How a Tinder Moment Brought Humor to My Crime Novel


I have been writing like a maniac since late May, getting ready for the upcoming release of the book in my crime series. Generating 2000 words a day, dreaming about the story, talking about the characters to anyone who will listen.

I’ve asked that all too embarrassing question no writer should ask anyone (particularly people she thinks of as friends): “Did you read The Migrant Report?”

“No,” came the refrain.

The one brave friend who said yes, was subjected to a brainstorming lunch.

No Place for Women is the working title of the second book and as it suggests, the story takes us into ever darker parts of the city. Two dead women, lots of questions.

The narrative was getting so dark, I felt compelled to include moments of levity. This is how a conversation about Tinder made it into one of the key investigative


Ali folded his hands over the notebook. “I don’t blame your daughter for dying.”

“That’s a funny way to put it.” She took a shuddering breath, her eyes darting to his. “Considering someone strangled her in her own home.”

“Boyfriends?” He repeated.

“Well, she was on Tinder. But I don’t think she used it very often.”


Martha blinked again this time in a rapid series, like something was caught in her eye. “It’s an app. For dating.”

He pulled out the evidence bag with Lauren’s phone, passing it along with a pair of gloves to the mother. “Please. We can’t get in without the code.”

She wiggled her fingers into them as Ali also put on a pair before plugging the device in to revive the battery.

Martha frowned in concentration, the tip of her tongue emerging between her teeth. “Probably her birthday?” The phone buzzed, rejecting the code.

“We tried that.”

“Hm, maybe my birthday?” Another little shake no from the device.

“Okay. Okay. Lauren had a terrible memory. Would have been something she used all the time…” Martha’s fingernails drummed the table. “Last four of her social? … Yes!” The phone unlocked, going to a home screen with Lauren sitting on the pavement, a black kitten in her lap. “Oh.” Martha’s breath came out in a whoosh. “Oh.” Her hands flew to her chest.

“Tinder,” Ali said. He took the phone back, nudging over a box of tissue. He scrolled through the apps, stopping at the one with the flame over the letter I. They certainly didn’t believe in subtlety. The app opened to a bare chested man reclining on the beach, the azure blue of the Arabian Gulf behind him. “What the hell,” Ali said. The shadow of a beard said belied the man’s Arab roots, that and the shock of hair curling across his pectoral muscles. Hassan? So this was how his cousin stocked his stable of girlfriends.

“You swipe right if you like him,” Martha said, propping her elbows on the table for a closer look.

“Did she swipe right on this guy?” Ali tossed the phone back to the other side of the table as if it were contaminated. “Did they go out?” His stomach twisted at the thought of Hassan dragging him further into this mess.

“No. The app brings up everyone registered in your city,” Martha said, tapping the screen. “He’s a new user. Besides, she was leery of Arab guys.” She cleared her throat, eyes flitting away from Ali.

He wrote it down, ignoring her discomfort. “And then what?”

“You wait to see if he swipes back.”

How I Wrote 20,000 Words in 15 Days

Men in transit in Bangladesh by Wonderlane

If you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, then you know that 20,000 words isn’t that impressive. In actuality, someone writing 1,666 words a day should have 25,000 words in 15 days. But, as my students are fond of saying, I have a million things to do, so 20,000 is a goal post I’m willing to celebrate.

This is the as yet unnamed novel-in-progress, my first crime thriller, set in the Arabian Gulf, featuring an ensemble cast. This snippet takes us into Manu point of view. He is a young man from Nepal, who arrives in-country, hoping to earn enough to help halt his ailing mother’s decline.

Tell me your likes/dislikes about the genre – so much to learn and write.


“You! Where you go?” The man in the robe was back, making a straight line for Manu.

“Toilet,” Manu said. He didn’t stop walking, lest he embarrass himself in front of all the eyes, now watching.

The man in the robe grumbled but matched Manu’s pace. He entered the bathroom, amazed at how clean it was, compared to the latrines he used in Nepal.

When he re-emerged, the man in the robe was waiting for him. He looked up from his phone and indicated with the radio antennae he was to rejoin his group. Manu walked, as slowly as he could, taking in the glittery countertops on the other side of the visa line. There were perfumes, chocolates, and toys.

“Okay, now,” the FBJ representative was shooing them all like schoolboys towards a roped column in front of the visa desk. “One by one,” he said. “One by one.”

They stepped forward. Manu looked at the young man who was stamping their documents. He took each passport from the ledge above his desk, flicking through the pages, his eyes passing over the face in front of him in an instant, before the heavy stamp descended.

The FBJ rep scuttled them through the baggage area, where the men wandered through a heap of rice paper bags and taped boxes, trying to identify their own.


Manu turned not understanding.

“Your bag?” The rep asked, eyeing Manu with suspicion.

“I lost it,” he said.

The rep shook his head but handed Manu a piece of paper. “Sign,” he said.

Manu looked at it, wishing he had stayed in school longer, as Amita had insisted. He couldn’t make out much anyway, the contract was in Arabic. But there, above the signature, he could make out numbers, since they often used the same ones in Nepal for license plates.

“This says 1,000,” Manu said. “What’s this? The salary? They promised me 1500.”
The rep clicked his tongue, peering at Manu as if seeing him for the first time. “You don’t want this job? You can go back.”

The other men were signing their contracts, passing the one pen among them.

“I want to work,” Manu protested. “But for the amount they said.”

The rep began walking, the column of men following him as they left the brightly lit airport into the warm night. They walked the length of the parking lot, to a dark corner, where a bus waited for them, lumbering in the dark.

Manu climbed the steps, promising himself he would speak to the rep later.

“Sign,” the man said, putting an arm across Manu’s chest. The contact and the pen were pressed at him.

Manu signed. His legs quivered after so much time standing. He collapsed into a seat, his shirt sticking to him. Unlike the airplane or the airport, the bus had no air conditioning. Humidity rolled through the open window and up and down the aisle like a beast with moist breath. They creaked their way through the city, mostly at sleep, and largely in the dark. The bus followed roads that snaked away from the bright lights of the perimeter, until they entered a neighborhood with dusty streets, and grey bricks made of concrete. There was laundry hanging on drooping lines and smashed vehicles waiting outside of garages. Men were walking around in collared shirts, and lungis, the cotton loincloths of the Indian subcontinent.

When they shuddered to a stop outside a chain link fence, running around a group of squat, brown buildings, spotlights illuminating the guard station at the front gate, the pit of dread in Manu’s stomach grew.