The blank computer screen mocked her.

Cassie Ellis stared at her laptop, frustrated that words refused to magically appear. She never suffered from writer’s block. Ever.

Yet here she was, her deadline only eight weeks away, and she couldn’t find any inspiration.

It wasn’t as if she lacked ideas for her third mystery novel. She’d come up with a great concept: full of murder, mayhem, and misery. She’d written over 50,000 words for the original plot and killed off a major character, but she struggled with the darker theme. She simply couldn’t do the dark thing. She wrote light stories.

So she’d scrapped the whole manuscript. If this had been a few decades ago, she’d have dumped two hundred typewritten pages into a trash can, maybe set fire to them. She supposed she could set fire to her laptop, but that seemed overly melodramatic. Instead, she renamed the original file to Merlot Murders_old_depressing_version.

“Setting fire to something would have been more satisfying,” she mumbled as she clicked on “File” and then “New”. A fresh document usually inspired her to fill the white space with descriptive narrative and witty dialogue. Today, she couldn’t manage a single paragraph if someone held a gun to her head. Which would be an odd scenario.

Instead, she improved her Spider Solitaire winning percentage; watched several viral videos of cats; cuddled with Donner after her feline companion became jealous of his online rivals; checked for more reviews on her first novel; cleaned her kitchen; and procrastinated any way she could.

Now it was time to focus. She curled her fingers over the keyboard, ready for inspiration.

She typed the word “Marty”—her protagonist—and froze again.

A knock came at the door.

“Oh thank God,” she said and went to greet the handsome police detective on her doorstep.

“Hi, honey.” James Whittaker leaned down for a quick kiss and stepped inside. “Isn’t this nice that we can have lunch together more often? I guess that’s one good thing about being on desk duty.”

“Why didn’t you let yourself in? I said you could.”

“I would have if you hadn’t answered.” He sat at the table and emptied the bag of carryout that he’d brought. “Which happens often if you’re deep into writing. Shall I assume this means you’re not deep into writing?”

“Not even shallow into writing,” she complained. “I can’t figure out what to write. More importantly, how to start. I know where I want to go, just not how to get there.”

“Can I help?”

She flopped on the bench. “Do you have any inspiration? Now that you’re not in Homicide anymore, you don’t have as many stories.” She bit her tongue. After a recent injury, Whittaker was on light duty. Since the Homicide Department didn’t have anything that qualified, he’d been temporarily transferred to another department.

“Not my fault, Cassie.” He scowled. “Besides, I still keep up.”

“What’s your partner working on now?” she asked.

“Freeman’s caught a new case.” He unwrapped his sandwich. “Professor at one of the colleges uptown managed to OD last night. Some students, who were on the way to complain about his illogical exam, found him dead in his office, a needle sticking out of him.” He shook his head. “Can’t believe he’d do that on campus.”

She took a bite of her sandwich and chewed, imagining the scene. It must have been devastating for the students. Pretty dramatic of a discovery…


It took her a moment to realize Whittaker was speaking. “Oh, sorry. Just realized how to start my story. Marty can walk in on her fellow professor and find him dead from the poisoned merlot. He’d probably drink on campus. That would totally work.”

She pushed away the sandwich and began to write, sinking into her story. She barely noticed when Whittaker kissed her cheek. She tuned back to reality in time to see him walking toward the door. “Hey, where are you going?”

“Back to work. You’re obviously busy.”

She ran after him. “Not too busy for a goodbye kiss.” Grabbing his lapels, she yanked him to her.

Now here was inspiration.

You can read more about Cassie in TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A WRITE, the second book in the “Cassandra Ellis” mystery series. The first book in the series is DEAD TO WRITES.

With puzzling mysteries complicated by some smoking romance, Cathy Wiley brings a canny blend of intrigue and humor to the lineup. A daytime job in the hospitality industry provides plenty of inspiration for the multilayered characters, good and bad, that populate the pages of her stories. She lives in the Baltimore area and is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Maryland Writers’ Association. Visit Cathy at

** Cathy has generously offered to give away one copy of TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A WRITE. To enter, you must leave a valid e-mail address in the comment box with your comment. One entry per person and this is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address. Contest ends on December 19th at 6pm EST. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator and will be notified by e-mail and has 2 days to respond. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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