When I first included readers in my mysteries, it seemed to be an interesting venue. One of the most corrupt insane asylums in American history: the Stockton State Insane Asylum, circa 1887. Having never done anything like this, I figured I would use actual information from the winners of my contest raffle and describe these attributes as if they were attributes of my fictional character portrayal of them.
It worked out well. Five women won the raffle: Kathy Yantis, Jessica Walek, Angela Thoma, Lisa Wilkinson, and Sydney Reyes. They would all be crafted into characters, and I had permission from them to use their names and their “characteristics” to weave my plot inside the asylum. They all understood and were eager to portray insane asylum patients!
The title for the third mystery in my Portia of the Pacific series was The Stockton Insane Asylum Murder, and the cover was done by Mirna Gilman at BooksGoSocial in Dublin.
We became good friends over the months I wrote the plot for the mystery. In fact, Lisa Wilkinson pitched-in and created a very professional looking book trailer that I used in promotions:
It went so well that I held another contest for my sixth mystery, The Dancing Murders, but I reduced the number of readers appearing in the novel to three: Heaven Riendeau, Anand Probhakar, and Kai “Krissy” Wong. I chose only one of these women to portray one of the four suspects, and it was Heaven. It was “heaven” with a bit of witchcraft, I must admit. Now my story gets a bit strange and an example of what I call “mystical synchronicity.”
What happened was that I was winding up the creation of my four first person suspect narratives, and Heaven’s narrative was last. As I added my final twists of plot, I saw that her Facebook page (we’re friends) showed some gifts her children had purchased for her (she lives in Maine, like Stephen King). One of the gifts was staring back at me, and I couldn’t believe what I saw:
I swear on my mother’s grave that I had included this same “evil eye protection symbol” in the dance her character does at the climax of my mystery! I never mentioned this fact to her, and her children purchased this book without knowledge about my plot or her character’s actions in my novel. If you read the novel, the sixth in my series, you’ll see how wondrous this coincidence is. In fact, as I told Heaven, her character is going to be “upgraded” in the plot for my seventh mystery in the series, which also takes place in San Diego. As an Advaita Vendanta follower, I realize everything’s connected, and this is just one more example to prove to me that we authors are actually shamans in disguise!
I always begin my research with an idea of how to connect the present with the past. For example, here’s a vlog post I wrote that explores the sex-trafficking issue:
Speaking of connections, why don’t you enter this raffle to become a character and possible suspect in the seventh mystery Evil Eye Murders? You can win a free signed copy of the paperback.
The Dancing Murders is now taking pre-orders in digital format on Amazon. You can discover for yourself how I was channeling Heaven’s witchcraft and her kids responded!
Speaking of connections, why don’t you enter my raffle to become a character and possible suspect in the seventh mystery, Evil Eye Murders, set in San Diego, circa 1889? You get fame and glory and a signed copy of the paperback version of the final novel.
If you’re an author, take a look at my free lesson on converting your own mystery into a “choose your suspect” format.
Listen to the author read a chapter from The Dancing Murders: