Mystery Stories

I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Kim Aldrich. I could never get enough of girls having adventures with something exciting like solving mysteries.


A woman on a pier, holding an umbrella over her face
I broke my right foot. Terribly inconvenient. But it inspired this story.
Beach view of Morro Rock
When I was driving home, a white dog was standing up on his hind legs, feet propped up on afence, looking like he was chatting with the neighbors. So I had to use him in a story.

Sue Grafton, RIP

I was shocked to hear Sue Grafton passed away.  Somehow, after seeing the march of books on the shelf, writers seem immortal until they aren’t.

I read Sue Grafton’s first book A is for Alibi after three books gave her visibility.  It was the 1980s and one of several writers emerging who wrote about women characters in non-traditional roles.

I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, and Kim Aldrich.  And then I got to the adult books and there wasn’t much of anything similar with women.  It was really frustrating!  I wanted to read about women having adventures, too!

Sue Grafton’s detective, Kinsey Milhone, was kind of a misfit private investigator, and a loner. She also lived in California (yay! Where I lived!), in the fictional city of Santa Teresa.  My father never understood that.  He’s always said, “Why doesn’t she just call it Santa Barbara?”.

I liked the character and the way she saw the world.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to grab a reader.

I’ll miss Kinsey’s adventures.

Telling someone they’re not a writer

A question popped up on one of the Facebook groups that I’m on: “When did someone tell you to be a writer?”

No one told me to be a writer.

But it choose me.

I was 8 when I started writing.  My best friend was writing a class play.  I thought that was a cool idea, so I wanted to write one, too.  And I wrote and wrote and wrote.  If I got to class early, I pulled out a sheet of notebook paper and added to whatever story I was working on.  And sometimes, if the class got boring, I did the same thing.  Got caught a few times, too.

It was fun.  Some of my friends got in on it and illustrated my stories, so that was really cool.  I’ve always liked it when stories came with illustrations, like the Nancy Drews. I’d flip through those first to see the pictures — sort of like a preview, because there was always something exciting.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote.  When I was in 7th grade, a class popped up for creative writing.  My BF got into it, and I tried signing up for it, too.

Then I was summoned to the counselor’s office.  She was a Chinese woman with shoulder-length black hair and bangs, and a stern, unfriendly face.  She informed me that I couldn’t take the class because she didn’t “think I was capable of it.”

In hindsight, I probably wasn’t a good student.  I’m visual spatial, and teaching of the time ignored that learning style.  As part of that I’m not a great speller.  I had to memorize a lot, and sometimes by sounding out the word, I learned it wrong.  The problem is that once I learned it wrong, it was imprinted wrong (spell checker is a god!).  I also read words in a gulp, rather than one letter at a time, and I skip words when I read.

A lot of test questions can change meaning entirely if one word is omitted, so I could get something really wrong. I’m sure the teachers thought I wasn’t trying hard enough or didn’t care.

But here’s the thing I don’t get in all this:  To become a writer, you have to practice.  Writing is a hard skill to learn to do well, and certainly, writing fiction, even harder.  I was writing at every opportunity and was practicing continually — and on my own.  Yet, I was deemed “not capable of it.”

I’m sure the counselor thought she was saving me from disappointment, but honestly, it was not her place to do so.  Especially since I was writing on my own.  I had a relative who said she wanted to be a writer.   I was reasonably certain that she probably wouldn’t follow through, since that’s her personality type.  But what I did was go out and buy her a book on writing because it wasn’t right to tell her she couldn’t do it.

Sometimes people think they know best and they don’t know anything at all.  I came from that counselor and just cried because I felt like such a failure.  I so wanted to go to the class.  It was more writing!  And I wanted to learn!

And a counselor was telling me I couldn’t learn.

Then I got mad.  I continued writing, and two years later placed honorable mention in the school essay contest.  Not capable — hrumph!

My BF, who got into the class, stopped writing in high school.  I’m the one still writing.

My First Mystery!

Cover for The Secret in the Old Attic
This is a great cover, promising adventure and danger for our intrepid heroine.

When I was growing up, I devoured all the Nancy Drew novels at my library.  I’d always go to that back corner where they were shelved and scan the yellow spines to see if there was a new book out.  I graduated to other mysteries, like Kim Aldrich, Trixie Beldon, and Phyllis A. Whitney‘s Gothic mysteries.

I also wrote short stories about a girl like Nancy Drew who solved mysteries.  Her name was Sharon McCall, and she was a lot of things I wanted to be: athletic, long, straight hair.  Years later, my mother blurted out that she hadn’t liked “That terrible Sharon McCall.”  This was something she should have kept to herself!

But once I started writing for publication, I veered away from mystery.  I’m not good with details, and mystery is all about the details.  But the ideas class I’m taking is forcing me to put details into the openings that I tended to ignore, as well as look at new forms of inspiration.

So when I saw a photo prompt with a pro rate mystery magazine, I decided to try for it.  I noted three prominent things about the photo and made sure all of those got into the story.

Since the magazine issue has only male writers with about male characters, I did a female character and I also made her a private in the army.  That’s not a type of character everyone else is doing.

By the way, did I mention this story couldn’t be any longer than 250 words?

Of course, this evil little voice keeps saying that the story isn’t right, though it’s never specific.  So I banished that voice and sent the story off.

Nancy Drew’s Influence on my Action-Adventure Life

A woman sleuth puffs a cigarette as she takes notes on a pocket-sized notebook and a woman walks past in background.I have a guest post over at Sherry Issac’s blog on the influence of Nancy Drew on me when I was growing up.  Here’s a taste of it:

In Tamora Pierce’s book Squire, Kel is the first girl to become a knight in the realm.  When she jousts, the other girls — future knights — come to hungrily watch, wanting to be like her.  That was me when I was growing up.  I was magnetized when saw Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, in a command position.  Women had been allowed to enter West Point in 1976 and receive the same elite training that men did.

As reader,  I wanted to see girls have adventures and get action … Read more

Cover for A Princes, A Boatman, and A Lizard, showing a silhouette of a princess holding a lizard in the palm of her hand.Linda Adams – Solider, Storyteller

My short story “Six Bullets” is now available from Starcatcher Publishing in the the anthology A Princess, A Boatman, and A Lizard.  The story is about a princess who enlists in the military and then must battle her way up a river with only six bullets.

November: Military Theme

Since I’m doing”Basic Training on Military Culture” over at Forward Motion’s Back to School for Busy Writers starting November 5, I thought I’d do a military theme for the month for anyone interested in more information.

A female enlisted soldier salutes a general during award ceremony
Photo courtesy of

This is a quick look at the theme’s topics:

  • Life as a Single Soldier
  • The G.I. Party – No, this isn’t something fun!
  • What’s it like on a military post?
  • Veteran’s Day – A veteran visiting a war memorial
  • An Officer, An Actor, a Gentlemen – On my meeting William Windom, guest star from Star Trek and World War II veteran (he died earlier this year)
  • Thanksgiving During War
  • For the writers, a list of ways to get military wrong in fiction

Plus —

I will be guest posting on Sherry Isaac’s “Nancy’s November Nine” series on Nancy Drew and doing two posts on Unleaded Fuel for Writers.

Plus Liv Rancourt will be dropping in for a guest post over here at Soldier, Storyteller.  Might also have one more.

Meanwhile, I’ll taking the theme direction for December.  Since I don’t want to do any of the standard themes like Home for the Holidays, I’m going to do “silver.”