Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Nucleus of Inspiration, a Guest Blog by Camille Minichino

This is the first guest blog I've posted, but there will be some more. I'm on two panels at the Malice Domestic conference and will be posting guest blogs by many of the other panelists so readers can see what interesting writers are on these panels. This one is by Camille Minichino, a retired physicist who has multiple mystery series going right now.

Camille has 3 releases this spring: A re-issue of "The Hydrogen Murder" as an e-book; the second in the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries, "The Probability of Murder" (by Ada Madison, March 6); and the sixth in the Miniature Mysteries, "Mix-Up in Miniature" (by Margaret Grace, April 2).
Camille says, soon, every aspect of her life will be a mystery series.
The Nucleus of Inspiration

Many of my writer friends have been writers,or wanted to write, all their lives. My hostess today confesses to having always had a "narrative impulse" (I love that phrase).

Not true for me, though.

I spent all my time with math and physics, writing only technical papers, with stunning sentences, like, "It was determined that the 6328 line of neon would stimulate transitions in a crystal."

Then came March 28, 1979. The accident at Three Mile Island, the nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, might have been the single most influential factor that led to my becoming a writer.

Anyone working in the commercial nuclear field at that time remembers where they were when they heard the news. It was pre-Internet, and I didn't hear about the incident until I showed up at work the next morning, March 29, thirty-three years ago today.

The facts of the accident are well documented, and the good news, we've been told, is that no negative health effects resulted.

For me, it meant immersing myself for the next few years in various aspects of power plants, from control rooms (where the TMI failure originated) to the hazardous waste generated by the plants. I visited plants, and wrote guidelines and proposals for nuclear safety and safeguards.My boss, a respected expert in the industry, and a Renaissance man, was frustrated by the proliferation of material and the lack of order to the avalanche of government and private reports on high-level waste.

"This information should all be in one place," he said. "Let's write a book."

"Sure," I said, though I had no idea what that involved.

We hired a woman with a new-fangled machine that looked like a typewriter but had narrow tape attached that somehow allowed her to correct mistakes without painting the page white. High-tech!

My boss and I sorted through boxes and boxes of raw material and finally produced a useful reference tome. The big thing: my name was on the spine, right under his.

So that's what all the fuss was about. Having your name on the spine of a book! It worked for me.

I took classes, experimented with fiction, and switched my attention to guidelines for pacing a scene, for developing character, for creating suspense.

I'm delighted to say that writing fiction is just as much fun as suiting up for a tour of duty at a nuclear plant. As for seeing my name on a book spine, it's still a thrill, after 16 published mysteries.

I love bringing all my different projects and "careers" together, so you'll find an inside look into the nuclear industry in "The Boric Acid Murder," and insight into the worldview of physicists- and mathematicians-turned-sleuth in The Periodic Table Mysteries and The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries.
And you'll know what I do to relax when you read the Miniature Mysteries, which are all about dollhouses—about as far as you can get from a 1-Megawatt reactor, though I haven't ruled out building one in miniature.



  1. i'm at Left coast criime in Sacramento...always great to meet readers! Thanks for hosting me, Linda.

  2. Hi, Liz! Your books sound quite intriguing. I see you have several Periodic Table mysteries. Are they sequential? Should I read them in order?

  3. Camile, I'm so pleased you're guest blogging--and so envious that you're at Left Coast Crime and I'm not! Have lots of fun!

  4. Between panels! Sally , I always think newer ones are better ( hoping I get better as a writer)
    Forgive typos here ... very small keyboard!

  5. Camille, that's true dedication commenting between panels! I'm impressed.

    I always like to read the most recent book. Then, if I fall in love with the author, I have to go find all the books in the series from book one and go through them. A little OCD at times.

  6. Having a bit trouble posting from my phone but I hope I can thru this Thanks for the opportunity.

  7. Just another note to thank you for a great day here. I was able to read everything but had unexpected trouble working with my iPhone to post from the road. Happy spring, everyone!

  8. Thank you for guesting, Camille. Your fascinating post gathered some comments on Facebook also. Unfortunately, I am on the road myself now, but as soon as I'm home, I'll send them to you.

  9. I remember Three Mile Island like it was yesterday. I lived, at the time, in Upstate, New York and we were glued to the news.

    A marvelous post. Thank you.

  10. Thanks for stopping by, David! Yes, Three Mile Island is etched in the memories of those of us who've reached a certain age.