Beer Cans and Tombstones with Guest Annette Dashofy

News Flash: Annette’s winners are Debbie Lacey, RB, and Jennifernew. Congratulations to all, and please check your email.

Edith/Maddie writing from a chilly north of Boston, but never too cold to welcome Annette Dashofy back to the blog. She has an intriguing new series debuting with Where the Guilty Hide, and a generous giveaway. My copy is ordered and I can’t wait to read it!

Isn’t that a fabulous cover? Here’s the blurb:

Erie City Detective Matthias Honeywell has been investigating a spate of home invasions but when one of the robbery victims turns up dead, his case evolves into homicide. The last thing freelance photographer Emma Anderson expects to capture is a dead body. Emma’s first encounter with Detective Honeywell leaves her shaken when he reminds her of her ex-fiancé-turned-stalker. Matthias misinterprets Emma’s anxiety and suspects she knows more than she’s letting on.

With the threat of another murder, Emma and Matthias must overcome their mutual distrust and work together to capture a killer?

Tombstones and Beer Cans: Where Ideas Come From

As writers, sometimes we go in search of ideas for a new story. Other times the ideas seem to lie in wait for us to find them.

A few years ago, I was taking a stroll through our local cemetery. It’s one of my favorite places to walk and reflect…and come up with story ideas or character names. I had my camera and was seeking out photographic writing prompts, which I’d been posting to my local Sisters in Crime chapter. And wow, did I come across one!

I spotted a relatively new grave marker at the edge of the road. The stone wasn’t decorated with flowers or flags as usual, but with a pair of crushed beer cans.

(Note: Personal details have been covered to protect the privacy of the grieving family.)

If that wasn’t an image begging to have a story created around it, I don’t know what is. Allowing myself a bit of selfishness, I kept this writing prompt for myself!

The idea that came to me first was probably close to the truth, considering the images on the marker. A heartbroken widow shares a beer with her lost love from time to time. Sad and beautiful, but I don’t write that kind of story.

I decided it was a guy thing. A man brings a pair of beers to the grave of his old drinking buddy and best pal. They can no longer sit at a bar and rehash the day, so he must commiserate here, in this lonely place.

The idea became part of Matthias Honeywell’s backstory in Where the Guilty Hide. And it shows up very early in the book.

A nearby sound jarred her from her thoughts. A short, rattling crackle she couldn’t quite identify. She moved toward a large shade tree and the direction from which the sound had come. Easing around the trunk, she realized she was wrong about being alone. Less than twenty feet away, a man sat on the ground in front of one of the granite markers, his back to her. His dark hair renewed the chill and stirred a tsunami-force wave of panic.

Clay had found her. Dear God, he’d found her.

Before she could bolt, her phone rang. The man at the grave turned towards the sound and her, his expression fierce. Even in the fading light, she could tell, other than the hair, he bore no resemblance to Clay.

 And after the phone call:

Pocketing the device, she peered around the tree. The man at the grave was gone. Curious, she approached the stone where he’d been sitting. The tombstone was a newer one surrounded by older monuments bearing the same last name. Glossy granite with an inset of a badge. An eagle topped a circle bearing the words Bureau of Police, City of Erie, PA. The carving identified the fallen officer as Nicholas Tucci and his date of death five years ago. Emma did the math. He’d been forty-nine. According to the other engravings, he’d been a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. The ground in front of the stone had been dug up, red and white geraniums planted and recently dead-headed. Less decorative, two crumpled beer cans rested among the flowers.

That was the sound Emma had heard. Aluminum being crushed.

She searched the grounds for the man who’d left them behind, but only the dead and the long shadows cast by the trees remained. She knelt, lifted her camera, and captured several photos of the grave and the beer cans. There was a story here. But she remembered the ferocity of the man’s expression when he realized he wasn’t alone. Somehow, she didn’t think it was a story he wanted to share.

The man Emma sees is, of course, Matthias.

One fateful walk in a cemetery provided an image that stuck with me and became a character, his backstory, and the catalyst of an entire novel.

Readers, have you ever encountered an oddity that made you imagine the circumstances surrounding it? Writers, have you ever had one unexpected moment launch a story idea? I’ll send three commenters a Kindle version of Where the Guilty Hide.

USA Today bestseller Annette Dashofy is the author of over a dozen novels including the five-time Agatha Award nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic-turned-coroner in rural Pennsylvania. Her standalone novel, Death By Equine is the 2021 winner of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award for excellence in thoroughbred racing literature. Where the Guilty Hide (One More Chapter/HarperCollins UK, January 20, 2023) is the first in her new Detective Honeywell series set on the shores of Lake Erie.

37 Thoughts

  1. I am looking forward to starting your new series, Thank you for this glimpse into your creative process. As someone who is not very creative, it’s fascinating.

  2. When we lived in the southern part of the state, we found out there was a cemetery within traveling distance from us for a day trip that had a whole section dedicated to circus related people. Having been a fan and then a long, time friend with Emmett Kelly Jr. as well as a clown ourselves the pull to the cemetery seemed only normal. Walking through both the elaborate headstones and the unadorned as well, we could imagine the life they had and the place they must have traveled to wondering how they all ended up in this place. So much so that when we got home, I started doing research about the people buried there from the photos I had taken. What I found was fascinating, interesting and sometimes very sad. I started each day posting on my Facebook page about one of those buried there. I was amazed at how many people found my post extremely interesting. I was totally amazed when relatives, friends and fellow circus personnel started to comment starting long conversations about the person and the circus life.

    OH, I would love the opportunity to read and review “Where the Guilty Hide” because it sounds fabulous, but medical issues prevent me from reading kindle versions. I can’t sit at the computer long enough to do the book justice or to satisfy my need to read more. Whoever wins will most definitely be very fortunate.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Big time congratulations on the new book baby, Annette! That passage you shared with us is spine chilling! Cheers!

  4. First, let me say that I love the Zoe Chambers series. Second, when driving through small Texas towns and seeing what obviously were once grand old homes left to ruin, I conjure stories in my mind of the families who lived there and why they abandoned the home.

  5. When walking through a cemetery in a small village in the mountains of Argentina, I saw a lot of plastic soda bottles around the graves. This disturbed me because I thought there sure were a lot of disrespectful litterers. But later I learned that they were in lieu of flowers (hard to obtain or grow at such high altitudes). I love learning the customs and the reasons behind them in other cultures.

  6. See, this is why you are a successful novelist, Annette. Your imagination just runs with such an image, where the rest of us might just see litter! And wow, what you’ve made from that image. I’m in awe.

    Congratulations, and I look forward to meeting this new cast of characters.

  7. Happy book birthday! What an eerie photo and heartfelt tribute to the fallen. Can’t wait to read WHERE THE GUILTY HIDE!

    I think all of my books have been inspired by moments – a plastic bag floating from the wheelhouse of a sunken ship, a glimpse of rocky shore under a boardwalk…

  8. Love learning the backstory of a new -and intriguing – book. Happy book birthday! As for me, I always wonder the story behind a single sneaker on the side of the road.

  9. Cemetery walks are full of introspective moments for me, especially since I now live near my ancestors’ resting place, on the National Historic Registry of cemeteries. The concept of the new series is a “WOW” for me. I’m on my way to order #1 now. Best of luck with the launch. 🙂

  10. Oh! Congratulations on your book!!!!!! I Do Love the cover because who doesn’t feel the Big Secrets in a Small Town when you first move there and you are the outsider! Been there! Cemeteries! I work non-stop for clients on their family trees and go to cemeteries for research. There are precious and heartbreaking stories to be written between the dates of those tombstones. :)Jen

  11. When there was an early morning fire in the apartment unit next to us, our dog was determined I was going to wake up. I went to the restroom, but after I left there, I noticed there was smoke in the hall. I was able to get dressed and get out.

    My Mom lived across the street. In the meantime, a gentleman was knocking on her door, calling her by name telling her that I needed her (he called me by name too). As our dog and I crossed the street, I saw a gentleman walking toward the corner. My Mom and I are the only two people who saw the gentleman. When we called in the fire, it had already been called in.

  12. The winners of a Kindle copy of Where the Guilty Hide are:
    Debbie Lacey, RB, and jenniferjnew! Your books will be coming to your inbox shortly!
    Congratulations! And thanks for commenting!

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