An Ex-Student Speaks Out About Life at Florida’s Dozier Reform School

A few weeks ago, we covered a story about the Dozier Reform School for boys, a long established Florida institution. Open over a century, the school was constantly plagued with rumours of abuse ranging from beatings to rape to possibly murder. When forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle started an excavation on the grounds of the now-closed school in the fall of 2013, she found 55 bodies instead of the 31 presumed buried on the grounds. Recently returned to the school, Dr. Kimmerle hopes to find additional remains.

Shortly after we ran the Dozier post, a former student, Bill Price, contacted me and offered to share some of his experiences at the school with us. We’re very grateful to Bill for being willing to share some very difficult memories with us.


White House Boys is a term used to indicate boys that attended the Dozier Reform School in Marianna, Florida during the 1950s and 1960s. Were you one of those boys?

I was sent to the school which was known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys at the time and was designed to house wayward and unmanageable children and at the same time teach them a trade. I was there in 1961–62.

Why were you sent to Dozier? How old were you?

I was sent to Marianna for running away from home to escape abusive stepfathers, which totaled 5 before I was 14.  This also meant that I was among 4 half brothers and sisters which made my sister and I the outcasts. I want to make you aware of something that might make more sense of my running away from home. My earliest memory was when I was seven in 1954. My brother and I were home alone and watching our green screen TV and Superman came on. I guess my brother wanted to see if it was possible for the bullet to bounce off and took a rifle, straightened a clothes hanger and shot himself in the heart. He ran in the room where I was and fell. I didn't know what to do or where anyone was and had to watch my brother die in front of me. My sister and I were put in an orphanage for 2 years in Salem, Va. because my mother couldn't take care of us in her condition. After 2 years she picked us up and we had a new father and now lived in Florida. I was born in Virginia. So at the age of 13 I ran away from home and no one cared or came looking for me. I had a friend and his mother helped me and fed me. I had never known anyone so kind in my life and she was involved in a car crash and once again I was fending for myself. One night I was with some friends and one of them did something stupid and took some money. We were all caught and given a slap on the wrist and released to our parents except me and my stepfather told them I ran away a long time ago and that they couldn't control me so I was sent to Marianna.

Was there a difference in treatment between the black and white students? What was the population difference between those two groups? How many boys were at Dozier during your years there?

At the time I was in Marianna the population reached about 600 or better and from what I had heard it was designed for 350 max. During my time there in 61–62 the blacks and whites were segregated and it was strictly forbidden to talk to the blacks when we crossed paths so we didn't discuss what was happening on either side with the other. That infraction was an automatic trip to the white house. I couldn't tell you the population difference at the time because we were not privy to any information about the black side.

What was the staff hierarchy at Dozier?

The school was run by the State of Florida and some of the people hired there by their own admission were uneducated and knew nothing of the psychology of discipline. These same people were promoted from cottage father which was nothing more than a glorified sitter, to disciplinarian and supervisor.

Did you receive any education during your time at the school?

As far as school, we did received schooling and I was fortunate enough to busy myself with the auto shop which came very handy to me later in life. I have read many say they were beaten for bad grades but I never experienced that so I guess the grades were good.

What types of manual labour did you do at the school?

My job during my stay there was lawn care and mowing. I mowed the entire property and when I finished I did it again for 2 years. I helped decorate the place for Christmas and all other maintenance.

How were rules at the school defined? What were the most frequently broken rules and what was the punishment for rule breaking? Was the punishment for breaking rules the same for all students?

When you arrived there you were taken through an orientation program to let you know the rules and they were pretty basic, no swearing, no disrespect, cleanliness. Word of mouth and trial and error were the way you tested the boundaries and learned the penalties for not conforming. The worst for me was right after I arrived I was told that I was disrespectful and was taken to the white house and given 25 licks for that. This was administered with a leather strap 3.5 to 4 inches wide with a formed handle and swung with all the force they could use and it was not confined to the buttocks, it was extended up the back and down the legs to prevent you from becoming numb and not feeling the lashes. Meaning it was a brutal whipping. After I received that whipping I ran away and stayed away for 3 days and when they caught me I was taken back and given 100 lashes which was the standard for running. This time I bled from my back to my knees and the cloth from my boxer shorts was imbedded in my skin. I was pretty docile for nearly a year after that and only got beaten one time for smoking and got 10 lashes for that. I was told that when I was sent there it was for 11 months and when I was scheduled to go home I couldn't because no one could be found for me to be released to. I was pretty upset over that and once again ran away. I tried to make it to Georgia to get out of this state and once again caught. I was taken back and given 100 lashes again and this time I was beaten worse. Two days after the beating I still couldn't sit down and had to go to the infirmary and found out that I had a broken coccyx bone and had to even stand and eat for 2 months. This time I was put in Pierce hall and fed Souza soup for 2 months which was a soup laced with Thorazine to make me more manageable and calm me down because I couldn't get out and was a danger to run again. After release from there I was still required to work but couldn't sit on tractor so I used a shovel. The punishment was not the same for all. If a child never had any visitors they were treated a lot worse because they couldn't report what was happening to them.

How did you finally get released? Did you return to your family?

Previously I mentioned my sister who was 4 years older and recently married a tomato grower’s son in Ruskin Fla and she contacted me when she found out where I was. No one ever told her where I was. She agreed to take me in since my Mother had moved to California. I was released to her and I graduated high school while living with her and working the tomato fields to pay for my way.

Have there been lasting scars for you as a result of your treatment at the school?

I can’t begin to tell you the lasting scars both mental and psychological. I do wake up in the middle of the night and the anxiety won’t allow me to return to sleep but it covers many years of my life not just the school, but it didn't help.

There are several I believe exaggerate their experience there but it is not for me to say,  I know that it was a big deal when you were sent back to your cottage that you show everyone what you got and how bad the bruises and cuts were. Many lived vicariously through the ones that were beaten. You know the ones that were and the ones that exaggerate by the way they describe it.  I was beaten by stepfathers with belts and one even beat me with his fists and none matched the pain of that strap.

Did you personally know any students who disappeared during their stay, or who were seriously or fatally injured at the hands of school disciplinarians?

I do remember the one time that I went to get the beating for smoking, I was waiting for my turn to go in and there was another kid in front of me that was screaming while being beaten and suddenly he stopped. Me and another kid were taken out of the white house and back to our cottage before we got our beating. We were taken back the next day to receive our licks. This was a very strange turn of events. It never happens except for that time. I believe they hurt that boy bad and rushed us out to cover it up.

I also played football for the school and at practice one day I heard and saw a big commotion going on inside the gym. We tried to go in but not allowed. After about 45 minutes we saw a couple boys carrying a stretcher with one of the boys on it and later told he died of a heart attack. I was later informed by the other players that he was made to run in the gym and not allowed to stop even though he complained about not being able to breathe. He did not receive medical help because they thought he was faking.

These are the only times I have firsthand knowledge of but was told of other things that had happened, including one kid getting shot and killed when he ran away. I was told that a deputy fired three warning shots and one hit him in the head. It turns out that it is not an urban legend, it did happen. I have often thought about the two times I ran away and that it could have been me. I survived it all. 

Many thanks to Bill for sharing his experiences at Dozier with us and with our readers. Bill has kindly offered to drop by, so if you have any questions for him, please feel free to ask in the comments section. Please note that this is an emotional topic, and while we very much encourage comments, those comments will be moderated in the case of any personal attacks.


Guest Post: Marianne Harden and MALICIOUS MISCHIEF


Is it strange to have the unemployment office on speed dial? Not for twenty-four-year-old college dropout Rylie Keyes. Her current job at a small retirement home is worlds more important than all her past gigs, though: if she loses this one, she won’t be able to stop the forced sale of her and her grandfather’s home, a house that has been in the family for ages. But keeping her job means figuring out the truth about a senior citizen who was found murdered while in her care. Explain that one, Miss Keyes.

The late Otto Weiner was thought to be a penniless Nazi concentration camp survivor with a silly grudge against Rylie. However, Otto was not a liked man by any means, and his enemies will stop at nothing to keep their part in his murder secret.

Forced to dust off the PI training she has to keep hidden from her ex-detective grandfather, Rylie must align with a circus-bike-wheeling Samoan while juggling the attention of two very hot cops who each get her all hot and bothered for very different reasons. And as she trudges through this new realm of perseverance, she has no idea that along the way she just might win, or lose, a little piece of her heart.

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Cover Reveal: MALICIOUS MISCHIEF by Marianne Harden

I'm thrilled to be part of a group of bloggers who are helping Marianne Harden reveal the cover of her upcoming debut - MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (October 22, 2013; Entangled: Select). Marianne is not only a fantastic writer (and I can honestly say this, having been one of the MALICIOUS MISCHIEF's early readers) but she is funny. On top of that, I consider her one of my writing sisters, and she's going to be my partner-in-crime at Bouchercon this year (look out, Albany, here we come!).

In celebration of this momentous event, Marianne is giving away a $25 gift card to the book retailer of the winner’s choice, so be sure to enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, without further ado, here is Marianne's fantastic cover!

Book Summary:

Career chameleon, Rylie Keyes, must keep her current job. If not, the tax assessor will evict her ailing grandfather and auction off their ancestral home. When a senior she shuttles for a Bellevue, Washington retirement home winds up dead in her minibus, sticky with a half-eaten s'more, head clad in a cellophane bag, and a pocketed complaint letter accusing her of driving by Braille, her goal to keep her job hits a road bump.

The deceased was thought to be a penniless Nazi concentration camp survivor with a silly grudge against Rylie. However, the victim has enemies who will stop at nothing to keep their part in the murder a secret.

Forced to dust off the PI training she's kept hidden from her ex-detective grandfather, Rylie must align with a circus-bike-wheeling Samoan to solve the murder, all while juggling the attentions of two very hot police officers.


~When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty~

Am I a flake? Sort of. But I’m trying to change. My grandfather has property tax issues, and what troubles Granddad, troubles me. Good thing I’ve held down a steady job for months. A major big deal. Not the getting a job part—I’ve had lots—but the held down aspect. Somehow, I always end up unemployed, but not today.

Today, I am Rylie Tabitha Keyes, chauffeur to the seniors at Fountain of Youth Retirement Home (FoY.)

It was dawn Sunday as I eased my employer’s van from one freeway onto another. After that, I concentrated on the wet asphalt up ahead. I didn’t want to think about my job history or our financial woes. Instead I focused on the summery sunrise over the Cascade Mountains due east. I stared at it a moment, charmed by its contrast to the more typical Bellevue, Washington gloom brooding overhead.

I should’ve been asleep, but I needed to toss trash from a fundraiser rolling around in the back of the van. Leland Rosenberg, my boss at Fountain of Youth Retirement Home, had asked me to dump the bags at his second business, Rosenberg Laboratory, as FoY’s Dumpsters were full from a recent bathroom remodel. His mood had been edgy, kind of insistent I dispose of them last night. I confess, before I could carry out this task, a minor traffic accident and an all-important overnight obligation had waylaid me. I didn’t bother to sigh over how blunders always seemed to pepper my work performance. Some things were fated to be. After all, I slogged at my job for money not joy. It isn't that I don't like working at FoY, it just isn’t my dream gig. You see, I yearned to be a private detective, a Veronica Mars 2.0. Problem is, my grandfather is against the idea. Dead set against it.

So with the stench from the trash bags mounting, I steered FoY’s van onto the off-ramp and headed toward Rosenberg Laboratory just off the freeway exit. My mind was filled with thoughts of a steamy shower, maybe a few hours of shut-eye before punching the clock at nine. I stared forward, squinted. And iced over. Up ahead. Wrong-way traveling. A panel truck advanced, peeling rubber.



Zeroed in to hit me.

I whipped the van off the road, the red, white, and blue panel truck whizzing past. I slammed on the brakes, fighting to control the wheel. I wrestled with it, panicked, my mind flashing on one fortunate thing: no seniors were in the van.

Tons of hazards burst before my eyes. I struggled to absorb them. A mangled guardrail zigzagged up ahead; its many gaps from other out-of-control vehicles big as life. Worse was the wall of giant Douglas-firs growing beyond, lower trunks scarred, limbs low and swaying.

I was going to careen through the railing.

I was going to hit the trees.

I was going to die.

Book Links:



Barnes and Noble:

About Marianne: 

Marianne Harden loves a good laugh. So much so, she cannot stop humor from spilling into her books. Over the years she has backpacked through the wilds of Australia, explored the exotics of Asia, soaked up the sun in the Caribbean, and delighted in the historic riches of Europe. Her goals in life are simple: do more good than harm and someday master the do-not-mess-with-me look. She divides her time between Switzerland and Washington State where she lives with her husband and two children.

Find Marianne:





The Valentine Challenge—Marisa Cleveland's Debut Novella

I’m thrilled to help long time writing bud and agency sister, Marisa Cleveland (and the Seymour Agency's newest agent extraordinaire), celebrate her first release by taking part in her blog tour. Best of all, there are three great prizes to be won and multiple entries allowed, so leave a comment here and visit the other participating blogs to increase your chances of winning!

Marisa Cleveland's novella, The Valentine Challenge, debuted from Entangled Publishing! Join the celebration by visiting participating blogs and commenting the answer to this question: In your opinion, what's the sexiest part of a man?  

Between now and February 28th, Marisa's super-secret judges will browse the blogs and choose up to three winners to receive Valentine goodies! 

No purchase necessary, but a Like on Amazon is always appreciated!

Title: The Valentine Challenge
Author: Marisa Cleveland
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Flirt)
Genre: Contemporary Romance Novella

Book Description: When Stacey Bradford's hot boss convinces his company's board to close her best friend's flower shop - days before Valentine's Day! - Stacey declares war.

Intrigued by Stacey's devotion to her friend, the hearts and flowers holiday, and belief in true love, Marsh issues a challenge - prove love exists or deliver the closing documents to her friend herself.

Stacey never could resist a challenge, but when Marsh makes Valentine's Day the deadline for their deal, Stacey must decide how far she's willing to go...for love.

Author Bio: Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. As a writer, she writes. Every day. Perhaps because she married her best friend, her adult romance novels focus on playfully naughty relationships developed through friendship and family-oriented values. She loves to connect with writers and readers.

Author Links:
Website and blog:

Super Amazing Participating Blogs:

Come on guys, let's see those answers! And be sure to visit any of the other participating blogs because we've all got more than one answer to this question.

It's Goodreads giveaway time! Five Star is giving away 10 copies to American entrants, ending on March 25, 2013:

Congratulations to Heather, who won the recently closed Canadian Goodreads giveaway. Keep your eye on this space—more giveaways coming soon!

Updated! Congratulations to Jenny who commented and won a prize from Marisa! Enjoy your goodie bag!

Guest Post: CONJURE's Cover Reveal!

Surprise, readers! Yes, I'm blogging a day early this week, but it's for a very special reason. It's a big day today for Seymour Agency sister Lea Nolan as she releases the gorgeous new cover for her debut novel CONJURE, book one of her MG/YA crossover 'Hoodoo Apprentice' series. Many of her fellow authors wanted to get in on the fun with her, so we're also hosting her cover on our blogs.

So what's CONJURE all about?

Be careful what you search for…

Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry--hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.

When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends--are lost forever.

In celebration of this momentous moment, Lea is hosting a rafflecopter giveway so sign up for your chance to win a digital ARC of CONJURE!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, without further adoo, here is the brand new cover for Lea Nolan's CONJURE:




So what do you think, guys? Isn't that a gorgeous cover? I love the mood it sets and it certainly makes me want to dive into it!

For those of you who want more of Lea, you can find her in various places around web:

Lea's website: 
Lea on Twitter:


Guest Post: Crime Scene Science - A Reference Infographic

Occasionally I get requests for guest posts on the blog. By and large, most of these requests don't fit my platform, but this past week I was introduced to a really informative infographic on crime scene science and I wanted to share it with my readers, especially those who write mystery or crime fiction. Jaclyn Nicholson was kind enough to share her graphic and a little information about it with us:


Crime scene science has come a very long way with the advancement of technology. Many professionals gather at the scene of the crime, and utilize their expertise to retrieve evidence. These clues vary from finger prints to bloodstain analysis. Every small detail can indicate a clue. Forensic science is a very intelligent process in which many aspects are considered. This infographic dives into the world of crime scene science, briefly going step by step through the process. Did you know that insects could determine the time of death?

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Crime Scene Science Infographic

Isn't that a great reference for crime writers? Definitely a useful resource. Thanks for sharing it with us, Jaclyn!

Jaclyn is a content marketing specialist at, in which she works primarily with infographics. eLocal's designs are all created in-house, topics ranging from legal to home improvement. eLocal owns some of the top online business directories.

Guest Post: Putting faces on the dead – in fact and in fiction

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing on the University of Tennessee’s Body Farm – how it was conceived and some of the research that’s been done there. Today we have a guest post by Jon Jefferson – the “Jefferson” half of the crime-fiction duo Jefferson Bass. Working in collaboration with Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm, Jon writes the bestselling series of Body Farm novels. The latest—The Inquisitor’s Key—comes out May 8.

Take it away, Jon…

One of the hallmarks of the Body Farm novels is that the fiction incorporates realistic and detailed forensic techniques. The new book, The Inquisitor’s Key, is no exception. One of the techniques that’s used is radiocarbon dating—also called carbon-14 dating, or C-14 dating. In the book, our heroes, Dr. Bill Brockton and his assistant Miranda Lovelady, use C-14 dating to determine the age of an ancient skeleton that’s found hidden in the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. C-14 dating works by counting the isotopes, or atomic variations, of carbon within a sample, then comparing the sample’s carbon ratio to the ever-changing ratio in earth’s atmosphere during the past 10,000 years (a ratio whose changes have been recorded in tree rings – how cool is that?!). Think of C-14 dating, then, as atomic fingerprint-matching or handwriting analysis: match the sample’s fingerprint, or signature, to the atmosphere’s at a specific point in the past and presto, you’ve found the age of the sample.

Another technique that comes into play in The Inquisitor’s Key is forensic facial reconstruction: an artist’s recreation—in clay or on computer—of the face that once existed atop the foundation of an unknown skull. In real life, Dr. Bill Bass and I once used that technique in a particularly puzzling case. A skeleton found in the woods in East Tennessee in 1979 had been tentatively identified by a medical examiner as that of Leoma Patterson, a woman who’d gone missing from a neighboring county five months earlier. That was back in the days before DNA testing, mind you, and the missing woman had no dental records to compare with the skeleton’s teeth. As a result, the identification wasn’t definitive, and some of the family doubted it. Eventually, they asked Dr. Bass to exhume the body and obtain a DNA sample, so they could be sure. He did, and the sample came back negative: according to the DNA lab, the body in the grave was not that of Leoma Patterson. That raised an interesting question: If it wasn’t Leoma, who was it? In an effort to find out, Dr. Bass and I commissioned Joanna Hughes, a talented forensic artist, to do a facial reconstruction on the skull. She did, and—to our astonishment—the clay face Joanna created bore a striking resemblance to the best photo we had of Leoma Patterson. Was it possible that the DNA lab had erred, and that the skull really was Leoma’s? To learn about this case, check out our nonfiction book, Beyond the Body Farm.

          But I digress. Here’s an excerpt from The Inquisitor’s Key—a passage where Dr. Brockton recruits a forensic artist to do a facial reconstruction on the ancient Avignon skull (actually, on a scan of the skull, taken by a French x-ray tech, Giselle). By the way, the forensic artist in the following passage, Joe Mullins, isn’t just a fictional character; he’s actually a real-life forensic artist, doing the great work attributed to him in the excerpt. Thanks, Joe, for agreeing to a cameo in the novel!

          Joe Mullins was three thousand miles to the west of France, but ten minutes after Giselle scanned the skull in Avignon, Joe was looking at it in Alexandria, Virginia.

Joe was a forensic artist at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a mouthful of a name that he mercifully shortened to the acronym NCMEC, pronounced “NICK-meck.” After a traditional fine arts training in painting and drawing, Joe had taken an unusual detour. He’d traded in his paintbrushes and palette knives for a computer and a 3-D digitizing probe; he’d forsaken blank canvases for bare skulls—unknown skulls on which he sculpted faces in virtual clay. By restoring faces to skulls, Joe could help police and citizens identify unknown crime victims.

          Joe wasn’t looking at the actual skull, of course. After the CT scan, Giselle and Miranda had uploaded a massive file containing the 3-D image of the skull and sent it to a file-sharing Web site—a cyberspace crossroads, of sorts—called Dropbox. Joe had then gone to Dropbox and downloaded the file, and, as the French would say, voilà.

          The case clearly didn’t involve a missing or exploited child, so Joe couldn’t do the reconstruction on NCMEC time. But he was willing to do it as a moonlight gig, a side job, and when I’d first e-mailed to ask if he’d be able to do it—and do it fast—he’d promised that if we got the scan to him by Friday afternoon, he’d have it waiting for us first thing Monday.

          My phone warbled. “Hey, Doc, I’ve got him up on my screen,” Joe said. “What can you tell me about this guy?”

“Not much, Joe.” I didn’t want to muddy the water by telling him what the ossuary inscription claimed. “Adult male; maybe in his fifties or sixties. Could be European but might be Middle Eastern.”

“Geez, Doc, that doesn’t narrow it down much.”

“Hey, I didn’t include African or Asian or Native American,” I said. “Give me at least a little credit.”

“Okay, I give you a little credit. Very, very little.”

“You sound just like Miranda, my assistant. Way too uppity.”

He laughed. “This Miranda, she sounds pretty smart. She single, by any chance?”

Sheesh, I thought. “Take a number,” I said.

For another sneak peek of The Inquisitor’s Key, grab 34 seconds worth of popcorn and watch the video trailer:

Also, you may now download the 99 cent e-story prequel to The Inquisitor’s Key entitled Madonna & Corpse, which came out today! Read an excerpt of Madonna and Corpse on Jon Jefferson's blog.

Jon Jefferson (left) and Dr. Bill Bass at the gate of the Body Farm.(Photo by Erik Bledsoe)

For more on Jefferson Bass, find them on Facebook, join them at the blog, and follow along at Twitter.

Pre-order The Inquisitor’s Key:


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Guest Post - Cozy Mystery? Huh?

This week we've got a treat for you. Agatha award winner and agency sister Amanda Flower has a new book out tomorrow - 'Murder in a Basket', the second installment in her India Hayes series. As the cozy mysteries Amanda writes are so different from our forensic thrillers, I asked her to explain what a cozy mystery is. Take it away, Amanda...


Invariably when people find out I’m an author they ask the question, “What do you write.”

“Cozy mysteries,” I reply.

Outside of the world of mystery fiction this response is rewarded with a frown, a confused expression, or blank stare because “cozy mystery” is one heck of an oxymoron.

“Don’t characters die in your books?” They may ask.

“Yes, they do. Sometimes more than one person per book.”

“Then how is that cozy?” The confused person asks. “Death doesn’t remind me of a cuddly blanket, which is what I think of when I picture cozy.”

That’s a great point, which is why I’m sharing the characteristics of cozy mysteries, using illustrations from my new mystery Murder in a Basket, the second in the India Hayes series.

The Characteristics of a cozy mystery

1) The death takes place off page. The novels include little violence. The heroes or heroines may be in jeopardy during the climax, but for the most part, they are not in any real danger.

In Murder in a Basket, India discovered the dead body of basket weaver Tess Ross. Tess has been dead for a short time when India finds her. The description of Tess’s body is minimal. India is in danger during the climax, but that’s all I’ll tell you about that. I can’t give the ending away!

2) The protagonist has an occupation other than police officer or private detective. The protagonist may be anything from a chef to an actor to a student.

India is a college librarian and aspiring painter. Her occupations couldn’t be farther from law enforcement.

3) The protagonist is pulled into the mystery because of his/her relationship with the victim or the accused. The protagonist is generally reluctant to solve the crime.

India becomes involved in the murder investigation because Tess is the mother of one of the student workers in the library. He asks for India’s help. India agrees, but she’s not particularly enthusiastic about it.

4) Minor characters (friends, family, coworkers) from the protagonist’s own life play significant roles in the plot.

Ahh well, I have many minor characters who like to take over my India Hayes stories from India’s hippy parents to her Irish-centric landlady to her super-mom older sister. They all help and hinder India’s investigation in their own special way.

Of course, these are just guidelines and not hard and fast rules. That’s what makes writing fiction fun. Guidelines are meant to be bent if not broken all the way through.

Jen, thanks for letting me stop by Skelton Keys!


Amanda Flower writes the India Hayes Mystery Series. The first novel in the series, MAID OF MURDER, was nominated for an Agatha Award. The sequel, MURDER IN A BASKET, releases February 8, 2012. A PLAIN DEATH, first in a new Amish mystery series, releases July 2012. To learn more visit Amanda online at You can also follow Amanda at and