Author Archives: Christine Husom

About Christine Husom

Christine Husom is a former corrections officer, deputy, and mental health practitioner. She combined her love for writing and solving crimes crafting her Winnebago County Mystery Thriller series, featuring Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes. Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, are the first three books. A Noding Field Mystery will be released in November, 2012.

The Endearing Vince Flynn by Christine Husom

When Vince Flynn, a Minnesota thriller author, announced he had stage three metastatic prostate cancer in 2010, it didn’t sound good. But he was determined to beat it.  In an interview last year with USA TODAY, Vince discussed his illness: “The first 48 hours of my diagnosis were hellish,” he said. “Things just seemed to get worse and worse. We (he and his wife) were sneaking around the house, whispering so the kids wouldn’t hear us. It was horrible.” But then he said, ” I feel great now. . . .We have this under control.”

I never met Vince in person, but made it to one of his book signings. Unfortunately, the line was a mile long. We decided to have lunch, then get back in line, but it was still a mile long. I had another appointment and couldn’t wait, so I snaked my way around to get a close up look at him.

He was even better looking in person than in any of his photos. But the thing that set him apart was how engaging he was with his fans. He made eye contact, joked around, and expressed his appreciation, showing he cared they had bought a book and were standing in a long line to have him sign it.

I learned Vince had died when I checked the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime page on Facebook yesterday afternoon. One of our members wrote, “I thought he’d beaten the beast.” That’s what I’d thought also.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery. A Death in Lionel’s Woods will be released in Fall, 2013.

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A Day of Coincidences by Christine Husom

May 20th is a special day in our family. Our daughter and nephew were both born on that day, in the same year. Back before cell phones and the ability to be in nearly constant and instant communication, we tried to call my husband’s brother and sister-in-law off and on for hours to tell them we’d had our baby. They’d been doing the same. Somehow we finally connected and were amazed to learn we’d delivered on the same day. Especially since our babies were due weeks apart. Our daughter was a week late, their son was born earlier than expected.

So we went through the years celebrating the birthdays of the “twin cousins”, as they’ve been dubbed. After they reached adulthood, coincidentally, our nephew had a nephew of his own born on their birthday. And a few years later, to add to the wonder of it all, our grandson–our daughter’s first nephew–was born on their birthday. What are the odds of that happening, I wondered. When I posed that question hypothetically, my sister had the answer: 365 times 365 times 365 times 365.

The other coincidence is that May 20th was also their grandmother’s/great-grandmother’s wedding anniversary. I guess that means to calculate the probability of all those descendants being born on their anniversary is 365 times 365 times 365 times 365 times 365. Seems like fairly low odds to me, but maybe it’s not in the world of statistics and probabilities.

Happy birthday twin cousins and second cousins, Morynn, Ben, Ethan, and Christian on the special day you share.

I’d love to hear about coincidences that have intrigued or tickled you.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

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A Death in Lionel’s Woods excerpt by Christine Husom

This is an excerpt from the fifth book in the Winnebago County Mystery Series.

Chapter One

“You killed my friend.” I hit the 2 on the phone to replay the message. “You killed my friend.” I’m sorry. So very sorry, I mouthed. It was the fourth time that morning I had been drawn back to the muffled voice that accused me, held me guilty, with four short words. You. Killed. My. Friend. The caller–I couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female–didn’t name me specifically, or say who he or she was. But the message was sent to my voicemail and was personal nonetheless. I felt compelled to keep it to myself for a while. More correctly, between the caller and me. You killed my friend. Did he or she somehow share in the same grief I couldn’t shake?

My sadness was persistent, and at times I was afraid it would consume me, swallow me whole. It had been months since I had blindly led the man I was dating to his death, but that tragic moment in time was never far from my conscious, subconscious, or unconscious thoughts. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live with the burden.

Many people assured me, some over and over, that time was the great healer. And I had to believe the weight of guilt would lessen, but I knew my life would never be the same. The other thing people tried to drum into my brain was that it wasn’t my fault. I almost believed that on one level, but on another level, which caused persistent gnawing at my heart and gut, I was convinced my police training and innate skills should have alerted me of the danger ahead. By the time I sensed something was hinky, it was too late to stop the rapid chain of events that resulted in the death of two men. Eric Stueman’s was at the hands of an evil man. The evil man died by mine.

It was like watching the videos of Twin Towers going down on 9-11. I knew it would be exactly the same no matter how many times I viewed it. Yet the part of me that didn’t want to believe it had really happened hoped if I watched it one more time the ending would be somehow different. That’s the way it was every time my mind’s eye watched Langley Parker shoot Eric. No matter how much I willed for a different ending, it never varied one iota. The images in my brain had become my nearly constant companion, along with the smell of fresh salty blood mixed in with sweet blossoms in the warm late Spring evening air.

Winnebago County Sheriff Dennis Twardy had pulled me off the road as a supervising sergeant, and assigned me the special duties of helping in the evidence room, checking outstanding warrants on offenders, and any number of other details the department was backlogged on. When I was at work, I forced myself to be focused. When I was with family and friends, I was coaxed from my grief for short periods of time. When I was alone, I fell apart as often as not.

I had added Doctor Kearns, my psychologist and new best friend as number 8 on my speed dial. The only professional–or his voicemail, at least–I had access to by hitting two buttons. Since I hadn’t slept through the night for months, he’d talked me into getting a prescription for a sleeping aid from a medical doctor. I’d done as he suggested and had the unopened bottle sitting in my bathroom cabinet, in case. I chose to self-medicate with wine in the evenings instead. A glass or two or three dulled the pain, but didn’t allow me slip into a dreamless, guilt-free night which I didn’t feel I deserved anyway. I had no idea what I had to do, or how long it would take to pay the penance that would get me out of my personal prison. I hoped one day Doctor Kearns would pull a rabbit out of a hat, something brand new, and he’d say something that would magically help me forgive myself.

My cell phone rang midmorning. It was Detective Elton Dawes, my mentor and dear friend. I forced myself to sound mildly cheerful so he wouldn’t pry into what was wrong. “Hey Smoke.”

“Got a lot going on in Warrants?”

“You know it never ends around here.”

“Tell me about it. You heard Weber call me out to his suspicious circumstances call?”

“I did. How suspicious are the circumstances?”

“I’d go with quite suspicious at this point. We’re don’t really know the extent of what we got. I’d be obliged if you’d come out here. We’re up to our eyeballs and it seems that half the guys I usually count on are off deer hunting.”

A wave of panic rolled through me. “Smoke, I . . .”

“Sheriff says you’d be putting your talents to better use on this case than in the office. If you’re ready to get back out here, that is.”

“What have you got?”

“A woman. Dead a couple of days, it looks like. Skin and bones. Waiting on Melberg and the crime lab team which is only Zubinski, with Mason out today. The chief deputy hasn’t found anyone to reassign yet, but he’s still working on it. Weber will fill in as long as he can.”

I sucked in a breath and blew it out, mentally ordering the feelings of fear and anxiety to leave with the expelled air.

“All right.”

“The closest address is twenty-two-nineteen Quinton Avenue, in Swedesburg Township. We’re in a private woods next to in the Jeremiah Madison County Park off County Two, a quarter mile in. A guy found her after the morning deer hunt.”

“Man. Okay. I’ll be out there in about twenty.” I disconnected and glanced at the clock on the office wall, hoping reading the time would give me a sense of urgency that would propel me into action. Ten-fifteen, Friday morning. The start of a long, sad weekend for the victim’s family. That thought spurred me and got me moving.

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Writers Write by Christine Husom

Writers write for many reasons. For some it is personal therapy, laying their thoughts and feelings down to sort through and analyze. Some like maintaining a diary of activities, a record to later refer to. Others keep a log when they travel to record details they may otherwise forget. There are technical writers who spell out detailed information in various manuals. There are textbook, non-fiction, screen play, musical lyrics, advertising, and greeting card writers. Written words are everywhere.

People may write solely for personal reasons, having no intention of ever getting published. For others, that is their main reason; getting published so others will read what they wrote. Whether it’s a poem or a play or a book of fiction, they want to share their written words. The audience may be small and specific or worldwide and astronomical. Again, there are a myriad of reasons. If it’s an expose on a botched murder investigation, the writer may be seeking justice. A biography may be written to tell the world what a great person, or total jerk, the subject was. The writer may feel compelled to share a philosophy or to simply entertain. He or she may want to tell of a personal journey to offer hope to others who are faced with a similar circumstance.

Many years ago I read formula romance novels purely for entertainment. My children were young and when they went to bed, instead of settling in front of the television, I read. I digested about five books each week for a couple of years. Along the way I told myself, “I can write a romance novel. I have the formula memorized and can come up with a decent story.” So I wrote two romance novels. I made a weak attempt at publication, but life was busy with my husband, four kids, career, and volunteer work, so I let it slide. And I had quit reading formula romance sometime before then. In fact, I had gotten bored with the genre and was reading anything but. I had switched to mainstream and mystery for the most part.

In addition to the completed romance novels, I have a number of manuscripts for mainstream novels that I started writing and never finished–like a lot of writers. I have completed plays, poems, short stories, and notebook pages full of ideas for others. I am a writer, but one who has not always actively written. A writer who is constantly creating stories, scenarios, characters, dialogues, but one who gets only a small percentage of those things on paper. I quit telling myself I’d remember a snappy bit of dialogue, or a cool way to describe a person or place or emotion, a long time ago.

When tragedy struck my family sixteen years ago, I had no way of knowing it would give birth to a mystery series. Without a satisfying explanation for my father’s death, I wrote Murder in Winnebago County to tell the story of what my imagination thought could have happened. When I entered the book in the “search for the next best crime writer” contest on-line, I had no idea I would meet the man who would become my publisher. That was five years and four published mystery novels ago.

As I work on the fifth book in the series, I know the reasons I’m writing it: I like my Winnebago County characters and am curious what they are up to; my readers are waiting and asking when it will be released; I learn a great deal of new information doing research for each book; and it keeps me connected to a community of writers and readers.

My goal as the author of a mystery series is not to write the great American novel. And that’s what most of the other authors I converse with tell me. My hope is to entertain, to share some police procedural information, to take my readers on a journey that will take them away from their workaday world to Winnebago County where mystery, romance, and all sorts of unexpected things continue to happen.

Please tell us what you’re looking for as a reader or writer.

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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GPS for 911 by Christine Husom

I serve as a county commissioner in Minnesota, and at a recent meeting we were discussing upgrading some phone computer software when this question was raised, “I live in a city that is on the border of our county. If I dial 911 on my cell phone, will it go to our county, or to the neighboring county’s sheriff’s dispatch, since I live closer to them?” Good question.

A 911 call should go to the county dispatch where the call is made. If another county gets the call in error, they will immediately forward it to the correct county. Technology and equipment continues to become more sophisticated, including the ways Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are used.

Newer cell phones have GPS which is the space-based system that gives location and time information, provided there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.

But let’s say you have an older phone without GPS, and realize you are in personal distress. You dial 911, utter the single word, “Help,” then pass out. Sheriff’s dispatchers, by triangulating cell phone towers should be able to figure out where you are, by how far you are from a tower. 

GPS was originally developed for military intelligence, but President Ronald Reagan issued a directive to include use by civilians as well. Fast forward to the current decade when the Federal Communications Commission decreed that all cell phones must have GPS capability by 2018.

Some might argue that ruling is an invasion of privacy. Some have disabled the GPS in their cell phones. I value my right to privacy, but I also hope that in the event of an emergency, responders would be able to locate me quickly. What are your thoughts?

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series; Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

 

 

 

 

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The Unsolved Crime Behind Buried in Wolf Lake by Christine Husom

The second book in the Winnebago County Mystery series, Buried in Wolf Lake, is based on an actual crime that happened in my home county in the mid 1990s. A dog brought home a woman’s dismembered arm he had found in a nearby lake. The victim was identified, and most of her body parts were found in the area over time. One was discovered by a pair of duck hunters as they walked through a swampy area. Since her body parts were scattered, were they dropped from a small plane flying over the area? Why would a person drive around the rural area, throwing body parts in different places?

The victim was an African American prostitute from a Twin Cities suburb. Prostitutes are often targets, and the circle of potential suspects is exponential. Had Ms. Bacon been in the area before she was killed and dismembered, or was her body brought there to be disposed of? Again, why? Was the area chosen for a specific reason, or was it a random choice?

Unsolved crimes trouble me. I think of the victim and wonder what thoughts were running through his or her head as something unthinkable was happening. Did she know the person who was hurting her? Was she a complete stranger? Did he even know what hit him? Did she experience sheer terror, or feel calm and hopeful things would be okay?

Then I think about the person or persons who committed the crimes. What motivation pushes someone to victimize another? I know there can be no true justice in this imperfect world, but the fairness factor that runs through my veins has trouble accepting that. I want to know what happened and why. Not for myself, but for the victim (if she is still alive) and for the victim’s loved ones.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Minnesota Department of Corrections, along with state law enforcement agencies, created a deck of cold case playing cards. These cards highlight 52 violent unsolved homicide, missing person, and unidentified remains cases that have occurred throughout Minnesota in the past fifty years. Their hope is that they will get tips and information to solve the cases.

According to the BCA’s website, “The BCA sent a request to more than 500 Minnesota law enforcement agencies, requesting nominations for cases to be featured on the cards. The BCA Cold Case Unit Review Board reviewed submissions and selected 52 cold cases to be featured in this initiative. Written permission and photographs were then collected from the families of victims, and the cards were assembled using victim photos and details of the investigation.

The card decks have been distributed to all 515 Minnesota police departments and sheriff offices, plus 75 county jail and annex facilities. In addition, over 10,000 decks have been supplied to Minnesota state prison inmates.

Sometimes people come forward with information years after an investigation has gone cold. Forensic evidence collected and preserved from crime scenes can be tested with modern methods to prove guilt or innocence in many of those cases. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.

When I wrote Buried in Wolf Lake, although it is a fictional tale, I had a hope deep inside me that someone would read it, recognize the actual crime it was based on, and feel compelled to give some information about what really happened to Ms. Bacon. When I speak to groups, I talk about the actual crime, and the fact that I can’t stand unsolved crimes like hers. And maybe–just maybe–the person who did the unspeakable will someday open his mouth after all.

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, And Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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Print Books, E-Books, Print Books, E-Books . . . by Christine Husom

E-books have gained a slight edge over their printed counterparts this past year, but print books are hardly a thing of the past. Not yet, anyway. For many of us who spend a fair amount of time staring at a computer screen, we welcome picking up a physical copy of a book when we sit down or climb into bed at night to read.

In his article, “Why Ebooks Are Inspiring A New Age Of Print,” Andrew Losowsky wrote, “It may sound obvious, but books exist – in a way that memory on a microchip does not. Enduring physical presence is no small thing in an age when information appears on a screen, then changes, evolves, and maybe even disappears. And as efficient as ebook retailers are, clicking to purchase is a fairly soulless affair in comparison to the pleasures of browsing in a bookstore.

For many publishers and booksellers, that feeling of loss has provided an opportunity. Instead of killing physical books, ebooks have actually encouraged a new level of fetishization of the printed page. . . . This might be a generational anomaly, created by those with nostalgia for print and libraries, soon to disappear once the digital natives are in charge. Or this might be the moment where print, freed from its need to do everything, becomes even better at doing what it can do uniquely.”

I’ve been in two small, independent bookstores the past two weeks, Happily, both are doing very well. I loved watching the shoppers and browsers move through the shelves, reading titles, picking up books, turning them over to read the blurbs and the reviews, perhaps opening them to read the first chapter or page. Sometimes making the decision to purchase a book, or five.

My daughter recently gave me a Kobo e-reader she bought at a local independent bookstore. Every book I download through them gives them a portion of the sale, which I like. I have yet to download anything. But as soon as I have an extra minute, I’ll do that. I have to agree with Losowsky, though, physical books attract me in a way e-books can’t. For me, it’s a little like having a picture of someone, then when you finally meet that person, you barely recognize him because you’ve only seen a flat image of him. I’ve gotten caught up in books I’ve read on my computer and appreciated the stories. But to really enjoy the overall experience, I’ll be reading physical books for the most part.

Please give me your thoughts.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winndebago County Mystery Series: Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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Killer’s Remorse by Christine Husom

I was at an author event recently, and during the question and answer period someone asked me if I ever felt bad when I killed someone in my books. In all these years, that’s the first time anyone had asked me that, surprisingly. And it’s a very good question. Yes, I always feel bad when one of my characters dies, and I have cried for all but two of them, if memory serves me correctly. Even then, I felt badly that they had lives poorly lived, and only a couple of people who would miss them and mourn their passing.

When my very first character died in the first Winnebago Mystery, I wept. Of course, there was a real life connection–the death was based on an actual incident. But it made it challenging to write when I couldn’t see through my tears. And each little detail was painful to pen.

Some characters are more difficult for me to kill than others. One I couldn’t kill at all, and she has lived through four books so far. And yes, if she ever dies, I will shed bitter tears. Although my characters themselves aren’t based on people I know in life, they become close to real. I think about them along with my family, friends, and others. I feel more closely connected to some than others, and I know readers and other authors feel the same way.

Authors, what are your feelings about killing your characters? Readers, how do you feel about characters’ deaths? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

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Rockin’ Bouchercon by Christine Husom

I attended my first time ever mystery conference/convention–Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland, OH–earlier this month. Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum, and birthplace of DJ Alan Freed who coined the phrase “rock and roll” in the 1950s. Two of the reasons the committee chose “Crime Fiction Rocks,” as the convention slogan.

Named after author Anthony Boucher, the first Bouchercon was held in Santa Monica, CA in 1970. All but four were held in the United States. Two were in Canada and two in England. People travel from around the world to attend this event for many reasons: to take in the panel discussions by a wide range of guests; to be witness to the award presentations; to socialize with authors, agents, publishers, editors, and others who love the mystery genre. Special guests this year included Doris Ann Norris, John Connolly, Les Roberts, Robin Cook, Elizabeth George, and Mary Higgins Clark.

Panel discussions began on Thursday morning, but my schedule didn’t allow me to arrive until that afternoon. Then it was a challenge to pick from the four panels that were running at any given time. I popped into “WHAT AN AUTHOR WILL DO FOR A STORY, Stories of dangerous research for their books” , which made me wonder how brave I really was. In the last time slot I chose, “50 SHADES OF COZY, Pushing the limits: Not your mama’s cozy anymore.” Very entertaining.

Chris Husom and Deb Ledford

I had really looked forward to meeting fellow Second Wind author Deborah Ledford, so it was a treat when we connected before the opening ceremonies that evening. We took the trolley to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum for the festivities. The museum is awesome, in architecture and in all the treasured exhibits it holds.  Deb and I posed by one of the giant guitars in front of the museum.

I was honored to be selected as a panel guest, particularly because of the others on the panel. The title was “YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, Murder and Criminal Justice Systems,” moderated by Jim Doherty. Other panelists were Michelle Gagnon, bestselling thriller author;  Connie Dial, twenty-seven year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department; Vicki Delany, acclaimed Canadian author; and Amanda Kyle Williams, Shamus Award nominee.

Mary Higgins Clark and Chris Husom

And then after the panel ended, we went into book signing room, and I got to sit next to Mary Higgins Clark! She had lived in Minnesota for a while, about 12 miles from my home, and we chatted for a minute about that. I’ve read most of her books over the years. She’s a natural storyteller and an all around delightful person, and deserved to be recognized as the Lifetime Achievement Guest.

I attended too many informative and entertaining panels to mention, met countless people, and made valuable connections. But rather than writing a chapter length synopsis, I’ll touch on a few of my convention highlights.

~Serving as a table host at a breakfast Friday morning honoring Mary Higgins Clark. Mary is a joy to listen to, and I met many wonderful librarians there.

~Spending time with Deb Ledford and her friend, Roni Olson. It was wonderful sharing meals and conversation, getting to know them better, and exploring the Rock and Roll Museum together.

~Sitting elbow to elbow with famous authors on our panel, and meeting so many others.

~Attending the panel discussions of fellow Twin Cities Sisters in Crime bestselling authors, Erin Hart, Julie Kramer, Jessie Chandler, and Stanley Trollip (the Stanley half of Michael Stanley) whose book, Death of a Mantis, was short listed for the Edgar, Anthony, and Barry Awards.

~Signing books next to Mary Higgins Clark, and two away from legendary Elizabeth George. I wonder why their lines were so much longer than mine?

~Attending a mutual interview between Michael Connelly and Michael Koryta. Honest and compelling.

~Bringing home a large stack of books to read. I don’t have room on any of my bookshelves, so they are temporarily resting on top of a cabinet.

I’d love to be able to attend more mystery conventions, as time, and mostly money, allows. Tell me about your favorite ones. And if you attended, Bouchercon, what were your experiences?

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

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Sisters in Crime Speaker Bureau by Christine Husom

I’ve been a member of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime for a few years and reaped many of its benefits. Last year at the Midwest Library Association, we helped host a Killer Cocktail event which I wrote about in a blog about a year ago. One of the things we offered was a drawing to “win” a mystery panel of authors. Three libraries were lucky winners.

I signed up to be on the Sisters in Crime Speaker Bureau Panel, and traveled to the quaint little town of Grand Marais on the North Shore of Lake Superior last month for an event at their newly remodeled library. It’s a five hour drive–one way–but my life has been so busy, I decided to drive up and back the same day, with only a few hours to spend in the fine city. A shame, really because  I love Grand Marais–eating Chicken and Wild Rice Pizza at Sven and Ole’s, browsing through the shops, shopping at the Trading Post, sitting by lake, hiking the trails, having coffee and sweets with the breeze blowing off Lake Superior.

But those activities were from other visits over the years. Instead of sight-seeing, our panel was able to spend a couple of hours with the people of Grand Marais, which was a great experience. They were gracious and grateful that a panel of seven mystery authors traveled to their hometown to share the joys, frustrations, highs, and lows of the writing life. I truly appreciated the questions our moderator Dan Bernier, and the members of the audience, asked and answers the other authors had in response. I always learn so much from forums.

So thank you moderator Dan, authors Jenifer LeClair, Mickie Turk, Pam Leonard, Wendy Webb, and Jessie Chandler for your insightful, honest answers. And to the library staff for your hospitality and treats, the bookstore for selling our books and Grand Marais residents for making us feel right at home. I’m a sucker for Minnesota Nice.

I’m excited that I’ve been selected to be on the panel, “You Have the Right to Remain Silent” moderated by Jim Doherty at Bouchercon in Cleveland next month. I’m really looking forward to sharing the table with some fine mystery writers. Are any of you going to the conference? And have any of you been part of a Speaker Panel?

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

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