You may know Mike Befeler as the author of the hilarious Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit amateur sleuth mystery series. Mike is a versatile writer, with several other stand-alone novels and series under his belt. His newest release is Unstuff Your Stuff, a professional organizer mystery.
With the current interest in organizing and decluttering, this story offers both entertainment and insight.
In Unstuff Your Stuff, 68-year-old Millicent Hargrove must deal with the murder of her husband as she begins her new life as a widow and professional organizer. She escapes attempts on her own life and figures out the mystery of the cryptic messages left by her husband. She discovers how to organize people’s stuff while sorting through the clutter from the secret life her husband led.
Mike Befeler http://www.mikebefeler.com
Available on Amazon
My newest novel is now available for pre-order! I imagined what would happen if a small company held a team-building exercise at a former reality TV show camp where everyone had an agenda. The result is a humorous murder mystery.
You think you’re gonna Survive, but you’re gonna Die. Die. Die.
The owner of a dysfunctional company arranges a mandatory team-building exercise at the Survive or Die survivalist camp, once the setting for a defunct reality TV show. When he receives a death threat, what surprises employees is not that someone wants their lecherous, hard-drinking boss dead. The surprise is that he’s not the first casualty.
The unexpected demise of a coworker’s husband barely causes a ripple. The annoying photographer’s death is attributed to natural causes. The excitement comes when the boss announces the winner of the week-long game will receive a raise, and the loser will be fired. Most employees dig in with grim determination. A few have other agendas.
Timid junior accountant and dedicated eco-warrior Sotheara Sok searches for evidence that toxic waste is being dumped illegally on the ranch. Aubrey Sommers plans to rekindle romance with her husband, despite her resentment at being stuck in the shabby camp. Factory laborer Jeremiah Jones stalks his coworkers in search of a woman with wide child-bearing hips to share his mountain man dream.
Their plans become derailed when unlikely accidents plague the camp. Tours of Going Batty Days and the Cannibal of Carver Pass Museum in nearby Lodgepole provide pieces to a disturbing puzzle. The three join forces with an old lady version of Chuck Norris, and a city-girl computer geek, as the week deteriorates from mock survival games to a fight for survival in the Colorado wilderness.
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The Woman in Apartment 615 by Devon Shepherd
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine January/February 2019
I enjoy a skillfully presented unreliable narrator. The character typically reveals much more about him or herself than the reader might learn otherwise. Even better is a tale that slowly unfolds the unreliable nature of the viewpoint character. The reader's starting point is believing the narrator, but gradually must question the character's view of the situation.
This is the case with The Woman in Apartment 615. Ruth hosts the monthly book club meeting. She is drawn into the mystery of a new tenant in her apartment building. Is the woman old money fallen on hard times?
Ruth seems like a slightly catty middle aged woman who enjoys her wine quite a bit. When she delves into the mystery of the new tenant, she exhibits an obsession that readers of murder mysteries don't find particularly disturbing. Until Ruth goes too far.
A subplot runs through the story of Ruth's difficult relationship with her son. Both threads collide at the end of the story, in a very satisfactory manner. If you enjoy unreliable narrator stories, check this one out.
Justice by Pamela Blackwood
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine January/February 2019
The story jumps right in to William's travails as a widowed farmer. I like historical fiction that is devoid of info dumps - those chunks of detail a clumsy writer uses to let the reader know where they are and who they are with. The historical setting in Justice is developed with subtle lines like "made his way to the door without even lighting a candle." I also do not care for historical fiction that is anachronistically tuned to modern sensitivities. Thus, the murder victim in the story is described harshly as "an idiot boy."
Yet William takes a special interest in the case of Johnny Grant's murder, even when the local sheriff seems spectacularly uninterested. "The boy didn't have no family, and hardly any friends," one acquaintance notes. Interest turns to obsession, as William becomes determined to ensure Johnny receives justice.
Meanwhile, William is crushed with grief over his wife's recent death during childbirth. He struggles to deal with his two young daughters, accepting precious little help from Aunt Lottie. Another subplot is his loss of faith. He fears blaspheming the Lord, but he can't understand a God that would let his wife die. Chasing after clues to Johnny's murder distracts him from his nearly unbearable situation.
William finds resolution in the end. I enjoyed reading this wonderful story.
I visit the Pikes Peak Writers blog today with advice about setting writing goals. In The Benefits of a Crash and Burn, I suggest ways to turn a writing failure into writing success.
There are dozens of quotes, memes, and greeting card messages about failure making you stronger. That doesn’t help much when you’re crumpled in the ditch after a spectacular crash and burn.
A rule beginning writers encounter is that multiple points of view can't be used effectively in short stories. The November / December 2018 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine often publishes multiple POV short stories. Keep in mind that these are written by authors at the top of their game. How does telling a tale through more than one narrator work?
Manitoba Postmortem, by S. L. Franklin, not only uses three point of view characters, it also is not told in strict chronological order. Yet I never felt lost. Semi-retired private investigator R. J. Carr opens the story as he and his wife arrive at a police station in Grand Fork, Manitoba. The reader is dropped into the middle of the action, interviewing a Canadian Mountie about a death they have been hired to investigate. A highly esteemed church and community member has apparently committed suicide.
Next we are presented Ginny Carr's version of events with the clear demarcation of a scene break and the character's name in bold print. Ginny goes back in time, explaining why she encouraged R. J. to take a case. She presents information that will be vital to solving the mystery.
Next up is Teresa Kostner, daughter of the deceased man. Surprisingly, she tells her side of the story without revealing critical facts, and in a manner that did not make me feel cheated. The reader is clued in at the end of her section with the statement, "But I hadn't told too many lies."
We hop back to R. J.. The clues are coming together like bits of a jigsaw puzzle finally forming a picture. R. J. pushes the boundaries of the investigation, and becomes trapped in a sticky situation. The final point of view change is back to Ginny. She completes the story. Three point of view characters, with five distinct changes. Each part of the story was told by the different characters for a reason. The reader received vital clues and insights that only that character knew at the time.
Robert Lopresti's A Bad Day for Algebra Tests uses multiple points of view in a wild and humorous bank robbery caper. I never felt lost or confused, even though this short story is told through a less than brilliant bank robber, a police officer plagued by bad luck and on the verge of getting fired, a love sick bank manager, two tellers, and a boy upset that a snow day postpones the algebra test for which he studied so hard. Six point of view characters in a not particularly long story is ambitious.
Lopresti is a master short story author. Each character's voice is distinct, and the transitions between them is seamless. What makes it a truly great read is that each character has his or her own motivation. I felt I received six stories in one. The complicated plot lands right where the author intended, and the reader never expected.
Multiple points of view can be used effectively by skilled writers. Franklin and Lopresti both succeeded because the transitions between POV characters were distinct and purposeful. Each character contributed a different version of events that was necessary to understanding the tale.
As little leisure time as I've had lately, there is still plenty of material in the generous collection of short stories, Shhhh... Murder! and the November / December issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I enjoyed four stories during my recent reading. Both the anthology and the magazine would make great gifts for the mystery readers in your life.
Mistress of the Mickey Finn by Elaine Viets
Viets writes one of my favorite cozy mystery series, Dead End Jobs. I was happy to see a story in AHMM starring Helen and Phil. The setting, weather, and culture are solidly south Florida. An obnoxiously wealthy man hires the private investigators to track down his belongings, stolen after a beautiful woman slipped drugs into his drink. Helen and Phil enlist their chain-smoking elderly landlady Margery to trap the woman. What should be a simple case of course becomes dangerous, because this is Helen, and she always manages to get herself into perilous situations.
Vet's Day by R. T. Lawton
Yarnell is minding his own business eating crab legs in a dive diner when his partner in crime Beaumont shows up. Lawton's humorous Holiday Burglars short story series follows these two characters who might be better off getting straight jobs. Their criminal activities rarely meet with success, but the reader enjoys many laughs watching them try. In this story, the holiday is Veteran's Day. Beaumont tells Yarnell about his stint in the Army, and a favor he owes to his Sergeant. Yarnell reluctantly agrees, and soon regrets his involvement springing a dog destined for euthanasia because Sarge can't pay the veterinarian bill. So Vet's Day has a double meaning. This is a very visual story, with lots of action, and plenty of laugh out loud moments. Previously published Holiday Burglar stories are available in a collection.
The Shhhh... Murder! cozy mystery anthology offers enough good reading to keep you happily tucked into an easy chair during the holidays. Set in libraries, or involving librarians, there is great variety in this collection.
Gotcha Covered by Kate Fellowes
An author holds her debut book signing in a small library. When a librarian's valuable collectible book cover goes missing, she uses her mystery-writer skills to solve the theft. This is a fun locked room mystery, and has all the elements cozy readers enjoy.
Map to Oblivion by K. M. Rockwood
A librarian will do anything to protect the books under her care. If you are annoyed by people who stare at their cell phone screens instead of watching where they're going, you will particularly enjoy this story.
There never seems to be enough time to read good stories. I hope you sneak a little time to yourself during this busy season, to curl up with a good book, magazine, or anthology. Happy holidays!
Our relatively safe city has been plagued by an invasion of porch pirates. These cowardly sneak thieves snatch packages delivered to homes. Due to citizens installing home security devices involving cameras, several arrests were made recently. I hope these bold and yet pathetic criminals have been stopped.
Here's the police blotter report:
"The Colorado Springs Police Department’s Strategic Investigations Unit (SIU), in collaboration with the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit (CAU), targeted a Porch Pirate Crime Pattern after several neighborhoods experienced an increase related to home deliveries this holiday season. Utilizing home security footage submitted via apps and websites such as Ring and Nextdoor, SIU and CAU were able to identify and arrest five individuals over the last 48 hours. In some instances, officers were able to recover some stolen property and return it to the victims. The success of this investigation is largely due to the amount of quality security video provided by victims and community members. This is an example of how important it is for the police and the community we serve to partner when crime is observed and/or recorded. Please be a good witness and do not make direct contact with suspects."
Speaking of bold and pathetic, another type of coward siphons gas from vehicles. Short story author R. T. Lawton recently had a writing session interrupted by attempted thievery. You can read about the gas thief, and see photos of the theft in process, on the SleuthSayers blog. That idiot didn't know who he was messing with!
New technology influences crime fiction. How do you strand a heroine when readers believe we have constant and reliable cell phone service? Immediate 911 capability? Cell phone cameras with amazing clarity, and the ability to text or email the photos or video to the police? Now private homes can have security cameras and alarms at affordable prices. How are criminals going to get away with their nefarious activities in this day and age?
Apparently with face masks and boldness.
The most pathetic and evil thieves prey on the elderly. Older women are terrible about leaving gaped open purses in shopping carts. I used to do my grocery shopping with my mother, but now stand guard over her while she shops. If anyone tries to steal Mom's wallet, I will take down that scum bag with the fury of a rapid wolverine. She was impressed one evening when a perfectly healthy and capable looking beggar approached us in the grocery store parking lot. I gave them a verbal smack-down. I am disgusted by panhandlers who try to intimidate women into giving them money. I'll give you something. And you won't like it.
Law abiding citizens must be on high alert, sadly. Be aware of your surroundings. Friend your local police department's Facebook page to receive alerts and info on the current threats. Don't be a victim! And if you're really smart, live near folks like R. T. Lawton and his wife. They're keeping an eye out for porch pirates, gas thieves, and other pathetic criminals.
I'm enjoying an increase in precious reading time, now that the weather has curtailed outdoor activities. If you subscribe to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, you've probably already consumed the November/December 2018 issue. It has just recently risen to the top of my TBR pile (To Be Read).
The Furious Cat, by Susan Thibadeau
An eye-catching illustration greets the reader. Part of the appeal of this story is the recurring appearance of Marlowe, a cat. I'm a sucker for stories with cats. What makes the story even more fun is that Marlowe is a horrible cat, ready to attack for no apparent reason. Marlowe has recently lost his human companion, and is left to Mrs. Griffin, housekeeper to Jake and his brother Harry. The men decide they must solve the suspicious death of Marlowe's owner when the police turn their focus to Mrs. Griffin as a suspect with more than a cat to gain.
As we approach the winter solstice, the days growing shorter and the nights longer, it can be a struggle to stay awake in the early evenings. The dark just makes me want to go to sleep. One benefit is feeling no guilt about curling up with a good fiction read.
Here's another link (see previous post for more) to free short fiction. Kings River Life is a great source for mystery book reviews and short stories. Happy reading!
Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, receives the Mystery Writers of America Ellery Queen award.
"The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Linda Landrigan. Ms. Landrigan came to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1997 as an associate editor and has been its editor since 2002. Under her leadership, the magazine has not only continued to thrive but has also navigated dramatic changes in the publishing industry—she has overseen the introduction of AHHM in digital formats as well as the creation of a podcast series featuring audio recordings of stories from the magazine as well as interviews with authors."
It's not an easy task to keep a print magazine (now digital also) going in this tough publishing climate. And to top it off, Ms. Landrigan is such a genuinely nice person! Congratulations!
The final installment of the Gladys Mitchell reading group concluded earlier this month. I had a fun experience. I don't have time for a traditional reading group or book club. This offered the chance to hear the impressions of other readers to this classic mystery author without having to physically meet with people.
Our host and guide Jason Half proposes to have another Gladys Mitchell group read in 2019.
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