Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Mystery- S.D. Skye: Craft of building a Mystery

Please Welcome S.D. Skye, author of The Seven Year Itch.

I’ll have to admit that when I first conceived the J.J. McCall FBI Espionage series, I had no idea what I was getting into. Although I’d spent over two decades in the U.S. Intelligence Community as an intelligence analyst, half that time as an operations specialist in the FBI’s Counterintelligence program, I actually started my writing career in the romance.

I’ve had no formal writing training, just a lot of reading over the years, stories on my heart (thanks to a romantic life that would make Bridget Jones shake her head), and a little natural comedic timing. My writing voice and style found me as I wrote in first person and basically delivered a monologue in paperback. And I knew how to build “family secrets” into a story to help build suspense. It was all too easy.

If I had known just how much I didn’t know, I may not have deigned to believe I could shift genres. But fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. And so into romantic suspense/mystery I dived…head first.

After my agent hated and editor rejected the first draft of The Seven Year Itch, I realized  I needed to rely less on talent and learn more craft. The plot, more complex than any book I attempted before, had more holes than a gopher farm. And I poorly managed the multiple points of view, head hopping from character to character at will. I had ZILCH prior experience with writing in third person.  

Mystery was a mystery.

I lacked so much knowledge, including a basic understanding of how much information to release to the reader at any given moment. And instead of foreshadowing or giving the reader a sense of foreboding, I was just plain telling them beforehand to make my character appear uber clever—killing the suspense instead of allowing the plot elements to be revealed as they unfolded.

So much to learn, so little time.

So, how did I figure out the mystery?

I read a TON of books on craft that touched on everything from character development to story development, to description, to creating conflict and tension, and wrote no fewer than 27,000 drafts (only a slight exaggeration). I became a knowledge sponge and soaked in every nugget of wisdom I could
By the time, I finished (about a year later) and resubmitted to my publisher, they accepted and made an offer.

Yay. But I needed more flexibility in releasing the subsequent books in the series, so I reluctantly turned it down.  
The experience taught me some important lessons. First, you can’t always rely on talent, that there is no secret sauce, no magic formula. You have to put in the hours, and you must be willing to admit that you don’t know everything and love the craft enough to learn it. And if you’re lucky, you’ll learn from those who have already made your mistakes. Lastly, nothing beats a failure but a try. So try!  

S.D. Skye is a former FBI Russian Counterintelligence Program Intelligence Analyst and supported several key cases during her 12-year tenure at the Bureau. She has personally witnessed the blowback the Intelligence Community suffered due to the most significant compromises in U.S. history, including the arrests of former CIA Case Officer Aldrich Ames and two of the Bureau's own--FBI Agents Earl Pitts and Robert Hanssen. She has spent 20 years supporting counterintelligence, intelligence, and military missions in the U.S. Intelligence Community.

An award-winning author of romantic comedies in her other life, Skye is a member of the Maryland Writer's Association, Romance Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She's addicted to writing and chocolate--not necessarily in that order--and currently lives in the Washington D.C. area with her son. Skye is hard at work on the next installment of the series.

Blurb for The Seven Year Itch
Her Family Was Vexed With a Generational Curse. Now for Lie Detecting FBI Spy Catcher J.J. McCall, the Truth is in The Seven Year Itch.

FBI Special Agent J.J. McCall is a born lie detector who recruits foreign spies to catch American traitors. She and co-case agent Tony Donato have lost two of their most critical Russian sources in the past two years, and they may lose another in just a few short days if they don’t catch him, The ICE PHANTOM, a rumored insider spy more insidious and elusive than Ames and Hanssen combined. They suspect he might be burrowed deep inside FBI counterintelligence—and his body count is going up.

Drawn into an unsanctioned mole hunt, they have a week to catch him, save a key source’s life—and their own. While J.J.’s lie detecting ability helps them narrow down the list of suspects, the lie she tells to herself may help the ICE PHANTOM defect to Moscow and get away with the murder of the man she loves.

Skye's debut FBI Series, filled with mystery, espionage, romance, and suspense, will keep you burning through the pages until J.J. catches the very last spy.

J.J searched for serenity in bottom of a Belvedere bottle. The wait for his sugar-coated lies had dragged on for too long, and she’d lost patience. After glancing around the small reception area to ensure no one was watching, she removed from her purse a silver flask and smiled. It was filled to the brim with relief. One small gulp and the soothing burn slipped down her throat, calming her prickly nerves. Inside she felt on the brink of dissolution. The 10 am swallow was just a necessary evil. It would get her through the meeting, until time for her next dose of repose.

Another dead source. She couldn’t stomach the thought of his demise. Two had been more than her fair share. The unceasing cycle of loss had worn her resolve thin. She’d refused to let another family suffer that pain if she could in any way prevent it. J.J. wanted to tell the FBI where to stick her badge and gun, but she had promises to keep. Promises to Viktor. Promises to herself. No matter what Cartwright said, she’d see her case through until the end. And the end was as near as nightfall because the op was simple and would go off without a hitch.

J.J. stiffened her back and squared her shoulders as the elixir took effect. Her posture mirrored that of the powerful yet graceful eagle perched atop her FBI badge. She’d eyed it, waiting for the carefully choreographed denial and deception ritual to begin.

Buy Links



S.D. will be awarding a Kindle Fire to a randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour. (US/CANADA ONLY)

You can reach S.D> at the following media sites

And follow the tour to get your name in multiple times for the Kindle Fire drawing:


S.D. Skye said...

Thank you so much for hosting me on the first day of my blog tour! If anyone has any questions for me, please feel free to ask. Also, as part of my 4th annual Kindle Giveaway, one lucky commenter on the tour will receive a Kindle Fire AND a $25 kindle gift card to kick off your collection. Good luck to all who enter! :)

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

Anonymous said...

It looks like a story with everything!


Danita Cahill said...

Sounds like a great book! Good luck on your blog tour, S.D.

Danita Cahill

Carrie said...

This sounds like a really great book. I love political thrillers :)

carrie dot rogozinski at

Anonymous said...

Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this,
like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you
can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.
A fantastic read. I'll definitely be back.
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bn100 said...

Nice excerpt.


Yvonne said...

Just added this to my GoodReads TBR.

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BookLady said...

What an exciting book! Enjoyed the excerpt. Thanks for the giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the chance to win!

hense1kk AT cmich DOT edu

Andra Lyn said...

Thanks for the info and the excerpt! I like the sounds of this one :)

andralynn7AT gmail DOT com