Ice on the Bay
by Dale E. Lehman
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The forecast: Record cold. The crimes: Colder still.
A saintly young veterinary technician disappears on Christmas Eve, leaving behind only a broken window and smears of blood on his clinic's back steps. Two years later, his disappearance remains a mystery. A home in an exclusive area burns to the ground, mirroring fires ignited the previous year by an arsonist who now sits in prison. Is the new fire a copycat, or has the wrong man been convicted? A criminal with a long list of enemies is shot dead, and not even his friends are sorry. While temperatures plummet, cold cases collide with new crimes, and somewhere a killer with blood as icy as the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watches and waits.
"Ma'am?" Dumas asked quietly.
"Denise," she said in a whiskey voice, not looking up. She took a long drag on her cancer stick. "Denise Newville. I suppose you already met Michio Tamai." She waved toward the living room. "Some people called him Mike."
"Your husband?" Dumas pulled out a chair and sat opposite her. She appeared to be in her mid-thirties, with a tangle of sandy brown hair and eyes that had seen too much.
"You lived together, though."
"If you can call it living. He gave me food and a roof over my head. One guess what I gave him." She paused to take another even longer drag on her cigarette and slowly blow out the smoke. Dumas turned his head slightly and held his breath until the cloud passed. "This complicates things," Newville added, "but I'm not sad about it. Sleazeball deserved it."
Dumas gave her an inquiring look.
With a nod she stood up, put her bare left foot on her chair, and pulled back her robe to expose most of her thigh. A livid purple bruise spread from her knee up her leg until it vanished beneath the fabric. "I could show you more, but you'd arrest me for flashing a cop." She covered up and sat.
Dumas wondered how she could be so flippant about it. "When did he do that?"
"Last night. He'd been out drinking, somehow managed to find his way home, and wanted me to fix him a big meal. At one in the morning." She dragged a hand through her hair and gave Dumas a crooked smile. "I wasn't inclined. So, you know."
Q & A with Dale E. Lehman
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I think what I enjoy most about writing any book is watching the characters come alive. I don't plan excessively. I usually have a general idea of what's going to happen, but the story really only develops as the characters act it out, and I usually don't know what they are going to do until they do it. That said, it's not so much the surprises that make it enjoyable. It's seeing all these people appear on paper, crawling out of my unconscious mind and taking on lives of their own.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
Ray Bradbury tops the list. I consider him to be the greatest 20th century American writer. I could wish that when I grow up as a writer, I might be as good in my way as he was in his. (But that's an awfully tall order!) Among mystery writers, Martha Grimes is at the top of my list. She's a great wordsmith, and I love how she mixes humor into deathly serious subjects. I'm also a big fan of Donald Westlake, who is best known for his John Dortmunder crime/humor novels but who has written some deep stories, too.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I'm currently searching for an agent for a completed science fiction/humor novel about an opera company trying to make it big on the fringes of the solar system. I've started my fourth Howard County Mystery ("Ice on the Bay" is the third), and I'm about a third of the way through a crime/humor novel about a husband and wife team of thieves. They're a fun couple. I'm having a blast writing them!
Do you ever get writer’s Block? Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Every writer does. Sometimes you reach a point where you just don't know what happens next, and your characters aren't talking to you. I think the best advice is: don't panic. Go do something else for a while. Most writing springs from the unconscious mind, and sometimes it needs time to do its work without your conscious thoughts meddling. I've found the same is true in my "day job." I'm a software developer. Sometimes I hit an intractable problem that I just can't figure out. Usually if I get up and get a cup of tea or something, by the time I come back to my desk and sit down, the answer presents itself as if by magic. That's how the human mind works. There are other tricks you can play on yourself if giving it a rest doesn't work. Sometimes I've "interviewed" a character, as strange as that sounds. I ask a few basic questions of the character and write down the answers I get. Often that gets things moving or suggests a new direction for the story.
Have you ever had one character you wanted to go one way with but after the book was done the character was totally different?
Yeah, with some regularity. I've learned not to plan my character's lives in too much detail, because as soon as I do, they'll run off in some totally contrary direction. Best just to let them go where they want in the first place. That's not the same as having no plan, however. I generally know where a story starts and what its key plot points will be. I can normally navigate characters through them in spite of their quirks.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Dale E. Lehman is a veteran software developer, amateur astronomer, and bonsai artist in training. He is the author of the Howard County Mysteries series (The Fibonacci Murders, True Death, and Ice on the Bay ). His writing has also appeared in Sky & Telescope and a couple of software development journals. With his wife Kathleen he owns and operates One Voice Press and Serpent Cliff. They have five children, five grandchildren, and two feisty cats.