Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery, Spotlight on June 21, 2016

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A house burglary in 1912 San Francisco that the victim denies happening piques Emma Matheson’s reporter instincts. Why would a not-so-wealthy businessman deny that recovered loot was his and forego collecting his $8,000 worth of stolen jewelry? Why did he fire his maid and butler who originally reported the theft? The more she pursues the burglary that wasn’t a burglary, the more she sees it as a major story, involving murder, intrigue, and smuggling. Can she solve it and write the story that could project her to become the world-famous reporter she so covets? Or will she become one of its victims?

Additional info about Emma:  Emma Matheson is a young woman determined to be a star front-page reporter despite the bias against women in her day.Her mother died when she was born. She was reared by her father who runs a newspaper in Sacramento. She grew up learning about the newspaper business. Her father valued education and insisted she attend university before starting her career. She is bright, determined, a great writer — but a bit naive.


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Guest Post

I’d like to welcome Joyce back to StoreyBook Reviews!  I have shared many of her books over the last few years and looking forward to reading her newest book.  I have it here in the queue…now if the queue would just get smaller!

The Mystery of Themes

By Joyce T. Strand, Author The Reporter’s Story

“A story will interest me, and then somewhere along the way, I discover that hidden inside are these epic themes.”-Stephen Schwartz

What is a theme and why is it relevant or even appropriate in a mystery?

After all, we mystery readers want to become engrossed in the puzzle, feel the tension and suspense of solving it, and maybe enjoy a little romance along the way. Certainly something so erudite-sounding as a theme would only get in the way.

In other genres, we frequently encounter easily detectable themes. In a dystopian story, we recognize the demise of civilization due to some cause. In romance, the protagonists’ promiscuity or lack of caring might play out as a theme.  In a spy thriller, perhaps it’s nuclear proliferation.

When writing my most recent mystery, The Reporter’s Story, I discovered the theme evolved from my characters and their setting.  Much as Mr. Schwartz, the composer of Broadway musicals Wicked, Godspell, and Pippin says, my theme hid in the surroundings and character of my determined female reporter.

My protagonist, Emma Matheson, strives to become a world-class reporter in 1912 San Francisco. Given the time period, she confronts resistance to a woman with career goals and realizes that suffrage is an important issue. At this time, women in California had just received the right to vote along with several other states. However, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was still eight years from being ratified.

At the same time as women were demonstrating for the vote, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer—in addition to promoting the use of yellow journalism to grow their circulations—both recognized the value of female writers in their newspapers. They were hiring them mostly for their writing skills but eventually for their reporting abilities—despite some resistance by both males and females in the publishing world.

Therefore the theme of women’s rights screamed out. I did not set out to write about them, but Emma’s character, the times, and her vocation demanded it. To be a successful reporter in 1912 required a strong person, dedicated to success—meaning, she had to pursue a story with vigilance, sometimes with twice as much dedication as her male counterparts. A woman in such a profession is likely to have also demanded the right to vote given the atmosphere of demonstrations by women and the platform of many politicians, such as Teddy Roosevelt, supporting an amendment for women’s suffrage.

Perhaps if she had been in a different vocation, she might have followed some other path. For example, if she were the wife of a famous philanthropist in 1912, she might have pursued identifying deserving causes of the poor—while solving a mystery of a charity scam. That would have resulted in a different theme.

In a previous book, The Judge’s Story, I featured a superior court judge in 1939 Ventura, CA, based on the memoir of an actual judge from that time. He sought justice for the indigent and immigrants in his town as he tried to identify the murderer of a store manager. So the theme emerged from his actions and verdicts in his court cases.

Of course, multiple themes can surface from a story and its characters. Regardless, however, I believe they must unfold and be driven by the characters, their vocation or background, and the time period. Otherwise, they won’t support the plot—and what the mystery is all about.

About the Author


Mystery author Joyce T. Strand, much like her fictional character, Jillian Hillcrest, served as head of corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder. Rather, she focused on publicizing her companies and their products.

She is the author of the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE, the Brynn Bancroft mystery HILLTOP SUNSET and the historical mystery, THE JUDGE’S STORY.

Strand received her Ph.D. from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

She currently lives in Southern California with her two cats, a collection of cow statuary and art, and her muse, the roadrunner.

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reporter's story giveaway

1st Prize: Kindle Fire 7” WiFi 8GB Black plus ebook or paperback copy of The Reporters Story

2nd Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card and ebook or paperback copy of The Reporters Story

3rd Prize: ebook or paperback copy of The Reporters Story

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