Tag Archives: detective

Skeleton in the Closet (Mystery Short Story)

“You sure you’re sure about this one, boss? She just a sweet old lady.”

His wrinkled face pinched into a scowl as he glared at the muggy March sky. “Dreadful weather today.” He grumbled, fastening his coat. Cold and rainy, my mother would call this ‘soup weather’. Clutching the handle of his cane, he teetered down the pathway of the Madam’s estate.

Keeping with his turtle slow pace, I held an umbrella over both of our heads. “Are you even listening?”

“Of course.” Mister Barnaby assured me. I had worked with him long enough to know he was certainly not listening.

It was an awfully big house, far too ritzy for my taste. May as well live at the Plaza. Upon entering the sprawling mansion, a church mouse dressed as a maid met us at the door. Glancing behind her, she presented us with a simple key, the last piece of the puzzle. As we were led into the living room, I stuffed the skeleton key into my vest pocket.

“Detective Barnaby, come in. Come in!” A gracious greeting offered by the lady of the house. Mrs. Matilda Pierce, a well kept woman, with pristine makeup and not a hair out of place. Trust me, this broad didn’t look a day over 50. Perched by the fireplace, she sat in her antique rocking chair, wearing a dressing gown embroidered with orchids.

“Fiona, dear,” Mrs. Pierce beckoned for her timid maid. “Bring some more tea for the detective and his assistant.” The maid scurried off. After sipping her cup of tea, her lips curled “Did you find him?”

Three months Franklin Pierce had been missing. His shiny automobile still parked in the driveway. Most of his personal possessions were still in the home. And none of the staff members saw him leave either. An odd case, wouldn’t you say?

Tipping his tweed cap like a proper English gentleman, Mister Barnaby eased into the chair opposite her. “Unfortunately, your husband is still missing. We are still investigating. Your granddaughter is quite concerned, last we spoke to her.”

Her hand waved dismissingly. “Oh she worries too much. Franklin probably went on another fishing trip.”

“One of your maids said that you were arguing with you husband before his disappearance.”

“Couples have disagreements. Couples take breaks,” She patted my cheek like a long lost grandmother. “You’re young, sweetie. You will learn soon enough.”

“I see.” Mister Barnaby gave me a measured nod, a signal that meant ‘fetch, dog, fetch’. Oh, the joys of being a detective’s right hand man. I excused myself to go to the restroom, leaving my employer and the madam alone by the fire.


Last night, the detective lectured me on old homes with their various hiding places. How he suspected Mr. Pierce was still on the property, one way or another. How the maid promised to give us the skeleton key when we arrived tomorrow.

“Check behind every door, every closet.” Mister Barnaby instructed. “Mr. Pierce is still in that house.”


I searched anything that had a hinge. Cupboards with hidden compartments. Closets within closets. What kind of maniac built this house? Then, I checked a closet in one of the guestrooms. Behind fur coats and cardboard boxes of leftover Christmas decorations was a narrow wooden door. A secret passage, if you will. The door led to stairs, and the stairs led to a basement.

I found Franklin Pierce. Strangled to death and left to rot in a cement room under his home. A kiss of red lipstick stamped on his cheek. Early stages of decomposing. Poor fella had seen better days. When I returned to the detective’s side, Mrs. Pierce was reapplying her red lipstick in the mirror. And she began to laugh. “Oscar, darling, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“More like a skeleton in a closet, boss.” I muttered to Mister Barnaby, lighting a ciggy in my mouth. The mad madam continued to laugh.


To end May of Mystery, here’s a story based on a prompt of the week, featuring characters from my WIP, Detective Barnaby and his assistant Oscar. Enjoy!

– Lady Jabberwocky

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Writer On: May Writing Goals (Recap)

Hello Writer Bees!

Did I reach my writing goals for May? Keep reading to find out!


Writing Plans

  • Write mystery/detective themed blog posts for the entire month. – Done! I’ve had a blast writing posts dedicated to sleuths and murder mysteries this month. And you guys seem to be loving it too, which makes me so happy. Be sure to check out all the posts from May of Mystery right here!
  • Give characters from WIP some TLC. – You know, it’s interesting to see my characters evolve the more I write and flush them out. I asked myself, “How do I make these characters feel more realistic?” Characters should be well rounded, with strengths and flaws and personalities. This is something I keep in mind as I write.
  • Try to write a little bit everyday. – I’ve actually been writing more lately, taking advantage of our time on lockdown. Feel like creative juices are flowing again after a serious drought, and it’s beautiful.

Reading Goals

  • Choose a new book to read for lockdown. – Still looking through my TBR books. I’m in the mood to read a story with NYC vibes. Recommendations anyone?
  • Read more blog posts from other writers. – In an effort to support other writers during this time, I’ve read, liked and followed a bunch of new blogs recently. Seriously, you guys are posting some amazing content! Connecting with other creators in the blogging and writing community has kept me afloat.

How did your writing endeavors for the month go? Talk to me in the comments!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Writing Services // Follow Me on Twitter

Get a Clue: The 3 Types of Evidence In Mysteries

Hello writer bugs!

What’s a whodunit without some hard hitting evidence? Clues in mysteries can lead the detective and the reader down either the right path or the wrong path. I’m breaking down the three types of clues a sleuth will find during their investigation.

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Physical Evidence

Probably the most likely of evidence, these are the tangible clues. The kind of evidence the detective can physically hold, feel and smell. And remember, this item can be planted to frame someone else.

Examples:

  • Forensic evidence – Hair, fingerprints, blood etc. If you are writing a historical mystery, research how detectives used science to solve cases during that time period. You’ll be surprised.
  • Personal items – This could be anything, from jewelry to hand written notes to photographs. Whatever the object, it connects the culprit to the scene of the crime or connects the killer to the victim.
  • Murder weapon – Possibly the most important piece of evidence in a case. A bloody knife or a smoking gun can tip the balance of any investigation. Really consider where the weapon is found. Was it found near the dead body or was it disposed of?

Thematic Evidence

Here’s where the creative in creative writing comes in. As writers, we often use subtle nuances as hints to the reader. Think about how the audience experiences the story, the surrounding atmosphere of a scene.

Examples:

  • Weather can set the vibe of a scene. Tense situations tend to happen during dark and stormy nights.
  • Villains, especially Femme Fatales, wear light colored clothing then gradually transitions to a darker appearance.
  • That “invisible” character that is just too quiet and too innocent. Like the shifty looking butler or maid ducking in the background. You know who I’m talking about.

Verbal Evidence

Sometimes, mysteries are simply a game of questions and answers. Not only is who said what important, but what is not being said too, meaning body language and social cues.

Examples:

  • Verbal – How do suspects answer the inspector’s questions? How do they talk about the victim or the crime itself? Consider the tone of their voice. Do they sound abrasive? Defensive? Anxious?
  • Secrets – Everyone has their secrets. Who is gossiping about who? What lies are being told? What happens when secrets get exposed?
  • Body language – This is the “show, don’t tell” rule comes into play. Instead of writing “He was acting nervous”, describe how the body moves when someone is nervous.

With all three types of clues mixed into the plot, you will definitely had one solid mystery on you hands. What’s your favorite detective story? Lemme know in the comments!

Keep writing and stay safe!

Lady Jabberwocky

Watson Who? Tips on Creating A Detective’s Sidekick

Holmes and Watson

Poirot and Hastings

Nick and Nora

These are just some of the iconic duos of detective fiction. Where would an inspector be without their trusted companion? Today, I’m talking about the detective’s partner in crime, the “Watson” of a story and what to consider when creating this character.

The Function of the Foil

Opposites attract, right? The purpose of a foil, or a foil character, is to highlight the traits of the main character. Their contrast in personality or appearance reflect and highlight the specific traits and quirks of a protagonist.

For example, if the detective is level-headed, maybe their sidekick is impulsive. If the detective is a total genius, maybe their companion is a bit oblivious. Play around with the duo’s personalities. You might find their differences make them even more compatible.

For the People

Not only does the sidekick serve their detective, they also serve the audience. Usually, the “Watson” is charged with narrating the story, and every step of the investigation. They pull information about the case from the inspector, or from their own observations, and present them to the reader.

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As a close ally, know the inspector well. Keep the detective human. When the main sleuth is hard to read, their companion acts as a bridge between a distant detective and the audience. Through their interactions with the sleuth, the partner keeps the detective human, and that is such an important role in a mystery plot.

Dynamic Duo

The heart of any mystery is the relationship between the inspector and his companion. Partners balance each other out. Let there be a solid comradery and playful banter. Readers want to see how these two characters play off one another. Oftentimes, the sidekick is there for the detective to bounce theories off of. Think about it, Watson is an extension of the detective’s thought process.

Are they roommates? Lovers? Acquaintances? Have fun with their relationship between the inspector and their companion. Readers want to root for a dynamic duo. Sure, they may not be on the same page all the time. During their sleuthing, morals and consciences will be tested. A little conflict between the two makes things interesting.

At the end of the day, a sleuth’s sidekick can be a valuable addition to a mystery story. Really consider the kind of partner your detective characters need by their side during an investigation.

Who are some of your favorite detective duos? Lemme know in the comments!

Stay safe and keep writing!

– Lady Jabberwocky

Writing Services // Follow Me on Twitter

5 Deadly Essentials to a Great Mystery

Hello writer bees!

Some folks think murder mysteries are complicated to write. And they’re right. Mysteries involved many moving pieces. But once you understand the core elements of a mystery, writing in that genre won’t be as intimidating as it would appear.

So, continuing with the May of Mystery theme, let’s go over the essentials to any great mystery.

The Right Hook

Pin on 2017 Halloween ideas
Note: This is a Halloween decoration idea from Pinterest. And it’s hilarious.

Right off the bat, the crime has to grab the reader’s attention. If you don’t have the audience’s interest from the start, they won’t be interested in how the mystery is resolved. Take it from someone who has changed the murder of my WIP murder mystery before. Whether it’s a murder, a kidnapping or a theft, the mystery itself should bring shock and intrigue to the audience. Really set the scene for the reader, give them every bit of detail, no matter how small or how gruesome.

The Investigator

When mystery is afoot, someone’s there to crack the case. A sleuth character is the heart and soul of this genre. The audience needs someone to follow and root for in this mystery.

Keep in mind, the protagonist does not have to be a bonafide detective. They can be a private detective, a member of law enforcement, or a regular joe who fell into the scene. And more than one person can be involved, like a detective duo (ex. Sherlock Holmes and Watson) or a team of sleuths (Scooby Doo and Mystery Inc.) Regardless, the protagonist(s) is invested in the investigation and is determined to uncover the truth.

Phryne Fisher Jack Robinson GIF - PhryneFisher JackRobinson Mmfm ...
One of my favorite detective duos 😉

Also, ask yourself, why is the detective compelled to solve the case? The protagonist’s motives are just as interesting as the antagonist’s motives.

Suspicious Suspects

For any kind of mystery, a line-up of suspicious characters is assembled. And hidden amongst them is the true culprit. Each suspect must be memorable and standout from the rest. For example, take the suspects from the Cluedo board game. All distinct in character and yet equal in motive and opportunity to commit the crime. If not differentiated, characters will bleed together and get easily mixed up by the reader.

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How many suspects should a mystery story have? Personally, I think 3 to 6 suspects is a good number. Too many suspects will overwhelm, too little is too easy. Also, consider how the suspects relate to one another. Are they enemies? Are they lovers? How do those relationships effect the victim?

Clues and Red Herrings

Both the detective and the reader need breadcrumbs to follow. All of the evidence of the case must be out in the open. There’s no holding out on clues in a proper mystery, or the audience will feel cheated. However, not every hint leads to the truth. Some clues, called Red Herrings, divert an investigation, taking the detective down a dead end (no pun intended).

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Keep track of all the clues presented. Jot down a list of clues as you scatter them throughout the story. When does this piece of evidence appear in the story? How does it connect to the overall plot?

A Satisfying Finale

Every murder mystery needs a grand finale. The big reveal, when all the clues come together and the culprit is discovered. Sure, there can be some plot twists, but a mystery writer must deliver a satisfying ending to the audience. This means the other suspects are given alibis, proving without a doubt, the identity of the antagonist. And every bit of evidence is explained in detail. No loose plot ends, all story lines must be resolved in the end.

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What are some of your favorite mysteries? Let me know in the comments.

Stay safe and keep writing!

– Lady Jabberwocky

Writing Services // Follow Me on Twitter

Femme Fatale: The Secrets Behind A Dangerous Woman

Hello writer bees!

Today is the first day of May Of Mystery, an entire month dedicated to mysteries and detective fiction.

Let’s start May of Mystery with sheer sexiness, shall we? Today, I’m breaking down the iconic femme fatale. Here’s everything you need to know about the dangerous women of mystery fiction and film noir.

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What is a Femme Fatale?

A French term meaning ‘fatal woman’, a Femme Fatale is a promiscuous, mysterious female archetype. This seductress is sexy and she knows it, bending others to her will with her charm and beauty. Oftentimes, her story line concludes with her demise, whether by imprisonment or death.

Key Characteristics of a Dangerous Woman

As a character trope, there are some trademark characteristics a femme fatale has. Here are just a few.

  • She is street smart and vastly intelligent. Her observation skills can read anyone like a book.
  • Driven by power, independence, or wealth. Will manipulate, and probably murder, anyone to get what she wants.
  • A queen of fashion. Bold lipstick. Dramatic makeup and hair. Light colored clothing that gradually shifts to darker clothing. She makes a statement when she enters the room.
  • She uses “feminine wiles” to her advantage. When she is in a relationship with someone or sleeps with them, there’s usually an ulterior motive. Always looks after their own self interest.
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Detectives and Femme Fatales

The relationship between a hard boiled detective and a femme fatale is an interesting dynamic. While the hero seeks justices in his cases, they end up trapped in the spider’s wed. At times, they share a tumultuous romance, full of conflict and passion, eventually ending in turmoil. Will the detective turn her in to law enforcement? Or will the dangerous dame corrupt the hero?

Femme Fatale’s in Literature

Want to see a man-eater in action? Check out these

  • Brigid O’Shaughnessy – The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • Cora Papadakis – The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  • Carmen Sternwood – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Final Thoughts on Femme Fatales

Am I telling you to shove a cookie cutter version of this architype in your work? Not exactly. If you create a perfect copy of the traditional femme fatale, she may come off as stale and unrealistic, readers won’t be interested in her or the overall story.

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Writers are meant to reinvent overdone tropes sometimes. Let aspects of a femme fatale inspire your own complex characters. The world could use more bold, fierce female characters, right?


Who are your favorite femme fatales? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading the posts from last year’s May of Mystery, click right here.

Stay safe out there, writer bees!

– Lady Jabberwocky

Do Ronald Knox’s 1929 Rules on Detective Fiction Still Hold Up in 2020?

(With May Of Mystery right around the corner, I’ve decided to repost this article for last year. Enjoy!)

Hello my amateur sleuths!

Did you know that one famous author actually wrote rules for writing detective stories in the 1920’s?

Ronald Knox was a prominent figure in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. As a mystery loving priest, he published the Ten Commandments on Detective Fiction. Are the rules still relevant or outdated? Let’s investigate, shall we?

1.The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

True enough. If the author introduces the real killer towards the end, readers will feel cheated. How can they suspect a character that came out of nowhere? The criminal needs to be introduced within the first couple chapters of the story. Also, the audience, usually, isn’t allowed to enter the thoughts of the murderer. Their inner workings should remain unknown to the audience, until the very end.

2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

Now, I disagree with this one, just a smidge. If done right, multiple genres can be featured in a single story. Maybe a sprinkle of supernatural could work in a murder mystery. It’s all about balance. As long as the integrity of the whodunit remains solid, other genres can join in. A little fantasy and magic never killed nobody.

3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

I mean, he has a point. A second secret passage won’t garner as much surprise as the first secret passage. One hidden room is enough. Don’t push your luck.

4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

Fair enough, Mr. Knox. Basically, this rule applies to all made up devices. Hard to acquire poisons from foreign lands or complex inventions are far too unlikely plotwise. Using an unusual method cheats the readers from unraveling the mystery themselves. Remember, detective fiction is meant to challenge the reader mentally, like a puzzle.

5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.

No, we’re not talking about those of Chinese descent. The term ‘Chinamen’ refers to evil mastermind character, maniacal laugh included. Antagonists need real motives. Their reason for committing a crime must be plausible. No sinister villains are welcome in a detective story.

6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

Frankly, this rule reminds me of those classic Scooby Doo cartoon, where clues fall into their laps. As tempting as it sounds, coincidences, chance happenings and bizarre hunches are just too easy. Every clue must be discovered on purpose, with purpose. Don’t just hand over clues on a silver platter. Make your detective, and the reader, work for every scrap of information.

7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

Where’s the fun in that? Listen to Knox, it’d be a disaster to have the detective be the culprit. Plus, you’re killing any chance for a sequel. No pun intended.

8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

For fairness, the detective and the reader must have equal opportunity to solve the case. However, the sleuth can keep some less obvious clues to himself. Just collecting the insignificant clues in his/her pocket until the big reveal. The reader knows every hint, but just isn’t sure how important each piece of information is.

9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

I object to this one. Although he wasn’t smarter than Holmes, I wouldn’t consider Watson an idiot. Seriously, Watson could pull his own weight. The sidekick can have brains too. Heck, they may even become as asset for a detective during an investigation. Instead of being slightly below the reader’s intelligence, why can’t a sidekick’s intelligence be slightly below the detective’s brainpower?

10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

See, I feel like nowadays, audiences are thrilled by surprise doubles. Not all doubles or twin need a heads up in advance. (Side note: Have you guys been watching Cloak and Dagger? Talk about shocking doubles.)


Yes, all of these “commandments” have been broken in detective fiction before. However, some of these rules are still relevant by today’s standards. Murder mysteries are complicated games, whether you choose to take note of the rules or break them is up to you. You’re the writer.

What do you guys think of Knox’s rules from 1929? Do you think they still hold up to today’s whodunits? Let me know in the comments.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Bianca and the Mysterious Happenings (Mystery Short Story)

“You suffered a serious loss this summer, Bianca. The school faculty was concerned, even the principal wanted me to check up on you.” Let me assure you, I did not have time to have a conversation with the school’s psychiatrist. Sitting amongst a sea of throw pillows in a cramped office, I adjusted my Edgar Allen Poe patterned socks. On his desk, a wooden crane dipped up and down, moving on its own accord.

“Oh I’m fine.” Reassuring others that I was fine seemed to become a common occurrence nowadays. Students treated me like I was some tragic mess, fragile and ready to crumple at any moment. Hardly. There’s more to my story than that.

“It appears so.” The therapist shuffled his paperwork. My life condensed in a manilla folder. “Excelling in all of your classes. Writing for the school newspaper. Volunteering in the school play.”

My shoulders bounced. “I try to keep busy.” And Chester always did like the theatre.  

“This is a safe place to talk about him.” Mister Raphael reminded.  Yes, because the motivational poster of a polar bear climbing a mountain really made me feel safe to express my feelings. “Grief takes many forms.”

Fingers fidgeted with the sleeve of my wool sweater. My eyes kept glancing at the clock. This meeting lasted 6 minutes and 47 seconds, 5 minutes longer than necessary. Why did I give up free period for this?  Although my jaw tightened, I forced a smile. “He was my boyfriend since freshman year. We were planning to go to the same college together. Get married. Kids. White picket fence.” Excuse the cynicism, it had been a long semester, with more sympathetic looks than I could count. Some of them didn’t even know Chester.

“He’d want me to keep going.” Not very poetic, but very true, nonetheless.

After a couple seconds of silence, I informed Mister Raphael about the pieces I planned to write for the school newspaper. I had a journal filled with notes and outlines for possible articles. While talking about news topics, an eagerness returned to my voice. Are the tofu burgers in the cafeteria really vegan? Did last year’s valedictorian cheat on his SATs?

“And I’m also looking into the recent disturbances at the graveyard.” Mysterious happenings were happening in the Westminster Cemetery. The reporter in me must investigate. The ceiling light flickered above.  “Or maybe I should write about the school’s faulty wiring.”

We share an uneasy, cordial laugh. Then, It was time to leave. “Well, my door is always open, if you need an ear.” 

With my chin raised and a sigh of relief, I exited the office. Ponytail swishing from side to side. The halls were mostly clear, except for a few lingering students and a security guard distracted by his smartphone.

“Grief takes many forms.” Those empathetic words felt lackluster on my lips. I stared at my reflection in the vending machine window. “How am I supposed to grieve when you won’t quit bothering me?” One of the metal rings in the machine spiraled, releasing a snack from it’s grip. A bag of honey wheat pretzels, my favorite.

I couldn’t help but smile. What a charmer, even in death.


Hey Writer Bees! Hope you enjoyed this little scene. Lately, I’ve been playing around with the idea of a having fiction series on this blog, updating with a new chapter each month. This is just a snippet of a mystery plot, following Bianca, the school reporter, and the unusual events happening in Baltimore.

Want to read more of this story? How do you feel about a regular series on this blog? Be honest, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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NaNoWriMo 2019: Week One

Hello, hello, writer bees!

Hope NaNoWriMo is treating you well.

Things have still been bumpy on my end. Monday morning, I woke up sick as a dog. Took me out of commission for 3 days. It sounds like an excuse, and it probably is. Still battling my usual writing demons. I’m trying to push through my fear of writing trash. This entire month may be garbage, and maybe that’s alright. I haven’t edited anything, even though I desperately want to.

I’ve written about 3,000 words~ this week. Which I know is awful, don’t remind me. It’s a slow start. Cross your fingers that I can crank out more words this weekend, after some serious cuddle time with the boyfriend, of course.

Currently, I’m busy playing catch up. I’m not out of the running yet, folks. Hoping for more progress week two.

Again, thanks for all the kind words and support.

How is NaNoWriMo project going? Let me know in the comments!

– Lady Jabberwocky

Main Character Name Reveal (And Staying Positive)

Hello Writer Bugs!

It was been a rough week for me. Job hunting is difficult. Rejection is disheartening. I’m working on staying positive and strong, and learning how to keep my head above water in tough times. Shout out to my amazing boyfriend for keeping me afloat when I was drowning. I don’t know where I’d be without his unwavering love and support.

On the plus side, I think my main character for my WIP finally has a new name. For those of you who have been following my journey as a fiction writer, you’ll know that I’ve been wanting to change the name of my main character, after 5 years. Since this is a small milestone for me, and a brighter point in my week, I thought I’d share with you guys.

Drumroll please, writer bees! My detective’s new name is…

Graham Ward Barnaby or Private Detective G.W. Barnaby

This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to me, this is a well needed change. Personally, I put a lot of thought into character names. They have to look and sound like a given name found in the real world (in the right time period). Now, his name is still subject to change but for now, I think this name suits him well (both as a full name and as initials). I’m happy with the next chapter in my beloved character’s evolution. And who knows? You might see Detective Barnaby is another project of mine. Wink wink.

Thank you guys for always being so sweet and supportive of this little ol’ blog. It means more to me than words can express. You writer bugs keep me going, and keep me writing.

What do you think of his new name? Have you ever made a major change to your main character? Talk to me in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky