You may remember the eight hour e-book challenge, a semi-regular event instigated by Joe Konrath last year and since then continued by Donald Rump.
I took part four times so far and have become quite fond of the challenge, because it is so wonderfully motivating.
Because I was away for a couple of days in September, I initially had planned to skip the challenge for this month. However, after launching Seedlings and Debts to Pay earlier this month, I found myself with some time on my hands and no project clamouring for my attention, so I decided to do another eight hour challenge after all.
I also decided to write another mystery, because once I have a plot and a solution to the whodunnit and why, I find them easy and straight forward to write, which makes them ideal for these eight hour challenges. I also decided reuse Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd, Police Constable Walker and forensic medical examiner Dr. Rajiv from The Cork and the Bottle, because I kind of liked them and besides, it saved me the time and trouble of coming up with new characters.
The case I picked for Helen Shepherd and her team involves a suspicious drug overdose. I got the idea from several sources. One was a mystery that used a fake drug overdose to cover up a murder. Another source was how some people are automatically assumed to be taking drugs, even if they aren’t, whereas for others it’s assumed that they would never ever take drugs. Quite often, these assumptions are wrong. And so Caroline Murray, the victim, is initially considered just another dead addict, because she fits a certain demographic. Meanwhile, everybody who knew her insists that Caroline would never ever take drugs.
While writing the story, I realised that “Nu-U”, the name I had chosen for the suspicious plastic surgery clinic, was actually borrowed from the film Logan’s Run in a classic case of cryptomnesia, though Logan’s Run spelled it “New You”.
I didn’t see a reason to change the name – after all, it wasn’t as if Helen Shepherd was working as a cop in a dystopian future charged with hunting down those doing a runner before the mandatory execution on their 30th birthday. So I decided to run with the parallels and name the plastic surgeon after Michael Anderson Jr., the actor who played the treacherous doctor in Logan’s Run. Meanwhile, the receptionist of the Nu-U Clinic is modelled after Farah Fawcett, who famously played the clinic receptionist in Logan’s Run. Farah Fawcett’s character in Logan’s Run is named Holly, but since a prominent character in my Shattered Empire series is also called Holly, I decided to name the receptionist Jill, after Farah Fawcett’s character in Charlie’s Angels, and use the surname of the actress.
Indeed, using real people like actors, politicians, sports figures, friends and family, etc… as inspiration is a good way of coming up with names, appearances and personalities for characters for these eight hour challenges. Now I’m a very visual writer and mostly see the characters in my head. But when doing an eight hour challenge, you usually don’t have the leisure to spend a lot of time coming up with names, appearances and personalities, particularly for walk-on characters. And the Helen Shepherd Mysteries have a lot of walk-on characters in the form of witnesses and suspects. They’re all described in rather broad strokes, though I still try to sneak in some neat details such as the Game of Thrones inspired t-shirt worn by Caroline’s boss.
Apart from looking up Logan’s Run in IMDB, the research I did for Overdose mostly focussed on plastic surgery and anaesthesia, if and how local anaesthesia drugs can kill, etc… Methiovalizine, the drug that kills Caroline Murray, is entirely fictional, by the way, because making up a fictional drug was quicker than looking up real anaesthesia drugs and their side effects.
Overdose ended up the longest of my eight hour challenge books to date, clocking in at 7700 words, which theoretically takes it into novelette territory. However, have no fear, for the price is still 99 cents.
Because Overdose is the second Helen Shepherd Mystery, I now had a series and hence had to come up with a branded look for the covers. I actually quite like the original cover for The Cork and the Bottle, but it does not lend itself well to branding, so I changed the cover for The Cork and the Bottle along with creating one for Overdose to give them a unified look. You can see the new cover for The Cork and the Bottle on the right, by the way. The new look is very basic, a single significant object (the murder weapon in both cases) on a white background, the title in a hand-drawn looking font and author name in the same grungy typewriter font I use for all my crime fiction. I think the result is rather effective.
I’ve also made a special series page for the Helen Shepherd Mysteries.
Finally, here is Overdose, the second Helen Shepherd Mystery and fifth eight hour fiction e-book:
When Caroline Murray is found dead in an underground parking garage with a needle in her arm, the case seems clear. Caroline died of a drug overdose.
However, everybody who knew Caroline insists that she was vehemently opposed to drugs and would never have taken any. And what was Caroline doing at 544 Grant Road, a building to which she had no known connection?
Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd is quickly convinced that Caroline Murray’s death was not a simple drug overdose. But who had reason to want Caroline dead and why?
For more information, visit the Overdose page.
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