Fun, Facts, and a Few Dead Bodies by guest Patti Phillips

I love Patti Phillips’ Kerrian’s Notebook and was curious about how and why Patti started it. Thank you Pattie for joining us today and filling us in! began over five years ago as a marketing tool for a novel featuring Homicide Detective Charlie Kerrian and his wife, Sheila. The idea was to introduce the public to the characters via the website before publication, and get the readership so involved that they would buy the book by the thousands. The original book was never published, but the characters became so popular that the readership responded warmly (and I might add with more than a little glee) to Kerrian looking for bodies everywhere and/or ways to kill people (on the page of course).


How many places can you find bodies? Apparently around every corner and under every bush. And that’s just for starters. The enthusiastic readers have been happy to suggest many ways that people can wind up very dead.

Take a look at “100 ways to die an unnatural death.” Wicked Cozy author, Edith Maxwell, contributed to that list with ‘cyanide salts in an almond cake.’ Wicked, indeed.

I love to cook, and it seemed logical to include recipes on the website. Charlie enjoys the same kind of food that my family does, so what you see on the recipe list are some of our favorite dishes. On the site, they are almost always cooked by Sheila and taste-tested by Charlie. In actuality, all are created and photographed by me. The exceptions are two guest posts by Canadian writer, Cynthia St-Pierre (co-author of The Vegetarian Detective series) and one from Chin Bawambi, an uber sports fan and foodie. Cynthia contributed a recipe for brownies and for Mediterranean Potato Salad. Chin contributed Jalapeno Peach Chicken. Please note: Nobody has ever died while eating at any of our houses.

Where do I get my ideas? Kerrian’s Notebook is loosely based upon my own life. If I attend law enforcement, gun safety, or self-defense etc. courses, I take photos and tell the world about the experiences. The family trips to Civil War battlegrounds pay homage to the men and women that fought to keep us free. The facts are double-checked by experts in the various fields and many writers use the details from my articles in their own work.

My golfing stories are light-hearted, but bodies have been known to pop up. Along with the occasional snake.

The stories are personal, the facts are real, even if the Kerrians are fictional.

When the deck guy tore down the old deck top, Kerrian asked if there was a body buried under it and showed photos. When a mouse was seen in the kitchen in the dead of night, Sheila shrieked, an exterminator arrived and the resulting article discussed why rat poison works.


From its gentler beginnings of looking for bodies under the floorboards, the website has evolved to include true crime and detailed information about first responders and law enforcement agencies.


A connection with Texas and the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, resulted in a series of three articles about the Texas Rangers. Every day, that series is ranked by Google in the top 10 for articles about the Rangers. I cover what they do, how to become one, and relate stories told by a real Texas Ranger I met while I lived in Texas. I could have listened to that Ranger and his wife for days. What a career he/they had!

The fans love The Visiting Detectives series. Guest writers can showcase their fictional detectives during a chat with Charlie and Sheila. We’ve had a time-traveling Sheriff, a psychic investigator, a newspaper publisher, and the vegetarian. The articles and characters couldn’t be more different, and always have links to the projects the writers like to feature. If you know anyone who would like to be a Visiting Detective, contact me (oops, Charlie & Sheila).  J

I knew that my second book would heavily feature fire, so discussions with a firefighter friend led to attending the Writers’ Police Academy where I concentrated on the firefighter strand of classes. Unhappily, around the time of the conference, a civilian friend of mine, along with 1500 other families, lost her house to a wildfire. The information gleaned at WPA became much more personal and focused what happened to her on the why and the how the fire moved so quickly through the tall evergreens. High summer temperatures in that part of Texas only added to the tragedy. Two of the articles appeared in my collection of short stories, “Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 1” on Amazon.

Those articles led to others – how to become a firefighter; what a firefighter wears in order to stay safe, and sadly, immediately following a week-long course on Crime Scene Photography, the actual post-fire scene of my grandfather’s former house.

Firefighters have a dangerous job. It’s not just a matter of running into a house and grabbing someone from the closet and running back out again. There is zero visibility and the smoke fills the lungs and competes with life giving oxygen that humans should be breathing. In an active fire, firefighters have under five minutes to get in and get out. As we learned at WPA, a room can be fully engulfed in a minute and a half. 90 seconds, folks.

One of the regular readers (and fellow author) has requested that I do an article describing the types of fire trucks used while fighting a fire. Since I always take photos during the research, I think he really just wants to see fire trucks. J  That article will be coming soon.

Kerrian looks for bodies everywhere, but Patti has never found one anywhere on her property or at any friend’s house. She hasn’t checked out the ditch in the new rock slope, though. Hmmm…

Future stories?

“How many cherries will kill you?”

“Krav Maga – self-defense for the real world.”

“Fire trucks”

and many more. Join Patti & the Kerrians at for fun, for facts, and a few dead bodies.

Patti Phillips is a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina.

Her best investigative days are spent writing, attending The Writers’ Police Academy, cooking, traveling for research, and playing golf. Her time on the golf course has been murderously valuable while creating the perfect alibi for the chief villain in her novel, One Sweet Motion. Did you know that there are spots on a golf course that can’t be accessed by listening devices?

Ms. Phillips (writing as Detective Charlie Kerrian) can be found at Her book reviews can be read at

Wicked Wednesday-How Far Are You Willing to Go?

We’ve been talking about researching for our novels and started a conversation about how far we are willing to go for the sake of accuracy.

Spiral Diamond NecklaceSherry: I was writing a scene that had an angry man in it. As I pondered how to describe this man I realized my husband was sitting in the other room. I thought about telling him I’d just spent $5,000 on a diamond necklace but decided this might not be the best idea I’d ever had. When I mentioned this to him he said, “I wouldn’t have been mad.” Ha — I don’t believe that for a minute. I did make my first ever Fluffernutter sandwich this week. But probably the oddest think I’ve done was when I wrote a scene where my protagonist is pushed up against a window. I pushed my face into a window in our house as hard as I could. I made sure it was a window in the back of the house so no one would see me. Probably if I’d gone with the $5,000 diamond story my husband would have been happy to help with the window research.

Edith: Interesting topic. I have certainly tried falling down in various ways, and once carotid arteryasked Hugh to put pressure on my carotid artery and grab my upper arm with his other hand to see if I could press a phone number in my other pocket. I killed off someone in a short story with Datura tea (that’s a spoiler, but check it out for yourself:, but am not about to sample that myself. I took an eight-week Citizen’s Police Academy in my town this spring where I learned so much about police procedure and the crimes that happen in a small New England city. Even more important, I’m now friends with several Amesbury Police Department officers who I can email or call with questions. Priceless.

Liz: I remember at Crime Bake one year when Joe Finder talked about letting a funeral director close him in a casket for research – and the guy left him there for ten or fifteen minutes. Not sure I’d be able to do that! But I was working on another series that involves a funeral home, and I happen to have a friend who runs one. In the course of that research, I’ve been able to watch the removal of a dead man’s pacemaker, an actual cremation, and examine the body of a guy who had been shot execution-style.

For that same series, I had a training session with a guy who had done “government work” in the past who was an expert in serious martial arts training. He taught me how to take down a man triple my size. That was probably the best research yet! Oh, and then there was the python – but I should save that for another blog.

Barb: Liz, I would definitely NOT let anyone put me in a casket for any length of time for research. And, Sherry, if I told my husband Bill I bought a $5000 necklace, I’m sure he would do one of three things:

1) Laugh.

2) Say, “No really, what did you do? Are you trying to tell me you crashed the car?”

3) (most dangerous) see it as license to go out and acquire something of equal or greater value.

passmaquoddynotrespassing2I’m terrible at research of this type because I’m shy and have trouble asking people for help. So research often lingers on my to-do list to the last possible moment. This summer for Boiled Over, book 2 in the Maine Clambake series, my husband Bill and I traveled far down east to Machias, Maine. We stopped in Wild Blueberry Land, (not a hardship) and went to the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival (also not hard). We toured Welch Farm and got lots of questions answered. (Also not hard. The family is lovely.) But then I had to do what I really came to do. To see the Passamaquoddy Blueberry fields and see a real blueberry rakers’ camp where the Mi’kmaq people stay when they come to Maine for the blueberry harvest. Everything was posted with huge No Trespassing signs. I’m such a law-abiding good girl, but I really felt, for all the research I’d done, I couldn’t describe the camps unless I’d seen one. So with Bill driving and egging me on, we did go to one of the camps. It was deserted, which in some ways was scarier. But it helped enormously in the writing to have actually been.

Jessie: I write about a volunteer firefighter postmistress in one series and a maple sugar maker in another. For the Granite State Mysteries I’ve visited the local fire station and have had a couple of different firefighters to dinner in order to pick their brains. For the postal questions I’ve been lucky to be acquainted with incredibly helpful people at the local post office. No matter how wacky the question they’ve answered patiently and generously.

For the Sugar Grove series I attended events during the NH Maple Weekend where I put myself through the excruciating task of sampling Sugar on Snow candy just to be sure I sugar on snowcould accurately describe it.  I’ve also been forced to purchase bottle after bottle of maple syrup and to test recipes using said syrup on my family. I also visited with an extremely helpful Conservation Officer from the NH Fish and Game department who allowed me to ride along on a rabid fox call.

Julie: I have wandered around a town that “fit” my story, and stopped and taken pictures all over the place. Not tourist “isn’t this a lovely home” pictures, but pictures of parking lots, back entrances, drain pipes, and close ups of windows. And then I did a video of a walking tour, narrating ideas as I went. And then I drove in and out of the town with my flip cam on the steering wheel.

I have also gone to a shooting range, tried different guns, and asked questions of experts. And I dream of learning how to pick a lock.

Readers: Do you spot errors in accuracy as you read? Authors, how far have you gone in the name of getting things right?