Monday, January 16, 2012



We’ve had big fun here at Killer Fiction for the last two weeks as we’ve hosted our "Kick off the New Year contest!"

THE WINNER OF THE KINDLE FIRE OR NOOK COLOR (OR EQUIVALENT VALUE GIFTCARD IF YOU'VE ALREADY GOT AN E-READER) IS "PETITE!" Petite, please email me at so that we can make arrangements to get your prize to you.

Congrats to all of our winners and thanks to everyone who stopped by to visit us here at Killer Fiction!


Jan. 2 – Annie - $25 giftcard (not claimed yet! Annie, please email to claim your prize!)

Jan. 3 – Brandie - $25 giftcard

Jan. 4 – Kima - $25 giftcard

Jan. 6 - Sandy

Jan. 7 - the winners of Diana Layne's books were Rebekah E., StephanieJS, Virginia, and catslady

Jan. 9 – Alison - $25 giftcard; amf, Sarah S., Angela Bount – autographed copy of Jana DeLeon’s next Intrigue novel!

Jan. 10 - Barbara E. – $25 gift card and a copy of Robin Kaye's "Wild Thing"

Jan. 11 – Brandy - $25 giftcard

Jan. 12 – Glittergirl - $25 giftcard

Jan. 13 – RedPeril - $25 giftcard

Jan. 14 - Na - $25 giftcard

And now on to today’s blog.

It’s my pleasure to host suspense author Donnell Ann Bell here at Killer Fiction today! She touches on an issue that’s important to all writers – research. Authenticity is the key to creating a story that’s intriguing and compelling to readers. Read on to see how Donnell does it! And be sure to post a comment. Donnell will also be doing a $25 gift card giveaway today to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon (winner's choice).

Writing a Book Up Close and Personal

Hello Killer Fiction Bloggers! Don’t you love the “middle names” these brilliant authors christen themselves with? Let’s see, there’ “Trigger Happy” Halliday, “Crime Scene” Craig, “The Assassin” Langtry, “Bullet Hole, Bacus, “Killer” Kelly, the list goes on. Such creative killers! If I had to give me a middle name, it would be “Up Close and Personal” Bell. (I can do that because my last name is short ;).

The reason I say UC&P is because I’m a visual, tactile learner. As a former court reporter, I’m also a great listener. When I start writing, I often find myself typing along only to think, Wait, do I have that right? If I’m not sure. I’ve been known to stop a work in progress, pick up the phone and say to an expert, “Hey, can you meet with me?”

I’ve now met with police lieutenants, taken a Citizens Academy, volunteered for the sheriff’s office, and gone on numerous ridealongs. I go to lunch frequently with a coroner, my private eye friends are on speed dial, and just over the holidays, my daughter and I took an eight-hour gun course, complete with shooting range.
On-line classes are great, and I take them for an overview. But for me to get a true understanding, I go to the source. For instance, my volunteer assignments have helped me understand SWAT and police departments’ use of informants.

Thanks to the generosity of law enforcement and others, here’s a scene I wrote in “THE PAST CAME HUNTING.” Set up: My protagonist Melanie Norris has been kidnapped by my antagonist, rocking the world of her 15-year-old son who my cop hands over to his coach with instructions to keep the boy distracted. My police lieutenant, Joe Crandall, is coming to grips with how deeply in love he is with Mel and the guilt he feels that he wasn’t there to protect her. . .

“Very good, Mercer,” Joe said as the ex-convict ended the call. “If you ever decide to go straight, you should try acting.”

Along with several detectives, SWAT team members, the man nicknamed Skinny sat in a chair looking on. By his unrelenting glare, he didn’t appear happy that Mercer had agreed to wear a wire and cooperate with police. That was okay with Joe. Not only had Roscoe Mercer identified every member of the Chaos Bandits, the police had these men as accessories to felony kidnapping. Melvin “Skinny” Thomas wasn’t going to see the outside world anytime soon.

“Who’s got Skinny’s cell phone?” Joe asked.

A vice cop stepped forward. “I win that prize.”

“If it rings, keep your answers short. Don’t tip our hand.”

“Not a chance.”

Bruce Bennett entered as Joe and the other officer’s strapped on their Kevlar vests. “You understand what we want you to do, Mr. Mercer?” the D.A. asked.

Mercer reached for Luke’s practice jersey. Upon Joe’s request a patrolman had swung by Mel’s house and picked it up. “Walk in to Ramirez’s house and show ‘em this jersey.”

Joe lowered his head, hoping to God Mel could forgive him for using this tactic. They needed to establish her whereabouts before they swarmed the house. “Great,” Joe said. “Then what?”

“If the woman’s around I say, ‘What’s your name, pretty lady?’ If she’s not, I say, ‘Where’s the dame?’”

Pretty straightforward, Joe thought. Conceptually it should work, letting law enforcement know if it was safe to raid, using force. Too often, though, a kink found its way into the system.

Marksman Sam Ortega crossed the room. “We’re ready when you are, Lieutenant.”

Joe was pleased to see the man, who not too many weeks ago had been suspended for taking down a crazed meth dealer. Evidently, he’d been reinstated to active duty. Joe nodded. He directed an officer to take Skinny back to a holding cell.

Joe hadn’t even had to assign a group for this op. As soon as the callout went down, men stepped forward, the majority off duty, Ortega among them.

Clearing his throat, Joe said, “Thanks. Give me a second, then let’s do it.” He reached for the phone on his belt, walked to the window overlooking the lofts next door, then dialed Mel’s son.

Out of breath the boy answered after several rings. “Lt. Crandall?”

“Yeah, Luke, it’s me. Where are you?”

“I’m with Matt and Coach. We’re at school shooting baskets. What’s going on?”

“We believe we found your mom, and at this point, we think she’s okay. She’s being held against her will, and part of Maxwell’s scheme is to make her believe they have you.”

“What? That’s crazy. Why would―”

“Luke, listen to me. I hate to do this to you. Tell Coach to take you to his house and stay put and out of sight. I’m sure these people don’t travel in the same circles as any of you, but the media may be onto this kidnapping. If they see you out and about, or try to interview you when we’ve convinced them you’re being held someplace else, it could go bad for your mom.”

A moment’s silence occurred on the line before Luke said, “Got it.”

“Do I need to relay this information to your Coach?”

“No, sir. I’ll do it. Find my mom.”

“That’s the plan. Tell Matt I love him. Your father would be proud, Luke. I’m damn impressed as well. You boys be strong.”

Surrounded by patrol cars, Joe and the team walked to an unmarked van while Mercer slid into a blue Ford Focus. “Can you hear me?” the black man asked as he switched on the ignition.

“Copy,” the technician inside the van said.

“Just want you to know,” Mercer added. “If Ramirez and Maxwell smell a trap, you’ll never identify all my body parts. Take that up with the judge when you’re talking reduced sentence.”

“Will do, Mr. Mercer,” the D.A. replied. “Help us get Mrs. Norris out alive and it will buy you a great deal of leniency.”

Mrs. Norris alive. Taking slow, steady breaths, Joe entered the back of the vehicle and sat beside Bruce and the rest of the team.

The van started to move. The countdown was on.

I’m in complete admiration of someone who can sit down at a computer, write a book from start to finish, without ever leaving his or her keyboard. Talk about imagination and smarts. I merely know what I need to write a book.

Which brings me to you. What kind of learner are you? What do you put into your research? If you’re a writer, what do you do to ensure your scene’s authenticity? If you’re a reader, do you care if the author goes to such lengths? We’ll be drawing for a winner, either in digital or book form of THE PAST CAME HUNTING to a person who comments.

Thanks for having me as a guest on Killer Fiction!

Donnell Ann Bell is a two-time Golden Heart finalist and debut author for Bell Bridge Books. She sold her second book, also a Golden Heart finaling manuscript, to BBB, as part of a two -book deal. Look for book two to be released late 2012, early 2013. To learn more about Donnell, check out her website at


ThomasJr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

Oh, very good excerpt - I was on the edge of my seat. I'm putting this on my wish list! As for learning, I'm a hands-on person. Even though I'm a reader and can get the concept intellectually, to actually learn a new task or job, i just have to wade in and actually do it and make my mistakes to learn. Thanks for being here today.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Good morning, Thomas, gosh, don't know much about putting a court reporting agency in a show, but I've often thought about doing that in a book ;) The problem with that is I know (up close and personal) how much time a CSR has to commit to his or her work. At least before real time. Has it gotten easier?

Donnell Ann Bell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donnell Ann Bell said...

Cheryl, thanks for letting me know I'm not all alone in the "just can't read and understand" category. I just wrote a trap shooting scene. You wouldn't believe what I went through to get it right. But it's right now ;)


Thanks for stopping by.

Unknown said...

Great excerpt! I'm a hands-on learner also. I do appreciate all the research authors do for their books. What is the most unusual thing you learned in your researches?

amysmith98 @

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Amy, yay, another hands-on learner. I'm feeling better ;)

Great question -- What is the most unsual thing I've learned in my research? A bunch. But the one thing that always sticks out is when a vice sergeant came to talk to us in the Citizens Academy. He said that he always carries with him a can of spray starch when he travels. (talk about a man who's seen too much).

Anyway, when he enters a hotel room, he sprays it on the wall. It doesn't hurt the wall, but if the wall turns black, he knows that someone's cooked meth in that room. Not only does he leave the room, he goes to the desk and gets his money back. It's deathly toxic and a menace to society.

Yikes, aren't you glad you asked

krisgils33 said...

sounds great!!!

Melanie Atkins said...

I love this book. I'm sure you know that by now. I do a lot of research, too, and I could tell you had done yours. Great job!!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Thanks, Kris ;)

Melanie, thank you so much! I'm thrilled that you like it because I know how much research you put in your book! Very honored you stopped by to let me know. Thank you!

catslady said...

Fantastic excerpt. It all depends. If it's directions on how to do or make something, I need hands on learning, someone to show me. But I can learn facts from reading. I always appreciate the research that goes into the stories that I read. I think that's the most enjoyable way to learn.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post--and a wonderful book! (No need to enter me in the drawing, I already have a copy). It's apparent Ms Bell has done a lot of hands-on research; it shows in the dialogue, slang, behavior and actions of the characters, and gives the book a truly authentic feel that pulls the reader into the story. I can tell she has a panel of experts behind her, but I can also see a wonderful imagination at work in this suspenseful, exciting story. Well done! Can't wait for the next book.

Michele L. said...

Awesome blogpost! Actually, I am good reading directions but hands-on experience is always fine with me! I like to make jewelry and reading the instructions was rather confusing so I took some classes. Great fun and so easy to learn when someone shows you how to do it.

I can't imagine all the research you have to do to write a book but it sure is worth while when all the facts are right and the story builds in suspense right to the very end. Love those kind of books! I have a very hard time putting those kind of books down and getting some sleep! LOL!

Great having you here Diane!

Unknown said...

Great post and excerpt. I heard that The Past came Hunting was an awesome read and I would love to read it. I guess I am a hands on person, I have to do something to learn it. As I have gotten older I have to do it a few times to learn, my memory is not what it used to be.

Angela N. Blount (RedPeril) said...

Great post! I've got a lot of respect for authors who take care in their research. Largely because I feel that said authors are being respectful of their readership.

I just did a good bit of calling around to my theater friends in trying to properly portray the behind-the-scenes of a production. I come from a nursing background originally, and it irks me to no end when I read medically-related scenes in fiction that feel inaccurate and/or inauthentic. I didn't want to cause that kind of frustration to anyone in the theater realm. ^_^

~Angela Blount

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Catslady. Thanks for letting me know how you learn! I kind of grasp things from reading, but I'm just insecure enough to want to see an expert in action. Thanks for commenting!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, Kaki: Rita-award winning author Kaki Warner knows first hand that I obsess about research. She put me in touch with her son for some advice on shooting.

Thanks so much for your nice remarks about TPCH. I, too, would love to write a sequel some day, but two other books are coming first

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Aha, Michele, yes, I love the fact that there's classes available. I know I can't get everything right, but it's not because I just sat down at a keyboard and wrote. I really put my thinking cap on to do it. Thanks for your nice welcome.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Virginia, great to see you! If you like romantic suspense, I think THE PAST CAME HUNTING might be right up your alley. Good to know that you like the hands-on approach, too! Happy Monday!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, Red Peril, did you nail this or what? I co-own a blog called Crimescenewriters, and on it are experts of all kinds. They are there on that list to help writers get their facts straight so that we as authors, don't yank our readers out of the story, and thus have our books end up against the wall. Readers are smart, savvy and they'll be the first to say no way could this happen.

I'm not a police officer, and I don't profess to know what goes on inside the head of a cop. But I hope that I can get it right enough to imagine and thus make the character react in a way that one was.

Great comment, thank you!

traveler said...

Great post. I do appreciate all the research, time and effort which goes into writing a book to make it authentic and real. I have to learn from hands-on. Instructions must be very clear, otherwise I am lost. Many thanks.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

traveler, I feel exactly the same. Thanks for you nice comment.

Jane said...

I do appreciate an author who does a lot of research for their book.

Anonymous said...

Donnell, I loved the excerpt. TPCH is actually next on my Kindle TBR list. I can't wait! I am a hands-on writer, and while I don't write suspense, I must do some research. It may be to find out about an occupation. Or, perhaps a location. The internet offers us a lot of information, but my favorite way to research is going to the source itself.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Jane, thank you, good to know! It makes our job easier because sometimes we worry we're giving the reader an information dump. Happy Monday and Martin Luther King's day as well.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hi, June! Thank you, I hope you enjoy it. It is so hard for writers to find time to read other writer's work. I'm honored that mine has risen to the top of your TBR pile!

Liz Lipperman said...

I love this book! Great blog, Donnell. For the book I am madly trying to finish I went on a cruise and sat with a table full of the shop's chefs who helped me plan the murder via poisoned food. Can you imagine the look on the faces of the other passengers in the coffee shop that day?

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Liz, dear. that is pricesless and a very good researcher! Thanks for stopping by ;)

Barbara White Daille said...

I'm late as usual.

Diane - thanks for hosting Donnell!

Donnell - great blog post, and I love the excerpt.

I'm a visual learner, too, but so far I haven't picked up a phone to speak to a source directly.

Books that are well-researched are fine with me, as long as the author weaves the info into the story, as you do.


Donnell Ann Bell said...

Thanks so much, Barbara, great to see you here!

Brandy said...

Ooh, this sounds quite interesting!

ThomasJr said...

Great! I hope that she can give our court reporting agency a chance to be featured or at least drop by on her show. Thanks.