Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Rendezvous to Die For by Betty McMahon: Guest Post and Excerpt



I Can't Write Like Dostoyevsky – so why try? 
by Betty McMahon


I'm a pretty good writer and a not-so-bad novelist. But I came close to being neither.

That's because, when I was younger, I compared myself to authors like Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, or Tolstoy (I was in my Russian author phase). When I shoehorned myself into the corporate world, writing eased the discomfort I felt in that atmosphere. No matter what I did in those years – work or recreation – the one constant was writing. Finally, I succumbed to the “calling,” went to University to learn the craft, and carved out a writing career.

I've since learned that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. A variety of genres makes the reading and writing world go 'round. But one of the best things that can happen to a writer is to have her keyboard expel an ingenious turn of phrase, a perfect metaphor or an inspired description. Or watch her characters take on lives of their own.

In my mystery, “A Rendezvous to Die For,” I hope readers will recognize that my crafty computer created some of these inspired phrases, metaphors and descriptions. And that my characters wove a plot that's entertaining – and full of mystery.

I think you'll like Cassandra Cassidy, a jaunty, independent 30-something photographer who gets involved in a murder – that's somehow connected to a couple more. She's inept when it comes to investigating, with photographic skills her main talent. Along the way, this New York-trained photographer has to deal with a cast of possible suspects from Indians, mountain men, and horse trainers, to real estate shysters, property owners and, yes, even her friends.

They say to write about what you know – and dare I say – my friends think they see Cassandra in the author herself.

Cassandra Cassidy is a professional photographer, who when she is “fed up to her f-stop with wedding gigs looks for opportunities to indulge her passion for “real photography.”” This is how she finds herself at a rendezvous in Minnesota, which is an 1830’s period re-enactment of fur traders and American Indians, complete with a tomahawk throwing competition. Sharp as a whip and sassy, Cassandra quickly finds herself involved in a murder from which she is innocent, but through a series of events, becomes the prime suspect.

A Rendezvous to Die For, by Betty McMahon is a mystery that takes off with a bang and doesn’t let up until the ending. A single murder leads to more which further complicates the plot line. Filled with enough twists and turns, it will keep you guessing about “who done it” until the last page.

Kindle  |   Paperback  |  Goodreads
About midmorning I was kneeling before a little girl swathed in a coat fashioned out of a red-and-white-striped Hudson Bay blanket. Her mother, in a long cotton calico chemise, bent over her with a corn cob, preparing to scrub off a morning's indulgence in sticky candy. As I clicked the shutter, someone called my name.
 “Hey, Cassandra.”
Looking over my shoulder, I groaned. It was Eric Hartfield.
“Hello, Eric.” I pushed myself to my feet, bracing for his opening salvo.
He didn’t disappoint me. “Looking to shoot a few Indians today, C.C.?” He smirked at me.
I’d been in “Nice Minnesota” mode long enough that I was losing my comeback edge. Finally I sputtered out the equivalent of a schoolyard retort. “No, you little prick, I’m shooting rocks. Where’s the one you crawled out from under?” I struck a hands-on-the-hips, legs-firmly-planted stance.
“Now, now, Cassandra, I just don’t know what to make of a remark like that.” He stepped closer, his scrawny five-foot-seven frame a mere foot away. His breath smelled of stale coffee and menthol cigarettes. I saw the blood pulsing at his temples. I pulled myself up as tall as I could manage and stared into my reflection in his wire-rimmed round glasses.
“Are you hoping to get some precious Indian pictures?” His lips curled in a grimace.
“What are you doing here, Eric?” I asked, backing up a step.
“My assignment, sweetheart, is from the Duluth paper, asking me to write about this event.” He reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a package of cigarettes, tapped one into his hand.
That stopped me cold. How could a respected daily newspaper hire a scumbag like Eric? I’d seen roadkill with a more appealing personality.
“How’d you manage that?”
“It’s called ‘freelance.’” He cupped his hand around the cigarette, lighting it. He took a puff. “Some newspapers appreciate the skills of an experienced journalist.”
“Unlike others who frown on the shenanigans of unprincipled ones,” I countered, bringing my face closer to his.
“That little incident with the Star Tribune was only a bump in the long, sometimes rocky road we journalists must endure.” He waved his hand dismissively.
“I wouldn’t call being fired from a major newspaper only a bump in the road.”
“You wouldn’t, would you?” He took a step back, crooked his elbow and for a minute I thought he might strike me, but he put his hand on his hip. “And I suppose your part in that little charade makes you the Fourth Estate’s Joan of Arc.”
“I didn’t ask to be part of that.” I stood my ground.
“No? Well, you sure as hell made the most of it to advance your own agenda.” He waved his cigarette in my face.
“All I stated was my professional opinion.” I shifted my weight and waved the smoke out of my face. 
“Your ‘professional opinion.’” He spit on the ground. “I spit on your professional opinion. It carries about as much weight as a fencepost. ”
At least he didn’t spit tobacco juice. “The jury didn’t seem to think so.”
People were beginning to glance at us nervously as they passed by.
“It didn’t take a professional to expose an amateur’s work,” I said, turning to leave. I’d had enough of Eric Hartfield for the day.
He grabbed my arm and spun me around. “We’ll see who ends up being exposed as an amateur,” he said, his face turning a shade redder with each decibel he raised his voice.
“Should I interpret that as a threat?” I wrenched my arm away.
“Interpret it however you want, you lying bitch!” He sprayed saliva into the air. “Nobody does what you did to me and gets away with it.”
I leaned in toward him.
“Oh, revenge is it,” I said. “That’s a great career move. I can see it on your resume, right under the part about your photo-doctoring skills.”
I’d struck a nerve. He glared at me, spun around, and walked away. He’d gone about ten steps when he turned back. “If I were you,” he shouted, “I’d watch my back.”
I shouted back at him. “The next time I see you, I’ll fire two warning shots – straight into your head!” I pointed my index finger toward him and drew it back in an imitation of pulling a trigger. 

I've worn many hats in my 30-year career as a writer -- newspaper reporter, newspaper editor, magazine editor, copywriter, marketing communications specialist -- and now, finally, author.

Here's what made such a career possible:  a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota in 1982, and then lots of persistence to make that degree work for me. It had to work because I love writing and couldn't imagine doing anything else.

A RENDEZVOUS TO DIE FOR grew out of the intersection of my wide-ranging interests and my writing experience. Before spinning this mystery novel, I was an award-winning short story writer, and also won numerous awards in the field of journalism. A RENDEZVOUS TO DIE FOR actually became a finalist in mystery-writing contests.

I love the idea that A RENDEZVOUS TO DIE FOR takes place in a small Minnesota town and centers around the fictional Prairie River Trappers' Rendezvous, a weekend reenactment festival involving local citizens and Indians from the nearby reservation. It was a great setup, just asking for a mystery story.

I'm still writing (do writers ever stop writing?) and have some scenes sketched out for Cassandra's next adventure.

My website is www.bettymcmahonwriter.com. I'm on Twitter at bettymcm and Goodreads also.

Enter for a chance to win a Kindle formatted copy of A Rendezvous to Die For.
Comment on this post for a bonus entry.
Follow the author on Twitter for another bonus entry. 

1 comment:

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Laurie, Thank you for featuring Betty McMahon with her mystery novel.

Betty, your book excerpt had me smiling for a couple of reasons ... good dialogue and, because I lived there for almost two decades, the setting of Minnesota. Also, I enjoy reading mysteries as much as I enjoy writing them.