Monthly Archives: March 2012

The mystery writer’s lament

Why is it that it’s more fun to write about the heroine’s efforts to find a new home for the murder victim’s chihuahua than it is to write about her attempts to solve the murder?

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WHY do I always wait till the last minute to deal with my taxes?

Every time! And honestly, all I have to do is round up all the bits of paper and take them to the Tax Guy. How hard is that?

Yet, every year, I tell myself, “this time I’ll get my taxes in early”, and every year, I’m racing around searching for the bits at the very last minute.

 

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Best of the Ebooks – English Village Cozy

Whenever someone asks me what a ‘cozy’ mystery is, I tend to say it’s a mystery with an amateur sleuth. Turns out that’s an over-simplification. Oh, all right – it’s not true. Sure, a lot of cozies have amateur sleuths, but not all. So what makes a mystery ‘cozy’? I’m still working on that. What they’re NOT, as a rule, is ‘gritty’. Or ‘noir’. Or hyper-violent. There’s a focus on people and the relationships between them. There is often humor.

A good example of a mystery with professional sleuths that I would classify as a ‘cozy’ is this one – Death of an Old Git by Andrea Frazer. It’s set in an English village, a good hint that it’s going to be cozy. The sleuthing pair is humorously mismatched, and the large suspect pool of village characters keeps you intrigued.

The titular ‘Old Git’ is Reg Morley, the most irritating man in Castle Farthing. Morley is a petty thief, a peeping tom, and a quarrelsome troublemaker whose hobby is making life miserable for as many people as possible. So when he turns up drugged and strangled, the problem for the authorities is – too many suspects!

Assigned to unravel the mystery is Detective Inspector Harry Falconer, well-educated, smooth and proud of his sartorial elegance. A manpower shortage teams him with well-meaning bumpkin Acting Detective Sergeant Carmichael. The assignment puts Carmichael in plainclothes for the first time in his career, and his garish, mismatched, and generally horrible attempts at plainclothes is just the first of the crosses Falconer must bear.

Death of an Old Git is available at Smashwords and all its affiliates, and also at Amazon. There are two more Falconer and Carmichael mysteries, which I’ve added to my Must Read list. And they’re all just 99 cents apiece!

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Etch-A-Sketch memories

The venerable Etch-A-Sketch being back in the news brings back childhood memories. We got an Etch-A-Sketch when they were newly released, the hot new must-have toy. (I know, I’m dating myself.)

Could anyone else draw with the darn thing? I sure couldn’t. What I liked to do, though, was ‘clear the board’. Anyone else do that?

What you did was draw a straight line across the board, then come back and draw another line parallel to the first one. If you’re doing it right, you don’t have two lines, you’ve just thickened and broadened the first line. Then you go back and forth doing the same thing, making your line broader and broader, clearing off the silvering from the entire screen.

It’s a long and tedious process.  But once you have a large enough clearing – you can see inside! And you can watch the mechanism working.

For some reason, that always fascinated me. Not sure what it all means – you think there’s a metaphor in there somewhere?

 

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Two black cats

Liam and Sam:

Two black cats

 

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Argh! Where’s the murder weapon?!

My heroine has cleverly deduced what the missing murder weapon was, but before she can cleverly deduce where it is, I need to put it somewhere…

 

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A Pet Peeve

Folks, I’m wearing my reader hat today, because I just finished reading a book that committed the plotting sin that irks me the most. I’m talking about when the writer gives the heroine (it’s almost always a woman) a beloved cat or dog, for the sole purpose of having the baddy kill the animal to demonstrate to the reader how badbadbadCRAZYbad he is and how much incredible peril the heroine is in.

Don’t do that.

Why not? Well, for one thing, it bugs a lot of readers. I know I’m not alone in this. Do you think that’s balanced out by the readers it pleases? You think someone can come to the end of an otherwise satisfying read, only to dash off an annoyed e-mail to the writer, complaining because they didn’t kill the dog? Does. not. happen.

So why do it? The displeased readers are not counterbalanced with an equal number of pleased readers. You’ve lost word of mouth. And come on, it’s trite. It’s overdone. It’s a cliche.

You’re writing because you’re creative, right? So if you want to get across the point of how bad your villain is, come up with a way to demonstrate that which hasn’t already been done,  overdone, and done to death a thousand times before. The ‘kill the cat’ scene not only irks plenty of us, it also lowers our opinion of your creative abilities.

So please. Show some originality. Either leave the pets alone or don’t create them in the first place.

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