen the 26th installment of her alphabet mystery series.  I'd been following this series for the better part of twenty years and so, I'm a little sad that we'll never have closure for her characters.  In answer to this sadness, my mind started going about a million miles an hour with some new ideas for my own character, Rona Shively. 

I've done almost everything imaginable to this character.  I've put her through a number of trials including losing her parents and even losing a child.  She's experienced more grief than any person should experience.  Sadly, she hasn't really gone through more than any normal person goes through during their lifetime.  Sometimes, we're so busy coping with the grief that we don't even realize that we have gone through more than any person ever should.  So, what can I possibly do to keep my readers engaged?  I think that's the real mystery.  I was reading an article by Zorba Books titled, "How to Pen a Mystery Novel" and I was a little surprised at their criteria.  Not because it didn't make sense, but because I had unwittingly followed their advice.  I tend to play fast and loose with the rules of writing, so the fact that I actually do the things they said a writer should do made me feel a whole lot better about myself.

Some of the things mentioned in the article included creating suspense in the first few lines or the first chapter should have a major attention-grabbing detail.  Of course, any writer wants to pull a reader in immediately simply to keep them reading.  I know if I'm not hooked within the first page or so, I'm likely to stop reading and never go back.  Another thing the article mentioned was that you should aim to make your reader a "cheerleader" for your character.  Usually, creating an underdog will pull the average Joe or Jane into a story and give them a reason to care what happens to your character.  And another element that a writer needs to include in a good mystery are red herrings.  You must throw in a few details to keep your reading guessing...incorrectly.  Lead them down the wrong path and then, at the last possible moment, jerk the rug out from under them.  The most excellent mystery authors will have you questioning your better judgment for years after you've read their story's conclusion.

The article was very informative and I'm including a link here so that you can read the whole thing if you're so inclined.  As of the writing of this post, I've been thinking of new and exciting ways to torment my character.  I sat her on the bench after the last book and I wasn't sure I'd let her do anything else, but lately she's been tugging at my sleeve.  So, Rona, you asked for this.  I don't want to hear you complaining halfway through the book that you didn't sign up for this crap.  I promise, I'll at least give your suffering purpose.  Where have I heard this before?  Strangely, art does imitate life and in much the same way my character has been "benched," I've found that I, myself have been on the bench waiting for God to put me back in the game.  So here we go, I'm suited up...not at all athletic, but at least I can try to look the part.  I'm poised and ready to write.  Let the games begin.

If you haven't read The Rona Shively Stories, you can find all ten installments at our bookstore here.  You've got a little time to catch up before the next book is out.  ;)