Tag Archives: collaboration

Writing a Collaborative Mystery Serial — by Pat Bertram

I’m collaborating with several other Second Wind Publishing authors to write a series of mystery novels online. We are posting the chapters on a blog so everyone who wants to can follow the serial as we write it. Actually, collaboration is a bit of an over-statement. Rubicon Ranch is more of a cross between a role-playing game and round robin or campfire tale, with each of us authors taking turns adding to the story without knowing where we are going except toward the solution of the murder. We each create and control a POV character, show who s/he is, what relationship s/he has with the deceased, and why s/he might want the victim dead.

I have it easy — my character, Melanie Gray, is a photographer/writer who wanders the desert taking photos for the coffee table books she used to write with her dead husband. (He wasn’t dead when they were working together, of course.) He died in a one-car accident while texting his mistress, though there are suspicious circumstances leading investigators to think that perhaps he was killed. Melanie has a talent for finding strange things in the desert, such as the child’s body stuffed in an abandoned television console in the first book, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, and the scattered body parts that were found in the second book, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces. Her presence at these crime scenes is all that leads the sheriff to suspect her, though I do try to add a bit of intrigue to make it seem as if she could be guilty.

The other authors, however, have to simultaneously prove that their characters are the murderer, yet also have a plausible explanation for why the characters acted guilty if they weren’t the murderer. (That’s because we don’t know whodunit until all the end of the book. So not only do readers of the ongoing story not know who the villain is, neither do we.)

In the first book, the authors solved the problem of simultaneously setting their characters up to be murderers while allowing for the possibility that they were innocent by giving their characters strange characteristics, such as sleepwalking, to keep the characters themselves from knowing if they were the killer.

In the second book, there was no way the killer could be unaware of having killed the victim. Even if by chance the character killed in some sort of fugue state, the character was still faced with a dead body, which he or she cut in small pieces and distributed around the area. The authors created some wonderfully devious characters with strong motives for killing the evil man who damaged them for no reason other than because he could. Any of them could be the murderer. And any of them could simply be innocent (or not so innocent) red herrings.

We are through with the second book and are in the process of organizing the third installment of the series. In this one, Melanie won’t find a body in the desert since understandably she’s a bit leery of walking in such a deadly place, so she will have to find it elsewhere, perhaps beneath the wheels of a blow up figure of a Santa Claus on a motorcycle.

We have a victim — a real estate agent, the same one who found the disembodied head of the victim of the second book inside the house where the victim of the first book once lived. Apparently she likes to snoop, and since so many residents of Rubicon Ranch have a secret they are willing to kill to protect, it sounds like the potential for a lot of mayhem!

I’m looking forward to seeing what the other authors come up with. I hope you will follow along with us as we continue this innovative crime serial.

Meantime, if you haven’t checked out Rubicon Ranch, and wish do so, click here: Rubicon Ranch.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

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Rubicon Ranch Released – by Deborah J Ledford

It’s been a pleasure collaborating with eight other Second Wind Publishing authors to create the mystery novel Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story. Many readers have been patient, reading chapter by chapter as they are released online. Now I’m thrilled to announce that Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story is now available for all markets.

Kudos to Second Wind Publishing for presenting another publication opportunity for Lazarus Barnhill, Eric Beetner, Nichole R Bennett, Pat Bertram, JJ Dare, Christine Husom, JB Kohl, Nancy A Niles and myself.

The Trade Paperback print version is now available from Second Wind Publishing and Amazon. E-book versions are available for the Kindle and on Smashwords.

Some of the authors of Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story had such a great time working on this collaboration that we’ve started Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces, book two of the ongoing saga. Once again, this novel will unfold online chapter by chapter at the Second Wind Publishing blog. Can’t wait to see what kind of mischief I can create for my character, retired Lieutenant Colonel Eloy Templeton Franklin, this time around.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest suspense novel SNARE, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, is book two of her Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. STACCATO, book one of the serial, is also available. Both novels are published by Second Wind Publishing. To find out more about Deborah, receive a Free Download of the first chapters of her novels, and to read a few previously published short stories, she invites you to visit her website.

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Why Whodunit Did It — by Pat Bertram

I’m collaborating with several other Second Wind Publishing authors to write a series of novels online on a blog. The first novel is about the death of a little girl. Her body was found in the desert outside a bedroom community that once had been a working ranch, hence the name of the series, Rubicon Ranch.

Collaboration is a bit of an over-statement. Rubicon Ranch is more of a cross between a round robin or campfire tale, with each author taking turns adding to the story, and a role-playing game. We each create and control a POV character, show who s/he is, what relationship s/he has with the deceased, and why s/he might want him dead.

I have it easy — my character, Melanie Gray, is a photographer/writer who wanders the desert taking photos for the coffee table books she used to write with her dead husband. (He wasn’t dead when they were working together, of course.) He died in a one-car accident while texting his mistress, though there are suspicious circumstances leading investigators to think that perhaps he was killed. Melanie has a talent for finding strange things in the desert, such as the child’s body stuffed in an abandoned television console in the first book, and the scattered body parts that will be found in the second book. This is all that leads the sheriff to suspect her.

The other characters, however, have to simultaneously prove that they are the murderer, yet also have a plausible explanation for why they acted guilty if they weren’t the murderer. (That’s because we don’t know whodunit until all the end of the book. So not only do readers of the ongoing story not know who the villain is, neither do we.)

In the first book, the authors solved the problem of simultaneously setting their characters up to be murderers while allowing for the possibility that they were innocent by giving their characters psychological or physiological problems, such as sleepwalking, to keep the characters themselves from knowing if they were the killer.

In the second book that we are in the process of organizing, there is no way the killer can be unaware of having killed the victim. Even if by chance the character killed in some sort of fugue state, the character will still be faced with a dead body, which he or she will cut in small pieces and distribute around the desert. So not only do the authors have to show that their characters are capable of the act, they have to show why their characters might have killed and why their characters might have mutilated the body.

So how do you write a character from a strict third person limited point of view, from inside the character’s head, proving that your character is the killer, while at the same time giving yourself an out if the character turns out to be innocent?

Well . . . If your character has killed before, you can have him/her worrying about if the sheriff will find out what s/he did, without being specific as to which crime s/he is wondering about. You can have your character act guilty — perhaps desperately trying to cover something up. You can have him/her try to pin the murder on someone else, offering assistance to the sheriff, which would make your character seem guilty, but in the end (if your character is not the killer) have an alternate explanation. You can be hiding something in your house that can be construed as your having Morris’s body that you’re cutting up bit by bit. I’m sure you can come up with better ideas than these, but you get the idea.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the other authors come up with.

Meantime, if you haven’t checked out Rubicon Ranch, and wish do so, click here: Rubicon Ranch.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Rubicon Ranch Final Touches by Deborah J Ledford

I’ve been performing the final content edits for Rubicon Ranch: Book One Riley’s Story, the collaborative novel I’ve had the opportunity to be part of.

This was the first time I’ve collaborated on a full length novel, and the challenges were quite interesting. In the beginning I had a complete picture of what I wanted my character, retired Lieutenant Colonel Eloy Franklin, to achieve during this journey. And yet with ideas coming from eight other writers I soon realized I needed to go with the flow and not make any final decisions about what I would write until it came time for me to present Eloy’s following chapters. I enjoyed exploring the twists and turns of Eloy’s tortured life—especially the fact that he isn’t anything like the persona he presents to the public. I love this old guy!

This has been a fascinating challenge and I wish to thank my fellow collaborators Lazarus Barnhill, Eric Beetner, Nichole R Bennett, Pat Bertram, JJ Dare, Christine Husom, J B Kohl and Nancy Niles for your extraordinary efforts and talent. It has been an honor working with you.

Pat Bertram has been our fearless leader, keeping the writers on track, alerting us about inconsistencies that need to be fixed, and as all around point woman for the entire project. Thanks, Pat, for wrangling the cats!

If you’re not aware, Second Wind Publishing has been releasing individual chapters of Rubicon Ranch: Book One, Riley’s Story, so if you’re anxious to see what we’ve been working on, here’s the link to what’s available so far. The entire print version of Rubicon Ranch will be available by Second Wind Publishing later this year, so look for announcements about this upcoming release.

And a BIG thank you to our publisher, Mike Simpson, for giving us the opportunity to add another full-length novel to our publishing credits.

Since the first Rubicon Ranch has been such a big hit, Second Wind has given us the opportunity to write a continuation. Four other authors with books published by Second Wind will be added to the mix: Claire Collins, J. Conrad Guest, Mickey Hoffman and Dellani Oakes. I look forward to getting started on Book Two of Rubicon Ranch.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest suspense thriller novel SNARE, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, is book two of her Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. STACCATO, book one of the serial, is also available. Both novels are published by Second Wind Publishing. To find out more about Deborah, receive a Free Download of the first chapters of her novels, and to read a few previously published short stories, she invites you to visit her website.

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Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel

I am involved in a wonderful project with eight other authors from Second Wind Publishing — writing a novel online.  We take turns writing chapters, and each of us writes from the point of view of a character we created. The story begins with a little girl’s body being found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end! Here is an excerpt from one of my chapters to entice you to come join the fun. You can find what we have written so far by clicking here: Rubicon Ranch.

“Look I know you’re dressed for the desert and everything,” Bryan said, “but I hope you won’t be offended if I ask you to sit in the unit here for a minute or two and enjoy the air conditioning while I talk to my deputies.”

He could tell she was thinking over his request carefully, that Melanie didn’t quite trust him. She also didn’t act like someone who had just killed a child and was trying to cover it up, although—he judged—she might be clever enough to do just that.

“Well if I have to wait,” she said, “I guess I’m better off in here than out in hundred degree weather.”

Bryan opened the driver’s door. “One hundred and three degrees,” he corrected.

Frio and Midget were standing within a few feet of the discarded TV, as if to make sure the child inside did not get out and skip away. Midget paid less attention to the crime scene than the scrub brush and mounds of rock and dirt around him.

“Do we know who this was?” the sheriff asked as he joined them.

“No,” Frio said. “If she’s from this housing development, it won’t be hard to find out. Not too many girls her age up here.”

“They don’t know she’s gone,” Midget offered in his falsetto. “Otherwise they would have reported her missing before Flower Child over there found her.”

“Yeah, unless they killed her.” He glanced back to his Navigator. Melanie was staring at them. “So this Melanie Gray. More to her than meets the eye, you think?”

“Obviously,” Frio replied. “With all those clothes she wears, almost nothing meets the eye.”

“Yeah.” He turned back toward the TV. “I would totally discount her as being involved in any way, except for one thing. From the very first, she talked about this as if it’s a murder.”

Midget looked down at him. “You think it’s not a murder?”

He shrugged. “What is she—eight, nine-years-old? She sneaks out at night after bedtime and loses her way. No one notices she’s gone. She gets lost. She gets dehydrated. She finds the TV console and decides to sit it in for shelter. Maybe she dies of exposure. Or maybe one of those green rattlers around here bit her. Since no one could hear her crying for help, she crawled in the TV and the venom got her.” He looked up at Midget, who was gazing around them. “You don’t like snakes, do you?”

“Do you?”

He chuckled. “So let’s proceed as if this is a wrongful death investigation. What do we need to do, Frio?”

She sighed. “Well, I’ve already called for the coroner and the bus. Midget and I will cordon off this area with tape and protect the scene as much as possible. We need to figure out who the little girl is and notify her parents.”

“What if they’re dead too?” Midget asked.

***

Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People, available from Second Wind Publishing.

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Book Trailer for Borrowed Trouble by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

Click here to read the first chapter of: Borrowed Trouble

Click here for further information or to buy: Borrowed Trouble

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Excerpt from Borrowed Trouble by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

Hollywood, 1941

Ray Ward spends nights thinking about his brother’s death and the blood-soaked days that followed.

Dean Fokoli is off the force, disgraced by his dirty dealings, left to scrape for pennies as a private eye.

When Ray receives a mysterious package from his sister containing a plea for help and a reel of 8mm film, there’s a problem – Ray doesn’t have a sister.

Now two former enemies must team up, travel halfway across the country to search the dark shadow of Hollywood’s spotlight. In for more than they bargained for, Ray and Fokoli plunge behind the silver screen to unearth tinsel town’s dirty secrets. And two men with nothing left to lose can stir up some serious trouble.

Excerpt:

“Hello, Cindy. You’re out late.” A man’s voice. I spun to see where it came from. At first I missed him sitting in the chair beside the bed. My eyes ran back to him as he stood. A tall sandy blond with a thin mustache and a light tan suit, a great tie surely one of a hundred in his closet.

“Relax, Robert. I brought a friend.”

Suddenly the room seemed exactly the size of a boxing ring. I kept my back to the ropes, my hands went up on their own, defending against an unknown threat.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“This is my brother, Robert. Robert this is Ray. He’s looking for his sister.”

“And where did you two meet?” He seemed uninterested in knowing me.

“A diner just east of L.A. He needed a ride.”

“So no car, no bags. A guy with no suit on looking like a bum out of the gutter?”

I opened my mouth to protest but she beat me to it. “Hey, knock it off. It was slim pickings.”

“Oh well. Let’s see what he’s got.” Robert brought his hand out of the pocket of his linen suit and flicked open a switchblade. I didn’t know what to think other than it was a joke. I turned to Cindy who looked away.

“Cough it up, pal,” Robert said.

“What?”

“Your wallet, bub. Let’s have it.”

I stood still, stunned. This was a shakedown. Cindy was acting. She should get a contract with Louis B. Mayer; this girl’s got the stuff. Fooled me like Houdini on a good day.

She stepped up behind me and reached into my pocket to remove my wallet. I let her, not wanting to provoke the switchblade before I knew more about the man holding it. She tossed my billfold to Robert then stepped quickly away from me. She still wouldn’t meet my eye. She turned to the dresser where a whiskey bottle stood, open and half gone. She splashed some into a short glass, no ice, and took it in one shot.

Robert had my cash in his hand. “Two hundred and some. Nice take.”

Guess he was lousy at math, it was over three hundred. My whole bankroll for the trip. “Give that back,” I said.

“What for? So you can blow it all on a dame you meet in a diner? Did he even buy your coffee, Cin?”

“No.”

“What’s with the bum’s clothes, pal? You steal this wad? A guy with this much dough usually has on something made in New York. Nice work, Cin. Grifting a grifter.” He tossed my wallet on the bed and stuffed the cash into his front pocket.

“Can we wrap this up?” Cindy was obviously afraid of him. As solid as her acting was with me she let her guard down around Robert and her fear showed through. She turned to the bottle again and refilled the glass.

“At least he knows the game. Okay, pal, you and me are gonna take a ride. I’ll let you off a few miles down the road. Don’t give me any guff and no one gets hurt. I bet you’ll have your pockets filled again in no time, smart kid like you. Say goodnight to your dream girl.”

Gesturing with the point of the knife he pointed to the door, expecting me to obey. He must have been used to suckers who were husbands, traveling salesmen, middle aged doughboys who didn’t know how to fight back.

I’m not that sucker.

***

Beetner and Kohl’s partnership is a unique one in that they live on opposite coasts (he in LA and she in Virginia) and they have never met. They’ve never even spoken on the phone. Their collaboration is done entirely by email. At this point they have become superstitious about it and have no plans to meet.

When JB wrote Eric in his capacity working with the Film Noir Foundation a friendship was born. When he read her debut novel The Deputy’s Widow, he wrote to tell her how much he enjoyed it and sent along a sample of his own writing that had been circulating the crime fiction webzines. She was hooked and asked if he would ever consider collaborating on anything. They took the first few tentative steps with nothing to lose and it all came so easily that before long an entire novel was finished and soon after, a sequel.

They each continue to write solo novels.

JB Kohl lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. In addition to writing fiction she works as a freelance medical and technical writer/editor. Her first novel The Deputy’s Widow, was released in 2008.

Eric Beetner is an award-winning short story and screenwriter. His short work has been anthologized in Discount Noir (Untreed Reads), Needle magazine, Crimefactory, Murder in the Wind (Second Wind publishing) as well as all the major online crime fiction outlets. He was selected in the top 3 for Storysouth’s Million Writers award for 2010.

Click here to buy: Borrowed Trouble

Click here to read the first chapter of: Borrowed Trouble

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Rubicon Ranch — The Desert is Heating Up!

Nine Second Wind authors are collaborating to write a thriller online.

A little girl’s body has been found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

No one knows whodunit, not even the writers! So follow along — your guess is as good as ours. The first four chapters have been written. You can find those chapters by clicking here: Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel.

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The Second Chapter of Rubicon Ranch Has Been Posted!

You can find the second chapter of Rubicon Ranch, the Second Wind collaborative novel here:  “Chapter Two: Seth Bryan — by Lazarus Barnhill.” Next week we will be posting a chapter by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner, authors of the wonderful noir novel One Too Many Blows to the Head. We hope you will join us in our adventure!

Here’s a taste of Chapter Two:

“Look I know you’re dressed for the desert and everything,” Bryan said, “but I hope you won’t be offended if I ask you to sit in the unit here for a minute or two and enjoy the air conditioning while I talk to my deputies.”

He could tell she was thinking over his request carefully, that Melanie didn’t quite trust him. She also didn’t act like someone who had just killed a child and was trying to cover it up, although—he judged—she might be clever enough to do just that.

“Well if I have to wait,” she said, “I guess I’m better off in here than out in hundred degree weather.”

Bryan opened the driver’s door. “One hundred and three degrees,” he corrected.

Frio and Midget were standing within a few feet of the discarded TV, as if to make sure the child inside did not get out and skip away. Midget paid less attention to the crime scene than the scrub brush and mounds of rock and dirt around him.

“Do we know who this was?” the sheriff asked as he joined them.

“No,” Frio said. “If she’s from this housing development, it won’t be hard to find out. Not too many girls her age up here.”

“They don’t know she’s gone,” Midget offered in his falsetto. “Otherwise they would have reported her missing before Flower Child over there found her.”

“Yeah, unless they killed her.” He glanced back to his Navigator. Melanie was staring at them. “So this Melanie Gray. More to her than meets the eye, you think?”

“Obviously,” Frio replied. “With all those clothes she wears, almost nothing meets the eye.”

“Yeah.” He turned back toward the TV. “I would totally discount her as being involved in any way, except for one thing. From the very first, she talked about this as if it’s a murder.”

Midget looked down at him. “You think it’s not a murder?”

He shrugged. “What is she—eight, nine-years-old? She sneaks out at night after bedtime and loses her way. No one notices she’s gone. She gets lost. She gets dehydrated. She finds the TV console and decides to sit it in for shelter. Maybe she dies of exposure. Or maybe one of those green rattlers around here bit her. Since no one could hear her crying for help, she crawled in the TV and the venom got her.” He looked up at Midget, who was gazing around them. “You don’t like snakes, do you?”

Click here to read the whole chapter: Chapter Two: Seth Bryan — by Lazarus Barnhill

If you haven’t yet read the first chapter of this novel experience you can find it here: “Chapter One: Melanie Gray —  by Pat Bertram“.

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The Murder. The Mystery. The Unspeakable Crime.

Video by JJ Dare, author of  False Positive and False World.

Read the first chapter of Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel here: Chapter One: Melanie Gray — by Pat Bertram

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