Tag Archives: “Buried in Wolf Lake”

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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Let the games begin!

I can feel it … Love Trumps Logic is nearing its release date, and I’m about to transition from being a proofreader of my book into being a promoter of my book. The idea of self-promotion is a bit scary, but—thankfully—Second Wind Publishing does a lot to help their authors get the word out. A release party last month introduced four new books onto the writing scene: Staccato by Deborah Ledford, School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman, Loving Lydia by Amy De Trempe, and Buried at Wolf Lake by Christine Husom. Readers could sneak a peek into the books because the first chapters were made available … and they are still available if you revisit “Goodies and Giveaways” (September 29th) in the WordPress blog files of Second Wind Publishing.

Two free downloads were part of the promotion: a Romance Sampler and a Mystery Sampler, which both featured first chapters from many Second Wind Publishing books, both released and unreleased. If you happened to download the Romance Sampler, you got the un-proofed first chapter of Love Trumps Logic. I’d love readers to compare it to the revised first chapter when my book is finally released, and tell me what you think of the changes. I think the new first chapter is a more satisfying read, but others might disagree.

Love Trumps Logic‘s first planned promotion will be in the form of a Clue game that Second Wind Publishing’s Amy DeTrempe has put together. It will come out just in time for Halloween, and will feature excerpts from many of the Second Wind books as clues. To give you a sampling, here’s the Clue excerpt from Love Trumps Logic:

Beau slipped the hard-won bracelet back into its gray velvet sack and pulled the drawstring tight when, from somewhere behind him, a small hand appeared and snatched it from him. He whirled around and caught sight of a boy making a wide circle around him, headed for the exit.  The black-toothed grin was the only thing that gave away his lowly status. Upscale clothes had been a perfect ruse, allowing him to gain entry into the museum.

(You’ll have to read Love Trumps Logic to find out what horrible trouble that bracelet causes.)

So, do you like to play Clue? Then this party’s for you! Mark October 26th on your calendar as Clue day with Amy De Trempe on the Second Wind Publishing WordPress blog. The winner will receive a free copy of Second Wind Publishing’s mystery anthology, Murder on the Wind.

And then … look for many more promotions in the days that follow. I’m not saying that I know what they will be yet. If anyone has any ideas to offer, I’m all ears!

Lucy Balch

Author of Love Trumps Logic, due for release soon from Second Wind Publishing.

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Happy Bloggiversary to Us!

One year ago today, we at Second Wind Publishing started to blog. Many of us had never blogged before, but we wanted a forum to connect with our readers, and so we learned. While learning how to blog, we also learned how generous readers are with their comments, and we would like to thank all of you for your support. Click here for: Goodies and Giveaways.

To celebrate this anniversary, Second Wind authors talk about their experiences with blogging.

More Deaths Than OnePat Bertram, author of More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire: I have more blogs than one, so I was familiar with blogging when I joined the authors here at Second Wind Publishing Blog, but it has been a wonderful experience participating in the growth of this blog with its fantastic array of posts. Wishing us all — authors and readers alike — a happy new blogyear!

Images of BetrayalClaire Collins, author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny: I’ve never been afraid to try new things, but my biggest problem has always been time. I didn’t know where I would find time to post blogs every few days in my already tight schedule. I started slowly, writing about writing and posting every couple of weeks to my blog and the Second Wind blog. Now, I actually enjoy blogging and I spend a lot of time on my own blog. Visit me if you get a chance.

Loving LydiaAmy De Trempe: author of Loving Lydia: For me, posting a blog was harder than writing a novel and it took some time before I became comfortable.  I wondered what I should write about and if I had anything intersting to say.  Now I find it to be a fun activity and have enjoyed posting to both Second Wind and my personal blog.  More importantly, I’ve found I really enjoy reading the posts of others and comments from readers. It has opened up a world for me that I barely knew existed.

False PositiveJJ Dare, author of False Positive: It’s been an interesting blog ride for me. Finding something new to say was daunting the first couple of times. I got over the initial “oh-my-gosh-what-am-I-going-to-talk-about” reaction fairly quickly. Instead ofagonizing over a post (and rewriting and rewriting the week prior to my turn atthe blog), I’m at the point where I can zip a blog post off with only a littlebit of editing. I’d have to say blogging is helping me in my own writing – I’m honing a fast write and never look back style 🙂

front-sta-195x304Deborah J Ledford, author of Staccato: I appreciate being able to tell followers of the Second Wind Publishing blog the evolution of my debut thriller Staccato from inception to publication to promotion. Sharing the journey through a series of articles in order to show the entire path this writer took, as well as what pitfalls I encountered along the way, has been a pleasure.

Buried in Wolf LakeChristine Husom, author of Murder in Winnebago County and Buried in Wolf Lake: Last year I barely knew what a blog was and hadn’t read one. Pat Bertram asked if she could post an article I had written for my fellow Second Wind authors about my first book-signing experience on her blog. Okay, sure. Suddenly, a link appeared on an email. I clicked it and there on the Book Marketing Floozy blog was my article. It was like magic. I have learned a bit since then, but haven’t been able to carve out the time to develop my own blog, or update my website. I post blogs on the Second Wind Publishing WordPress site. Mostly, I enjoy reading what the other authors write, on WordPress and Facebook. I recently joined Twitter and will try to figure that out one of these days. Blogs have opened a whole new world for me!

Badeaux KnightsSuzette Vaugn, author of Badeaux Knights and Mortals, Gods, and a Muse: In my first blog I talked about my extended family which just keeps growing. Every month it seems we get new authors in our mix that fit with the rest of us. Over the last year we’ve added several authors that seem like they’ve always been here. Amy, Lucy, Deb, Eric, Jennifer, Jerrica, Pat, Sherrie, Mickey, Juliet and the newest member J. Conrad have officially doubled my Second Wind Family. Then we have all you wonderful readers that make our family possible, thank you.

I’ve learned a lot since then too. I’m still working on the whole blogging thing but since I’ve figured out it doesn’t always have to be about writing, I’m doing better. I’ve featured favorite music, books, and slight jabs at my sister on my personal blog and actually have articles in the drafts waiting for those off days where I can’t think of anything.

Hand-Me-Down BrideJuliet Waldron, author of Hand-Me-Down Bride: Blogging seemed one of those internet “too much information” things until I got into it, and began to read the blogs of other Second Wind writers. Blogging keeps you focused on your craft and gets you to work in a briefer, but just as interesting, medium. It feels just one short step beyond the world of the campfire story teller. Personally, it’s been a sort of archeological project. A way for me to excavate  my own store of memory, from times now considered “historical.”  🙂

Thank you everyone for stopping by! Don’t forget to check out our goodies and giveaways.

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Goodies and Giveaways

We are celebrating the release of four new novels, but you are the ones who get the presents! Just click on the covers and you will find puzzles to delight you.

Loving Lydia front-sta-195x304 School of Lies Buried in Wolf Lake

 

 

 

 

 

We also have free ebooks for everyone: An ebook sampler containing the first chapters of all our our mysteries, mainstream, and adventure novels, and an ebook sampler containing the first chapters of all of our romance novels. Click on the photo for your free download.

samplers

And three lucky commenters will win the ebook of your choice. Which of these new releases would you like to read? You can name as many as you want.

Click here to buy or find out more about:
Staccato by Deborah J Ledford
School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman
Buried in Wolf Lake by Christine Husom
Loving Lydia by Amy De Trempe

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YOU ARE INVITED . . .

From September 30th till October 2nd, we will be celebrating the release of four new books. Please stop back for fun, giveaways, and goodies! To tide you over, we have a treat for you. Click on the cover of any of these new novels to read the first chapter.
 

front-sta-195x304Three world-class pianists.
Two possible killers.
One dead woman.
Who is her murderer?
Who will be next? 

When acclaimed pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his lover’s dead body, he sets out alone to find her killer. During his journey, he meets an unwitting female accomplice who soon becomes determined to help Nicholas wield his retaliation. Following a parallel path for justice, Steven Hawk, the deputy of a sleepy Southern county, is assigned to the case. Pursuing the investigation, Hawk finds himself entangled in a world of vengeance, greed and manipulation.

Performed against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Staccato transports readers to a behind-the-scenes glimpse of professional musicians, the psychological twists and turns of its characters, and in the end, retribution that crashes in a crescendo of notes played at the literary pace of a maestro’s staccato. 

Staccato is the first novel of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller trilogy.

 

School of LiesWhen High School teacher Kendra Desola opens an anonymous email she expects to find a bitter complaint from a parent, or a snipe from one of her back-biting co-workers. Instead, a photoshopped attachment shows Kendra getting way too friendly with her male students. 

She intends to stop this lie before it circulates, but before she can locate the source, the suspicious death of a colleague brings the police on campus. Kendra now fears the email was a set up, to make it look like she had a motive for murder. What if the cops get wind of the email and buy the “evidence” that she’s a child molester, or a murderess, or both? Kendra plays off an unknown adversary as she desperately seeks to prove her innocence in a School of Lies.

 

Buried in Wolf LakeWhen a family’s Golden Retriever brings home the dismembered leg of a young woman, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department launches an investigation unlike any other. Who does the leg belong to, and where is the rest of her body? Sergeant Corrine Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes soon discover they are up against an unidentified psychopath who targets women with specific physical features. Are there other victims, and will they learn the killer’s identity in time to prevent another brutal murder? 

 

Loving LydiaLoving Lydia, is a sweet, inspirationally touched romance, set during the regency era. When Lady Lydia, a moral, naïve young woman enters society, she is confounded by Lord Alex, a known reprobate rumored to have a dark side.  Yet he captures her heart. When Lydia is sucked into his dark world, can he save her and their love?

 Available from Second Wind Publishing:
Printed Books
Ebooks 
 

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Buried in Wolf Lake Chapter 14

Chapter 14
     When the sheriff reached his saturation point with media requests, he handed them over to Smoke as the lead investigator. It was the top regional news story for three consecutive nights. We expanded our investigation to encompass a broader base of area residents to query and question. People called in with leads, reporting sightings of lone riders on horses in Lake Pearl State Park and around the area. The riders’ descriptions ranged from teenage boys to middle-aged women to older men.
     None of the reported riders were seen toting bags large enough to hold body parts. No surprises there. If I had killed and dismembered another human being, I would take great pains to avoid getting caught with the evidence of my demented crime. 

     After an exhausting week of dealing with all the aspects of such a horrendous crime, everyone in the sheriff’s department was weary. I looked forward to an evening of socializing and semi-relaxation at my mother’s party.
     Her excited tone brought me out of my reverie. “John Carl, Corinne! Will you carry the rest of the food out?”
     Mother had cooked and baked for days, apparently for an army. We set cold dishes in bowls of ice and hot dishes on warmers. Mother’s barn began to fill with people at five that evening, carrying in potluck dishes to add to the food-laden tables. It was an impressive feast. The five-piece old-time band was ready to entertain us with waltzes, polkas, and country tunes until nine that night.
     “You kids can help me keep track of guests when they arrive, in case I miss someone. Tell them to help themselves to food and drinks.”
John Carl’s face dropped slightly and he looked like he was being sent into battle. He was not the make-small-talk-social-butterfly kind of guy.
     “Will do, Mom,” I promised.
     Sheriff Twardy walked though the door and glanced around. He was wearing jeans and a plaid shirt and carrying a bottle of wine. I tried to recall a time I had seen him out of uniform and couldn’t.
     “Mother, what is the sheriff doing here?” I whispered.
     “I invited him. It’s been a bad week–he needs to have a little fun, too.”    Mother patted my arm and smiled.
     “Why didn’t you tell me my boss was coming?”
     “Didn’t I mention it, dear?” She left to greet the sheriff.
     I looked at John Carl. “Okay, that is odd. Our mother has some major explaining to do.”
     John Carl shook his head in dismissal. “Corky, you’re always so suspicious of everything.”
     “Mother could have warned me. Look at that!” I nudged John Carl when Mom gave the sheriff a small hug. “You don’t think that’s odd? Our mother hugging the Winnebago County Sheriff? I didn’t know she knew him that well.”
     He shrugged. “Apparently she does.”
     Smoke showed up right behind the sheriff, shook his hand and gave my mother a one arm hug. I walked over to greet both men. The sheriff’s smile was easy and genuine and caught me slightly off guard. Mother passed the bottle of wine from the sheriff to me and I held out my free hand to take Smoke’s plate of venison summer sausage slices.
     “I got it, thanks. Just show me where you want it.” He followed me to the food table.
     “Smoke, did you know the sheriff was coming?”
     “Yeah, he mentioned it.”
     I slid a platter over to make room for Smoke’s dish. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
     “This being your mother’s party, I thought you knew.” He plopped down the plate.
     “She expects to know every detail of my life, but she keeps her own pretty private.”
     His eyebrows moved together. “Yeah, I noticed she likes to talk about just about anything except herself. Always seemed like self-protection to me.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “You can’t get hurt if you don’t let anyone in.”
     “Oh.” John Carl was the same way.
     Maybe I was too. A little.
     I was still talking to Smoke when Nick Bradshaw, the man I’d been dating, arrived with his daughter and two of her friends. I waved them over.
     “Sergeant Corky, hi! Thanks for inviting us. Dad, can we go play?” Faith said, her friends in tow.
     Mother had games: bean bag toss, horse shoes, volleyball, and badminton set up on the lawn for both kids and adults.
     “That’s fine, but don’t wander off.” He smiled at the girls.
     “Okay, Dad, thanks.” And off they ran.
     “Corky, you look terrific, as always.” Nick turned to me, slid an arm around my waist and pecked my lips with his.
     “What did you do to your hair?” He ran his fingers over some strands.
     “Umm, brushed it.”
     Smoke chuckled. I flushed.
     “I mean, you know, I usually pull it back in a ponytail or a bun. I just brushed it down tonight.” Why did I need to explain?
     “Very becoming.” He bent to whisper in my ear, “Very sexy. You are so incredibly gorgeous.”
     “Thanks, same to you,” I said out loud, uncomfortable whispering in front of Smoke.
     Nick’s muscled physique worked well in a suit, shorts, or the jeans and light denim shirt he was wearing that night.
    “Nick, I’d like you to meet Detective Elton Dawes–Smoke.” I turned to Smoke and caught him studying Nick the same way he eyed suspects.
     “Good to finally meet you, Detective. Corky sings your praises.” Nick offered his hand, which Smoke accepted and shook.
     “Really? So, I must be doing something right.” Smoke’s voice was flat.
Nick glanced at me, then back to Smoke. “Apparently. I understand you were her mentor in the department.”
     Smoke focused on me when he answered. “Corinne was a little wet behind the ears when she came on board, but what with her being a fast learner and good judge of character–” he paused and stared at Nick, “–she was one of my easier trainees.”
      Oh for heaven’s sake!
     Nick shifted, adjusted his belt buckle then reached around my shoulder and patted the top of my arm.
     “Shall we dance?”
     “You know how to polka?”
     “I’m a fast learner, too.” Nick grabbed my hand. “Excuse us,” he told Smoke as he pulled me onto the dance floor.
     “Why are you acting so nervous?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.
     Nick slipped his right hand on my waist and his left hand onto mine as we began to one-two-three around the room.
     “Your Smoke made me feel like he was about to haul me off to an interrogation room.”
     “What?” I looked in his eyes.
     “To find a reason you shouldn’t be dating me.”
     “Smoke’s in the habit of looking out for me. He was my father’s friend and we’ve been through a lot together in my seven years with the department.”
     “I can understand that, but look at the way he is staring at us–he is more than looking out for you.” Nick said.
     I casually glanced around, spotting Smoke seconds later. He attempted a little grin, enough to show his dimples, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Well, we’ve got this big case going, as you know. He’s been very preoccupied with that.”
     When John Carl sided over to Smoke, he finally looked away from us.
     “So you’ve done some polkaing before,” I said to change the subject.
     “My mother’s heritage is German and that’s what we did at my cousins’ wedding dances–polkas and waltzes. Lots of polka bands where I come from. We even have Polka Mass at church a few times a year,” Nick explained.
     “What exactly is a polka mass?”
     “Instead of traditional hymns, you sing polka music hymns. It’s actually a lot of fun–I’ll take you sometime. There are quite a few in Carver County. I took Faith to two of them this summer.” Carver was the county south of Winnebago.
     “I’d like that.”
     Nick guided me to the outer edge of the dancers when the next song, “Leichtensteiner Polka” began. He moved beside me and took my left hand in his. I reached my right hand up to grasp his right hand at shoulder level.
“You know the Domino? Right cross, right kick, step, step, step?” Nick asked.
     “Sure do.”
     Once we began, other couples joined us and we danced in a circular motion around the room.
     “Ja, das ist die Liechtensteiner Polka, mein schatz, polka, mein schatz–” Nick’s baritone voice sang out until I spoiled the moment by laughing.
     “Don’t stop. You have a wonderful, deep voice.”
     “You weren’t laughing at me, you were laughing with me?” He grinned.
     “Neither! It just surprised me to hear you sing. In German, no less.”
     “I have my high school German teacher to thank for almost every German beer-drinking song I know.”
     I laughed again, trying to imagine Nick sitting in a classroom singing German songs.
     “Which reminds me, I am suddenly very thirsty. Need a drink?” He asked.
     “Thanks, you go ahead. I better mingle for a little bit.”
     I gazed up at the barn loft area. A few of my friends–Sara, Brian Carlson, Todd Mason and his wife, Kayla were sitting at a table, eating and talking. Sara waved and I lifted my head in acknowledgement and smiled back. There were couples–some holding children–dancing between the tables and oblivious to the people eating around them.
     The main floor was more crowded. People tended to stay near the food, beverages and band. I said my hellos as I walked by the guests. Some hovered close to the food tables, others sipped drinks while they conversed, laughed, and relaxed. Mother would be pleased with the turnout and the good time her guests were having. John Carl had not ventured from Smoke’s side.
     “Lose your partner?” Smoke asked when I joined them.
     I spotted Nick talking to a small group by the drink table. “Temporarily, I guess. You two having any fun?”
     “This isn’t quite my scene,” my brother complained.
     I threw an arm around his shoulder and gave it a mild shake. “John Carl, for Mother’s sake, try to find some enjoyment here. Pretend you are not such a serious workaholic for one night.”
     “Ouch,” Smoke said.
     “I’m sorry. John Carl, let me put it this way–kick back a little, talk to people, dance.”
     The worried, serious expression he wore so well appeared in force. “Corky, I hardly know most of these people. And who am I supposed to dance with?”
     Right on cue, Sara stepped in beside me and gave me a half-hug. Her jade green eyes were luminous and her strawberry blonde hair hung in soft waves half-way to her elbows.
     “I am so glad I didn’t go home this weekend! Why fight Labor Day weekend traffic when I can have such a great time here?” Sara turned to the men. “Hi, Detective. And you are John Carl, I presume?” Sara asked my brother, extending her hand.
     He clasped her hand and nodded. “Just John to everyone outside my family.”
     “John Carl!” I sounded like my mother.
     He held up his hands in protest. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant my family are the only ones who call me John Carl.”
     “Because of your father, Carl, I guess?” Sara surmised and smiled. “I’m Sara Speiss. I can’t believe we’re never met before.”
     “Oh, my gosh! I should have introduced you earlier,” I apologized. “When John Carl comes home for a visit, you always seem to be in Brainerd.”
     “I guess that’s true.”
     “It’s nice to finally meet you. Corky talks about you all the time.” John Carl actually smiled.
     “She talks about you all the time.” Sara reached over and pushed his arm.
“John Carl was just saying he didn’t have anyone to dance with. Sara, you don’t mind having your feet tromped on by a big guy, do you?”
     “Very funny.” John Carl smiled. Again.
     “I’d love to.”
     I leaned closer to Smoke. “I can’t believe it. I don’t remember the last time I saw John Carl dance–probably at his wedding.”
     “John Carl looks just like your father–both six feet tall, about one-eighty, broad shoulders, trim. But way more serious than Carl.”
     “Really?” I panned, watching them dance. “You know, if John Carl wasn’t married, I’d say he and Sara would make a cute couple.”
     “Sara is very pretty and likable, too, as long as you don’t cross her, that is. I’ve seen her get downright angry at some of her probationers in court. She’s almost had me trembling with fear when those green eyes of hers go three shades darker because some guy has broken his probation.”
     I laughed. “Yeah, right.”
     “I was dancin’ with my darlin’ to the Tennessee Waltz, when an old friend I happened to see–” the band singer began.
     “Hey, they’re playing our song,” Smoke noticed. Years before, he had taught me to waltz at the first of my mother’s parties he attended.
     “For old-times’ sake?” I offered my hand.
     His grip was firm and when he captured me in his arms, he held me too closely and too securely for a casual dance. I inhaled his clean, woodsy scent and flashed back to the last time I was in his arms–the night I thought I was going to die. Smoke held me for a long time that night, and thereafter, whenever I awoke with night terrors of being suffocated by Alvie Eisner, I would remember Smoke’s solid arms around me and the way he smelled. It would relax me, lull me back to sleep.
     I pushed my memories aside. “You want to tell me what’s been bothering you?” I asked.
     “Don’t you think he’s a little too perfect?” He was obviously talking about Nick.
     I pulled my head back enough to glimpse his face. “Too perfect? Is there such a thing?” I challenged.
     “Handsome, good physique, prestigious career, affable–look at him over there, impressing the group around him.” Old and young, men and women–my mother and the sheriff, included–appeared rapt, listening to a story I couldn’t hear.
     Smoke went on, “And he dances and sings.”
     “Smoke, you could have just described yourself and I don’t think you’re too perfect. At all.” I held a deadpan face until he processed my words and a smile cracked his solemn expression.
     “Sometimes, little lady–” Smoke brought our extended arms closer to our bodies and turned my hand so our arms were intertwined. His hand on my back pressed my body still closer against him. The audible intake of my breath brought his focus back to my face. We searched each other’s eyes, wondering what we were looking for, what would happen next.
     An image of Smoke’s near-naked body sprang up from the recesses of my brain. I had accidentally seen him in his boxers one morning and was alarmed I found him so attractive, so desirable. My friend, my colleague. My lover? I kept my fascination repressed, but, at that moment, locked against his body, I found myself feeling, not thinking.
     “–Yes, I lost my little darlin’ the night they were playing the beautiful Tennessee Waltz.”
     “I guess our song is over, Corinne,” Smoke realized, his voice a mere whisper. We stopped dancing, but held our embrace to recover for another second.
     “Right! Thank you.” Formal, stilted, the best I could do.
     “You’ve improved . . . every year.” He took a step back, releasing one hand. The other he slowly and gently lifted to his lips and kissed my fingers.

     “Thank you.” My face betrayed me by blushing.
     “Wow! You two are really good.” Sara’s voice brought me back to the party I had forgotten. Her happy expression was the exact opposite of John Carl’s scowling one. Either Sara had offended him–which I doubted–or he did not approve of my dance with Smoke–which I did not doubt.
     “Thanks!” I said too brightly. “Thanks, Smoke. Time to mingle.”
     Sara followed and pulled me aside. “Oh . . .my. . . god! That was so hot! I mean when you told me you were attracted to Smoke, I have to admit I thought you were a little nuts, but I see what you mean. He is a total hottie! Not that Nick isn’t. No wonder you have such a dilemma.”
     “Sara, I don’t want to talk about this here. And, no, there can be no dilemma. I work with Smoke and I’m dating Nick.” I looked her full in the face, took her hands in mine and squeezed.
     “Whatever.” She pushed me away.
     I was suddenly aware that Nick, Mother, the sheriff, my friends in the department and others, may have witnessed the dance and wondered if something was going on between Smoke and me. Sara had. John Carl had.
I spotted my mother and the sheriff. They were sitting with my friends at a loft table and appeared lost in conversation. None of them were looking at Smoke or me, whispering and pointing. Nick was occupied with helping his daughter and friends dish up some food at the tables. Yes, I was a little paranoid.
     The next few hours passed in a blur. I helped my mother keep the dishes filled with food and the coolers full of beverages. I introduced Nick to my mother, brother, grandparents and friends. The sheriff stayed near my mother most of the evening, even helping her replenish food and beverages. He probably didn’t know what else to do with himself.
     Brian Carlson poked me when I was picking up some discarded plates and cups. “People asking you about the Molly case?”
     I handed him a stack and picked up some more. “Yes, I’ve been cornered a few times. They can’t seem to help themselves, can they?”
     Brian shook his head. “First dismemberment case in our history. They want to know–but don’t want to know–all the gory details.”
     “You got that right. What’d you think of the debriefing the other day? Did it help?”
     He frowned slightly. “It did. Not that I’m overly interested in another dive anytime soon.”
     “So did you burn your gloves?” I thought of the disturbed look on Carlson’s face when he held Molly’s arm and vowed to do just that.
     “Naw. Bagged ‘em up and threw ‘em in the trash,” Carlson said as we dropped our stacks of paper products in a garbage can.
     “I’d have done the same thing.”
     “Mason and Weber and I all disinfected our wet suits about a hundred and fifty times.”
     I feigned surprise. “Is that all? I would have gone for an even two hundred.”
     My Grandma and Grandpa Aleckson and Gramps Brandt were sitting together at a table on the edge of the dance floor. “How are you all holding up?” I asked.
     “Hanging in there,” Gramps said.
      “I can give you a ride home whenever you’re ready,” I offered.
     “No, no, I can make it til nine.”
     Grandma Aleckson reached over and patted my hand. “So, tell us more about that young man of yours. We haven’t had much of a chance to talk lately.”
     I gave a brief summary of Nicholas Bradshaw. He was the Oak Lea Memorial Hospital Administrator. I met him while working on an investigation at the hospital about six weeks before. His wife had died of cancer, leaving him alone with a young daughter to care for, and to whom he was clearly devoted. I was the first woman he had dated since his wife died four years before.
     “He seems nice, dear. Almost too good to be true.” Her lips pursed with concern.
     I half smiled and shrugged, “Maybe.”
     First Smoke then Grandma. I was beginning to wonder what they had against being “too perfect”. Truthfully, I didn’t know the depth of my feelings for Nick. I was attracted to him and loved spending time with him. He made me laugh. His kisses filled me with longings. His daughter was a treasure: polite, mature, kind and–as an added bonus–she liked me.
     “We saw your waltz with Detective Dawes. You two really cut a rug tonight.” Both my grandfathers smiled with her.
     I raised my eyebrows. “Cut a rug?”
     “Old expression–danced well–looked good together. Almost intimate.”
     “Oh.” I dropped my empty cup on the floor on purpose. I hoped bringing blood to my face by bending over would cover my rising blush.
     “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you, sweetheart.”
     I could never fool my grandmother.
     Nick and I shared one last dance before he left. If he had any more questions about my relationship with Smoke, he didn’t ask them. We held hands as we searched out his daughter and her friends.
     “Faith, Janie, Sarah, we need to get going. Time to say goodnight,” Nick prompted.
     “Sergeant Corky, thanks for showing us your horses and for the fun party,” Faith said.
     “Yeah, thanks,” twins Janie and Sarah said as one voice.
Nick made a gentle shooing motion. “You girls can get in the car. I’ll be there in a minute.”
     They ran off and Nick led me out of the barn and drew me into his arms for a deep kiss. “Mmm, I’ve been waiting for that all night.”
     I smiled. “And it was worth waiting for.”
     “Can you come over later, after the party?” He squeezed my shoulders gently.
     “It’ll be pretty late by the time we get things cleaned up.”
     “Tomorrow?”
     I exhaled audibly and shook my head. “Back to work tomorrow evening.”
Nick frowned. “Oh, right. It’s hard to keep up with your schedule. You ever think you’ll work days?”
     “I’m low man on the sergeants’ totem pole, I’m afraid. Two sergeants either have to quit, retire or get promoted for that to happen.”
Nick nodded, then brightened. “I almost forgot–I did get those tickets for       

     “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Orpheum in two weeks.”
     “Good! I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a play in Minneapolis. Years.”

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of the mystery thrillers, Murder in Winnebago County and Buried in Wolf Lake

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Lazarus Barnhill’s Newsletter

            Years ago I had a friend who wrote an article once a month for his company’s newsletter.  And nobody read it.  Tony could write okay.  The problem was his regular piece was always full of nothing but “thank you’s” and “coming events”.  Anytime someone did something noteworthy, he recounted the deed with effusive praise.  Whenever future activities were planned, he would write about them extensively and encourage participation.  By his third newsletter, everyone was ignoring Tony’s articles.

            So as I write this blog entry, I do so with a certain amount of trepidation—because I want to say a big “thank you” to all the kind people who posted such wonderful comments as part of the “Lazarus Barnhill Tribute”.  I’d also like to thank my friends at Second Wind Publishing who promoted and carried this off without me knowing about it until it was at hand.  You’re all delightful and lovely people—in addition to be fine authors.  This is the first time I’ve ever experienced a tribute, and it’s a wonderful, heady experience.

            I must admit, however, there is a dark side to this of which most people aren’t aware.  In the service of full disclosure, I suppose I should be completely candid and say that, without telling our “blog guru” what I was doing, I snuck in and removed all the ugly, hostile comments some people left. . . .  Well, I suppose it’s the thought that counts.  Folks make their tributes in different ways.  As I’ve read and reread the questions and observations about me that I deleted, it dawned on me I should respond to them.  Yes, even warped internet flamers need love and attention from time to time.  So here are some of the less favorable comments and questions along with my personal responses:

            What was your mother thinking when she named her son Lazarus?  Was that lame name the same as your daddy’s?  KDB

            No, my father’s name is not Lazarus.  When Mom named me that she was more than a little cheesed at my father, who at the time of my birth was in the Navy sailing over to Korea to fight a war.  She wasn’t about to name me after him.  Laz is a name that’s appeared in various generations of my family for some time, always accompanied with the hope that the bearer will final achieve something worthwhile. . . .  Now that I think of it, KDB are my mom’s initials.

            You should stick either to romance or to crime/mystery.  Where’d you get the idea you could screw up two genres?  M. Douthit

            You should read more good books.  In fact, you need to visit the Second Wind site.  Many quality romances (like Safe Harbor, Badeaux Knights, Fate and Destiny and A Love Out of Time) have strong elements of mystery and crime in them.  And some outstanding crime books (like Carpet Ride and my own The Medicine People) are full of romantic elements.  It would difficult to find a more heartbreaking romance—with a hopeful ending—than the thriller False Positive.  Murder in Winnebago County actually has a love triangle in it so compelling that Chris Husom’s readers demanded she resolve it in her upcoming sequel Buried in Wolf Lake.  Even though she would deny it, Pat Bertram’s books, especially A Spark of Heavenly Fire, are loaded with complex romances.  It’s a great privilege for me to be published by Second Wind, where authors are not confined to a single genre—which is really just an acknowledgement that a good book may have love, death, laughter, adventure, crime and even the supernatural in it.

            You make fun of police officers in The Medicine People.  You should be ashamed of yourself!  Edna S.

            My uncle and great-uncle were policemen in the little country town where I grew up, Edna.  They used to follow me around to make sure I wasn’t getting into trouble (or giving them a bad name) and when I got my driver’s license they’d find an excuse to stop me once every week or two.  I’m just getting even with them.  Anyway, the hero of the book is a clever cop and he’s surrounded by smart, ethical policemen who are trying to do what’s right.  I happen to think The Medicine People is actually pretty realistic in its depiction of police.

            Your hero in Lacey Took a Holiday is a kidnapper.  He gives me the creeps.  And the girl who’s the main character is a hooker.  She’s not much better.  Nobody wants to read about people like that.  P.P.

            Don’t I remember you from the romance writing contest?  You really ought to do something about your initials.  Anyway, get the book and the read the whole story.  They both start out as “damaged goods” through no fault of their own (he is an embittered WWI vet whose wife and child died in childbirth; she ran away from home as a teenager after being sexually assaulted and then being blamed for it).  Lacey Took a Holiday is not so different from a lot of modern romances in that the main characters have had prior relationships and endured great pain.  I’ll admit the story is a little gritty and realistic.  Second Wind is thinking about moving it over and making it a mainstream title.

            I understand you removed some of the steamier love scenes of your first two books to make them more acceptable to your readers.  Soon you’ll have another novel, East Light, coming out.  Have you made certain the sexual content is acceptable?  KDB

            Dang it, Mom!  Quit posting on the blog.

            Anyway, thanks for all the good comments.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them.  And now for some upcoming events . . .  —Laz Barnhill

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Who is the Creepiest Character You’ve Created?

I recently finished writing the mystery thriller novel, Buried in Wolf Lake.I had the premise for the book in my mind for several years and finally sat down last year to “whip it out.” It didn’t quite go that way–not at all. What was the hold up? My bad guy–more accurately–“my evil guy.”

Without giving away too many details of the book, suffice it to say, I had to create a character capable of–and driven to–brutalizing and dismembering another human being. And make him believable, besides.

I pored over books, stories and new reports by experts in the field of psychology and behavioral analysis over the course of several months, By then, I had formed a fairly clear picture of who my evil guy was. The character in question–Langley Parker–was a psychopath.

I learned more about the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths. I knew why, and how, his thought patterns were warped. I knew his weaknesses and strengths. I knew his deepest fears. I knew what he cared about. I knew how diligently he studied and worked for one good cause. I knew what motivated him to do what he did. I knew I didn’t want to ever meet him in person–at least not in a deserted, dark alley.

Have you created any creepy characters for a book or story? Did you have trouble honing in on his personality, her motivations? Could you get into his/her head, or did you need to keep a safe distance between the two of you?

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County and Buried in Wolf Lake.

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