Social Distancing – Week 2

Social distancing is suddenly becoming less voluntary and more and more directed by state and local authorities.

Preventative actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 are ramping up across the U.S. These actions affect nearly everyone–from parents now home caring for out-of-school children, to waiters and waitresses no longer working, to cruise ships and crews sitting idle, and even to my 91-year-old parents.

My mom and dad, who thankfully are in good health, have been planning their 70th wedding anniversary celebration for months. Rightfully so, it’s a big deal.  Their party is scheduled for early April, with invitations sent out to dozens of family and friends.  Postponing this event is not an easy decision, but in this case, it’s the only prudent one.  While they would like nothing more than to spend the day with their grand and great-grandchildren, it’s too big a risk to them and others.  It would be better scheduled when hugs could be shared with all.  Now is not that time.

Claudia and I continue to hunker down in the mountains with our dog, Milo.  We read, write, hike the mountain trails, do jigsaw puzzles, binge-watch Amazon Prime movies, and fret over our shrinking IRAs.

We made our weekly grocery run yesterday, using the Walmart pickup service, only to find many items out of stock.  Everything from coffee to toilet paper was backordered. Still, we purchased what we needed for another week, and then headed back up the mountain to our peaceful solitude.  We wonder when, or if, our spring-time neighbors will return this year.  The next few months are uncertain, but for now, we’re grateful to be healthy.  

We encourage everyone to please be safe, and stay vigilant.   

To help adult mystery readers escape reality during this difficult period, I will be offering my NEW Mountain Mystery, “Fallen from Sight,” FREE on Amazon.com for a limited time.

March 23rd thru 27th, Download “FALLEN from SIGHT” for FREE! Click HERE!

Social Distancing

If there’s a profession that’s well-suited for “social distancing,” it’s writing.  As I sit at my desk at 3,000 feet elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I find myself in the perfect spot to ride out the viral pandemic that’s spreading across the globe.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a recluse, nor do I want to be.  But this COVID-19 outbreak makes me appreciate the solitude of the mountains. I can write up here for weeks at a time with very little human contact.  The nearest stoplight is 15 miles away. 

With the virus hovering over us like a lethal boogeyman, Claudia and I think twice before getting in the car, let alone an airplane.  Book club meetings, presentations, and any public gathering are evaluated case by case. We are seniors by any definition, but far from elderly. (I despise that description.) We’re both healthy, get plenty of exercise, and eat well.   I do have a compromised immune system, and as such, I’m vulnerable to any virus or infection.  So far, I’ve fought off all encounters.  

We made a trip down the mountain to Walmart yesterday to stock up for a few weeks.  We order groceries and other supplies online and use the pickup service. It saves time and avoids human interaction. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do.  We noticed other shoppers at the pickup stocking up on massive quantities of bottled water and toilet paper.  I don’t know what it is about snowstorms and pandemics that make people fear reaching for an empty roll of toilet paper.  The same folks tend to buy bread and eggs in bulk.  Seems like a circular dilemma to me.

After signing for the groceries with my fingertip, I lathered up with hand sanitizer, and we headed back up the mountain into secluded safety.

I hope this virus runs its course and passes quickly. In the meantime, I’ll follow the advice of our state and federal medical professionals.  If you’re also “social distancing,” try reading one of my books to pass the time.  But don’t start writing novels.  There’s already too much competition.    

Check out the Mountain Mystery Series by clicking HERE.

Creating Compelling Characters – The Successful Authors Know How

I’m occasionally asked who are my favorite writers.  I’ll read just about anything and anyone, but I always migrate back to murder mysteries, legal thrillers, and crime novels.  I have several favorite authors who write in these genres.  In no particular order, they include: John Hart, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Vince Flynn, James Patterson, Sue Grafton, David Baldacci, and Meg Gardiner. 

I’ve read many novels written by Connelly, Grisham and Hart, and fewer of the others.  I’ve recently discovered Meg Gardiner and David Baldacci, and I look forward to reading more of their work.  They bring fascinating characters into suspenseful plots.

Every author on my list is hugely successful, selling millions of books across the world. If the measure of a writer’s talent is book sales, then few are more skilled than those on my list—at least among contemporary writers.  I believe one of many common threads contributing to the success of these authors is their ability to create characters with staying power.  Their protagonists compel you to read the next in the series. In many cases, their main characters become as famous as the writers themselves.

Mickie Haller and Harry Bosch have made Michael Connelly famous, or was it vice versa.  Haller is a lawyer, Bosch a detective.  They both challenge authority and ignore boundaries.  They are cunning, smart, and fearless. You want them as friends and fear them as enemies.

Amos Decker is a former detective turned investigator.  He possesses an injury-induced eidetic memory and social quirks that make Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory” appear normal.  Decker provides the foundation for several books in David Baldacci’s Memory Man series.  You won’t find a more unique character.

Kinsey Millhone, the likable non-conformist, casual dressing loner, policewoman turned problem-solving investigator, is the cornerstone of Sue Grafton’s alphabet crime investigation series. I dare you to read just one book in this series.  Millhone won’t let you stop at one.

Being an aspiring writer, I read these authors as much to learn from their writing as I do to enjoy their novels.  I only hope if you read “At the River’s Edge,” you will find Emily Edwards as memorable as Mickie, Harry, Amos, and Kinsey.

Insert Pets to Add Interest and Insight

Adding pets to a novel is a way to generate interest and add depth to scenes. Interacting with a pet can also give readers a better view of a character’s personality, showing a softer side, or conversely, demonstrating cruelness. Even the breed of dog can tell readers something about the dog’s owner. Want to cast a character as strong, tough, or macho? Have him/her own a pit bull or Rottweiler. Someone who owns a bloodhound is likely to wear plaid flannel shirts and be at home in the outdoors. Those with primped Pomeranians under their arms can be painted as narcissistic, focused more on appearance than with pet ownership.

I have inserted dogs into each novel of the Mountain Mystery series. None of these canines are meant to play major roles, but rather complement the main characters. In “Fallen from Sight,” Patches is a springer spaniel owned by Sarah, a young woman who vanishes while out for a hike. Sarah’s boyfriend, Ryan, finds Patches alone the next day at Sarah’s home. In coming scenes, Patches is often at Ryan’s side during the frantic search for Sarah.

In “At the River’s Edge,” Rufus, a floppy-eared coonhound, is Emily Edwards’ companion. Emily is a strong-willed, independent mountain woman who lives alone in a cabin at the top of Sunset Mountain. Emily’s deceased grandfather is rumored to have buried moonshine money in the nearby foothills. With unwanted treasure hunters threatening Emily, Rufus makes several appearances as her protector.

In “Butcher Road,” the mayor of Stonefield, Fred Willis, has his bulldog, Rocky, constantly at his side—even in his city hall office. Fred Willis is a moonfaced, portly man, with a resemblance to his pet. The dog’s jowly mug is used as an effective prop, sitting beside the mayor in his political ads. Rocky makes several cameo appearances with the mayor.

I just started the fourth novel in the series and have yet to bring a canine into the mix…but I will. You can learn more about these novels by CLICKING HERE.

D.R. Shoultz

Another Mountain Mystery

I’m excited to announce Fallen from Sight, the third book in the Mountain Mystery Series, is coming January 1st to Amazon.com.  The novel will be available in paperback and Kindle format, and like the others in the series, can be read independently.   You can pre-order and learn more by clicking HERE.

My goal in each mystery novel is to deliver fast-paced suspense, interweaving plots, and compelling characters you’ll remember long after flipping the final page.  The stories are set in fictional North Carolina towns, capitalizing on the vitality and beautiful backdrops of my home state.

Shadowy murders confront readers at the beginning of each mountain mystery.  In Fallen from Sight, the brutalized body of a young woman is discovered by park rangers near Jefferson Peak where Sarah Campbell, a local resident, went missing just days earlier.  The female victim is not Sarah, but who is she, and is her death connected to Sarah’s sudden disappearance?  

The mystery of the Jane Doe murder parallels the frantic search for Sarah Campbell by her boyfriend Ryan and twin sister Beth. There’s evidence of human trafficking playing a role in the young woman’s death, adding to Ryan’s and Beth’s anxiety as they search for Sarah.

It’s my hope Fallen from Sight gets readers hooked on the Mountain Mystery Series.