Mystery Mondays: Christine Verstraete on Entertainment and the Big Crime

Just under two weeks ago, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter was released, and now I have the pleasure of hosting the author, Christine  (C.A.)Verstraete on Mystery Mondays.

Entertainment (and the Big Crime) of 1892 By Christine (C.A.)Verstraete

Developing and fleshing out a character means researching what their life would be like: where and how they lived, what they liked, what they wore or ate, and even the music they listened to or their entertainment interests.

It’s a bit different when your character is based on a real person, especially one as well known as accused murderess Lizzie Borden, lizzie-sm2who was arrested, tried and then declared not guilty of murdering her father and stepmother in August, 1892.

The problem is that even though much is known about her via newspaper reports and crime information of the day, most of it isn’t too personal. There are a few snippets which have come out or can be gleaned from blogs or publications, but much of it is based on conjecture or distant observation, not on first-hand knowledge.

Writing fiction, however, gives you more leeway. After all, giving Lizzie a new life as I did in my book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, is certainly far from real. Yet, I did try to stay within the guidelines of her real life situation and the crime. The rest—her actions, likes, personality, even some supposed romantic interests, and of course, the zombies—came from my own imagination.

The interesting part of doing a project like this is researching the time period. There was plenty going on, with crime then as now, deaths (many from morphine abuse), and scandals (Lizzie’s trial becoming the OJ trial of 1892.)

But there also was a big interest in entertainment. Lizzie, of course, is mostly tied up with her trial—and avoiding the gallows—during this time period. But I imagined her also being a big newspaper reader, as most people of the time were then with no other way to get the news.

She not only follows the local papers like the Fall River Herald, but I imagined her reading reports from the nearby Boston Globe. She especially is incensed with the lewd attempts in some publications to heighten publicity about her and her trial. After all, this was “the” story and crime of the day (and the century), and newspapers followed it with a vengeance, seeing it as circulation bonanzas. Readers, if you will, devoured every detail they could get. It was sensationalism at its height. Even nationally, readers couldn’t get enough.

220px-daisybellFor entertainment, sheet music was big with families playing and gathering around the piano. Most everyone knew the words or the tune to songs like Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two), a big hit in 1892. And it still is a fun song, reminiscent of a much sweeter age, isn’t it?

The lively marches of composer John Philip Sousa had many toes a tapping. What always struck me about older music were the fun titles. You have to wonder what Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow-Wow sounded like. (See more musical titles from 1892.)

Live theatre also was a popular pastime for those in better economic positions to buy tickets, just as vaudeville was the entertainment of the everyday person. By 1893, with Lizzie free from jail if not still untainted by scandal, she reportedly did find some solace and freedom in travel and supposedly enjoyed going to the theatre.

In my book, I’m guessing that one play I mentioned , Lady Windermere’s Fan, written by Oscar Wilde, may have hit Lizzie a certain way (or hit too close to home) since it satirized the morals of society. It continues to be produced even now.

Another big theater hit of the time was Charley’s Aunt, which involved an unexpected visit from a rich aunt. It opened in London, had a long Broadway run and enjoyed success worldwide. It still is put on today. (See and

That’s the real fun of writing such a story, I think. It’s learning about, and getting lost in, the details of the time.

Where can you find out more about Christine  (C.A.)Verstraete?


Add it on Goodreads:




About Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete


Every family has its secrets…
One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become zombies?
Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.


Crime Writers’ Association Interviews Kristina Stanley

I had the honour of being interviewed by Kate White, Head of Press, at the Crime Writers’ Association about my experience having BLAZE shortlisted for the Debut Dagger in 2014. Here’s the kickoff to the interview.

If you’re just starting out and haven’t published yet, The Debut Dagger is a great way to garner interest in your novel. Be brave and submit. You just never know where it will lead.



3/02/2016 by The CWA 1

Prepare to be deeply jealous when you find out the circumstances in which Kristina Stanley penned her Debut Dagger shortlisted novel, Blaze. However, despite a deeply glamourous writing story, the Canadian newcomer faced the same struggle as all other would-be authors as she approached getting published. Here Kristina explains how getting on the Debut Dagger shortlist changed everything, and why she thinks it’s a brilliant gateway for writers to get their work noticed.

What made you decide to enter Blaze in for the 2014 Debut Dagger competition?

… For the complete interview see The Crime Writers Association Latest News.


If you’d like to check out DESCENT or BLAZE the links are below:

When Kalin Thompson is promoted to Director of Security at Stone Mountain Resort, she soon becomes entangled in the high-profile murder investigation of an up-and-coming Olympic-caliber skier. There are more suspects with motives than there are gates on the super-G course, and danger mounts with every turn.

Instead of exchanging vows, Kalin Thompson spends her wedding day running from a forest fire near Stone Mountain Resort, and the pregnant friend trapped with her has just gone into labor. Meanwhile, Kalin’s fiancé, Ben Timlin, hangs from the rafters of a burning building, fighting for his life. Can the situation get any hotter?

Thanks for reading…

Crime Writers Of Canada Mentorship Program

Two years have passes since I participated in the CWC mentorship program. I can’t stress enough what a valuable experience having Garry Ryan (writer for the Detective Lane Mysteries and at the time  President of the CWC) work with me on my manuscript.

Here are the rules  from the CWC newsletter.

If you’re an Associate Member with two or more years in good standing with the Crime Writers of Canada and you’re interested in partnering with one of our wonderful volunteers, please contact the CWC (Address in newsletter). They’ll send you all the information you need to get started, and when you agree to the guidelines, they’ll match you up with the mentor best able to help you out. 

If you’re not a member and are Canadian, why not join?  I think I’m a better writer because of it.

Thanks for reading . . .


Nicknames for Characters

It is okay to refer to a character using more than one name?

In life, we’re often referred to by a nick name, a family name or a full name depending on who is talking to us.

I call my niece, MoMo. She calls me TiTi. She’s the only person who does that.

At work or formal situations, I go by Kristina.

My family and close friends call me Tina.

But no one calls me Kris. It’s not a short form of my name I like. If a person uses it, my brain doesn’t even register I’m being addressed.

But in a novel, is all this fair game?

I think it depends on the writing.

In the last case, a character could refer to another by a name they don’t like. This would tell you something about the character. Maybe he is socially inept. Maybe he is trying to be irritating.

Short forms make characters close to each other. There is an intimating between them that wouldn’t be there without the endearing name.

A character insisting that others use her full name could be giving a message. Maybe she doesn’t like the person she’s talking to so insists that person be formal and kept at a distance. Or maybe she is  trying to appear professional.

My only caution is the nickname must be clear. The reader needs to know who is speaking or being spoken too. If too many forms are used too often, the reader may become confused or annoyed and stop reading.

And none of us want that.

Do you have any tips on using more than one name for a character and is it worth the risk?

Thanks for reading . . .

Keeping Point Of View Consistent

I’ve always thought Point of View (POV) should remain consistent. Maybe not for a whole novel or even for a chapter, but at least within a scene.

I’m reading a mystery novel that changes the POV within a scene. It’s a novel published the traditional way through a well-known publishing company. I find the POV change within a scene distracting and think it takes away from an otherwise good story.

Are the standards changing?

Anyone else have a view on this?

Thanks for reading . . .


Copyediting – Proofreading Comments Summary (Part Two)

 So we continue with copyediting and proofreading comments . . .

After my five-part blog on copyediting and proofreading, I collected the comments from this blog and from the LinkedIn writing group called Crime Fiction managed by Theresa de Valence.

Today I’ll focus on Having Others Proofread Your Work:

I received some interesting ideas about having others proofread your work and have grouped the comments below. Some comments gave a similar message so I picked one of them to post. I hope you find these helpful.

  • I threw a party…after my manuscript had been proofread by a pro (and she was good). I invited five well-read, literate friends and gave them each five page stacks of non-chronological parts of the manuscript. They were to read them over, mark what was wrong, tag those pages with coloured stickers and then trade with someone across the table. I reassembled the manuscript and made the CX where needed. It’s a constant process as you know. Not perfect, but darn close . . . I was in the room because . . . when my readers had questions about dialect or some military or nautical term I could answer them immediately. They read silently for the most part . . . unless they had questions. Having the pages out of context made for closer scrutiny . . . helping eliminate the usual tendency to mentally fill in words automatically . . . which the writer may do when reading one’s own book. . BTW, the manuscript was 102,000 words and having five readers meant it was accomplished in about four hours. I had a thank you card and gift for each reader when we were done. They liked the chore so much they volunteered to do it with future books . . . and I’m going to take them up on it.


  • If you can, have two of your most obsessive compulsive friends or relatives read the galley. They’ll work hard to find the little mistakes, the kinds that editors miss. However, in the end, don’t beat yourself up over every error; we are human. 


  • As a newspaper reporter, I knew many editors, but only a handful as meticulous as needed for a book manuscript. When I receive galleys, I ask two really good editors to read copies. Each of the three of us has her own copy. It is amazing to see how many errors each of us find, mistakes not duplicated by the other readers. And this is after the books have been through editors at the publishing house. Wow! For the first several books I used editor friends whose work I knew. I took them to dinner or some other entertainment as compensation. In all, five different editor friends have read for me. Now, I write them checks, which are never enough for what they contribute. They fuss, but will cash the checks. They get a kick out of reading the first print-outs, even boast about doing it. Others have volunteered, but I need pros. It works for me.


  • Genre is extremely important. You have to know the
genre to be able to tell the timing, rhythm, wording and nuances of the
story. Each one has its own blood pressure and heartbeat. Editors are
inclined to pick out things that they say are wrong, and may actually take 
away from the story than they put in. They tend to be superior in demeanour. 
example, an editor might tell me that the language in EINAR is too formal, 
they do not know Scandinavian speech patterns. I speak Norwegian, Danish,
Swedish , as well as English, German and Dutch to varying degrees and know the
rhythm of all the languages. It also helps in research. It is their opinion
unless they are on the payroll of one of the major publishers. In that case you
kind of have to do what they say for the most part if you can’t prove your


  • Be careful who you go with as an editor. Be absolutely sure that they are well versed in your specific genre. If you write horror, do not settle for a fantasy editor, it is not the same thing. Always look for personal compatibility. It is your baby that you are entrusting them with, not some mangy red boned mutt from the pound.


  • Trade with someone – you proof theirs & they proof yours. Errors tend to get less detectable with repeated readings, until they look more “normal” than more “correct” usages. And that script reading by your characters is probably a good idea for reasons way beyond proofing – might want to do it while you’re doing drafts as well, to try out alternative sequences. An audience helps, although they’ll get testy after a while, no matter how good the writing is.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments . . .

Scrivener and Novels

Do you use Scrivener to write? I’m looking for input.

It’s been recommend to me by several writers, so I thought I’d try it. I’ve been using it for a week. If you’ve been reading my posts you know I can’t write a novel without a spreadsheet. It’s how I keep track of details.

One of my favourite things to do with a spreadsheet is to sort the columns. I can quickly see how may times I use a POV, Location, Characters etc. In Keeping Track Of Scenes I list some of the things I put in a spreadsheet.

Do do this in Scrivener I used the outline page and added fields to the custom meta-data section. This seems to work okay.

I’m going to use Scrivener for the trial period and then decide whether to buy it.

Can you share with me your favourite Scrivener feature and how you use it?

I’m hesitant to move away from my current method, but if this is a better way then I will.

Looking for help. Thanks, 🙂

Hints for a Murder (in a Mystery Novel)


Are you writing a murder mystery, crime novel or other type of mystery? Sometimes it’s hard to tell when to drop hints and when to hold them for later in the story.

I like to read a mystery and not know who committed the crime until the climax. I like to guess, but I don’t want to be sure. There is a balance between knowing who done it and only having an idea.

Too many hints and the answer is obvious, and I feel let down by the book. Too few hints, and I feel cheated.

So what do I do to avoid this problem?

I have readers that only look for the guilty party. I ask them to read my novel but not correct any errors. I want them to concentrate on who done it.

 I have them mark the margin every time they suspect a character. I ask them to put the character’s name in the margin along with a note of why they think the character is guilty.

Do you have a method for  finding out if your hints are in the right place?

Crime Writers of Canada

At every writer’s conference, I hear how important it is for writers to have a platform, but when you’re just starting out, how do you create a network of people? If you’re a Canadian Crime writer and looking for a way to build your platform and make connections in the writing world, the Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) might be for you.

This is my third year as an associate member, and all of a sudden I realized I belonged to a group that could help me expand my network and connect me with people who write in crime genre.

Now here’s the delightful surprise. I sent LinkedIn invitations to the other CWC members, and I’m getting messages back almost as fast as I can read them.

CWC has professional members (those who have published their work) and associate members (those who are unpublished), and I’ve connected with many authors in both groups.

This members’ list can be found at Bios on the CWC website  along with writer’s webpages and profiles. It’s a great way to explore Canadian crime novels.

I spent the weekend being amazed at how generous people are with their time and how willing they are to add me to their network.