Welcome Hawk MacKinney back to Andi's Book Reviews! Today we've got an excerpt from his latest mystery/suspense title, Blood of the Dragonfly. He's also telling us what it's like to craft parallel worlds between book series and has a great giveaway at the end! Be sure to leave comments and questions as you follow the tour.
While dangling a fishing hook from his flat bottom skiff before dawn, former SEAL-turned-PI Craige Ingram spots grey-black smoke coiling above the treetops across the river in the direction of the Georgia bayous and Corpsewood Manor. Bayou or bogs, fire in the uncut cypress and pines bodes a sense that the river is no barrier to the fire that threatens his ancestral home, Moccasin Hollow. Neither are the bodies later found in the burned mansion of Corpsewood Manor. Craige wastes no time in helping his ex-SEAL buddy Lt. Graysen MacGerald who is now Head of Buckingham Homicide Investigations by unofficially investigating the bodies and an exquisite dragonfly brooch found in the mansion with a reputation for evil, hauntings, and mystery.
In the bright sun-fired afternoon, Craige parked curbside in front of Mattie Skuggs’ well-lived-in cared-for neat welcoming house. He never pulled into Mattie’s driveway. Mattie never owned a car. It wouldn’t have mattered if she had; she would’ve made sure no oil or grease smudges got left on her drive. The drive was spotless. Outside and in, everything about her small cottage of a house was clean and inviting. Mattie fit right into the homey, comfortable space she had made for herself. He made his way up the pansy-trimmed dollhouse walkway embraced with flower beds of daylilies and wild violets in scrupulously weeded, arranged patterns across Mattie's lawn. Stocky and short, Mattie Skuggs was a kind soul but by no means unsophisticated. Mattie’s simple and uncomplicated, happy, content life was the rare exception in the hurry-up-dash PTSD world. Quiet and retiring, Mattie was no timid push-aside walkover. Mattie Skuggs was one of an almost forgotten genre. Retiring, soft-spoken, polite, and considerate, she never complained. She had a warm guileless appeal Craige often wished there was more of. Crass and bluster offended both. They’d gotten it from their upbringing; Mattie’s Mama and Craige’s Grannie had been faithful churchgoers.
Few understood Mattie’s gift, often giving her fearful sidewise glances, mostly for what she might truly know about them. Mattie had learned to quietly use it to help when she could. Craige didn’t need to ask. He’d seen it first-hand in Grannie as well as Mattie. Wasn’t something explainable to run-of-the-mill millennials that couldn’t survive, their lives wired into the latest gadgets? With Mattie, it was simple—a blessing to be shared.
Mattie never married. Never spoke of beaus or boyfriends. Craige made a point of never asking. He doubted she’d ever had a date. Could picture her likely shocked speechless if she saw a man naked, then again, maybe she wouldn’t. A true maiden lady could often know way more than anyone suspected. Born with a keen mind, yet she never finished high school. Didn’t read or write well. Her greatest delight was her tidy, orderly, immaculate one-bedroom cozy, bought-and-paid-for home. With an exceptional eye for rare quality, flea market sojourns were regular delights on her off-days from the Fabric Shoppe where she’d worked for years. She was thrilled if she found a treasure, like her antique brass front door knocker rescued from the gone-to-ruin Pasquerre mansion.
As he reached for the door knocker, her front door opened. Her plump, rosy-cheeked guileless face framed in the doorway, “Mister Craige.” In her lower Alabama accent, stout matronly Mattie’s spirited ice blue eyes were all a-twinkle.
In crafting one’s fictional parallel world for your books, how would you change the characters/setting/plot?
I am currently working on two series: The Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series and my science fiction series, The Cairns of Sainctuarie. No matter the planet or parallel world, the basic setting and plot tools don’t change. In both series, my favorite characters are strong tender feminine figures that share common traits between the titles in the mysteries and the alien worlds. Those traits were deliberately incorporated with their emotions, motives, and characteristics that directly effect changes and events in the settings and plotlines.
Each of the mysteries has serial characters—characters that show up in each book. The characters in my science fiction series are blood-kin but not necessarily serial characters. Another difference between the mysteries and the science fiction is in the language and speech; vocabularies of idioms, nouns, names and speech inflections can be a real plus for defining a character, a place, or even a period in time. This important detail helps the reader to identify characters and settings with no tags needed. However, with idioms or regional dialects one must use caution. If you have grown up with it, then you are probably fairly safe to use it. If you try to borrow unfamiliar dialect diversions, caution is the watchword. Vocabulary can be wild and a tricky minefield; definitions and word use can be muddled.
Consistency is another watchword. Don’t scramble settings. It will trip you up every time. This author is speaking from experience, which is why I always start with an abbreviated outline. Don’t be afraid to use that sort of plot-and-setting tool with consistency as the given guidepost.
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