Tag Archives | mystery

The Butterfly Clues: murder, mystery and great writing!

Seriously what more do you need? Or I should say what more do I need?

I won a signed hardcover of The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison over a month ago. It sat on my reading pile. And then it sat some more. And some more. So kinda burnt out one night, I picked it up just to read the first few chapters and I knew from the first page that I would love it.

It was the writing.

Here are the opening lines:

I spot her out of the corner of my eye and freeze.
It always happens like this.
My body goes tingly.
Blood thrums in my ears: a low buzz like a faraway swarm of insects, and every cell in my body screams: save her save her save her.
There’s nothing I can do but obey.

Clean. Full of sensory details. A sense of urgency. I absolutely loved it.

I loved that Penelope or Lo struggled with her OCD and the more stressful the situation the worse it got. Dealing with the death of her brother, strained parental relationships and most importantly solving a murder. And it all started when Lo felt the obsession to steal a beautiful antique butterfly figurine that belonged to the victim.

I loved the mystery but the writing…oh the writing I loved. So I’m passing this book recommendation onto you.

What’s the last book you read that the story and writing just absolutely captivated you?

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The largest unsolved art heist.

It was after midnight. Cold and dark.
Two cops approached and asked to enter the building. They gained easy access with the excuse that they’d heard of a disturbance.
The next morning empty frames hung on the wall. Priceless paintings ripped out and stolen. Paintings that now are worth $500 million.
The largest unsolved art heist ever.

When I was researching ideas for a heist novel I Googled simple terms. “Unsolved art heists”, “Largest heists”. I casually clicked on one link and was immediately fascinated.

How could twenty years go by and a crime this big not be solved?

How could it happen so easily?

I wanted to know.

And the fact that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was in Boston captivated me. I love Boston. It’s the city I grew up knowing. (Though I don’t recommend driving in the city without a GPS and even then you never know where you might end up. Put it this way – I spent hours trying to find a restaurant and never found it!)

Where are the stolen paintings today? No one knows. I read books on it; and, of course, give a writer some research and they’ll want to write a story.

And I did. It’s called HEIST. Through fiction, I solved the mystery, creating characters and plots to explain the unsolved mystery. And I threw in a little bit of time travel too. (It’s on the backburner for now, but someday it will see the light of day.)

The amazing thing is that Isabella specified in her will that nothing in the museum be changed. So the empty frames still hang on the wall today, waiting for the paintings to be returned.


Why blog about this today? Well, this coming weekend marks the 21st anniversary of the heist. If you want to know more, you can read this interview with Ulrich Boser who authored, The Gardner Heist. A fascinating book.

Has research ever sparked a story for you? What kinds of research are you drawn to?

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How to bring emotion to your plot. (Plot Busters)

In Act II there is something that Blake Snyder refers to as the B story (or basically the subplot).

And this is where you bring in the emotion, the personal stakes.

I figured with a humorous mystery like I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY that the emotion might be on the weak side. With the focus being on the mystery.

Boy was I wrong.

Barrie Summy does an incredible job balancing the main storyline or the Fun and Games of the first part of Act II with the B story.

In other words, the mystery is there but we connect to Sherry when we realize how much she misses her mother, which makes us care more about the mystery.

The emotion of the B story provides the motivation for the character to solve the mystery.

Below is a one-sentence break down of Act II

Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)

Sherry and her best friend, Junie, make a plan to follow leads.

B story: (the love story – not always romantic)

Sherry misses her mom (who is a ghost) and wants to earn some “real time” with her by solving the mystery.

Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)

Sherry investigates and follows clue after clue – some of them leading to a dead end, but others set up the midpoint and climax.

Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly – another big game changer)

In her undercover work, Sherry is found out and dropped off in the middle of a desert where she learns that the Ruler’s stalker is a ghost!

Bad guys close in: (Things get worse.)

Sherry goes ghost hunting with a “real” ghost hunter and learns how to catch a ghost and she learns who the ghost might be.

All is lost and Dark night of the soul:

The mystery continues and more truths are revealed but I didn’t find a true dark moment where Sherry feels all is lost. She does feel the stress of time running out, but that’s not quite the same thing.

And this ends Act II.  So without that dark moment how did I know where Act III started? With an obvious Break into three. But that’s next Monday.

How do you add emotion to your main storyline so it works? Share your tips.

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