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Monday, March 30, 2020

MYSTERY AUTHOR SHARON DAYNARD ON ROCKS, MINERALS & MURDER

Sharon Daynard’s writing runs the gamut from light and quirky to downright dark and troubling. Her debut novel, Murder Points North, puts a humorous spin on murder in a small town. Her short stories include “The Boss of Butler Square” which received Honorable Mention for the Al Blanchard Award and “Widows Peak” which was short-listed for a Derringer Award. She’s been offered the services of a professional hitman, crossed paths with a serial killer, testified before grand juries, and taken lie detector tests. Learn more about Sharon and her various works on Facebook

Rock Paper Murder
Looking back, I’d have to say my rock and mineral collection started when I was on a 2nd grade field trip to the Museum of Science in Boston. The only souvenir the gift shop offered in my price range was four very small samples glued to an index card—a piece of granite, a piece of quartz, a piece of obsidian and a piece of sandstone. The next day during show-and-tell, no one, including me, was very impressed with it. The index card was unceremoniously retired to the junk drawer in my parent’s kitchen.

It was another ten years before I gave my “collection” another thought. I needed to pick a major for college. I wanted to study Environmental Sciences, but the college of my choice only offered a B.S. in Environmental Geology. Thinking maybe it was kismet all those years ago when I bought those four rock and mineral samples, I went with my gut and picked it. Worst-case scenario, I’d change majors at the end of my first semester. As it turned out I loved geology. My favorite subject was mineralogy and rock and mineral identification being my favorite lab. 

That rock and mineral collection on an index card has grown into boxes and crates stuffed with rock and mineral field samples neatly wrapped in newspaper and bubble wrap. My favorite rocks and minerals adorn my bookshelves and credenzas. About the only place you won’t find them is in a jewelry box. I think of it along the lines of a veterinarian wearing leather pants and a fur coat—it just doesn’t feel right. 

Fast forward a few years and degrees later and I decided I wanted to write a novel—a mystery novel. As the adage goes, “write what you know.” For me, that meant geology. I knocked around the idea of a female geology professor happening upon crimes and solving murders. I thought it was a great idea, I just didn’t know what geology had to do with murder, let alone playing into solving one until I was teaching a hands-on rock and mineral session to a group of Cubs Scouts. While I was passing around a field sample of my favorite mineral, galena, one of the boys commented that it was small but “super heavy.” I agreed and added, he had to be extra careful with it because even though it was heavy it was fragile. All of a sudden, I had an idea for a mystery novel. I knew who my protagonist was, who the killer was, what the murder weapon was and how the murder would be solved.

When writing Murder Points North, the similarity of IDing a rock or mineral and solving a murder wasn’t lost on me. With a rock or mineral, you start with one sample and a long list of possibilities. You narrow that list down based on hardness, luster, color, streak, specific gravity and cleavage to determine what your sample is. With a murder a detective/amateur sleuth has a long list of suspects and based on motive, means, and opportunity, they systematically narrow that list down to one person—the killer. 

If it wasn’t for that index card with four tiny samples of rocks and mineral in my parent’s junk drawer, I might never have majored in geology, and I certainly never would have written Murder Points North. The next time you come across an interesting rock or mineral while you’re walking along the beach, hiking through the woods, or even planting a flower, take a closer look at and imagine the stories it could tell you…

Murder Points North
With one week until Christmas, picturesque Points North, New Hampshire, hasn’t seen as much as a token flurry and the temperatures are almost as high as local tempers. The lack of snow, however, is the least of Liesl Alan’s worries.

Liesl teaches geology, collects rocks, minerals and ex-husbands—three at last count. On the brink of turning forty, she finds herself living amongst a group of eccentric “innmates” at the Muddled Moose, an inn her family has owned for generations. Hardly in the Christmas spirit, the last thing Liesl’s looking forward to is a night of wearing a too tight, too ruffled, too plaid gown for the village’s annual Home for the Holidays open house celebration.

When the event ends in a fiasco and someone from the Muddled Moose is found murdered, Liesl becomes the prime suspect of everyone from the lead homicide detective to her own mother. Fellow residents at the inn are even offering fashion tips for her inevitable perp walk and mug shot.

Determined to prove her innocence and find the real killer, Liesl teams up with a private eye wannabe. With a list of suspects that might as well include all of Points North, she has her work cut out for her, especially when each new clue points her in a different direction.

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