Tag Archives: Murder in Winnebago County

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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My Father

     Father’s Day is an appropriate time to recognize my father and the man he was, to his family, and to the public. Although his bizarre death led to the creation of the plot and character development of my first mystery thriller, Murder in Winnebago County, and the subsequent books in the series, I would never want the way he died to in any way overshadow the life he lived.
     Carroll Eugene Larson was born in 1913, the eleventh of thirteen children to Norwegian immigrant parents. They lived on a farm in Minnesota where Dad learned the value of hard work. His parents recognized his keen intelligence  and decided he should attend high school, rather than quit to help on the farm. They made arrangements for him to rent an apartment in town, since making the several mile trip twice a day was not feasible. He was only thirteen years old. He had certain chores at the boarding house to help pay for his keep. He graduated from high school at age sixteen. It took him ten years to get through college and law school, working at his uncle’s farm in Iowa and other jobs to pay the tuition and living expenses.
     Dad took a job at a law firm in Minneapolis. A short time later, he ran into my mother at a party. They had met at a church picnic as teenagers. It was love at second sight, and they married six months later. Less than a year after, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Dad felt duty called him, and he enlisted in the army. He was in an expedited training program which took its toll on his health. He developed hepatitis and spinal meningitis, and spent months in a military hospital.
     When he returned to Minnesota, he decided he was more suited for private practice than corporate law, and my parents moved to Buffalo, the seat of Wright County, hopeful to start a family. The family part didn’t happen for some time. Meanwhile Dad was building a successful practice and getting involved with church, civic, and political organizations, serving in leadership roles of many. Between 1946 and 1959, Dad and Mom felt blessed when five children joined them, completing the family.

      In 1967, the governor of Minnesota appointed him to serve as a Tenth Judicial District Judge. Although it meant cutting our family income in half, he felt he was being called for service, and happily accepted.
     Dad was known as a fair judge, tough when he needed to be, and more lenient when circumstances called for it. He took his position very seriously and weighed each decision carefully. Minnesota has mandatory retirement for sitting judges at age seventy, but after his official retirement, Dad continued to serve as a retired judge for the district, and for Hennepin County. He loved performing weddings on the side. He was both humbled and proud to be called “Judge.”
     My father received many awards and recognitions in his lifetime, but he was most proud of his children and grandchildren, and left his legacy. My brothers and sisters are all professionals: A hospital foundation president, an architect and structural engineer, a physician, specializing in internal medicine, and an attorney. I’ve had several careers, but the one my dad enjoyed using to get a rise out of people was when I served as a corrections officer. People would ask what we were up to. Dad would tell them, adding, “And Chrissy’s in jail.” He loved watching their reactions before he added why I was there.
     He had a naturally loud speaking voice, but never raised it at us in anger. When he lowered his voice, it was time to pay attention. We knew what, “I’m going to you into consideration,” meant, and didn’t question that, “Do what I say, before I change my mind,” should not be interrupted literally, but should be taken so.
     Dad loved to talk. My mom said if you saw two people standing talking, anywhere in town, “One of them is probably your father.” He stayed in close touch with his children, siblings and their children. Saturday morning was the time to phone everyone.
     He had a tendency to want to figure things out. “The average age my brothers and sisters lived to is eighty-three years old. And none of the Larson boys have made it to eighty-four. Sure enough, he died about two weeks before his eighty-fourth birthday, and his younger brother died two years later, two months before his own.
     My father was organized and like planning events well in advance. He mapped out his own funeral service, and asked a man at church to sing a solo for it, adding, “I can’t give you the exact date, though.” Then he laughed heartily.
     Dad was a grateful man who didn’t take his gifts for granted. He was proud to have a beautiful, talented wife to walk through life with. He worked hard to achieve and provide for his family. When he got home from a long day at the office, he immediately changed into work clothes, and headed outside to do some physical activity, such as hoeing the garden. He wrote three books, and published one. He was a generous giver of his time, talents, and money.
     He did not have much success with business pursuits, however. He should have recognized that early in life when he tried to make some extra money selling soft-shelled pecans before Christmas one year. The first order sold like hotcakes, so he took all his earnings and invested in another batch, double the original amount, thinking he would rake in the dough. The second shipment arrived after Christmas, and he couldn’t sell a one. About the same thing happened when he bought and developed land for a housing development. It cost him more than he made from the deal.
     My father had a wonderful sense of humor and rarely made it through a funny story without cracking up. And he was often the brunt of his stories. When he made mistakes, he owned up to them. I could go on and on, but it’s impossible to truly sum up a person’s life, or capture his essence, in a few paragraphs. Dad taught me countless lessons which I treasure. He was obviously not a perfect man, but he was my dad and I will always love and honor him, and carry him in my heart for all my days.
     Thanks, Dad, for your fine example. I’ll strive to live in a way that would make you proud.

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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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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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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