Tag Archives: An Altar by the River

Interview With Christine Husom, Author of the Winnebago County Mysteries

It’s good to talk to you today, Christine. What are your books about?

Murder in Winnebago County centers on a woman bent on revenge. She blames the criminal justice system and holds its officials responsible, following her son’s death while he was incarcerated. She begins a killing spree, staging the deaths to look like suicides so the victims’ families will suffer as she has. Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson takes the initial call on the first death and works closely with her mentor, Detective “Smoke” Dawes to solve the strange cases.

About halfway through writing the book, I knew I couldn’t retire the Winnebago County characters. They had become too much a part of my life. Dramatic incidents from my days with the sheriff’s department came to mind and I knew what the next two books would be based on. Buried in Wolf Lake follows a psychopath who is obsessed with power, and commits the ultimate crimes on two victims (that we know of). An Altar by the River addresses a cult subculture, ritual abuse, and a long-standing sheriff’s department cover-up.

The Winnebago County Mystery Thrillers are slightly more action-driven than character-driven, but the characters are the heart and soul of the stories. They are serious and–at times–chilling stories I felt needed to be told. But I interject humor, everyday events, and romance into the books for a little levity, and, well, romance.

How long does it take you to write your books?

It takes me about six months to write a book, but for Murder in Winnebago County, there was five years between writing the first half of the book and the second.

Did you do any research for your books?

For Murder in Winnebago County, I needed some detailed information on a classic GTO car and went to the library for a book on old cars. With new information available on the Internet every day, I am accessing that more and more. And I double check the accuracy

For Buried in Wolf Lake, I did fairly extensive research on the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath, and on dismemberment cases, for about a month before I started writing.

I studied a wide variety of materials on cults and Dissociatve Identity Disorder for three months before I started An Altar by the River. I also interviewed a professional who worked with victims of satanic ritual abuse. I continue to research while I’m writing because questions arise and I want to be certain what I write is as error-free as possible. In An Altar by the River, I wrote that a doctor had graduated Summa Cum Laude. My sister, a medical doctor, told me it was Alpha Omega Alpha. Oops.

Learning as much as I can about the topics in my books makes the stories and characters come alive for me.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Many people think I am the main character, Sergeant Corinne Aleckson, probably because she tells the bulk of the story. Perhaps they hear my voice. Corky shares my core values, and also likes to go on runs to relieve stress and process her thoughts, as well as stay in shape. I’m more like Corky’s mother, Kristen. She is something of a worrywart, protective of her children, and over-extended. The rest of the characters aren’t much like me, but my sense of humor and sick jokes come out of their mouths from time to time.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I formulate some main plot points and build on them, but I don’t feel bound to follow a pre-set course. I’ve tried, and failed, to do outlines. Another technique I’ve tried with some success is to do a storyboard. You make twelve boxes (more or less) on a sheet of paper. In the first box you write the question your story asks. In the last box you write the answer to that question. The other ten boxes are the main events, or plot points, in your book. It’s a nice visual aid for me.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

How my characters take over the story I’m supposed to be writing.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I learned to appreciate law and justice from my father and creativity from my mother. I have a very broad range of interests, but when I served, first as a corrections officer, then a deputy, I realized criminal justice was in my blood, right along with the red and white cells. Writing mystery thrillers set in my home county is a natural fit.

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing The Noding Field Mystery, the fourth book in the Winnebago County Series. It differentiates from the first two books because the perpetrator(s) of the crime is not identified until near the end. It begins with the discovery of a man’s body in a soybean field. His hands and feet bound to stakes. The cause of death is not evident, nor is the manner.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

Yes. My second intended victim in Murder in Winnebago County is still alive and well, mainly because I liked her too much to kill her. More accurately, I liked her best friend too much, and didn’t want to put Corky through the tragedy of losing her.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I have a small suitcase full of ideas and storylines and uncompleted manuscripts. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s keeping me alive–I need to finish them before I die.

Sample Christine’s Writing! Click on a title to read the first chapter.
Murder in Winnebago County by Christine Husom
Buried in Wolf Lake by Christine Husom
An Altar by the River by Christine Husom

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Most Recent Fiction Releases From Second Wind Publishing

Water Lily by Sherrie Hansen:

Once upon a very long time ago, Jake Sheffield and Michelle Jones graduated from the same high school.

Jake can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane at their 20th class reunion. Being with his old friends is like guest starring in a favorite episode of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came. 

The last thing Michelle wants to do is dredge up a lot of old memories and relive a part of her past that wasn’t that great in the first place.

Will the murky waters of the past destroy their dreams for the future, or will a water lily rise from the depths and bloom?

Click here to read the first chapter: Water Lily

The Pirate’s Bastard by Laura Wharton:

A rollicking ride through colonial North Carolina and beyond with Edward Marshall, bastard son of infamous pirate Stede Bonnet, as he tries hard to separate his past from his future. But will his father’s former right-hand man ruin it all with blackmail?

Click here to read the first chapter: The Pirate’s Bastard

An Altar by the River by Christine Husom:

A frantic man phones the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department reporting his brother is armed with a large dagger and on his way there, intent to sacrifice himself. Sergeant Corinne Aleckson takes the call, learning the alarming reasons behind the young man’s death wish. When the department investigates, they plunge into the alleged criminal activities of a hidden cult and the disturbing cover-up of an old closed-case shooting death. The cult members have everything to lose and will do whatever it takes to prevent the truth coming to light. But will they find An Altar by the River in time to save the young man?

Click here to read the first chapter: An Altar by the River

Redstone by George Wright:

Everything that mattered to the old man was gone.  One by one he had lost his job. his wife and his health. Then  he took matters into his own hands.

A hidden valley, a lost Indian tribe and a cougar named Kitten led him to an adventurous new life, a life that fulfills his every dream.

As he establishes his kingdom in the mountains, some people call him Sasquatch, some call him crazy. He calls himself Chief of the Ruby Indians.

Click here to read the first chapter: Redstone

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Team Building Winnebago County Style

I like to interject some humor and irony in my mystery thrillers. In An Altar by the River, the Winnebago County employees are less than thrilled with this year’s team building exercise. Sergeant Corky Aleckson narrates.

Chapter 33

The small Winnebago County Courthouse conference room was filled to near capacity with deputies, corrections and communications officers, office personnel from the sheriff’s department, county attorneys, and probation officers. The other sheriff’s employees, attorneys, and probation officers either went through the adventure in the two days prior, or were scheduled for the afternoon session. Those who had gone the course were sworn to secrecy about it.

I noticed Smoke and Chief Deputy Mike Kenner standing in the front of the room when I walked in. Smoke blinked his eyes twice to acknowledge me. I scanned the sea of people and spotted Mandy Zubinski, one team member, sitting in a middle row. I took the empty chair to her left.

“Hey,” she offered.

“Hey,” I returned. “Good-sized crowd, lots of teams.”

“Yeah.”

Most of the people were in jeans and hooded sweatshirts. A few wore sweatpants. A number had on hiking boots, and the rest were in athletic shoes. Two things distinguished the deputies from the civilians: a sidearm and a badge, either attached to a belt, or hanging from a neck chain. A day off from Kevlar vests, at least.

The chief deputy drew his hands together in a loud clap. “All right! If I can have everyone’s attention, we’ll get started.” It took a minute for the din to die. “You all know your team assignments. Is there anyone missing?”

I looked around and located Vince Weber in the back row, to my left. He nodded at me. Donny Nickles from probation was sitting in the second row, and assistant county attorney Stueman was standing against the back wall, to my right. My friend, Sara Speiss was next to him.

Sara caught my glance, smiled, and lifted her eyebrows in a way that said, “I wonder what this exercise will be like?” I smiled back and caught Stueman staring at me in a near scowl. I’m so glad he’s on my team.

“Okay, team up and we’ll hand out your instructions. But do not open them until we say so.”

 Mild pandemonium swept through the room as people rose from their seats, waved, and gathered their teams into one area or the next. The space around Weber cleared, so he stood and motioned the rest of us to join him in his corner.

Smoke and Kenner passed out sealed packets to each team as they assembled. When Smoke handed one to me he said, “No peeking.” I rolled my eyes then looked at the thick, sealed envelope. I held it up so the others could get a glimpse.

The chief deputy clapped his hands together again. “Listen up!” We have ten teams, the largest group scheduled. Two of the teams had to switch to this time slot, due to unforeseen conflicts, so we did a little last minute scrambling to add a couple of courses. If there are any glitches, I apologize ahead of time. If you run into any real snags, call me on my cell phone, but with your training, that shouldn’t be necessary. You’ve had to figure your way out of things a time or two.”

I felt Mandy eyes on me and chose not to return the look.

“All right, then. I’ll turn this over to Nathan Gillette from our human resources department to fill you in on the details of the exercise.”

“Thank you, Chief Deputy Kenner.” Gillette’s mustache covered his entire top lip and curled around at the sides, touching his bottom lip. “We researched a number of team building activities, and found one we hope you’ll think is worthwhile, and fun at the same time. You have high stress jobs, dealing with crimes, criminals, victims, and legal proceedings. Your various departments interact on a regular basis, so we determined that’s it’s important to open the lines of communication, build bonds, increase trust. Our hope is this will lead to higher performance and an increase in morale.”

I heard a few quiet groans. Many, if not most of the deputies were not touchy- feely types.

Gillette went on, “It can be easy to point fingers at others when things don’t go the way we think they should, either during an arrest, or in court proceedings, or with probation. We want to move away from that. Hopefully, by getting to know each other better, and working together on this exercise, you’ll feel comfortable talking to a person in another department if you have an issue with something they have done professionally.”

More hushed groans.

“Every team has their assignment in the packets. I’ll give a rundown of what we’re doing. You will ride together in a squad car to an appointed spot. Then, using the set of directions and a compass, you will navigate on foot to your destination. Once there, you will each write a haiku.”

I have no idea how I contained my laughter when others couldn’t.

“A high what?” someone asked.

“A haiku.” Gillette was matter-of-fact, like it was something we all did on a regular basis.

“What is that?” another asked. Apparently he had missed high school English class that day.

“It’s a short poem about everyday things. The details are in your packets.”

“You have got to be kidding me!” Weber’s voice was low and emphatic.

“There is no way,” I heard Carlson complain from a nearby group.

I shot Smoke an “I don’t want to do this” look, and he shot me a “who does?” one back.

“Any questions?” I guessed everyone was too shocked for words because no one spoke. “Okay, then. Each driver has been contacted ahead of time. Follow him or her to the cars. Open your packets when you are all in your vehicle.”

I looked at Weber and Zubinski.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Weber said. “Come on, team.”

We trampled off to the parking lot. “Sergeant, where do you want everyone to sit?” Weber asked.

Donny’s legs were the longest.

“Weber, for this exercise, we’re a team, each of us has equal status, but I’d say Donny should take the front passenger seat so he doesn’t have to sit completely sideways.” I handed Donny the instruction packet.

“The back seats of squad cars are not exactly roomy,” Zubinski said to Nickles and Stueman.

Weber unlocked the doors, and we piled in. I ended up sandwiched between Zubinski and Stueman. Weber pushed shut the driver’s side back door, and Donny closed the passenger side door, then the two of them jumped in the front.

“You sure have a lot of bells and whistles in your squad cars,” Donny admired.

“We all know each other, right?” I asked, and everyone nodded, or said “yeah.”

“You’re weapon’s poking into my ribs,” Stueman said.

“Sorry.” I wedged my knees up and shifted them to my right, turning my body toward Stueman to move my Glock and holster away. “Is that better?”

His hazel eyes met and held mine. He cleared his throat and nodded. It amazed me when he spoke. “I’ve heard officers describe taking prisoners into custody as ’cuffed and stuffed’. Now I know what they mean. Literally stuffed. Between the small space, no door handles and the cage between the front seat and the back seat, a person might feel a little claustrophobic.”

I interpreted it as an attempt at humor and I cracked a half smile.

“Breathe in slowly through your nose, and out through your mouth,” Weber said.

Stueman opened his mouth to answer, but didn’t.

“Forget about seat belts,” Zubinski complained.

“You know we can’t do that. We gotta use them,” I said.

“Yeah, our luck, we get involved in a crash and it’s all over the news my passengers weren’t wearing seat belts.”

“Because that would be more important than what happens to us.” Zubinski’s tone was sarcastic.

“Zubinski!” Weber shot back. “Come to think of it, it might be easier to explain that to the news media than how the taxpayers are footing the bill for all of us to get together to write a dumb poem.”

“Probably less painful for us, too,” Mandy said. She snapped her buckles together.

“Donny, why don’t you read our assignment while we buckle up.” I reached down to locate my belt, but couldn’t find it. “Mine is stuck between the seats, I think.”

“Slide forward a little, I’ll dig for it,” Stueman suggested, and I moved a little closer to him. He was pulling his right shoulder strap down. As I settled back to locate my belt, I felt Stueman’s left hand on my bottom.

“S-sorry,” he stammered. “I didn’t mean–”

“Forget it.”

“H-here’s your belt.” Stueman wrenched it free, and handed it over.

“Thanks.” Let me wake up from this bad dream and soon, I silently pleaded as I buckled in.

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River.

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Celebrate Our New Releases With Contests and Puzzles, Games and Giveaways

Let’s have fun!

Click on the image below to play Match the Memory with Second Wind New Releases. How quickly can you match up the cards?

Let’s have more fun! Click on any or all of the  book covers and you will find a wonderful surprise.

If that’s not enough fun, how about some contests and giveaways! You can find all four of them here:

Four Chances to Win a New Book from Second Wind Publishing

Be sure to check out our perennial sellers at: Second Wind Publishing.

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Four Chances to Win a New Book from Second Wind Publishing

To celebrate the release of our new novels, we have four separate contests, which means four different chances of your winning a new book released by Second Wind Publishing!

1. Christine Husom will send a signed copy of one of her books—your choice of which book—to one lucky winner chosen at random from all who leave a comment on her blog post. So be sure to stop by An Altar by the River Release and leave a comment before October 6, 2010. That might be your lucky day!

2. Laura Wharton is offering a signed copy of her new novel, The Pirate’s Bastard. Leave a comment on her blog post and you might be a winner. Click here to leave your comment before October 6, 2010: The Pirate’s Bastard is Sailing into Port Soon

3. Sherrie Hansen is offering an autographed copy of Water Lily to a truly beautiful person. Think of someone you love – mother, father, spouse, friend or hero, and write a brief comment about what makes them beautiful to you.  Leave your comment here by October 7, 2010: To a Truly Beautiful Person… by Sherrie Hansen

4. Second Wind Publishing is giving away four ebooks to random commenters. Leave a comment here: Celebrating Four New Novels from Second Wind Publishing – Win an Ebook! telling us which new ebook release you’d like to read, and you might win one of them! Contest ends October 6, 2010.

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Celebrating Four New Novels from Second Wind Publishing – Win an Ebook!

Four people, chosen at random, will win an ecopy of one of our new releases. Just leave a comment to tell us which book you’d like to read, and you might be a winner. (You can even list all of them if you wish.) Contest ends on October 6, 2010. Hope you win! 

Water Lily by Sherrie Hansen:

Once upon a very long time ago, Jake Sheffield and Michelle Jones graduated from the same high school.

Jake can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane at their 20th class reunion. Being with his old friends is like guest starring in a favorite episode of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came. 

The last thing Michelle wants to do is dredge up a lot of old memories and relive a part of her past that wasn’t that great in the first place.

Will the murky waters of the past destroy their dreams for the future, or will a water lily rise from the depths and bloom?

Click here to read the first chapter: Water Lily

The Pirate’s Bastard by Laura Wharton:

A rollicking ride through colonial North Carolina and beyond with Edward Marshall, bastard son of infamous pirate Stede Bonnet, as he tries hard to separate his past from his future. But will his father’s former right-hand man ruin it all with blackmail?

 Click here to read the first chapter: The Pirate’s Bastard

An Altar by the River by Christine Husom:

A frantic man phones the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department reporting his brother is armed with a large dagger and on his way there, intent to sacrifice himself. Sergeant Corinne Aleckson takes the call, learning the alarming reasons behind the young man’s death wish. When the department investigates, they plunge into the alleged criminal activities of a hidden cult and the disturbing cover-up of an old closed-case shooting death. The cult members have everything to lose and will do whatever it takes to prevent the truth coming to light. But will they find An Altar by the River in time to save the young man?

Click here to read the first chapter: An Altar by the River

Redstone by George Wright:

Everything that mattered to the old man was gone.  One by one he had lost his job. his wife and his health. Then  he took matters into his own hands.

A hidden valley, a lost Indian tribe and a cougar named Kitten led him to an adventurous new life, a life that fulfills his every dream.

As he establishes his kingdom in the mountains, some people call him Sasquatch, some call him crazy. He calls himself Chief of the Ruby Indians.

Click here to read the first chapter: Redstone

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