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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.

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