By Donna Schlacter
When I was a kid, I loved to read. And once I’d worked my way through the children’s section of our local library, I begged the librarian to let me read from the adult section. I read Jack London and others who wrote about animals, moving on to Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour because I loved horses. The librarian made sure she approved every book I checked out.
And then I discovered Agatha Christie, which ignited my passion for mysteries. Everywhere I went, I looked for the baker’s son who pulled wings off flies, or the mailman who kicked dogs, or the housewife who wore her negligee to hang clothes—all of those peculiar mannerisms Miss Marple mentioned in solving the crime. And I worked on triggering “those little grey cells” like Hercules Poirot said.
In writing class, I was the kid who got A+ because of word count. I loved to write. I’d make up stories about anything. The last leaf on the tree in the fall—what was it thinking? Why didn’t it want to join its friends? How about the one bird sitting by itself on the telephone wire. What had it done to be excluded from the flock? Or did it think it was an eagle and not a pigeon?
Stories from my childhood like The Ugly Duckling andThe Prince and the Pauper ignited “What if. . . ?” questions. What if I’d been born in a different family? What if I wasn’t the oldest? What if I had a twin?
Perhaps because I was the oldest and I got blamed not only for what I did but for what my siblings did as well, I have a strong sense of justice. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and there isn’t much grey area between the two. So writing mysteries seemed like the way to ensure that my world was always in alignment.
Starting around 2002, after writing short stories and other short pieces for a while, I wondered if I had a full-length book in me. I heard about National Novel Writing Month, and decided to find out if I could write 50,000 words about one thing: solving a mystery. I started late, had only the barest bones of a story, and ended up writing myself into a corner because I didn’t know who the criminal was.
But I persevered, decided who would be the killer, and wrote 7,500 words on November 30th, bringing my word count to just over 50,000 words.
Did I mention I’m also very badge-driven?
So on December 1st, I went back in and put in red herrings and clues as to the killer’s motivation, because I hate it when a television show or author springs the solution without offering any clues along the way.
After about ten more revisions through the years, I independently published that book, now renamed No Accounting for Murder,the first in a series. Number 11 came out the end of December under my pen name of Leeann Betts.
So what inspires me? Well-written stories ignited the passion to prove myself worthy of reading and dreaming and imagining along with the author. The characters and stories tumbling around in my head cry out to be written down. Hearing others say, “I’d like to try writing a book some day”, but not being willing to do the hard work keeps me going. Seeing my father hold the story of his life in his hands as a book published for the family confirms my calling. And finishing the story of his life as he wanted, even after his passing, reminds me that time is short and we aren’t always guaranteed tomorrow. Hearing readers say they enjoyed the story confirms that I have a gift that shouldn’t be wasted. Teaching at conferences and online courses, and hearing students say, “I finally get it” keeps me working at my craft. And sharing my story with you reminds me that this isn’t all about me—it’s about what God is doing in me and through me.
The way I figure it, others have their way of touching people’s lives, through their speaking, their service, their preaching. I touch lives through my writing. But that writing is still only a tool. The message I bring is that God offers second, third, fourth and more chances. I’m living proof of that. I’ve messed up more times than I have fingers and toes. Yet here I am, being used by Him to share His love.
What more inspiration do I need?
About Double Jeopardy:
Set in 1880, Becky Campbell leaves her wealthy New York lifestyle in search of her father, only to learn he was murdered in the small town of Silver Valley, Colorado. Unable to return to her mother in humiliation and defeat, she determines to fulfill her father’s dream—to make the Double Jeopardy profitable.
Zeke Graumann, a local rancher, is faced with a hard decision regarding his land and his dream. After several years of poor weather and low cattle prices, he will either have to take on a job to help pay his overhead expenses, or sell his land. He hires on with this Easterner for two reasons: he can’t turn his back on a damsel in distress. And he needs the money.
Becky isn’t certain Zeke is all he claims to be, and after a series of accidents at her mine, wonders if he isn’t behind it, trying to get her to sell out so he can take over.
Zeke finds many of Becky’s qualities admirable and fears he’s losing his heart to her charms, but also recognizes she was never cut out to be a rancher’s wife.
Can Becky overcome her mistrust of Zeke, find her father’s killer, and turn her mine into a profitable venture—before her mother arrives in town, thinking she’s coming for her daughter’s wedding? And will Zeke be forced to give up his dream and lose his land in order to win Becky’s heart?
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1880 Silver Valley, Colorado
Dead. Dead as her dreams and her hopes.
Dead as a doornail, as her mother would say.
Just thinking about the woman drove a steel rod through Becky Campbell’s slumping back. Perched on a chair in the sheriff’s office, she drew a deep breath, lifted her shoulders, and raised her chin a notch. She would not be like the woman who birthed her. Pretty and pampered. A silly socialite finding nothing better to do with her days than tea with the mayor’s spinster daughter or bridge with the banker’s wife.
No, she’d much rather be like her father. Adventuresome. Charismatic. Always on the lookout for the next big thing.
Now her breath came in a shudder, and down went her shoulders again. She tied her fingers into knots before looking up at the grizzled lawman across the desk from her. “There’s no chance there’s been a mistake in identification, is there?”
He slid open the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a pocket watch, a lapel pin, and a fountain pen, which he pushed across the desk to her. “He was pretty well-known around here. I’m really sorry, miss.”
Becky picked up the timepiece and flicked open the cover. Inside was a photograph of her family, taken about ten years earlier when she was a mere child of eight and Father stayed around long enough to sit still for the portrait. Her mother, petite and somber, and she, all ringlets and ribbons. She rubbed a finger across the engraving. To R. Love M. Always.
Yes, this was his.
And the lapel pin, a tiny silver basket designed to hold a sprig of baby’s breath or a miniature rosebud—a wedding gift from her mother twenty years before.
She looked up at the sheriff, tears blurring her vision. “And his ring?”
The lawman shook his head. “No ring. Not on his body or in his shack.”
“But he always wore it. Never took it off.”
He shrugged. “Maybe he lost it. Or sold it.”
“I doubt he’d do either. My mother gave it to him when I was born.”
She peered at him. Had he stolen her father’s ring?
Or maybe Sheriff Freemont was correct. Maybe something as important as her birth hadn’t meant much to her father.
Maybe she didn’t either. Was that why he left?
Available at https://shoplpc.com/double-jeopardy/Amazon.com, and fine booksellers in your area.
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.