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Blogs From Exile

An intriguing problem for a mystery writer

In my latest short story, I ran into a snag that I'd never encountered before. For a while, I was working with a plot that didn't seem to provide a plausible way for the killer to get caught.

This is definitely one of those "good" problems to have, because it probably means the case is a tough one and the readers will find it a challenge. But before they could do that, I did have to figure out how the perp gets caught--or, if the perp doesn't get caught, how the story ends.

As background, I set out to write a tough, tight "whodunnit" murder mystery with only two suspects and a remote location. Putting them there, and crafting the motivation for the killer, left a case that would not be easy for investigators to solve.

I was being very strict with myself and the circumstances I created for the murder. So no "dumb moves" by anyone in the story.

As an added degree of difficulty, the investigators aren't sure the death wasn't an accident.

Because of that, there was very little pointing toward the killer in the first place and the killer didn't have much time or opportunity to make a mistake that could tip anyone off.

To resolve this, I used an approach that I imagine some investigators take. I went through every one of the killer's actions and words to see if they provide anything that could point to that character as the perpetrator. That actually didn't work, but then I tried the "it's not what you see, but what you DON"T see" approach. In other words, if the available evidence doesn't solve the mystery, what evidence is missing that the investigators would expect to be there?

I'm still being strict with myself, but think I figured it out in a way that is realistic, believable, and in character. It's been a rewarding exercise, and it's definitely stretched my brain. 

Now to write the story. 


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Four of my writing workshops are available online

I've given a lot of writing workshops over the years, and have posted most of the slide presentations on Slideshare, where they're free to view and download.


Four of these workshops were given at the Sleuthfest mystery convention in Boca Raton, Florida, and audio recordings of those workshops are available for purchase as MP3 or CD. They follow the slide presentations saved on Slideshare, so if you download the presentation (for free) and purchase the audio recording, you'll get the experience of the workshop.


Please go to vwtapes.com and type "Vincent O'Neil" into the Search box to see the audio recordings.


Here are the slideshows available for free on Slideshare:



Don't Miss a Thing: Brainstorming the full potential of your story, your characters, and your plot (Sleuthfest 2019)




Writing Action Sequences: You'll be lucky to survive (Sleuthfest 2018)




The Never-ending Brainstorm: Taking your inspiration from a gentle breeze to a full-blown hurricane (Sleuthfest 2017)



The Brute Force & Ignorance Approach: Writing when you have no plan, no plot, and even no point (Sleuthfest 2017)



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Harlequin has released DEATH TROUPE in paperback!

Harlequin just released my theater-themed murder mystery DEATH TROUPE in paperback, and they did a fantastic job. They already published paperback versions of all four of the Frank Cole mysteries, and I've loved the cover art they've developed for every one of them, but they outdid themselves with DEATH TROUPE.

Although DEATH TROUPE is  Read More 
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The Best Review I've Ever Received

Libby Cudmore, a marvelous new writer from the noir side of the mystery world, just gave my new book DEATH TROUPE the greatest review. I'm practically speechless, so here it is:

Death Troupe is a mystery novel for writers. It's about writing. It's about the struggles of writing and what being a writer does  Read More 
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Research and Writing: It’s not just the facts after all

I’ve been writing in various genres for some time now, but only recently came to appreciate the link between research and inspiration. Yes, I know; it was probably always there, but I hadn’t really given it much thought until just a few years ago.

Like so many former students, somewhere I got  Read More 
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Motivating Your Murderer

One of the great things about writing murder mysteries is the opportunity to imagine the mind of the villain. After all, no matter how many times we say we’d like to kill someone in real life, most of us thankfully aren’t ever going to get closer to the mindset of an actual  Read More 
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Because (some of) you asked for it . . .

I'm very pleased to announce the release of a paperback version of the newest Frank Cole mystery novel, CONTEST OF WILLS. I had originally planned to keep CONTEST OF WILLS as just an ebook, but received enough feedback from fans of the series that it is now out in paperback.

When we last saw  Read More 
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Mystery Novelist Finds New Venue with Electronic Books

Not long ago, the only places to find out-of-print books were rare book stores and libraries. Luckily, that’s no longer the case.

With the growing popularity of electronic books (e-books) and the increasing number of venues that support them, many out-of-print books have found a new life. More and more authors have discovered  Read More 
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Just released – the new Frank Cole mystery, Contest of Wills

Hey gang,

I’m very pleased to announce that the new Frank Cole mystery, CONTEST OF WILLS, is now available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook (No Kindle? No problem; you can read this book on just about any device, from your PC to your Blackberry, using the free downloads available on the same  Read More 
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Who should play the characters in the "Exile" series?

Marshal Zeringue runs a great series of book-related websites, and he recently asked me to write an article about who should play the characters in my "Exile" mystery series for his "My Book-The Movie":

A pair of book reviews first prompted me to think about the possible casting of my "Exile" mystery novels. Both  Read More 
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