Mystery We Write Blog Tour - Welcome Earl

Good morning garden dwellers, welcome back to the garden. Refreshment table is over there under the tree by the pond. Today we have Earl Staggs, in the garden with us. First let's start out with his:
Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Email:  Website:

Thank you, Mary, for letting me come in and offer some thoughts. You tossed out some terrific questions, and I hope my answers are worth the time it takes to read them.

Mary: Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them?

Earl: There’s never a shortage of ideas. I find them everywhere. I might meet someone I think would make a good character to write about or I might overhear a conversation and pick up enticing tidbits that could be developed into a good story. Sometimes I’ll see or read a story and think of a way key parts of it could be used in a totally different one.

One example of how a story idea came along happened when my wife and I took a day trip to the tiny town of Hico, Texas, and heard about a local legend. They contend and have convincing evidence that Billy the Kid did not die at the wrong end of a gun at the age of twenty-one as history books claim. 

Nope, the people of Hico insist he lived out his final years in their town and died there in 1950, a month after his ninetieth birthday. I visited the museum devoted to him and stood on the exact spot where they say he dropped dead of a heart attack.

I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure when and where Billy died, but the Hico legend fascinated me, and I knew I had to use it in a story someday. I don’t write westerns or historicals, so I had to come up with a way to use it in a contemporary story.

I came up with a modern day bounty hunter named Jack traveling to Hico to bring back a young bail jumper named Billy Joe. Jack has no way of knowing he’ll have to tangle with a big-time mobster who’s also after Billy Joe, or that the old legend of the other Billy will play into the solution to his problems in a surprising conclusion.

The story, called “Where Billy Died,” was published in ebook form by Untreed Reads in 2011 and was a finalist in the novelette category for a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. It’s a story I’m quite proud of and is available to download to any ereader at:

Mary: Are the characters in your books people you know?

Earl: The protagonist in my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER is me, except he’s younger, better-looking, and smarter. Still, his beliefs, personality traits and habits are basically the same as mine. His name is Adam Kingston and even when I first developed him in a short story titled “The Missing Sniper,” everything he said and did were pretty much what I would say and do under the same circumstances. Adam was the first fictional character I fully developed, and I suppose putting some of myself into him was something writers commonly do with their first. I wish I had his background as an FBI agent and his special psychic gift, but those parts of him I had to invent.

The first chapter of MEMORY OF A MURDER is available for reading on my website at if you’d like to get to know something about me. Just remember what I said: Adam is younger, better-looking, and smarter.

Other characters I’ve used in stories are composites of people I know. When I visualize a character I want to use, I’ll borrow little pieces from different people I know and put them together to form the character needed to fit the story. Sometimes I’ll borrow from people I’ve seen in the news or in movies or I’ve read about in other books. I believe characteristics and, traits of people are in public domain and free to use. I haven’t been accosted or sued by anyone I’ve borrowed from, so I think I’m safe. At least, so far.

Mary: What is your work in progress? And when do you plan to have it done?

Earl: I’m putting the finishing touches on a Mystery/Thriller. The protagonist is Tall Chambers, who, like Adam Kingston, is younger, better-looking, and smarter than his creator. After a career in Army Intelligence and Special Forces, Tall moves into a secretive agency which tracks terrorists and puts them out of business by whatever means necessary. Part of his assignment is to stop one particular terrorist, but it becomes personal when Tall is told that terrorist is responsible for the deaths of Tall’s wife and son. His quest for vengeance leads him to the discovery of a plot to put the wrong person in the office of President of the United States.

I hope to have TALL CHAMBERS: JUSTIFIED ACTION out in time for reading on the beach this summer.

Mary: What are your thoughts on self publishing versus traditional publishing?

Earl: The perception of self publishing is not the same as it was a few short years ago. Many good writers are self publishing good books due to the changes in the traditional publishing industry. Signing with an agent and landing with a major publisher used to be difficult. Now it is next to impossible. Self publishing used to mean paying a vanity press. Now it is virtually free due to the growth of digital ebooks and POD publishing.

I don’t believe ebooks will ever completely replace print books. I think the two avenues will eventually meet at an intersection of coexistence, but no one knows for sure how and when that will happen. My hope is that it happens soon and it is to the benefit of writers and readers.

I waded into the self publishing stream myself last year when I gathered sixteen of my published short stories into a collection and published it in ebook form through Kindle and Smashwords and through CreateSpace in print form. It’s called SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS and the ebook version is available for $.99 through the end of April.

Complete information available at:

Mary:  If there was one wish you could ask the genie in the bottle to grant, what would it be?

Earl: I would wish for a clone of myself. When chores come along such as taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, or cleaning the bathroom, he would do them. If my wife wanted me to go shopping with her, he would go. That would give me a lot more time for writing.

Thanks again, Mary, for letting me visit. Thanks also to everyone who stopped by. Please leave a comment while you’re here and you may win a free book. On April 29, I’ll put the names in a hat and draw two of them. The first one drawn will receive a signed print copy of my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. The second name drawn will have a choice of a print version or ebook of my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.

You’re also invited to visit my website at You’ll find Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER there. You’ll also find a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s also one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.

Thank you, Roy--er I mean Earl for joining us in the garden today.


Earl Staggs said…
Thanks for inviting me into your lovely garden, Mary, I'd like to add something, if I may. I talked about my story, "Where Billy Died" being nominated for the DERRINGER AWARD. I'm happy to announce: I WON! If I seem to be walking on air and a wee bit excited, that's why.
About Bobbi C. said…
Yes, a clone! That would be nice, wouldn't it? Thanks for the interview, Mary and Earl. I've gotten to know Earl a bit and read some of his short stories since joining the Short Mystery Fiction Society group, and am excited to hear that his new novel is almost ready. Happy trails from Texas! Bobbi C.
M.M. Gornell said…
Oh, Earl, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!on winning the Derringer Award! Well you should be excited and walking on air. Be very proud--it's a wonderful statement on the excellence of your writing. BRAVO!

Hi, Earl and let me add my congratulations for winning the Derringer Award! Woo hoo! That is so fantastic. Hope you're going to celebrate.
marja said…
Adding my congratulations on winning the Derringer Award! I've read each of your blogs now, and you're on my TBR list. I especially liked your story about Billy the Kid. It's great the way you worked that into a story.
Mary Martinez said…
Thanks for visiting the Garden today Earl. I'm adding my congratulations to you also, what a great honor.

Have a nice day here. Thanks for visiting everyone!
Jake said…
Billy the Kid is one of my favorite real life bad guys. Like the way you do research by traveling. Thanks for another bit of learning. Appreciate your tour efforts & looking forward to more.
Jean Henry Mead said…
Kudos, Earl. Add my congratulations to the others for your well desrved Derringer win.
Earl Staggs said…
Thanks for letting me traipse through your garden, Mary. I hope I didn't trample anything.

Thanks also for everyone who stopped by and left a comment. I especially appreciate the grats on my Derringer Award. I'm still excited about it.

Sadly, the Mystery We Write Blog Tour ends today. It's been a fun and wonderful experience.
Anne K. Albert said…
The way the human brain works is fascinating. The way a writer's brain works is STELLAR! That yours latched onto a specific fact and finagled a way to include a bit of history into a contemporary story is intriguing, interesting and explains how and why you won the Derringer Award. Kudos!
Earl Staggs said…
Anne, "Where Billy Died, was one of those stories I started without knowing how it would end. Little by little, the story took control and let me know where it wanted to go. Gawd! I love when that happens.

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