Friday, June 12, 2015

Family Connections

A heartbroken widow sacrifices her dream job, an angry daughter attacks her mother, the premature birth of twins threatens to cause yet another loss, an abusive relationship devastates the family, and a brother sets out to collect all that is “rightfully” his — these are just some of the family connections that pepper this cozy thriller.

Interactions among family members always provide great grist for our writing mills. Powerful emotions and situations that many people relate to create strong hooks for readers. The following excerpts from A Brother Betrayed play on this theme. The book is scheduled for release very soon if all goes as planned.

Katherine Kohler shivered and pulled the Afghan up around her neck. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep on the couch again, but her bed felt so empty without Ed.

Sleep had come fitfully, and now, in the first cold rays of dawn, her eyes popped open for the umpteenth time. As the room came into focus, her gaze rested on the photograph that shimmered in the pale beam of the night light. She and her husband had posed for it three weeks before, on their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. His pleased smile said it all when he’d placed it on the piano next to the vase of her favorite yellow roses. Had that been just ten days ago? It seemed so much longer.

*  *  *  *  *

Like a video on fast forward, the past two weeks flashed through her mind. Her husband’s last words that had brought her to this place in time still baffled her. Print shop. Promise. Stop. The agony in his voice had torn at her heart.

She stared again his picture. “What am I supposed to stop, Ed?”

Whatever it was, she had given up the job she loved for it — the job she'd worked so many years to get. And now nothing made any sense at all.

The face in the photograph smiled back at her; but the wilted, yellow petals scattered around the vase of bent, barren stems spoke only of death.

*  *  *  *  * 

“Katie, dear, what on earth has happened?” The gleeful glint in [Oren's] eyes mocked the concern in his voice.

“There was a fire.”

“I’m so, so sorry. Why didn’t you call me? You know I would have been there for you. Edmund would want me to be there for you.”

“Thank you, Oren,” she forced herself to say. “But I knew you didn’t have your truck. Besides, I didn’t want to bother you.

“Bother me? You’re my brother’s widow. It’s my responsibility to take care of you in your time of need.”

*  *  *  *  *

Very successful business…that had a great ring to it. And it was very successful, wasn’t it? The thought of the check in [Oren's] pocket made him wonder. The bank manager had said there were insufficient funds to cover it, but he’d seen the register. He knew the money was there. Unless...
Kent! So Katherine wasn’t the only snake in the grass. Her good-for-nothing son was doctoring the company books, stealing what rightfully belonged to his uncle. Well, one more jerk would go down the tube. He could almost feel Edmund’s disappointment in his family. It was a good thing his brother wasn’t there to feel it himself.

“That’s okay, bro. I’m handling this personally.”

GaborFromHungary via MorgueFiles
Family connections (or lack of them) affect the vast majority of us in one way or another, and my stories always include them — which isn't to imply that they lack action, intrigue, love interests, etc. My next re-release, Treacherous Tango, due out in the fall, uses them, too, but in very different settings and ways.

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at


  1. Boil, boil, toil, and trouble, that is quite the cauldron!

  2. Best friends, worst enemies, and the whole gamut in between can define families. The examples above depict some of the negatives in my story, but they're balanced by positives that space limitations here did not allow me to include. While families can be destroyed by tragedy, misunderstandings, assumptions, and self-interests, they can also be strengthened when these are overcome. I like to explore both scenarios -- and I like positive endings that result from my characters' growth.

    1. I believe we need to see more healing and positive ways to resolve conflict in our storytelling. There are enough examples of serious dysfunction on "reality" TV. That's why I love shows like Blue Bloods.

    2. I do agree, Diana. There is a lot of healing in this story, as well as a positive ending. I should have included at least one of the numerous scenes that show its members uniting to overcome the tragedies that threaten to destroy it and emerging with new strengths and directions that leave the reader satisfied that "all's well that ends well."

  3. Reminds me of that great scientific theory, Linda: The Fear of Relatives.

    1. Oh, yeah. I think we all have the occasional scary ones hidden in our family trees.

  4. There is no such thing as a "cosy thriller." A cozy and a thriller are as near exact opposites as you can get in the mystery genre.

    I'm not trying to mean. I'm saying that you can't find an audience if you mislabel your book.

    Maybe, "domestic thriller" would be a better term although I question using the term "thriller" for a novel about a dysfunctional family from Hell.

    1. Yes, Marilynn, "cozy thriller" is a non-existent genre. I've struggled with categorizing this story because it has elements of a thriller but doesn't meet all the criteria of that genre. I don't want to mislabel it, so your observation is much appreciated. The scenes quoted here depict some of the pain and conflict that occur in the story, but the family is not as dysfunctional as those scenes may suggest. Reeling from the untimely death of the husband/father, they are unaware of the events leading up to his demise. Then they must deal with his conniving brother when the man resurfaces in their lives and demonstrates his determination to get what he deems to be his rightful inheritance. Individual strengths and family cohesiveness are not addressed in the excerpts, but they are an integral part of the story. Again, thank you for your comment; it has been taken to heart. :-)

  5. Linda, I always suggest that a writer who can’t guess her genre go to a site like RTBookclub which covers most of the popular genre and subgenre and read reviews until she finds writers telling the kind of stories and note the genre. In your case, I'd suggest starting with the "Mainstream" category.

    A faster way to figure this out is to think about books you've read that are similar and see what they are classified as.

  6. Great suggestions, Marilyn. Thank you. I'll explore that site tonight.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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