The Tao of Doo

In his kind and generous review of my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, author James Reasoner said the plot was vaguely reminiscent of something found in Scooby-Doo, only played seriously. He meant it as a compliment and I took it Read more


Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I'd be used to it. But nope, I'm not. BAD MOON's publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE's did last year. For readers, the Read more

Writing With ... Louise Penny

I am thrilled beyond words to welcome one of my favorite writers, Louise Penny, whose Armand Gamache mysteries have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.  Her last book, BURY YOUR DEAD, won the Ellis for best mystery in Canada, and Read more

Is Browsing Dead?

I'll be the first to admit that I was a nerdy teenager. Not pocket protector nerdy, but no sports star, either. I was bookish, I guess you could say. I read A LOT back then, and nothing pleased me Read more

Why We Left Earth

Outer space has always been a mystery. Even before mankind fully grasped its vastness, they wanted to go there. Early astronomers, fascinated by the stars, invented ways to get a closer view. Think Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini. Writers not content Read more


The Tao of Doo

Posted on by Todd Posted in Featured, Musings, On Writing | Comments Off on The Tao of Doo

In his kind and generous review of my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, author James Reasoner said the plot was vaguely reminiscent of something found in Scooby-Doo, only played seriously. He meant it as a compliment and I took it as such. In fact, I was thrilled by the comparison, because Scooby-Doo was my favorite cartoon growing up and continues to influence me today.

What? I hear you collectively say. You’re influenced by a cartoon about a bunch of brightly dressed pesky kids? That’s ridiculous!

But it’s not. Influences come in many forms, and if it works, it works. In fact, every mystery writer could benefit from having the Scooby Gang in mind when they sit down to write. Now, I’m not saying that you should insert a talking German shepherd into your book. (Although more power to you if you do.) But I do think Scooby-Doo offers lessons that all mystery writers should take to heart. Here are just a few:


In all honesty, the Scooby Gang shouldn’t have been friends. Fred was handsome but bland. Daphne was, well, Daphne. Velma was the smart one. Shaggy was the cut-up. And Scooby was the inadvertent hero who often saved the day while really trying to sprint away in fear. Yet it worked. Each of them brought something to table, whether it was Fred’s steadfastness or Daphne’s ability to alert everyone to when she got goosepimples. And it was invariably interesting to see them paired up in different combinations.

So when creating a set of characters, mix them up a little. Form a crew of people who are different, who will sometimes clash, who will bounce against each other. Every character has something to offer and the best stories allow them to prove their worth, no matter their skills are.


The Scooby Gang ended up in some pretty strange places. Like that haunted riverboat in the bayou, for example. Or that creepy castle in the middle of nowhere. Or that spooky abandoned mansion that Mama Cass inherited. But when I was watching it as a child, I didn’t question why they were there or dwell on the strange twists of fate led the Harlem Globetrotters to that desolate hotel when their tour bus broke down. I didn’t care. They were there and I was happy to watch them.

It’s the same with readers. By necessity, most mysteries walk a fine line between plausibility and outright ridiculousness. But readers know this. They’re prepared to willingly suspend disbelief if an author can entertain them for a few hundred pages. So don’t worry if your plot is vaguely preposterous. Most mystery plots are. If you do your best to ground it in reality, then readers will happily turn the pages.


I refuse to get into the reasons Scooby and Shaggy always had the munchies. That’s not for me to speculate about. All I know is that those two were hungry. I’m talking let’s-forget-about-that-zombie-roaming-this-abandoned-mansion-and-dig-up-some-grub-in-the-kitchen hungry. (I’m also not going to theorize on why the kitchens in these creepy, abandoned mansions always seemed to be fully stocked with sandwich fixings.) What matters is that they had an appetite, and they were more interesting characters because of it.

So when creating your characters, be sure to give them appetites as well. It doesn’t have to be food, although that’s a nice start. Kat Campbell, the heroine of DEATH NOTICE and BAD MOON, has an amusingly desperate thirst for coffee. That appetite can be for music. Or extreme sports. Or sex. Or drugs. What the characters hunger for outside of the main plot makes them more human and interesting, and — just like Shaggy ignoring the investigation at hand in search of a sandwich — can shape their actions and attitudes.


The Scooby Gang wasn’t perfect, nor did I want them to be. They all had flaws that made their quest to unmask the bad guy that much harder to attain. Even Velma, the smartest one in the room, had to fumble around on the floor like an idiot every time she lost her glasses.

And that, really, is what characters need to do. After reading an early draft of DEATH NOTICE, my agent told me that the investigation in the book went too smoothly. “They need to bump into walls and encounter dead ends,” she told me. In short, she wanted them to fumble around like Velma, on their hands and knees in the dark, reaching out for any bit of information they could find. I did, and the book was better for it.


Trust me, it will only make them look silly.


Posted on by Todd Posted in Featured, News | Comments Off on BAD MOON Rises

Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I’d be used to it. But nope, I’m not. BAD MOON’s publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE’s did last year.

For readers, the release date is a chance for them to rush to their local stores (or, let’s face it, pick up their e-readers) and buy the latest from one of their favorite authors.

For authors, the pub date marks the end of a long, long road that probably began years earlier. I started preliminary research work on BAD MOON in May 2009. I wrote the bulk of it between March and August 2010. I took it to bed with me, writing late into the night. I took it on vacation with me, typing away on my laptop in a hotel in Walt Disney World. I took it to work, editing and revising the manuscript while my boss wasn’t looking. I loved it, hated it, loved it again, stopped caring because I just wanted to get it finished, then fell in love with it all over again.

Now it’s done. And available all over the country. And readers can get it in their hands, devour it and tell me what they think. Some critics already have, and I’m (no pun intended) over the moon about their reviews.

Here’s a sampling:

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Finally, it’s open season on a serial killer who’s gone undetected for years.

Perry Hollow, Pa., Police Chief Kat Campbell pitches in to help former state police officer Nick Donnelly solve a cold case. Years ago, when Kat’s father was chief, young Charlie Olmstead went missing. After his bike was found at the bottom of a waterfall, he was presumed drowned even though no body was ever found. Now his younger brother, famous author Eric Olmstead, is back in town to bury his mother. Her dying wish was for him to find Charlie, whom she always believed was still alive. Nick, injured and tossed out of the state police, now runs an agency specializing in cold cases. He is hired by Eric, whose high-school romance with Kat came to an abrupt end when he skipped town after graduation. Now the three team up to reopen the investigation of Charlie’s disappearance. A map and news clippings discovered in Eric’s house make the trio suspect that Charlie was just one of a series of vanished young boys. Now that the hard questions are being asked, a great deal of information missed in the original investigations, all thought to be accidents, is turning up—clues that may provide closure for grieving relatives.

Kat and Nick’s second (Death Notice, 2010) draws you in irresistibly and doesn’t spit you out till the very end, your head spinning with surprising revelations.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“July 20, 1969, was the day Neil Armstrong  walked on the moon, but it’s also the night that ten-year-old Charlie Olmstead, a boy entranced with all things NASA-related, disappeared. It looked like a case of drowning when his bicycle was found abandoned by a local waterfall that night: case closed. Turns out, however, his grieving mother never thought he drowned. After her death some 40 years later, Eric, the surviving son, discovers her copious research that indicates other young boys’ disappearances were tied to subsequent Apollo moon landings. Fully focused now, Eric, along with local police chief Kat Campbell and independent investigator Nick Donnelly, finds himself pursuing connections across rural Pennsylvania. What’s hardest to figure out is who had that much motivation and anger. VERDICT: Ritter’s second outing (after Death Notice) will captivate readers with a tone reminiscent of John Hart (Down River) and Chelsea Cain (The Night Season). Ritter was on ThrillerFest’s Debut Authors Class of 2010/11 panel. Catch him now!”

Publishers Weekly

“In Ritter’s compelling second mystery featuring Perry Hollow, Pa., police chief Kat Campbell (after 2010’s Death Notice), Eric Olmstead, a successful author and Kat’s former high school flame who’s recently returned to the area, asks Kat to look into the disappearance of his brother, Charlie, who went missing at age nine 40 years earlier, during the first moon landing. Kat uncovers not just one missing boy but several, all of whom disappeared during moon landings. As the evidence mounts, Kat must balance her duties as top cop and single parent to James, her fifth grader, who doesn’t appreciate her all-consuming passion for her work. Ritter does a fine job evoking the dreams, mores, and political upheavals of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, along with the evolution of the U.S. space program and its deceleration in the 2010s. Readers will find themselves ensnared by this unusual tale of love, loss, enduring pain, and betrayal.”

Now it’s your turn, readers. If you plan on reading BAD MOON — and I sincerely hope you do — be sure to tell me about it when you’re done. My e-mail address is I hope to see note from a whole bunch of you.

Until then, I sincerely hope you enjoy BAD MOON. I worked hard on it and I incredibly proud of the end result. Happy reading!

Writing With … Louise Penny

Posted on by Todd Posted in Featured, Writing With | Comments Off on Writing With … Louise Penny

I am thrilled beyond words to welcome one of my favorite writers, Louise Penny, whose Armand Gamache mysteries have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.  Her last book, BURY YOUR DEAD, won the Ellis for best mystery in Canada, and is nominated for the Anthony, Barry, Macavity and Nero awards in the United States.  Her next book, A TRICK OF THE LIGHT, will be released tomorrow.  You can visit her website at

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it. 

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT is the seventh in the Armand Gamache series. And while it (like all the rest) is clearly a murder mystery, it is in reality more about life than death. One of the continuing series characters, Clara Morrow, finally gets her solo art show, and we get to see how she, and those close to her, react.  And whether the art world will embrace or shun her. This book, though, really explores the role hope plays in the lives of the characters, including the police officers, Gamache and Beauvoir.  And the difference between real and false hope. It’s also about duality — the gap between how things appear and what they really are.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

Before starting to write this book, I’d never the term “chiaroscuro.” It’s an artistic term meaning the strong contrast between light and dark. It was by pure chance I stumbled across this while researching the art world, since this book has so much about art and the artistic temperament. It, of course, then became a central theme … that duality again — between light and dark. In art and in life.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be one since the age of 8, when I fell in love with Charlotte and Wilbur and the other animals in CHARLOTTE’S WEB.  How marvelous to get to create imaginary friends, then play with them all day, and as a writer, get paid for it.  Though I’m not necessarily the best friend since I sometimes kill one (or two) off.  Shhh.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

It feels like I’m always writing … or thinking about it. But I love my home — I’m a nester, and I sometimes think the farther from my bed I get the odder I become. So I love to hang around home with my beloved Michael and our puppy Trudy. Going for walks, reading, sitting by the fireplace. Gardening a bit in summer. I also, perversely, love to travel — but to select places.  London, for instance, is like a second home.

Q. What are you reading right now? 

An Agatha Christie — ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE.  I’ve read it before, but I’m just finishing writing the 8th book in the Gamache series and so I like to read something fun and not very challenging.  I adore Agatha Christie and am very aware of the role she played in my formative years.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

Beyond the obvious “How to” books —

The complete works of W.H. Auden

A French/English dictionary (finally nail the subjunctive!!)

Complete works of Shakespeare

A history of music (with classical scores)

A collection of works of art

I realize I’ve cheated by making them collections or dictionaries — but I’d love to learn how to read music, then have scores, so that I could have symphonies in my head all day long.  And to study great works of art, and be transported by the divine.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

The Lion in Winter.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Fruit salad — for real.  I LOVE it.  My second favorite would be burgers, fries and shakes.

Q. Cats or dogs?


Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I am a saint. For real. I sent away to the Universal Life Church back when I was a journalist doing an expose on dodgy religions that get tax exemptions in Canada. For a fee, they’d make me an ordained minister — and for a little extra they’d declare me a saint. So I sprang for the extra and am now Saint Louise — patron saint of the extremely lazy.