Monday, January 23, 2017



Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman… alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.


Getting The Details Right In Fiction

One of the trickiest things about writing fiction is getting details correct, especially in areas where the writer doesn’t have personal experience. For example, I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve also never found a dead body or investigated a homicide. This makes it tough to accurately portray a killer, a witness, or a detective.

And in my fiction, I do all three.

So what’s a writer to do?

In my experience, it’s a combination of research and common sense.

A writer also has to be prepared to have experts point out mistakes in their published novels and be gracious about it. It will be tempting to correct their grammar while they do so, but bite your tongue, smile, and say thank you.

For research, I love to read nonfiction in the subjects pertaining to a specific manuscript. Whether it’s cheating at cards or narcissistic personality disorder, there are plenty of great resources out there written by experts. I read about areas I know I’ll need help with before I start a manuscript.

Once I start writing the manuscript, I continue to do research, either online or in nonfiction books. I also keep a running list of questions for an expert.

After I’ve written the first solid draft—my writing process includes a lot of rewriting as I go, so “first draft” is a bit misleading—I contact experts in the various disciplines explored in the work.

This is my favorite part about being a writer. Experts love to talk about the things they are passionate about. I have gotten to tour through a working glass factory, gone on rides with the fire department, and have a long-standing relationship with a homicide detective.

I’ve also interviewed veterans about PTSD, spoken with beekeepers about colony collapse disorder, and spent time with people at a mental health facility. These experiences stay with me and dictate not just the words I put on the page, but also how I see the world.

Talking with experts is the best way I know how to sprinkle my fiction with real-world jargon, specific details, and accurate depictions. It’s also a great way to figure out plot points and actions that might not otherwise occur to me. The opening to the second book in my series, Two Heads Are Deader Than One, completely changed after a conversation with my expert in homicide detection. Without talking to him, I might never have figured out a great way to get my protagonist into trouble in the first place.

Then comes the common sense part. This is hard because you don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes I get information wrong because I never knew to ask a certain question. So the first thing a writer has to develop is a keen sense of “why do I think that?”

If the answer is, because that’s how I’ve seen it portrayed over and over again on TV and in the movies, a red flag should be going up.

From homicide investigation tactics, to weapons, to medical emergencies, the public has been fed a steady stream of inaccurate depictions of crime and the people who deal with it on a daily basis.

One of the things I include with my questions for my experts are all the details I think I have correct. So, in addition to asking “how would you…” I also say, “I believe the following is true…” and make sure I verify what I think I know with someone who actually does.

Truth is stranger than fiction. It’s also important to people. Getting things “right” in your fiction shows readers you care about the characters you write and the world they live in. It also shows you care about the world you live in. With the recent explosion of fake news and a lack of respect for what’s true, fiction writers have an even greater duty to “get things right.”

The bottom line? Do the best you can, your readers will forgive your human errors and appreciate how hard you try. Own your mistakes and move on.


After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduces Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct,” by author Peter Clines, I’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”

In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.

When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs.” Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

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