Monday, August 13, 2012

Meg Mims: I See Dead Characters

I See Dead Characters
by Meg Mims

I started writing traditional romance. Really? Just ask my long-time critique partner, who slogged through many manuscripts with me. Over the years, I snagged plenty of editors (from slush-pile submissions, no less) who loved my writing style. But they still rejected me. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing to jump over that last hoop to become a published author.

They did tell me I had plot-heavy manuscripts and not enough romance—and what was with all the dead bodies? Plenty of historical romances have dead bodies lying around, though, from wars or vengeful alpha heroes. I didn’t see the problem. Yeah, my historical style focuses on the plot. For years I tried to beat that down and failed. If one of my characters turned around, someone ended up dead. Blame them, not me! And besides, my characters didn’t have time for romance. They might think about it, or get distracted by their mutual attraction, but then they force themselves to refocus and solve the puzzle.

Trust me, I’m a slow learner. I never considered switching genres to mystery. Go figure.

But I’m not writing traditional mystery either. Really. It took me a few years to figure out I’m writing “blended genre” fiction, taking a bit of romance and a bit of mystery (puzzle, dead bodies) and a big chunk of suspense and a bit of inspiration – and a western setting. Not that it’s easy to market a western historical mystery, a “twist” of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express, but it’s worked so far with Double Crossing. I wish I could get more comedy in there somehow, but I’m not as talented as Jacquie in that domain!
Meg Mims accepting the Spur Award for Double Crossing

I’m writing the sequel to Double Crossing now. Double or Nothing will begin where the first book left off, with Lily Granville in Sacramento. There's a bit more romance, but also some dead bodies and a bigger puzzle to solve. Oh yeah. It’s the same heavy-on-suspense, western mystery with romance and a bit of inspirational in it. I wrote a short story this summer (the beginning of a novel), a YA medieval-based fantasy called “Seafire,” for a charity anthology, Hazard Yet Forward. I plan to expand that into a novel at some point – blending romance and suspense into that as well. Blending genres gives “something for everyone” and an entertaining read.

Here’s to blended genres! May dead bodies continue to haunt my characters. Really!

Double Crossing

– When Lily Granville tracks her father’s killer across country to California, she soon realizes she is no longer the hunter—but the prey.

More than 25 five-star reviews on Amazon! Winner of the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America.


I needed something to make me forget the argument with Father. Capturing the lizard’s familiar form, I filled it in with dark cross-hatching and smudges. What a beautiful creature. My friends kept Persian cats or lapdogs, but lizards held a special fascination for me. Exotic, alluring with their patterned skin texture and independence from humans. Lucretia flicked her tongue and scuttled away, alarmed by some noise in the distance. The setting sun glowed dull red and orange past the shadowy trees, casting golden beams over the garden. The aroma of roast chicken, thyme and sage reminded me of dinner.

Rising to my feet, I groped for my mother’s necklace which held the tiny watch that Charles had given me. I must have left it upstairs on the dressing table. Tinkling water spilled from a cherub’s pitcher into the fountain. I sat down on the bench again and added ferns and shadows to my sketch.

Minutes later, a loud crack echoed in the air. The odd sound lingered. It reminded me of the revolver’s shot when I’d killed the badger. Had it come from the house? Closing my book, I hurried through the garden. Two shadowy figures slipped off the side porch and fled toward the street. The taller one wore dark clothing. I recognized the shorter man as Emil Todaro by his frog-like gait. Rushing after them, I witnessed their mad scramble into a waiting buggy. The team shot forward under a whip’s cruel lash.

Why had the lawyer returned? What did they want?

I climbed the steps to the side door and found it locked. Scurrying around to the back of the house, I tried the library’s French doors but they didn’t budge. My heart jumped in my throat. I picked up my skirts, raced around to the front door and flung it wide.

“Etta! Etta, where’s Father?”

The maid poked her head out of the dining room. “In the library.”

“I saw Mr. Todaro leaving with another man. Did you let them in?”

“No, Miss Lily. I did hear the Colonel talking to someone, though.”

“Didn’t you hear a loud bang?”

“I did, but I thought it was Cook with her pots. I was in the cellar fetching more coal.” Etta trailed me through the hall. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure.” The library’s doorknob rattled beneath my fingers when I twisted it open. I peeked inside the dim room. “Are you all right, Father?”

An odd smell tickled my nose—gunpowder. I swallowed hard, my throat constricting, staring at how Father was sprawled over his desk, head down, one arm dangling over the edge. My head and ears thrummed when I saw papers littering the floor. The safe door stood ajar, the drawers yanked open every which way. I took a step, and another, toward the pipe that lay on the plush Persian carpet. His crushed spectacles lay beside it. Father’s hand cradled the small derringer he’d always kept in his desk drawer. Its pearl handle gleamed above a stack of papers, stained dark crimson.

A fly crawled over Father’s cheek. Etta clawed the air, one hand clamped over her mouth. I saw a tiny blackened bullet hole marking his temple, and wet blood trickling downward. Frozen in place, I heard a shrill scream—my own, since pain raked my throat.

Everything swirled and a dark void swallowed me whole.

Thanks, Jacquie, for having me here this week! I’ll share an excerpt from my WIP, the sequel Double or Nothing, on Thursday.

Leave a comment with your email address, LIKE my book on Amazon and LIKE my author Facebook page for a chance to win a free copy of Double Crossing!

Check out my book’s website and my author website, follow me on Twitter @megmims and on Facebook. I hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt from Double Crossing.


  1. Doesn't anyone understand I'm supposed to be working! I have no self control when it comes to a title like "I see dead characters." ;-)

    Meg, you and I seem to be cut from the same cloth. We can't right one genre at a time.

    Double Crossing is waiting on my Kindle for when I get my work done.

    1. LOL! I hear ya, Alison. My Kindle calls to me every night... so does my Soduku puzzle book. ;-D

  2. er... that's write one genre at a time.

    This is what happens when you don't stop for coffee.

    1. I did that once today too, Alison. Caaaaaaaafffeeeeine!

  3. Dead bodies only make the reading more interesting! Don't do away with them! Can't wait to hear more about Double or Nothing.

    1. Aww, thanks, HiDee! No way, they keep popping up like toast. LOL

  4. I like the detail in the excerpt. The writing called up a lot of emotions. Go ahead and blend those genres!

    1. Thanks, Peggy! I love putting in the details too. :-D

  5. Perhaps it's just because I'm a guy, but I LOVED what you wrote! I know 'Historical Detail' sounds boring, but the way you worked it in kept it very interesting.

    The dead bodies, turns, twists and action really me glued to the pages too.

    GREAT work! It's one of the few books I've actually finished recently, I tend to get half way through and the just drop a book, but you kept me right there until the end.

    Patiently waiting for Double or Nothing ;)

    1. Awww, thanks, Don! I'm working -- slowly, but surely -- on DorN and hope to finish before Sept. Then again... I'm a perfectionist. LOL Before next year?

  6. I often have a lot of dead bodies in my romances too, Meg. I think of them as adventure/mystery/romances. No wonder I find more success self-publishing. ☺

    1. LOL, Caroline! I think pub houses are coming around to 'blended genres' though. Keep writing!! I plan to, indeed. :-D

  7. I think the term "blended genre" also captures what I write, though I've been using the term "Hybrid".
    I have two screwball romantic comedies,
    one romantic suspense with action
    one comedic romance with action
    one combo modern mystery with historical elements & romance
    one tribute to the Greatest Generation which also has humor and action and romance.

    See what I mean by 'hybrid'?

  8. YES, hybrid is a good term. "Blended genre" is more specific, though! When I hear "hybrid" I think "hydra" - LOL!! dunno why.

  9. Meg,
    Your talents for historical detail. good writing and developing suspence shine through in this excerpt.
    I think I've already hit on your Author Page but will double check.

  10. Thanks, Arletta! I'm excited about continuing with Double or Nothing!


Romancing The West welcomes you to show your appreciation of our guest blogger by leaving a comment. If there's a contest, don't forget to leave your contact information. Thanks!