Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Zombies, Mystery, and Romance with Christine Verstraete

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete is the author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. Her new novella, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River, offers another view of the Borden murders by offering a glimpse into how the crime could have affected the Bordens’ neighbor and family physician, Dr. Seabury Bowen. Learn more at her website http://cverstraete.com and blog http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com.

Who is Dr. Bowen and why write about him?
Dr. Seabury Bowen was not only neighbor to Lizzie Borden and her family – his house was kitty-corner from theirs – but he was also their family physician. Following the murders of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby Durfee Borden on August 4th, 1892, the youngest daughter, Lizzie, sent the maid, Bridget Sullivan, out to find the doctor. He was among the first officials at the murder scene.

As there are only newspaper reports and his trial testimony to go from, I started to wonder how the murders might have affected him. Yes, he was a medical professional, but this was a horrible crime – and he personally knew the victims. Beyond the ordinary motives, I thought there could possibly be a supernatural and paranormal influence. Why not?

Some facts about the Borden crime and Dr. Bowen:
* Bowen was the Bordens’ doctor for 12 years and practiced in Fall River for 26 years, according to his testimony for the defense on the fourth day of Lizzie Borden’s trial on June 8, 1893.

* He lived across from the Bordens for 21 years, with the Borden family living there “most” of the time.

* Only neighbor Mrs. Churchill and Lizzie were present when Dr. Bowen arrived at the Borden house. Lizzie’s first response to his question of what had happened is “Father has been killed” (or stabbed).

* He was the first to examine Mr. Borden, feeling no pulse and observed that nothing else was disturbed.

* He asked Lizzie where she’d been, to which she answered, “in the barn looking for some iron.” (fishing weights – for someone who never goes fishing?)

* Lizzie also told him that Mrs. Borden went out as she’d received a note, though Bowen said he wasn’t sure that was her exact words. He also later was described by a Fall River policeman as burning a written piece of paper. Coincidence?

* Newspaper reports described a relationship that seemed more than just distant neighbors…

* Did you know? He prescribed a small dose of morphine to Lizzie – up to the time of her arrest, the hearing and during her time at the station house. He admitted that double doses would produce hallucinations and loss of memory.

Yes, there’s more… but you’ll have to read the book to find out!

About The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River:
The short supernatural-flavored mystery (141 pages) is on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and coming in print. http://getBook.at/HauntingofDrBowen

Author website: http://cverstraete.com

Gruesome deaths haunt the industrial city of Fall River, Massachusetts.
Dr. Seabury Bowen—physician to the infamous Lizzie Borden—swears he’s being stalked by spirits, though his beloved wife thinks it’s merely his imagination. But the retired doctor insists that neither greed nor anger provoked the recent sensational axe murders in Fall River. Rather, he believes the city is poisoned by bad blood and a thirst for revenge dating back to the Indian and Colonial wars.
Now, two years after the Borden murders, Dr. Bowen is determined to uncover the mysteries stirring up the city’s ancient, bloodthirsty specters. Can he discover who, or what, is shattering the peace before Fall River runs red? Or will he be the next victim?

Part mystery, part love story, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen reveals the eerie side of Fall River as witnessed by the first doctor on the scene of the legendary Borden murders.

An excerpt of The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River:

    “Never did I say to anyone that she had died of fright. My first thought, when I was standing in the door, was that she had fainted.”
—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

Why won’t anyone believe me? Why, Phoebe, why?”

Dr.  Seabury Bowen shoved back the shock of white hair hanging over his forehead and wiped a wrinkled hand across his stubbled chin.
His appearance, like his surroundings, could stand a bit of major housekeeping, not that he cared a whit.

Here, it’s here somewhere,” he mumbled.

The old man rummaged among the giant pile of documents, books, and what-not littering the large walnut desk in his study. Several minutes later, and after the search through dozens of loose papers, he saw the faded red book lying beneath a tottering pile. He pulled at it, sending the rest of the stack falling like so much unwanted garbage.

The good doctor, but a shadow of his once- robust self, flipped the pages. He stared at the offending journal entry before setting the book aside with a heartrending sob.

Chapter One
“I saw the form of Mr. Borden lying on the lounge at the left of the sitting-room door. His face was very badly cut, apparently with a sharp instrument; his face was covered with blood.”
—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

The man reached toward him with long, lean fingers. Dr. Seabury Bowen blinked and tried to make out the features of the unknown figure standing in the corner. The unexpected visitor had a broad, dark face and what looked like a band across his forehead. Bowen stretched out his arm in turn and jumped when their fingers touched, the jolt surging through him like the electricity he knew would soon replace all the gas lights.

“Seabury, dear, are you all right?” His wife, Phoebe, sounded concerned. “What’s wrong?”
Bowen breathed hard. He bolted upright and held a hand on his chest, trying to catch his breath. Still stunned, he gazed about the room, disturbed at the odd shapes until he recognized familiar things… the bureau, the armoire, the paintings on his bedroom walls. He swallowed and nodded.

“Ye-yes. I-I’m fine. A bad dream, that’s all it was. Just a dream.”

“A bad dream? Dear, you’re breathing so hard, your heart must be pounding like a drum in Mr. Sousa’s band! Are you sure you’re fine?”

The doctor took his wife’s hand and kissed it, relieved to feel his heartbeat return to normal. 

He had to admit his reaction worried him for a minute, too. “I’m fine now, Phoebe. Really, it’s all right. Go back to sleep. I’m too wrought up to rest. I think I’ll go downstairs and read awhile.”

He gave her a loving smile before he rose and slipped on his robe, his thoughts in a whirl. To tell the truth, these dreams or hallucinations or whatever they were appeared to be getting stronger and more frequent. Not that he’d tell her, of course. It made Bowen wonder if he was losing touch with his faculties, something he’d never dare mention. Nor did he want to even entertain the thought, but he did. Am I going mad? Am I?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I had a novel published before I managed to get a short story in print. I recommend to new writers that they go about it the other way. I think I would have learned more about the craft faster had I took the short route first.

There is an art to telling short stories, compacting action and drama into fewer words. I've had roughly one hundred short stories published and have edited many anthologies and magazines of short fiction. So I've come to understand and love the form.

It's introduced me to authors I'd not read before. I guess it's like strolling into a grocery store on "sample day," when there are folks setting up trays of cheese, cookies, pizza, and whatnot, enticing you to try something. And if you like a tidbit, you might buy an entire package.

Yeah, I've sampled authors with their short fiction, and then sought out their novels.

I had the good fortune to be invited into one of Faith Hunter's Rogue Mage anthologies. I'd read her Jane Yellowrock books, but not her Rogue Mage offerings. So, naturally, I bought a couple, needing to understand her world if I was going to write in it. It's a good world. A real good world. If you haven't visited, I suggest you go to a bookseller and indulge.

The anthologies, Trials and Tribulations...click on the words to go to the Amazon links...feature great stories by great writers, some of who I had not read before. I love "sample day."

I was also fortunate to be on a short fiction jury for the International Association of Tie-In Writers (IAMTW). We just finished our work and sent in our nominations to the Scribe Awards chairman. It is always a pleasure to serve on one of these juries and get an opportunity to read in genres I might not otherwise pick up. Again, I found some new authors to follow. I got to read fiction set in: Halo, Star Trek, Shadowrun, Battletech, and X-Files universes, and more. The truth is surely out there.

I'm gonna sign off and get back to work...and find a place to shop my mystery short story.

Good reading,


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My friend Christine Verstraete is a remarkable woman. She crafts miniatures (go visit her website), breeds seahorses, churns out magazine articles, and writes ZOMBIE FICTION. Her latest has a historical mystery bent: Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. I remember when we were sitting with our writing group at a Kenosha restaurant, and she brought up the idea.

"Drop everything and write it," I told her.

It's a great book. I know, I've read it. And I'm fortunate to have her on my blog. We're swapping blogs as part of this nifty Mystery Thriller Week. Lots of stuff going on for readers and writers. Here's the link. 

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete is the author of the alternate history/horror/mystery novel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, which answers the question, what if Lizzie Borden did kill her father and stepmother… because she had no other choice?

Chris' Links

Friday, January 27, 2017


Sometimes great scenes in writing happen by accident. Or are birthed by mistakes. My buddy Don pointed out I'd used an airbag incorrectly in a previous novel. MISTAKE. So I figured I'd fix it.

I have this need to get something right.

So I researched airbags. And I emailed two friends who'd been in cars when the airbags deployed.

Armed with that information I set about to write a scene in the next book that would properly show an airbag. Of course, I had to come up with the correct conditions for such an incident.

My next book is set in Spencer County, Indiana. And the number one ticketed offense there is drunk driving.

Ingredients for the scene:

1 drunk driver
1 sheriff in a Ford Explorer
1 county road

Then I had to figure out who's airbag would go off and under what circumstances.

I put the drunk on a tractor and had him back into my sheriff, setting off her airbag. The scene sounds simple, right? And by itself the premise sounds boring.

But I had great fun with it. And the scene was not in my original outline. Accidental fiction can be good for your book.

Here's my scene (or at least the start of it):

It was a big red Case tractor, double wheels on the back, hitch, with a raised disc harrow attachment used for cultivating the ground prior to planting—all of it caked with dried mud and in need of washing. Piper was stuck behind it on 66, on her way to Hatfield, an unincorporated dinkburg where Mark the Shark lived.
Piper figured this ten-mile endeavor would take her an hour away from her cold case…fourteen minutes to Mark’s, fourteen minutes back, and a half hour at the bank or looking through his records to show him the bookkeeping error and ease his conspiracy fears.
But the tractor was fouling her time-frame.
It belched fumes; her windows rolled down, the stink wafted inside and made her eyes water. It was noisy; overwhelming the oldies station she’d had on and just now clicked off. It was slow, riding in the center of the road, impossible for her to pass on either side without risking the ditch. And it wasn’t traveling straight, sometimes in the proper lane, sometimes veering into the left lane. Usually it held to roughly the middle.
She honked.
The driver raised his left hand and flipped his middle finger.
“Really?” Piper stuck her head out the window and hollered: “Pick a lane!” Then thinking he might not be able to hear over the racket the tractor was making, she used the PA in her car. “Pull over. Spencer County Sheriff. Pull over.”
The tractor had no rearview mirrors that she could see, and the driver hadn’t turned around to notice who was honking at him.
She honked again, this time laying on the horn. Piper really didn’t want to further delay her return to the alluring skeleton case by citing the farmer for a simple traffic violation, but— She honked a third time, the driver took both hands off the wheel and gave her the dancing double middle fingers. The tractor, which according to the speedometer in Piper’s Ford was going about twenty miles an hour, shimmied to the right. As she started to pass, and reached to turn on her flashing lights, it sped up, drifted back to the left, and nearly clipped her front fender. She pumped the brakes and eased behind it, matching its speed—twenty-five miles an hour now. A boxy station wagon pulled behind her, and another car was coming farther back. Fortunate no one was in the opposite lane at the moment.
The tractor wobbled farther right, then left, shuddered, and went faster still. Thirty miles an hour.
“What the hell?”
Then the driver tossed an empty whiskey bottle off to the side of the road.
“That’s it.”

Find The Dead of Winter on Amazon by clicking here: 
 And my Amazon author page is here:
My personal webpage is here:
I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here:
USA Today Bestselling author Jean Rabe has written 35 fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels. The Dead of Winter, her 36th, is her first mystery. She has roughly 100 short stories in print, has edited a couple dozen anthologies, and has edited more magazines than she cares to tally. When she isn’t writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, visits museums, and tries to find gamers who will play Axis & Allies with her.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

TRIBULATIONS in a rich world

...a very rich world.

I have the grand good fortune to appear in an anthology based on Faith Hunter's amazing Rogue Mage series. It is a rich world...deep, colorful, frightening...glorious to read her stories. AWESOME to be invited to play in her creation. Blessed, actually.

My story, River Bones, is in the volume called TRIBULATIONS, set for a December 30 release. Other stories in the book are by Faith, Lucienne Diver, Spike Y Jones, and Christina Stiles. So pleased to be in their company.

If you haven't read Faith's Rogue Mage fiction, do yourself a favor and buy a book or two. It's post-apocalyptic, haunting, and magical. These short stories in TRIALS and TRIBULATIONS are little slices of the setting.

I chose the Amazon basin for my tale. My buddy, Vicki Steger, gave me this incredible book about the Amazon River basin and the history of its exploration...a BIG book that had been in her father's library. It has served as the springboard for some of my short stories and a novel. And I just had to delve into it again because the basin would be a perfect place for a treasure-seeking girl raised in a convent to explore. Too, I was inspired by the History Channel program "The Curse of Oak Island." (I wonder if the brothers will ever really find something.)

I put a little magic in my story, and some explosives. I'm a fan of things that blow up.  

Thanks, Faith, for letting me play in your sandbox. What a magnificent place you sculpted!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Piper

Birthing Piper Blackwell

I love reading mysteries with plausible characters; they tug me through a novel. But an unbelievable character, or one who does things that make no sense, cause me to set the book on my giveaway stack and reach for another.

So when I started to write The Dead of Winter, first in the Piper Blackwell mystery series, I wanted a plausible character with a background that justified her motivations and actions.

I picked up the telephone and called the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. My sheriff—Piper Blackwell—was going to have served with the Screaming Eagles. And she was going to be young.

Back in that proverbial day I was a reporter, and I ran the Kentucky news bureau for Scripps Howard. Several times I hopped in my car and drove to the base to cover various stories. They were never feel-good-features. It was either the occasional murder or the not-so-occasional incident of domestic violence, and once—thirty years past—it was for the devastating plane crash that killed more than two hundred and forty-eight soldiers. Here’s a link to an article about the tragedy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_Air_Flight_1285

Way back then I thought about writing fiction with a character who’d been a soldier. But after my news reporting days, and until recently, I’d only been writing fantasy and science fiction. When I switched to the mystery genre, I knew it was time to dust off that plan.

Enter Piper Blackwell.

When I called Fort Campbell, the man on the other end of the phone—Bob Jenkins—helped me build her training program, where and how often she deployed, her assignments, and showed me how she could have attained the rank of sergeant and been decorated by the ripe young age of 22. He taught me about the MP program, where women could excel, what she would have covered while on the base, and about the dangerous downrange assignments in the Middle East that could have shaped her.

He helped me craft a believable, plausible character…who I had run for sheriff of Spencer County, Indiana.

And Piper won that election, trading on her family name…the previous sheriff being her father. On my research trip through the county I chatted with local folks, some of them involved in campaigning, and learned that quite a few of the county politicians had family ties and that there was a scattered bit of nepotism.

It was believable that she could win.

Should she have won? Probably not, and hence that provided me with a little friction within her department. Her chief deputy was more qualified; he has a granddaughter the same age as Piper.

I enjoyed writing Piper and her first murder case. It brought back memories of my newspaper days and when I used to traipse around southern Indiana. Some good times there…and some unfortunate, awful incidents I had to report on.

I’m plotting her next adventure right now. She’s got to hire a new detective for the department, and another deputy. She’s got another murder to solve, a cold case. The sequel is tentatively titled The Dead of Night.

There will be a dog in it, a nod to the Robert B. Parker books I loved to read. Spencer and Jesse Stone had dogs.

I hope you join Piper in not-so-sleepy Spencer County. I promise to keep her real.

USA Today Bestselling author Jean Rabe has written 35 fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels. The Dead of Winter, her 36th, is her first mystery. She has roughly 100 short stories in print, has edited a couple dozen anthologies, and has edited more magazines than she cares to tally. When she isn’t writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, visits museums, and tries to find gamers who will play Axis & Allies with her.

You can find my blog at: http://jeanerlenerabe.blogspot.com/

My personal webpage is at www.jeanrabe.com

I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You cansubscribe here 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Thrill is Gone

... in a splattering bloody mess.

Yeah, I watched The Walking Dead. And I'll probably watch a few more episodes but only because an old buddy from my TSR days is one of Negan's henchmen. When my old buddy ceases to walk around with a pick ax--Ciao! In my opinion--my blog, my opinion--the storytellers took it too far with the popped-out eyeball and the smashed skulls. Blood without plot...well, not much plot. Blood. Blood. Blood. And a gob of flesh hanging from the baseball bat.

There was blood and gore and shock value. 
Battered characters. 
Crushed souls. 
But there was no real story to it. 

Sure, the writers can say they needed all the "ick" to affect the characters and to further the action in the remaining episodes.

But in this episode, I couldn't find the story. If I'm going to invest time in something--time is precious and once spent you don't get it back--I want there to be a story, a good plot. I want the action to move from Point A to Point B and eventually to Point C.

B and C were missing from that episode.

The thrill of that show, to me, is gone.

My friend Christine Verstraete has a much better zombie story, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. It's got gore in it, and history, and it didn't jump that proverbial shark like The Walking Dead. It's got A to B to C. 

I put down books that don't get to B fast enough. 

I like to be thrilled...with movies, books...I want my entertainment to make me scootch forward to the edge of my seat. I want a book that MAKES me turn the page even if I'm tired and thinking about calling it a night. Tug me through the story, hang me at the end of a chapter. Keep me up. Keep me engaged with the characters.

Don't make me think I'm wasting my time.

Some of my fellow writers criticize Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code as not being well written. Sure, when I read it I wanted to take my editor's red pen to every other page. He's not an elegant writer. But what Dan Brown did right was pull me through the book, hang me at the end of a chapter. I had to keep reading The Da Vinci Code because he made me want to know what happens next. I don't care what happens next to Rick and his crew in The Walking Dead. It doesn't have me on the edge of my seat. I've read most of Brown's books, by the way, and studied his page-turning technique.

My current writing project is a thriller set under Rome. I like to read thrillers, so I thought I ought to write another one. I'm a little more than halfway done and I've just offed one of my characters. I let Christine Verstraete select who I "gave the ax" to. It's not a bloody ridiculous death, and I don't show you the body in all its awful detail. I don't need to...though I am more than capable of describing awful stuff.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child write great thrillers...I've a bunch of them on my shelves. Raymond Benson can spin a thriller to make you say WOW and reach for his next book. Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Ken Follett, Karin Slaughter, Gillian Flynn, Dean Koontz, Jack Higgins...they can deliver good thrillers. 

Kevin J. Anderson has put together a great bundle of thrillers...tinged with science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy. GOOD stories, edge of your seat stuff, make me turn the pages stuff...each one better (okay, in my opinion) than what the storytellers did in The Walking Dead. Seriously good reading. Thrilling reading.

And, yes, this is a plug to latch onto Kevin's Thriller Bundle. I've a book in it--Pockets of Darkness--which has gore and STORY in it. Donald J. Bingle has his excellent Forced Conversion in it too. Yeah, this is a plug so I can sell books. I'm a full-time writer, I make a living by selling books. But it's also an offering of good thrillers. I don't recommend bad books. I will never recommend a bad book. I used to recommend The Walking Dead to my friends. But I don't do that anymore.

The thrill is gone from The Walking Dead. But the thrill is here courtesy of Kevin J. Anderson. Here's the link to that Thriller Bundle.

Find The Dead of Winter, my new mystery, on Amazon here. 

And my Amazon author page here.  

My personal webpage is at www.jeanrabe.com

I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here. SUBSCRIBE