This is my second book from Diane Dixon and I have to say I’m becoming a fan. It’s so nice to find a new writer whose style and work you really like.
This is a story of two very broken people who somehow find solace in one another. In a very odd yet poetic way they save each other. It’s hard to say much about the story without giving spoilers so I’ll say I read it in under two evenings. A real page turner. And the writing itself is such a joy to read that it makes you want to keep going.
My only problem with the book was it got a little head hoppy starting at about the halfway mark. Which caused some confusion for me – also there were a few places when it seems like there should’ve been a scene break and there wasn’t.
Although of the two books I’ve read from this author, I would recommend her to anyone.
Today’s indie author is MJ Belko. In her article she discusses the irony of not being a mystery reader and yet having written a mystery picture book for kids. Take it away, MJ.
I Don’t Read Mysteries
I don’t read mysteries. I know, a pox upon me. I don’t mind watching them, but I never felt compelled to read one. I’m more of a nonfiction reader. As a writer, picture books are my wheelhouse. So, how did I end up writing Winthrop Risk, Detective—The Mystery of the Missing Hamster, an early reader with a nine-year-old detective who sounds like he just stepped out of a Raymond Chandler novel?
I certainly don’t have any disdain for the mystery genre. I’m a rabid fan of Benedict Cumberbatch as a modern version of Sherlock Holmes. I loved Derek Jacobi as Cadfael on PBS. But write one? Not on your life. Plot twists and red herrings just aren’t my thing.
Picture books have always been my first love and I’ve written several, though I haven’t found a publisher for them. I can only say that I stumbled upon my little detective. He emerged out of an unfocused daydream, his character fully formed in my mind.
Winthrop Risk is a boy of about nine. He’s smaller than his classmates and is considered by them to be something of a dork and an oddity. Winthrop, however, has no doubts as to his skills. He’s a first-rate gumshoe, and he knows it. The school bully has it in for him and could easily beat the snot out of him, but Winthrop never runs from him. He stands his ground. Without fuss. Without yelling. Without threatening to tell the teacher. Winthrop isn’t a boy on a journey of self-discovery (*gag*)—he knows damn well who he is. I like that about him.
My inspiration came from a Steve Martin movie from years ago, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. If you haven’t seen it, it’s brilliant. Steve Martin plays a hard-boiled detective in the Philip Marlowe mold. The movie was filmed in black and white, with scenes from old detective films spliced in to create a story. It’s all there—the wisecracking detective, the beautiful dame, and the usual suspects; but I still didn’t have the framework for writing a mystery.
I began to watch more mysteries on TV. I gorged on episodes of Murder, She Wrote and some of the more current “cozy” mysteries. There’s a definite pattern to these stories. An ordinary citizen, usually female, has a fascination with mysteries and routinely finds herself knee deep in corpses. Because Winthrop was to be the hard-boiled detective type, I picked up a couple of Raymond Chandler novels and dove in. Chandler had a fascinating way with the English language. Before I had the plot fully worked out, I had a great deal of Winthrop’s witty repertoire written. I formed the story around that. The thing I found to be most interesting about the TV mystery shows and books is that the mystery itself is never really that baffling. In fact, I’ve played games of Clue that were tougher to solve. So what’s the selling point? It’s the main character and the backdrop of the story. The sleuth in these stories is always a keen observer, usually with no police training or experience. In fact, of the mystery shows I’ve watched, the main characters include a Crusader-era friar, a baker, a librarian, a writer, a general contractor, a bookstore owner, and an antiques dealer. Somehow, they end up stumbling over dead bodies at every turn. The backdrop is usually some cozy little town straight off a postcard.
Naturally, I had to tone down the plot for my young audience, so there will be no dead bodies in the Winthrop Risk series. Winthrop’s first adventure has him trying to find out what happened to the class pet, a hamster. He’s hired by a classmate out of sheer desperation. Over the four chapters of the book, Winthrop proves himself to be more than capable of solving the mystery, earning the grudging respect of his peers. He’s funny, smart, confident, and has a definite way with words. I think Philip Marlowe would like him.
With a bit of research and observation, I think I accomplished what I set out to do. I have an interesting and relatable main character with witty dialogue, a missing pet, a class bully, and a “like” interest (that’s as heated as it gets for a nine-year-old). The trick with the sequel is to let the characters grow just a little bit, without outgrowing the elementary school backdrop. The sequel will involve slightly more risky circumstances—a gang of thieves stealing from Winthrop’s school. We’ll learn more about Winthrop’s home life and why he never talks about his dad. We’ll learn about the school ghost and what’s really going on at the local railroad yard.
Writing Winthrop Risk was a huge step outside of my comfort zone, but I love how it turned out. Don’t be afraid to take some risks of your own with your writing. That path you’ve wandered down a few times could lead to something terrific.
MJ Belko (O’Leary) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963 to an Irish family of cops, firemen, and the occasional priest. She is a US Army veteran of the Cold War era and spent about seven years as a lieutenant on her city’s Community Emergency Response Team. After working for an arson investigator, a private investigator, homeschooling two sons, and spending years as a medical transcriptionist editing medical reports, she finally decided to pursue her dream of being a writer. She released her first children’s book, “Winthrop Risk, Detective”, on Amazon in 2016. MJ currently resides in Michigan with her husband of more than 30 years.
Indeed, Lizzie Keen is alive. Her death was faked with the help of Mr. Kaplan and once again with reiteration of the theme of this show of ‘keeping Lizzie safe.’ I have to say I feel vindicated, at least a little. I just knew Liz wasn’t gone for good. Although, like many of you, I expected her to show up in the Fall season opener, rather than in the finale of this season.
A question of paternity
And naturally, as soon as they answered the ‘Is she really dead?’ question they laid another on us – ‘Is Alexander Kirk really Liz’s father? I, like many Blacklist fans, harbor the belief that Red is Lizzie’s real dad and will probably cling to that belief until the show’s writers prove otherwise. I don’t believe that Kirk is anything other than a red herring brought in to confuse us and Liz. What do you think?
Other cliffhanging questions
Also the show left us hanging as to the fate of Tom Keen and Mr. Kaplan, who was last scene with her face in a not too happy Red’s hands. Would he really dispose of his loyal and reliable cleaner? And what of Tom? Has he finally used up his last of nine lives? I think we’ll be seeing him again. Perhaps Mr. Kaplan will have to fake his death too.
In the meantime, I’ll have to comfort myself with reruns from this season, hunting for hidden clues that eluded me in the first viewing.
What about you? Do you think Mr. Kaplan is toast? What about Tom? Did they kill him or is he just stashed in a Russian prison, catching mice and cockroaches for dinner? Is Alexander Kirk Liz’s father, or is this another head fake from the writers? And will the rescue for Liz occur in the new season opener or are they going to make us work for it? Feel free to share your opinions and theories in the comments.
I don’t know about you, but I am addicted (there I said it!) to the NBC show, The Blacklist. For four seasons I have watched while the ever story telling Red Reddington has dazzled and dazed me, causing me to ask countless questions, like:
Are you Lizzie’s father?
Who is Lizzie’s mother and was she really a Russian spy?
Can you answer a question without telling a story to illustrate your point?
Why do so many women find you irresistible?
Is this another fake out?
Over the four seasons of the show we have been faked out. We originally thought that Tom, Lizzie’s husband was just a cute, somewhat nerdy elementary school teacher. Only to discover he was a Russian spy or is that agent, then to find out that Red hired him, to now discovering he is Liz’s true soulmate. A once heartless killing machine who has found his soul thanks to true love. And then sadly to lose the love of his life and the reason for his salvation on the day their daughter is born.
But has he? Is Lizzie Keen really dead? I have my doubts. Just like I did when she was a blonde for a whole season. Or when all clues pointed to her becoming a sort of surrogate daughter in crime with Red.
Her funeral is in the next episode, how might they bring her back after that?
The next episode is to center around Liz’s funeral and then the requisite pursuit of her killer. Which personally I found a little confusing because I thought she died because of complications from the car accident and delivery. But you know, it’s episodic television, so okay.
Anyway, here is my theory:
Liz isn’t really dead but in order to protect her from the shadow agents/group pursuing her presumably because of her Russian spy mother’s sins, the whole world must believe she is dead for the time being.
Once Red and the whole special FBI task force has located the real threat to her, it will be revealed that she has been living in a FBI safe house in Oklahoma, donning a red wig and Birkenstoks.
She only seemed dead and looked dead because the doctor, who we already know was friends with Liz injected some super magical drug that made her look that way. The body used in the funeral will turn out to be a double or even made of wax. I mean who’s going to check to be sure?
Naturally, Tom will feel a bit miffed for having had to raise Agnes on his own for a year or so, but he’ll be so happy that he doesn’t have to be a single dad, that he’ll soon forgive her.
Though of course they won’t be able to jump into Tom’s boat and set sail for the happily ever after. Somehow Agnes will become the center of some plan or Tom will be tempted to return to his own life. Or Liz will mount her own investigation into who her mother and father really is. Heck, maybe that’s what she’s doing now, while everybody, including Red thinks she’s dead.
What are your theories?
So there you have it, my theory. Do you have one? Do you like me, think that Lizzie is still alive only to reappear at some later date, or is the Blacklist just becoming its own spinoff and morphing into a whole new show? Feel free to float any theories you like in the comments.
She looked almost alive, swathed in veils and satin in her simple coffin. Like a princess. Ironic, since her killer left her on the side of the road, naked, bruised and obscenely posed for all to see. With a note clutched in her hand that read; “I do it because I can.”
Her grandmother told me in broken English that it was a custom from her home country – to send the loved one dressed in their best, to Heaven. After what had happened, I wondered how the woman still believed in Heaven. Eyes closed, prayer beads rattling between nervous fingers, her lips moved in silent prayer. Her silver hair glistened in the flickering candlight making her as much of a spectre as her dead granddaughter.
I sat in the back row and watched as mourners came and went. Some cried at the coffin, others crossed themselves defensively, lest the same thing happen to their child. Still others sat in the chairs and stared straight ahead. I waited for the killer to arrive. I knew that he would. That he would want to see his handiwork and the devastating effect it had on the world.
My partner sat in our unmarked, just outside the church – smoking and watching. We exchanged texts throughout the afternoon. Mostly to amuse ourselves and in the end for nothing at all because the killer never came to pay his respects.
As the last vestige of sunlight refracted through the stain glassed windows I rose. Tomorrow was another day for catching killers. Awkwardly, I knelt in the aisle, crossed myself and went outside.
After pushing through the ancient door of the church, I stood on the stoop and looked around, trying to adjust to the gray light that shrouded my world. The engine on the unmarked turned over and I squinted at my partner, who cranked a hand to get me moving.
I plunked into the passenger seat and closed the door against the cold. “So?”
My partner, Joan waved a gloved hand. “So nothing.”
I sighed at the tired little church as we pulled away from the curb. Joan smacked my arm with the back of her hand. “Cheer up, it’s beer o’clock.”
I nodded and stared straight ahead, wondering what made the human race so cold and uncaring. But soon, I was perched comfortably on a bar stool and doing shots and beers with Joan and the hard edges of life were softened.
Joan nibbled on a pretzel thoughtfully. “He’ll probably show at the funeral.” She turned bright green eyes on me. “Where he can watch from a distance.”
I nodded, then drained the rest of my beer. “Probably.” I tossed a few bills on the bar and stood. “Let’s go.”
She dropped me at my house, where lights in the window told me Cassie was home. “You want me to come in?”
I frowned at her. “For what?”
“I could make dinner. You two could stand to eat something besides pizza.”
I smiled at her. She was a good woman, a good person. She cared. We both cared. But I had to pretend I didn’t see that extra caring in her eyes – since my wife left last year that look in Joan’s eyes was too much of an invitation. I couldn’t take advantage and I didn’t want to.
“Maybe another time.”
I stood on the sidewalk and watched as her brake lights disappeared into the fog, then turned slowly toward the house. It was probably the fog or the street light reflected in the wet pavement but I saw a flash. When I turned toward it, it disappeared. Could’ve been the beer and whiskey too.
Cassie opened the door and frowned at me – her golden curls backlit and crowned her head like a halo. I smiled – she was my angel. “You gonna stand in the rain all night?”
I hurried up the walk then gave her shoulders a squeeze before going inside. “Daddy’s home.”
The house smelled like coffee and spaghetti. And the table was set and waiting for me. Cassie pulled off my coat and nudged me into a chair. I sipped my coffee and the warmth spread through my body, taking the chill out of my tired bones. “Looks good.”
Cassie smiled proudly. “Made it myself.”
I stared at the plate of spaghetti and meatballs. “Oh-oh.”
She smacked me with a napkin and said, “Eat, you old bear.”
Afterwards, I helped her with the clean up and dishes. “How was your day?”
She told me about school and a boy she liked and wondered out loud if I’d pop for a pretty dress she wanted for an upcoming dance at school. “You think it’ll make him love you?”
She blushed. “Oh Dad, you’re such doof.” She frowned. “How was your day?”
I told her about my unsuccessful stake out and she nodded in sympathy. My daughter was an old soul who understood my need to seek justice in the world and sympathized. She snapped her fingers. “Oh, I almost forgot.” She pulled an envelope out of her pocket and handed it to me. “This came for you.”
I frowned at the unaddressed envelope then tore it open. Inside was a note: “I do it because I can.”
My heart dropped to my toes. “How did you get this?”
Cassie recoiled at my reaction. “It was taped to the door when I came home.”
I went to the window and looked out, then I went to the front door and threw it open. And I felt him out there in the fog, watching and waiting. I withdrew my gun, then said to her, “Lock the door behind me and call Joan. Tell her to get over her now!”
Then, I stepped into the fog, gun raised, flashlight poised. I stepped off the porch, scanning the yard, the bushes, then went around back. The gate was open and my breath caught in my throat.
I burst into the yard but it was empty. Hands trembling, I ran the flashlight beam across the yard and along the house. Then I saw them – footprints in the sodden grass, leading to the back of the house. Panting, I followed them to my patio door which was locked. I pounded on the door. “Cassie! Cassie!”
For those three or four readers who’ve been anxiously awaiting my mystery series, I’m happy to tell you the books are officially published and up on Amazon. (click on pictures to view Amazon page.) I hope some of you will give them a try and that they provide a happy reading experience for you. If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can read the book for free. If you’re curious but not sure, you can download a free excerpt (the first 7 chapters) to you Kindle device or Kindle app.
I’m revising and editing my first novel, False Witness and will be publishing it under my own moniker. I believe it will be a much better read and I’ve got a better cover too.
After that, I’m digging into a new series – which I hope to have ready for release within the next year.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this blog. It means the world to me that people want to read the words I write.
Based on the commercials and trailers I was really looking forward to seeing this new ABC murder mystery series.
Ben Crawford (Ryan Philipe) a family man in a small town goes for an early morning run and discovers his neighbor’s son in the woods, dead. He runs home in a panic and calls the police. But rather than being lauded as a hero and a good Samaritan, the lead detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) sees him as the prime suspect in the murder of the young boy.
Good, solid premise – an unassuming family man is yanked from his ordinary world into a nightmare scenario that would horrify any normal human being.
Ben is married to Christie and they married young. He is a house painter and his wife is a real estate agent who makes most of the money. They have two daughters – Natalie 17, and Abby 12. The youngest daughter is close to her father and stands by him. There is trouble in the marriage but despite this they seem to love each other. Ben’s slacker friend Dave lives in their guest house – drinks too much and is a womanizer. Tom, the murder victim is the son of Jess an attractive woman who live across the street. She has an ex special forces husband from whom she is estranged and who is recently showing violent tendencies.
I want to avoid giving any spoilers to those who haven’t seen the show yet so I won’t do a play-by-play on the story itself. It is well-written for the most part and worth watching. However, I had some problems suspending my disbelief in certain areas:
1. Ben is immediately regarded as a suspect and crucified in the press, shunned by the neighbors and even his house is vandalized. But the writer fails to show us why. There are several interactions between Ben and Detective Cornell that are tense and accusative but we don’t know why. There is no explanation why people immediately jump to the conclusion that Ben would kill a five-year-old boy. No criminal background, no unsavory interaction with children, no apparent motive. Yet within 24 hours people are convinced Ben did it and are distancing themselves from him. Why? I just couldn’t buy that it would happen that quickly without some substantial reason.
2. Detective Cornell is a very unlikable character. She is sour-faced from moment she appears on the scene. Granted, murder investigators lead grim lives and their work must weigh on them but they aren’t necessarily grump, sourpusses who cock their eyebrow and smirk at everything that moves. Also, I don’t think that detectives are that obvious, even they suspect someone of a crime, especially if they haven’t got any solid evidence, they aren’t going to come at a suspect like that. Instead, I’d expect them to be a little more friendly, and try to get their suspect to trust them a little, hopefully so they might slip and give themselves away.
Overall I think the story is good and the characters will be flushed out as the story is told. The production values are good. And Phillipe is quite good as the confused and isolated man accused of a terrible crime. There are lots of twists and turns and surprise reveals that create doubt for the viewer and should keep people watching. So, if you like a good solid mystery I think this will be a good addition to your Sunday night viewing and it’s positioned between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, so it should get decent traction.
Personally, I’d like to know more about Detective Cornell and why she is such a tight ass and more about Jess, the victim’s mother. I am suspicious of her already and believe we’ll find her caught in some pretty big lies in the not too distant future.
Did you see the show? What did you think? Any theories on who did it yet?
Let me know in the comments.
Anyone who has watched more than three episodes of PLL knows that nothing is ever at it seems. That’s why we’re hooked, because the producers and writers are so good at fooling us.
For years the producers convinced us that Ally was dead only to reveal not so long ago that Ally was not dead and had been on the run all that time. (Although the pragmatist in mean wonders how they could’ve buried the wrong girl, believing it to be Ally. DNA would’ve been used to establish identity and had it been used it wouldn’t have come back as an i.d. for Ally. But I digress…) And they also made us believe that Ezra and Toby were A. Not so much.
Where is Mona really and what is she doing?
Mona has always been a bit of a chameleon on the show, shedding one skin only to expose another. And consequently has had as many lives as a cat. She’s the character we love to hate, love to suspect, love to fear and ultimately feel sorry for because she is the epitome of the insecure high school girl who no matter how hard she tries only really wants acceptance and to fit in.
Right now we are to believe Mona is dead and Ally killed her. Hey we’ve got a video with a blonde stabbing her, right? Yes and no. We have the video but it’s all weird angles and blurs and we never see the attacker’s face. And while we were all sure that she was in that industrial barrel in the storage locker, surprise, it’s not her. Probably next season we’ll learn it’s CeeCee or Meredith or just some homeless guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I believe Mona is still alive and hiding out. Remember that hitherto unknown friend who just showed up in town? She’s blonde, right? What if Mona and her ‘friend’ cooked up the idea of setting up Ally? They staged the video and the crime scene and voila she’s dead. Mona is so tech savvy the video would’ve been a snap for her to make and she’s not squeamish either, so drawing a vile of her own blood she could’ve done without blinking. And most importantly, they can’t find her body. Now I know that Ally is resourceful but how far could she have taken a body and gotten rid of it? She’s just one 120 pound teenage girl after all. Also Mike’s mysterious behavior gives me pause. The bag of candy on the pier? Is it for Mona? Does he know she’s alive and Mike is helping her to get some much deserved payback? Could be. But to me, the fact that they never found Mona’s body tells me she is still alive.
I guess we’ll find out next season.
What do you think? Is Mona dead? If so, where is her body? Did Ally kill her or somebody else? Or, like me, do you expect her to show up in the flesh much like Ally did?
I don’t know about you but I am positively addicted to the show Pretty Little Liars. I stumbled onto this show meant for 20-somethings and was hooked from the first episode. And every Monday night I am jones-ing for the next episode which airs on Tuesday. When the show is on hiatus, life just doesn’t seem the same and I find myself on message boards debating the one and only question fans want to know: Who is A?
One of the prevalent theories is that “A” is one of the pretty little liars. Personally, I don’t think so and here’s why: In the first episode each Liar receives a mysterious text from “A” and all of them react with shock and confusion. The reaction isn’t for anyone else’s benefit because each girl is alone when she receives her text. And why if you were “A” would you send yourself a text if it wasn’t to show someone else that you received it? There’s no point in doing that.
In the three or four years the show has been on the air we have gotten many red herrings: Toby, Ezra, and Mona among them. And now Mike (PLL’s Aria’s brother) is the current herring being dangled. So of course, fans are coming up with reasons why Mike is “A” because that’s what a good red herring gets you to do – believe.
According to Marlene King the creator of the show, “A” was present at Allison’s funeral. So here’s my theory based on deduction: We dismiss all the characters who have been red herrings (Toby, Ezra, and Mona) and the liars and look at who is left. Allison’s parents, Emily’s parents, Allison’s brother Jason, Jenna, and Detective Wilden. We can dismiss a few more characters: Jenna is blind so she’s out, I can’t imagine any of the girl’s parents torturing them that way, so they’re out; Allison’s mother was a possibility but her character was killed off, so she’s out, as is Detective Wilden who is also dead; the only left is Allison’s brother, Jason.
To me, Jason makes perfect sense. He hated his sister Allison and by association the liars because they were just lesser imitations of Allison in his mind. Allison was also favored by his parents so he never got the love that Ally did. So there’s his motive. He had access to Ally’s room, her computer, her phone, diaries, conversations, etc. Additionally, since they live next to Spencer and Ally’s room faces Spenser’s it’s a prime location for spying. It would be so easy for him to hack her WiFi and put cameras or mics in her house when no one was around. And he is ubiquitous – always lurking in the background. Further, Jason often mysteriously disappears and when he returns his explanations are flimsy and offhand – yet no one really questions them. Most recently he came onto and seduced Hannah’s mom, Ashley. Was he really attracted to her or just hoping to get a peek into Hannah’s room? Or load a Trojan horse program on her laptop?
I think I’m right. I’d be really jazzed if it turned out I was. And I have other theories about other things, which I’ll discuss in another post, later.
Who do you think is “A”?
So that’s my theory. I’m sure you have one too. It probably doesn’t agree with mine but hey, feel free to tell me where I’m wrong and who you think “A” is – you might change my mind. All theories welcome, come one call all and have a ball.
Meanwhile, can’t wait to see what they spring on us tomorrow night.