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The Sirens of Suspense




Frankie Bailey has five books and two published short stories in a mystery series featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart. The Red Queen Dies, the first book in a near-future police procedural series featuring Detective Hannah McCabe, came out in September, 2013. The second book in the series, What the Fly Saw is due out in March 2015. Frankie is a former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.


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item1 A WRITER'S THINGS item1

A tiny dragon sits on the desk in my office at home. I have another desk at work that is often so buried in papers that my dragon would be lost in the chaos. But at home, he has a spot of his own. He sits there reading a newspaper called "Knightly News".

item6I found my little silver dragon years ago on a visit to Cornwall, England. In a gift shop in St. Ives, I bought him and a silver bracelet held together by two dragon heads. My traveling companions and I had taken a bus tour to Tintagel Castle, the supposed birth place of King Arthur, and walked among the 13th century ruins on the rugged cliffs overlooking the sea. Buying my dragon and the bracelet as souvenirs of my trip to Cornwall seemed appropriate.

I’m not sure what became of the bracelet. But my little dragon has always been in sight. He has become a good luck charm. The book I started to write while I was in Cornwall, Death’s Favorite Child (2000), became the first mystery that I sold and launched my Lizzie Stuart series. But I think my connection to my dragon -- who I once gave a name that I’ve long since forgotten, probably because it didn’t fit – I think my connection is about things that we carry. There is a wonderful collection of short stories by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (1990). It is about a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam and the things (the objects and the emotional baggage) that they carried with them into war. My dragon is one of my “things.” He evokes memories of that vacation in Cornwall and that day at Tintagel Castle. But beyond that when I look at my dragon with his ruby red eyes, I’m suddenly in the midst of a fairytale, walking into the woods. Beginning my “Once upon a time . . . .”

My dragon is also one of my things that bring me joy. I mentioned that I started de-cluttering during the winter. The frequent snow that left me with an icy tunnel in and out of my front door stalled my efforts. But I am convinced that if I can ever finish the task, my life will fall into place -- or, at least, I’ll be able to find what I’m looking for. But the problem is that I have a hard time letting go of some things – books, papers, things I might need. However, I am now inspired by a book I have yet to read that focuses on the concept that one should only keep what brings joy.

This concept actually makes sense to me. I am a visual person. I like to look up and see things that have meaning. It is rather like the question of what I would grab if I had only ten minutes to get out of my house. (I know I’m being generous in the time I’m allowing myself, but I would start moving toward the door at the first sign of trouble. I now have a cat named Harry and I fear that my exit would be delayed by the need to persuade him we need to leave. Harry is the size of a small dog, a Maine Coon mix. I’ve been told I can teach him to walk on harness and leash, and I’m going to do that. I keep thinking of Boomer, the family dog in Independence Day. In that fiery tunnel scene, Vivica Fox calls out his name and Boomer leaps from the car right into the utility closet. I don’t think I can count on Harry doing that, so I’m planning ahead.). Anyway, with five minutes left, what would I grab? My purse, of course. Every woman would grab her purse with cell phone and credit cards and hopefully a little cash – not to mention hand sanitizer and tissues and mirror and maybe tea bags.

But in my purse, a large shoulder bag, there is also another one of my writer’s things. I have a flash drive with a red plastic shell. I am attached to that flash drive. Not only because it have the manuscripts of several books and Power Point presentations. I could duplicate those. I always keep copies on laptop, computer at school, and flash drive. But when I open the zippered pocket of my shoulder bag (always the bottom outside pocket) and see -- or sometimes only touch to make sure I haven’t left it in a computer somewhere – that flash drive, I am comforted. I am reassured that I do actually know how to write – that I have gotten through sagging middles and clunky plots. I am reassured that I have made presentations that people find informative and entertaining.

I have other writer’s things – a favorite mug with a scene from Maine, a vase that is blue and green and always on the edge of my vision when I write on my laptop at my dining room table. A camera that I use for taking research photos that fits in my hand easily and drops into my shoulder bag.

There are probably other things I would reach for as I dash out of the house. Maybe bulky things like my framed Monet poster that has moved with me several times. That, too, is one of my writer’s things. I stare at it when I’m stumped.

I should explain that I don’t spend my time anticipating evacuations. I’m using the idea as a thought exercise as I de-cluttering. But I have been reading about climate change and weather events since I started writing my Hannah McCabe near-future series. In What the Fly Saw, I have a blizzard shuts down the East Coast. The next book will be set in spring, and I have a feeling it won’t be a string of sunny days. But today is lovely . . . and my things are all where they should be.



WHAT WOULD YOU GRAB? Tell us or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of WHAT THE FLY SAW! (U.S. only please.)



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