Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gloria Ferris - Deadly Blooms

Murder by Moonflower

See the Moonflower? Isn't it pretty? Its botanical name is Datura Stramonium. You may have one in your own garden or see one growing against an old fence or tree. The plant likes to open its blossoms at night, hence its lovely name.

But the Moonflower has a dark side, and is also known as Thorn Apple, Devil's Trumpet, Mad Apple, Stink Weed and a host of other names. You may have heard it referred to as Jimsonweed.

A Jimsonweed trip isn't pleasant. Burning skin, extreme thirst, fluid retention – and then there's the hallucinations. They can last for days and you're stuck with them until the substance works it's way out of your system via the catheter the hospital staff will be forced to insert along with the IV line. Fluid in, fluid out. And all while you watch three-headed snakes crawl into your bed, or hear giant moths hiss at you out of mouths lined with jagged teeth. Bet you won't try that again.

And that is the best scenario. If, like Valerie Quantz, in Murder by Moonflower, you have a bad head cold and don't notice that your cleansing, bitter-tasting pau d'arco tea has been rendered even more bitter by the inclusion of a hefty dose of Jimsonweed, you might not make it to the hospital.

Valerie, an Episcopalian priest, forces her aching body up the winding staircase to the church loft to conduct the regular Wednesday evening choir practice. She very quickly drinks three bottles of water to quench her thirst and is forced to tear off her clothes to cool her skin. Not that these tactics ease her discomfort for long. And she soon notices that her choir members have turned into segmented, red-eyed insects – demons, she believes, sent by Satan to drag her to Hell for her old sins. Sins for which she had long ago sought atonement and received forgiveness.

Fortunately, an angel speaks to her and tells Valerie she can fly away to Heaven and escape the demons crunching their forelegs together and reaching out for her with their hooked antennae. Valerie whirls around and jumps onto the railing of the loft. Her bare feet grip the polished wood like suction cups. She feels lighter than air and barely needs to touch the pillar for support.

At last she can see the angels. They are so beautiful, their lovely faces pulsing in and out of view, wings like spun sunlight. But how can she fly away with the angels, she has no wings of her own?

Ah, but she does. Valerie can feel them on her bare shoulders, soft, feathery, gossamer wings. The wings stir, then open. They beat in time with her heart, faster, faster, surely fast enough to fly her away from this place of retribution. She can almost touch the vaulted ceiling of the church.

The sound of her wings beating, beating, overpowers the rustling of the demons behind her. Spreading her arms wide, Valerie Quantz summons all her courage and faith. One foot lifts from the railing, then the other.
She senses the angels around her as her wings carry her out of reach of the devils crowding against the railing. One angel holds out a hand to her and she grasps it tightly as she soars towards Heaven...

Needless to say, the angels may have carried Valerie off to Heaven that evening, but not until her mortal body smashed into the pews beneath the choir loft. Not a botanist, Valerie didn't know that the plants growing under her kitchen window, the plants that bore such beautiful white flowers, would cause her demise at the age of thirty-four. But then, she probably shouldn't have married a penniless artist and taken out a million dollar life insurance policy, all in the same month.

Gloria has been a member of Crime Writers of Canada since 2008. Cheat the Hangman was a finalist in the 2009 Unhanged Arthur contest and has since been published by Imajin Books. She won the 2010 Unhanged Arthur contest with Corpse Flower which is presently awaiting publication and she is working on the sequel, Murder by Moonflower. She lives in Guelph, Ontario and wishes she was thirty years younger so she could dress like a Goth all the time, not just at book signings.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Joan Donaldson-Yarmey-Truth is Stranger

Committing A Believable Murder

I believe in that old adage “Truth is Stranger Than Fiction.”

In 1976, a partially decomposed body was found in a septic tank near Edmonton, Alberta. The person has never been identified nor has the murderer ever been found. For my first book, Illegally Dead, I decided to write a conclusion to that mystery. However, I never looked up any information about it, just made up my story. When my manuscript was finished, I then checked the Internet and discovered that one of my characters had the same name as one of the detectives who investigated the crime. I immediately changed my character’s name. Then I searched some more on the Internet and found many real life episodes where killers have used, or tried to use, septic tanks as hiding places for their victims
For my second novel, The Only Shadow In The House, I made up the stories about the lives of the characters, as well as the murder. Of course, ‘made up’ really means taking some of the little tidbits that we writers have learned during our lifetime and fashioning them into fiction. When a friend finished reading the book she phoned me and said that she had read it in a day not being able to put it down until the last page. Then she asked me where I got the idea for story. I told her that I had made it up and asked her why. She said because it was the story of her older sister’s life, except for the murder, of course.

In my third novel, Whistler’s Murder, I used another news item. This one was about an old rumour of a body being hidden in a house in a resort town in the Alberta Rockies. The house was torn down and no body found. I took it step further and had a body being found in my story.
These novels are the first three of my Travelling Detective Series.

Joan Donaldson-Yarmey began her writing career by having seven travel books published but has now turned her talents to mystery writing with her Travelling Detective Series. Joan loves change and has worked as a bartender, hotel maid, cashier, bank teller, bookkeeper, printing press operator, meat wrapper, gold prospector, warehouse shipper, house renovator and nursing attendant. She has moved over thirty times in her life settling on an acreage on Vancouver Island for now.