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The Writer’s In Charge, Right? LOL

Guest Post by Kassandra Lamb

We authors may have given birth to our characters, but once we breathe a bit of life into them, look out!

All too often, they have a mind of their own, and there is no stopping them.

I discovered this right away in my writing career.

In Book 1 in my Kate Huntington series, (Spoiler Alert!) Kate’s husband is killed by an attack meant for Kate. Rose Hernandez, a compact (i.e, short but not to be trifled with) rookie cop, is assigned as her “police protection.”

In reality, Rose’s detective boss expects her to spy on Kate and her best friend, lawyer Rob Franklin, whom he’s convinced are lovers intent on knocking off both their spouses.

Rose was meant to be a minor character, with a few lines…in ONE scene!

Next thing I know, she’s developed an intense sense of duty and loyalty—not to the police department, but to the concept of  “protect and serve.” And she’s decided to defy her boss and help Kate and her friends. She goes on to be an important secondary character throughout the series.

And then there is the bodyguard that Kate’s friend Rob hires to protect her… Again, a minor character, I thought. Ha!

By Book 2, he’s courting Kate, and manages to seduce her—and me—into letting him become a major character (after all, he is a hunk…better still, a hunk who doesn’t quite realize that he is one).

When I started a second series, I was determined to make my characters behave. My protagonist, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha), trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

And I planned for a love interest—the local sheriff who initially resents her “poking around” in his investigation.

All is going according to plan, until Marcia reveals that, thanks to a “short but disastrous” marriage, she has a full-blown phobia regarding commitment. *sigh*

It takes six books before the sheriff and I can convince her to commit.

In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs—and being partial to eating—she studied psychology. Her career as a psychotherapist and college professor taught her much about the dark side of human nature, but also much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter. Now retired, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in North Central Florida where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
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And now I’ve started a new series, with Book 1, Lethal Assumptions. The main character, Judith Anderson, was a third-level character in the Kate Huntington books. And I liked her so much, I couldn’t let her fade away into the sunset when I finished the Kate series.

She’s a homicide lieutenant in Baltimore, who gets fed up with the bureaucracy and politics of a big police department. So she takes a position in a small Florida city as Chief of Police, where she is the boss and, among other things, she can be more hands-on with major cases. But her first big case is a serial rapist/killer!

*Big sigh* Judith is already giving me headaches.

In the Kate books, she was a hard-nosed, unemotional but extremely competent police detective. But once I crawled inside her head, I discovered she isn’t unemotional at all.

The hard shell is a carefully constructed defense, and the nature of the crimes this killer is committing challenge those defenses big time.

The good news is that the assistant I created for Judith, Officer Gloria Barnes, is a real gem. Again, a minor character has taken over and is writing a bigger part for herself!

But it’s a good thing. She gets inside Judith’s hard shell in record time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that characters may not always behave, but they certainly do keep the writerly life interesting.

Lethal Assumptions (The C.o.P. on the Scene Mysteries Book 1) by Kassandra Lamb

Judith Anderson’s no-nonsense attitude and confidence served her well in her climb to homicide lieutenant in the Baltimore County PD, but that confidence is shaken when she finds herself one step behind a serial killer—just eight days into her new job as Chief of Police in a small Florida city.

The first victim, a female college student, may be a case of wrong place, wrong time. But the bodies keep coming, with a mishmash of MOs, and the murders may be linked to various cases in nearby Jacksonville.

While Judith assumed the CoP job would be challenging, she’s finding it harder than she imagined to establish her authority without alienating and be more hands-on without micro-managing. Plus, evidence is stacking up that there’s a leak in her department.

Who can she trust? If she makes the wrong assumption, the wrong decision, it may be her last. In a race to save lives, she’ll draw on every talent and instinct that made her a star in Baltimore. But will it be enough this time?

Fans of JA Jance’s Sheriff Joanna Brady and JD Robb’s Eve Dallas will love this new female cop on the scene!

Book Title: Lethal Assumptions (The C.o.P. on the Scene Mysteries Book 1) 

gold starMy Review: 5 out of 5 stars for Lethal Assumptions

I have to admit it. I started reading Lethal Assumptions with a bad attitude. First, I’m not a big fan of police procedurals. Second, I’m still invested in Kass’ first series and in the lives of protagonist Kate Huntingdon’s family and friends. Unlike many series authors, Kassandra Lamb plays fair with her readers and allows us to see her heroine aging gracefully as she moves from young mother to mature woman.

I shouldn’t have worried. Lethal Assumptions is a spinoff series, allowing prickly, stiff third-level character Judith Anderson to come into her own, but touching base with favorite characters from the original series.

And about that police procedural? Well… let’s just say the new book pays loving homage to genre tropes while turning them upside down, shaking the loose change out of their pockets, and heading over to the diner for iced tea.

When we meet Judith Anderson in the earlier series, she’s a tightly-wound by-the-book detective in Baltimore. In Lethal Assumptions, the yankee has left her big-city job to become C.o.P. (Chief of Police) in a small Florida town. She’s determined to demand respect and professionalism. She orders privacy blinds to shut her office off from the rest of her staff, a private phone line, and commandeers a rookie cop as her assistant. Any recurring nightmares about her dysfunctional childhood are her personal business. Sleep is overrated—you can always sleep when you’re dead.

But as she is immediately plunged into a murder investigation and then search for a serial killer, Judith finds herself with all these uncomfortable… feelings. What if her Baltimore acquaintance Kate wants to help her because she genuinely cares about her? What if she in turn starts to care about her unwilling rookie sidekick? What if her colleagues could be—what’s that word again? Oh yeah—friends?

And I felt that weird feeling again, the one I couldn’t identify the other night—a strong tugging sensation in my chest. My throat tightened. Maternal? Damn, is that what I’m feeling? A fierce rage consumed me, heating my entire body. I wanted to take Barnes home and lock her in my spare bedroom, with ten uniforms standing guard. Damn, how had I gotten so attached to this young woman in such a short time? It had taken years of knowing Kate before I’d felt anything akin to caring. Dolph had gotten in easier, but then I’d ridden with him every workday for ten years. “I need a cat,” I muttered.

—Lamb, Kassandra. Lethal Assumptions: A C.o.P. on the Scene Mystery (The C.o.P. on the Scene Mysteries Book 1) (pp. 175-176). misterio press LLC. Kindle Edition.

We get truly hilarious glimpses of Judith as she reluctantly, secretly trolls the local animal shelter adoption videos of adorable cats. So much for badass C.o.P. That’s when I realized that Judith isn’t so much Dirty Harry as she’s a genre-busting mix of The Little Mermaid and the mom from Incredibles. [And yes, my examples ARE all from Disney movies. Bite me.]

She doesn’t get the badass gun. (In fact, she has to buy her own.) She doesn’t get the impressive Chief of Police assigned vehicle and driver. (Ditto for using her own less-than-sexy compact.) Even worse, she doesn’t get to be the cowboy cop she secretly was back in Baltimore. It’s like she suddenly found herself the grownup, with all the Mom-lines, while her much cooler, younger rookie sidekick gets to be the badass.

Judith has to deal with recurring visions of her dark past, with a new team skeptical of her leadership, and with her own conflict between the persona who had gotten her to where she was today and the one she is becoming. I’ve enjoyed Kassandra Lamb’s character-driven approach to each of her series, and this one is no exception. Judith has a long way to go, but she, like the series, is in it for the marathon and not the sprint. [NOTE: I’d just like to add that I appreciate the light touch approach to the pandemic—acknowledged, but not overwhelmed.]

I thoroughly enjoyed Lethal Assumptions, and recommend it to readers both as the start of a promising new series, and in spite of its genre.