Saturday, May 25, 2013

Once Upon a Body: a guest blog by Michele Drier

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Michele Drier's first mystery, EDITED FOR DEATH, got an enthusiastic thumbs up from her fellow reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan. Michele previously published the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, a series about sexy vamps who run celebrity scandal sheets (IN TOUCH suddenly makes sense, doesn't it?) So what got her into penning this:
 Amy Hobbes never expected to solve anything tougher than a crossword puzzle. When she left her job as a journalist in Southern California, she planned to give the adrenaline a rest, but her next job, managing editor of a local newspaper, delivers some surprises. After a respected Senator and World War II hero dies and two more people turn up dead, the news heats up. Both victims had ties to a hotel owned by the Senator's family. With the help of reporter pal Clarice and the new man in her life, Phil, Amy uncovers a number of shadowy figures, including a Holocaust survivor who's spent sixty years tracking down Nazi loot. It's a complex and dangerous puzzle, but Amy can't walk away until she solves it.
It wasn't just so she could run for president of the Sisters in Crime GUPPIES (although she 

totally is!) Turns out the real-life stories she covered put her in mind of murder...

Edna Buchanan, the Miami Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran cops reporter, had a big following before she started writing novels. Probably her most famous lead, "Gary Robinson died hungry." was taped to thousands of reporters’ computer monitors around the country.
Covering the cop shop doesn’t always result in interesting, bizarre stories, but a lot of the time it involves murder. And beyond the grisly serial killers, the mass murderers, are quirky ones.
The drug dealer whose pals shot him, stuffed his body in a sleeper sofa and were sitting on it watching TV when the cops arrived.
The real estate agent who was shot with a crossbow while waiting for clients in an empty house.
I spent about twenty years, on and off, in newspaper newsrooms around California. I didn’t cover the police beat, but I assigned the reporters who did, and I edited their stories. And what stories.
When I was at the San Jose Mercury-News, there was a rash of serial killings in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With typical gallows humor, somebody would say “any new bodies,” every morning and get a sour look. Six young women disappeared and the bodies of another woman and her friend turned up before Edmund Kemper turned himself in. He also killed his grandparents in an earlier spree.
In the little town of Lodi, a tweaker broke into a house where three teen girls were. He assaulted two of them and kidnapped the third. Two days later, with the local police, sheriff, the California Highway Patrol and the FBI on his trail, he let the girl go in a local pasture and surrendered. He called my police reporter and gave her an exclusive jailhouse interview. The next calls I got were from both the DA and the Public Defender’s offices, trying to subpoena the reporter’s notes. The first time in memory that both the prosecution and the defense wanted unpublished information.!

Later in Modesto, a woman, her daughter and a friend disappeared from a motel on the edge of Yosemite National Park. We were the closest large newspaper and covered the disappearance, the search, the FBI work, the family, the discovery of the burnt car, finding the bodies, the murder of a young Park worker and the eventual capture of Cary Stayner.

As we covered murders over the years I thought this is what I’d use if I ever wrote a novel—how newspapers cover murders, how they play them, how much they interact with the police and how journalists dig to find facts. 
Many of the stories are stranger than can’t make some of this up. 

One of my favorites: My police reporter covered an arraignment. The bad guy pled guilty. She wrote a brief. Then I watched her on the phone, getting agitated. When she hung up she said it was the bad guy, yelling at her for saying he pled guilty. Why? Because, he said, “I told you I was innocent!”

What’s your favorite stranger than fiction story?

          Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.
          Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review is available at Amazon. She’s working on the second book in the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Labeled for Death, out in spring 2013.
          Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook, paperback and audible at ebook retailers. All have received “must read” reviews from the Paranormal Romance Guild. SNAP: The WorldUnfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story andDanube: A Tale of Murder are available singly and in a boxed set at Amazon, B&N and Kobo. The fifth book, SNAP: Love for Blood rated 5 stars, is now out. She’s writing SNAP: Happily Ever After? for release in summer 2013 and a seventh book in late fall 2013.

You can find out more at Michele's website and at her Amazon author page. You can also friend her on Facebook!


  1. I’m sitting here chuckling over all the “stupid bad guy” stories . . . “Edited for Death” sounds quite intriguing and I’m looking forward to reading it . . . .

    Love the girl reporter illustrations . . . brings back fond memories of reading Brenda Starr . . . .

  2. Michele, thanks for visiting! the longer I'm in this writing business, the more I realize how helpful it would have been to be a journalist first. You sure have a wonderful backlog of ideas:)

    Tell us more about EDITED FOR DEATH

  3. Very interesting, Michele -- I agree with Lucy on the advantages of experience gleaned through reporting. Gives you a wealth of experience and a more than a few doses of reality.

    I imagine reporters can get into uncomfortable situations "protecting" their source when the source is a murder.

  4. Wow. In comparison, I think I covered "cops & courts" in the New England version of Mayberry. Still, most of the crimes I covered were against children and oh-so sad. I often think about the emotional rubble left behind among the families and the surviving victims. The children would be adults now. Is it normal to still be thinking about them?

  5. Edited to correct Michele's last name. I was so intent on getting "Michele" right, (I kept typing it "Michelle") that I fluffed Drier!

    Durrh. Clearly, I am someone who NEVER would have made it as a reporter...

  6. Love love love those Girl Reporter pics. But where's Lois Lane?

  7. Great comments, but I confess I can't take credit for the Girl Reporter covers, that was Julia. Thank you! And yes, Rhonda, I think you always remember the destruction left behind. Cary Stayner's father just died this April and reading his obit brought back vivid memories of his victims' families. And crimes against me the shivers.
    Lucy, Edited for Death has a hunt for Nazi (and other) thieves that leaves three innocent people dead. Amy's not so much of a sleuth as an adrenline junkie who asks the why.
    And in Labeled for Death, out this summer, she wants to find out what's in the wine when two field workers and the town's most popular hooker are found in a vineyard.
    Thank you Jungle Reds, it's a pleasure to be here.

  8. Yay,Michelle!

    And you know what else about reporting--it teaches you how to tell a story, right? WIth good buys ,and bad guys, and a central problems, and a story arc..hmmm..
    It's only that in reporting, you can't make stuff up.

    LOVE the covers, Julia! You always find the best pictures!

  9. Very true, Hank! And just like opening pages in a novel, your first paragraph in a news story has to catch the reader or listener...and it's called the hook.

  10. Hi Michele,
    You're such a good storyteller! I loved this blog. And your books, of course.

  11. From one who knows. Thank you Linda!!

  12. Michele, your mention of Cary Stayner brought back those horrible memories of the experience his little brother Steven had. I remember when Steven was kidnapped. We lived on our little ranch nearby, as desert distances go, about halfway between Death Valley and the rise up to Yosemite. When Steven's brother was arrested at the motel near Yosemite, I remember wondering if Cary had anything to do with Steven's kidnapping. The reports have always said they were not connected, but I can't help wondering.

  13. The Stayner family had problems for years, but Cary was only 11 or so when Steven was kidnapped. I think all of that story falls into the stranger than fiction category! Were you living in Inyo or Kern County?

  14. That is stranger than fiction!

    We were in Kern County at the time, although during that same time frame, between Steven's kidnapping and Cary's arrest we lived in one place that was in the three neighboring counties –– Kern, Inyo, and Mono. We still have a small ranch over in Kern, in Kelso Valley, near the base of Piute Peak.

    When we adopted our two youngest, we drove up to the area of Bishop where they were in foster care and almost stayed at that motel. We wanted to visit the nearby Hot Springs. When we drove into the parking lot it looked a little seedy, so we left and camped out nearby.

  15. Thank you, Michele. Good luck and good wishes for you and your book.

  16. Reine, that Eastern slope of the Sierra has some beautful spots. Spent a little time in Bishop and the Owens Valley and have a great-grandfather buried in Lee Vining although mostly we're from the Bay Area. It's a small world!

  17. Michele, I'm actually from Massachusetts but lived in California for many years until I decided to go back home for school and stayed on to work.

    I admit to being surprised at some of these connections. Our oldest daughter died in September and when the weather is right her ashes will be buried in the old Indian cemetery in a canyon further south of Lee Vining down 395, then back into the Sierra... a place she loved.