DEAD ANIMALS AND OTHER STRATEGIES by Jasmine Schwartz

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Crime readers are awesome, aren’t they?

I’m giving away a short story this week. ‘Before the Crash‘ is a prequel to my crime novels, ‘Farbissen’ and ‘Fakakt‘. The series follows Melissa Morris, a thirty-something New Yorker whose search for herself is constantly interrupted by the discovery of dead bodies.

But nothing is free, and in exchange for the story I asked my readers for suggestions. Specifically, I need to break up a relationship. My father is dating his dental hygeinist. Need I say more?

First to respond was Santo, who shared a colorful anecdote about his daughter Luciana and her boyfriend, Dmitri. I won’t go into details as there’s still an investigation pending, but Dmitri is out of the picture. Unfortunately, I can’t really look at an animal carcass without hurling, let alone touch one, so Santo’s suggestion is out. I did plant a dead animal in my story, ‘Before the Crash’, in homage to Santo, and even named a character after him. Thanks, Santo baby, for the inspiration.

Another reader, Liv, sent me an idea – something to do with a fig recipe. But as my readers know, I never step foot in my kitchen.

Bret from Bennington gave me some tips on how to forget my troubles altogether. I particularly like his approach, and Bret honey, I’d party with you any time. I’ll bring the Dalmore. Give me a call.

People ask me if my detective character Melissa Morris is based on a real person. I ignore them and walk straight by. But the answer is yes. Amateur sleuth Melissa Morris is based on an old, childhood friend. Her name is Lysette. She used to work for the Mossad until she got tired of giving blow jobs to Syrian businessmen in cheap East European hotels.

After leaving the job, Lysette drifted, taking work no respectable person should ever consider. She was a secretary, a sales assistant, an ESL teacher and an archivist in a cruddy, dark basement in Queens where she had to drink instant coffee and microwave her lunches. Eventually she trained to be a social worker. Really, it was a nightmare to be her friend. Obviously, we lost touch.

So when it came time to write a novel, I thought, what if, instead of working with abused children, Lysette found dead bodies and solved crimes? These are the kinds of concepts you have to think about when you’re a writer. You have to ask that really good ‘what if’ question. You have to put normal people in extraordinary situations. You have to sit down and write after drinking at least two gin and tonics. Most writing teachers will tell you that. Most writers might add another few shots…

Jasmine Schwartz blogs at www.jasmineschwartz.com.

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