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Liz Milliron on Bibles (No, Not THAT Bible)

Edith here, still delighted with having my long-distance son home for a long visit.

I’m also delighted to have Liz Milliron back on the blog with her new Laurel Highlands Mystery releasing today! Check out the blurb for Harm Not the Earth:

When Southwest Pennsylvania’s summer rains flood the Casselman River, State Police Trooper Jim Duncan finds a John Doe body in what is initially believed to be a tragic accident. But when a second victim, John Doe’s partner in an environmental group at odds with a nearby quarry operation, is rescued, all thoughts of accidental drowning are abandoned. After Jim is invited to join the official investigation, he begins to think a career shift might be in his future.

Meanwhile, Assistant Public Defender Sally Castle is approached by an abused woman who is accused of murdering her abuser. Although the rules prevent Sally from taking the case, she steps outside her office to help the woman and discover the truth. As their separate cases become intertwined, Jim and Sally struggle to determine if their new paths can be traveled together or if they will divide their newly repaired relationship. And equally important, will they be able to bring a killer to justice before another innocent life is lost?

Read Your Bible

Thanks to all the Wickeds for having me back for the launch of Harm Not the Earth, the fourth in my Laurel Highlands Mysteries series. It’s always a pleasure to visit.

Now that I’m four books into the series, I figured it was time to get serious about a series bible. Dedicated readers and authors know what I’m talking about – that record of all of your characters and locations in a series that keeps you straight. What color eyes does your character have? What kind of car does she drive? Where is the post office in relation to Bob’s Diner? That kind of thing.

I thought this would be an academic exercise. After all, I use Scrivener to write and I kept Character and Location sheets for every book. All I had to do was transcribe that information into a central location. Piece of cake.

The first step was to decide on a tool. After some waffling, I decided to use Airtable, which is a kind of online spreadsheet, but it allows for more templates and options than plain old Excel. Bonus: it’s free and I was already using it for something else.

I sat down and cracked open Root of All Evil, the first book in the series. There were all my character sheets, all nicely filled out. I had a little backfilling to do, but not too bad. I’d have this task done in a day.

On to Heaven Has No Rage. The main character sheets were pretty good, since I’d copied them from the first book. But the secondary characters were…spotty, yeah, that’s a good word. And hey, where was the sheet for one of the key antagonists? Well, I’d come to that character a bit late in the process so it was understandable they didn’t have a sheet. It wasn’t too hard to fill in the information. I only had to search for the type of car they drove.

Next up, Broken Trust. Never mind trust, I’d broken my record-keeping. The character sheets had little information, mostly age and where they lived. Maybe a few physical details and the character’s role in the story. Um, what had I been thinking? I checked the sheets for the main recurring characters. I hadn’t updated them for the new story. Oops.

Finally, Harm Not the Earth. Oh wow. I’d really lost it. The character sheets were little more than name, age and town of residence. No physical details. No cars. No…nothing. It’s like I’d become so confident in my record-keeping, I’d assumed I’d done it when I really hadn’t. I spent over an hour searching the manuscript for details, trying to remember motivations. Ugh.

Then the locations. Dear reader, it wasn’t much better.

After this, I took a break. I need a snack and an adult beverage.

I was afraid to move on to The Homefront Mysteries. I was right to be afraid. Aside from my main recurring characters, I had little information in any of the three books, including next February’s release, The Lessons We Learn. Mama mia.

An exercise that should have taken no more than and hour or two, turned into two days of rifling through manuscripts, digging through memories, and, in some cases, backfilling information (such as birth dates). The best thing I can say is that it’s done. Well, almost. There is one more Laurel Highlands book to backfill, Lie Down with Dogs which comes out next August. But I’ll do that later this year as I’m revising the manuscript for submission.

At least I’ve learned my lesson. From now on, complete those character and location sketches as I think of them. And I mean more than a name. Because we all know the biggest lie we tell ourselves: I’ll remember that, I don’t have to write it down.

I’m sure future me will be thankful.

Edith: Speaking as someone about to write book #11 in a series, I can attest: future you will be ecstatic, Liz! And grateful.

Readers: Is there something you were sure you were doing, but later found out that you hadn’t been as diligent as you thought? What happened?

Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and The Home Front Mysteries, set in Buffalo, NY during the early years of World War II. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Pennwriters, and International Thriller Writers. Now an empty-nester, Liz lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband and a retired-racer greyhound.

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