Saturday, October 31, 2009
Just a quick note to say Happy Hallowe'en, and to apologize for not being here more often. Sometimes necessity, in the form of life, does intrude and the best laid plans, as Robbie Burns said, do aft go aglay!
And that's my way of saying, sorry!
Do come back on Tuesday, November 3rd for a new Why I Write Mysteries from a wonderful author who wrote a 'how to' book on writing mysteries that I have on my desk right this minute! You'll see then why I felt compelled to go all Scottish on you!
Friday, October 30, 2009
*Editor's note: Here's another great review from Ariel Heart, this time of an audio book! And just in time for Hallowe'en, it's of an Aunt Dimity ghost mystery! Enjoy.
Aunt Dimity Beats The Devil by Nancy Atherton (narrated by Christina Moore)
Lori Shepherd is on her way to the creepy Wyrdhurst Castle in northern England to appraise a large private library. Traveling in bad weather, Lori narrowly escapes a landslide that sweeps her Range Rover away. Finally arriving at isolated Wyrdhurst after being rescued by a charming stranger, Lori is embroiled in a haunted castle with the resident ghost influencing her to act uncharacteristically, finds tales of forbidden love, murder and hidden treasure amidst the secret passageways and massive library. Are there really ghosts on the third floor scaring the young owner, Nicole, or is a real person behind it? There is something afoot at Wyrdhurst and Lori – with a little help from the ghostly Aunt Dimity communicating through an innocent journal – is just the person to uncover the past and clear up the present.
I chose the audio version and I must say that Christina Moore is phenomenal as the narrator. The entire book comes to life as Christina subtly changes character voices employing accents, cadence and tone. Without any sound effects, Christina Moore performed the story rather than just read it and I quickly felt like I was listening to a riveting old time radio theatre.
The writing style is flowing and very effective as this opening section demonstrates:
“It was a dark and stormy afternoon on the high moors of Northumberland. A cold October rain battered the Range Rover’s roof and the fog was as thick as porridge. I hoped my hosts at Wyrdhurst Hall would hold high tea for me, because it looked as though I might be a bit late.
Thanks to the murky weather, I’d almost certainly missed the turnoff for Wyrdhurst’s gated drive. To judge by the Rover’s lurching progress, I’d somehow left the paved road altogether and veered onto a narrow, muddy track that seemed to be climbing straight into the clouds.
I could do nothing but climb with it. The moorland rose steeply to my right and fell sharply to my left. There was no place to turn around and I had no intention of backing down a road I could barely see.”
Aunt Dimity books are very cozy. The murder is often in the past but the story still carries the reader along. The main character, Lori, is bright and determined yet with realistic faults. The story employs the use of old letters discovered hidden in books to piece together the history of a teen girl, Claire, raised in the castle who fell in love with a young man whom her father refused to accept and the resulting sad chain of events and hidden treasure yet to be found. There is some fine layering of subplots past and present that make this a bona fide delight of a read.
If you are looking for a classic style tale with the remote setting, creepy atmosphere that isn’t horror or too scary, this is the book for you – and consider the 6 CD audio version as an added treat. But note that this is still an adult book and although mild in violence it is not suitable for younger readers because of “adult themes” that are raised in the story. The ending is satisfactory although one aspect I felt had little, if any, evidence presented prior.
Four out of Five Cozy Armchairs!
About the reviewer:
Ms. Heart is a
Friday, October 23, 2009
I don't know about other writers, but naming a character is sometimes a stumbling block for me. I have several criteria for choosing a character name in either a romance novel or mystery novel.
1 - Simplicity: I don't want to stumble over it every time I type it, and I don't want readers to stumble over it reading it. Odd spellings will visually trip you up.
2 - It doesn't have the same first initials of any other character in the book: I once ended up with a book that was populated by characters whose named either began with a 'C' or an 'M'. It was confusing to readers, and to me!
3 - It is proper for the time/place/age of the character. No 'Tiffanies' in a Regency set novel.
4 - It has to be euphonious if it is a central character, and I have to like it. I don't mind odd names for secondary characters, but weird names for central characters will trip a reader - and me - up.
So... I generally look online, search baby names lists, especially lists that are sorted by dates and origin. I try different names and think about it for a while, generally. Sometimes the name just pops into my head, but that doesn't happen often.
Some memorable names in murder mysteries? Well, I love Joan Hess's Maggody series, and her names are exceptionally memorable, especially the legion of Buchanon's. Besides Kevin and his family there is Raz, who keeps a pig, Marjorie, and nobody is sure what his relationship with the pig is actually all about. But other Buchanon's include Duluth, Zebulon, Hammet and Petrol.
For writers... how do you choose names for your characters? Is it easy? Hard? Do you have a process?
For readers... do you have any likes or dislikes as for names of characters?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
*Editor's Note: Welcome again to reviewer Ariel Heart. This time I'm interested in reader comments... did this review give you enough information? Has it made you want to read the book? Skip it? Let us know!
Pretty is as Pretty Dies
by Elizabeth Spann Craig
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: MIDNIGHT INK (August 1, 2009)
Myrtle Clover is eighty-something and has an attitude. Don't get her started! When her son Red signs her up for "altar duty" at church to keep her out of his hair, she retaliates with filling her front yard chock full of gnomes. Why? Because she lives across the street from her son and it is a daily reminder he has angered her. Yes, Myrtle is a handful.
A gnome village miraculously mushroomed overnight in Myrtle’s yard while Red slept. Ceramic gnome characters, all engaged in a variety of cute activities, graced her front lawn. Elaine walked past her kitchen window. She blinked. ‘’Oh Lord. Your mom’s called out the gnome patrol, Red. What did you do?”
“What?” Red pushed the curtain aside. He groaned and pressed his hands against his eyes, hoping when he opened them the image of a hundred ceramic gnomes cluttering his mother’s yard across the street would have vanished. He was disappointed.
The altar duty her son signed her up for is the reason that she stumbles upon the body of detested local real estate agent Parke Stockard in the church sanctuary. Myrtle takes this as a perfect opportunity to show her son she isn't senile nor is she ready for a life of soap operas.
There is some humor between Red (who is the Chief of Police) and Myrtle when Red conspires to let Myrtle overhear false clues and send her on wild goose chase to keep her out of trouble. But Myrtle takes the wild goose chase and uncovers Parke having an affair with the local politician. Myrtle is more than a match for her son and she quickly has a list of suspects. Was it the local politician, or maybe his wife, perhaps it was Parke’s drug-using son, the town reporter, the reporter’s mother is even a suspect. It seems too many people wanted troublesome Parke gone.
What Myrtle really needs, as she sees it, is a side kick! Will the new-to-the-area older gentleman take up the job and assist Myrtle? Will Myrtle's never subtle snooping get her in trouble with the real killer? This is the classic cozy with tongue-in-cheek humor and small town antics. It is deceptively simple while it draws you in adding to the charm of the overall story. The wrap-up of the murder is adequate and the town and characters are nicely brought to life. The only drawback is, it seems short, but perhaps that is a sign of how the reader is drawn into the story.
About the reviewer: Ms. Heart is a
Four 'Cozy Armchairs' out of five!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
And that's where we come to why I read murder mystery fiction; simply put, I love it.
Murder mysteries, how I love thee... let me count the ways:
- A crime is committed. I've always been interested in crime, and watch cold case mysteries on TV, Court TV and even some true crime books. For an historical example of a true crime book I've read twice and now am looking for to read again, look up 'The Maul and the Pear Tree' by P.D. James. It's a fascinating tale of murder in Regency England.
- Tight plotting, with a clear storyline. I've read the occasional 'literary' fiction novel (some for school, like The French Lieutenant's Woman) and can't get into non-linear, unclear plotting.
- Interesting settings. Murder mysteries have exposed me to a version of Arkansas, the Pacific Northwest, the sunny beaches of Florida, village life in England, and many more places, all from my armchair!
- Fascinating characters. Who can read about Joan Hess's inimitible Hizzoner, Jim Bob Buchanon and the whole Buchanon clan and not howl with laughter? From there I go to Diane Mott Davidson's frazzled caterer Goldy Schulz... they become like family members you get updates on via the yearly newsletter!
- A puzzle, solved. I want to know. That's what it comes down to. I want to know not only whodunnit, but whydunnit? And Howdunnit? I'm snoopy by nature, and murder mysteries satisfy some of that snoopiness.
- They take me away... truly. I go somewhere else when I'm engrossed in a good mystery novel. It's a lovely feeling, refreshing when I come out of my stupor; it's kind of like coming home from a mini-vacation.
- Justice done. I rage at the inability of our human system, inevitably flawed, to truly find justice in the horrendous world of real-life murder. In real life, cases get caught up in the court system for years to come, but on the pages of a mystery you know who did it by the end, and they (usually) get their just desserts.
(Update: I am misusing the phrase 'just desserts', and I rarely do abuse the English language... anymore. For an explanation of why the phrase is actually 'just deserts', (single 's', not double) go here: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-just-deserts-mean.htm I will take credit for my second-thinking this morning, wondering if I was using the phrase right... and I found out I was wrong!!)
Anyhoo.... why did I add this recipe? Reason number 8 on my list, tho' I didn't put it down is... I love culinary mysteries, ones that have recipes, so I thought I'd do a blog-with-a-recipe!! I do copy them out, (recipes in mysteries) and I do use them. (BTW, does anyone know why my list shows up as a numbered list in the edit mode, but won't post that way??)
That's my short list. I could go into it at length, but I'm interested in all of YOU! Soooo... chime in, all you mystery lovers. Why do YOU love to read mysteries??
Friday, October 16, 2009
Writing Mystery Games and Novels
By: Elspeth Antonelli
My first foray into mystery writing was writing murder mysteries as fundraising events for various theatre companies. I came up with a plot and the characters and the actors (for the most part) worked out their own dialogue. This experience was to hold me in very good stead when I began writing murder mystery games.
These games are usually played in people’s houses and are used as entertainment for a dinner or birthday party. Obviously, they’re very popular over Halloween and many people play them New Year’s Eve. What’s it like writing a mystery game? It’s similar to writing a very detailed outline for a book. You need to have a certain number of characters and the murder has usually just occurred.
Everyone is a suspect. Some of my games have actual scripted clues where guests have the option of just reading their clue cards out loud, but many have clues that begin “Tell several people...” and the guest can put the information into their own words.
My latest game Deadly Ever After is a mystery involving famous literary characters like Snow White, Juliet and Long John Silver. I used a similar theme for Once Upon a Murder (although more characters come from nursery rhymes). I’ve also written ‘decade’ mysteries for the 1970s and 1960s. I try to make the mysteries funny and the solution logical but also amusing. It’s a party, after all! I’m very fortunate because, if I put my mind to it, I can write a game and be sending it to my editor within a week.
Writing mystery novels take a great deal more time, mainly because I seem to be drawn to plots taking place in the 1930s and 1940s in England. These mysteries are rather complex and the characters are multidimensional. I write “whydunnits” rather than “whodunnits” as it has always been the “why?” which I have found fascinating.
The other main difference between my games and my books is the subject matter. With the games, I try to write what will sell, regardless of whether I find it personally intriguing. It’s like writing a commission; which I have also done. The market dictates what I write. With my books, I write what I would want to read; and hope that I’m not the only one!
Both forms are fun and both have their different rewards. I’m glad I can play in different ways, it makes for some interesting times!
Check out Elspeth’s blog:
To check out Elspeth’s and others wonderful mystery games go to:
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Where do you go for murder mystery novel reviews? I like to read reviews of books before I buy them, but there do not seem to me to be as many reliable book review sites and blogs for murder mysteries as there are for romances. Not sure why.
So, when I want to check out a review I go to Amazon.com, though I find the reader reviews shaky, at best. Too often the 'reviewers' (to be kind and call them that) allow personal grievances to color their review. Now, I (better than many) understand that a review is a personal opinion, but I want to know WHY the reviewer feels the way they do, not just 'this book was crap'.
My other source, right now, is The Mystery Reader: http://www.themysteryreader.com/
Their reviews are not bad, but they don't do them enough, and they often don't review the books I really want to know about.
So... where do YOU go for murder mystery novel reviews? Or do you even bother reading reviews? Inquiring minds want to know!
Other stuff: I am still on the hunt for reviewers, as well as point-of-view pieces of murder mystery novels, 'Why I Write Mysteries', 'Why I Read Mysteries', or anything else of interest pertaining to writing or reading mysteries!
Also... tomorrow we have a treat. Elspeth Antonelli, blogger, game creator and writer, will give us her insight into the difference between creating/writing a story for a mystery game and writing a murder mystery novel.
Check it out!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
*Editor's Note: Welcome to Elizabeth Spann Craig, today's Tuesday 'Why I Write Mysteries' columnist! After reading her piece I feel like saying, 'What she said!' Love it! Enjoy, everyone!
I'm a bona fide mystery nut.
When I was a kid, I got my hands on every Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden book I could find. The two series were very different from each other, and I’d switch back and forth between the two.
Once I started reading mysteries, I never stopped. I graduated to Agatha Christie, then to Martha Grimes. Then I read any mystery anyone ever recommended to me or that sounded interesting to me.
Why do I love them so much?
I love the process of restoring order. I love reading (and writing) about an idyllic setting where a serious problem is introduced and then methodically—and successfully—solved. Good triumphs over evil and order is restored to the idyll.
I love starting on the same page as the sleuth. We can identify with them easily since we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle yet, either.
I love the fact that everyone has something to hide—like so many of us in real life. No one wants their dirty laundry aired and they’ll try to lie and cover up evidence in order to keep their secrets.
I love the small town gossip in cozy mysteries.
I love the frightening moment when the sleuth is face to face with the murderer. I love pulling for the sleuth as she outsmarts the killer.
My most favorite thing about mysteries? Creating my own by incorporating my favorite mystery elements into a manuscript.
Elizabeth Spann Craig
Pretty is as Pretty Dies—August 2009, Ink
Memphis BBQ Series—May 2010, Berkley Prime Crime
Monday, October 12, 2009
Pardon me, my American friends, while we Canadians celebrate our Thanksgiving a little (ahem, right on time, really) early.
Here are some Thanksgiving themed mysteries that sound interesting to me:
Death of a Turkey: a Peggy Jean Turner mystery (2005) - Kate Borden
It's Thanksgiving--and it's not just the turkey who's in danger.
As tourists arrive at Cobb's Landing to enjoy an authentic Colonial-style Thanksgiving, mayor Peggy Turner would be thankful for nothing more than a clue as to who killed her neighbor--a clue that didn't point to her.
Turkey Day Murder: a Lucy Stone mystery (2001) - Leslie Meier
From Library Journal
Although much of her time is spent on family, fund-raising, and helping her best friend with day-care kids, Lucy Stone (Valentine Murder)Athe sleuthing reporter of Tinker's Corner, MEApromises an elderly friend that she will find out who murdered a confrontational local Native American. Recent selectmen board meetings regarding the Metinnicut Indians have been getting out of hand. Most of the townsfolk believe that the Natives want federal recognition only so that they can open a casino, but the dead man thought otherwise. Lightweight, approachable prose; cozy, small-town ambiance; and a down-to-earth sleuth make this a good choice for most collections.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Fowl Prey: a Bed and Breakfast mystery (2001) - Mary Daheim
Leaving the Hillside manor in capable hands, bed-and-breakfast hostess Judith McMonigle heads north to Vancouver's Hotel Clovia with her irrepressibly voracious cousin Renie for a pre-Thanksgiving getaway.But when an addled and impoverished popcorn vendor is murdered-along with his foul-mouthed pet parakeet-a local copper's suspicious gaze settles on the two visiting Americans. The cousins, in turn, suspect one of the "Sacred Eight" -- an odd-duck assortment of glamorous showbiz glitterati currently gathered at the historic hotel. And unless Judith and Renie can pluck a killer from the secretive, star-studded group, their geese will be thoroughly cooked in short order!So, to all my Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving!
And to everyone else... Happy Monday!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Here is a list of the books so far:
On What Grounds, September 2003
Through The Grinder, October 2004
Latte Trouble, August 2005
Murder Most Frothy, August 2006
Decaffeinated Corpse, July 2007
French Pressed, April 2008
Espresso Shot, October 2008
November 3rd will see the release of a brand new Village Blend mystery, Holiday Grind, and Cleo Coyle will be here with a wonderful Question and Answer interview exclusive to Cozy Murder Mysteries.
There's nothing cozier than a winter evening in Greenwich Village. Streetlights shimmer through icy flakes, cafés glow with welcoming warmth, and a layer of snow dusts historic townhouses like powdered sugar on holiday confections. Murder has no place in such a pretty picture, until now...
Coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi has grown very fond of Alfred Glockner, the part-time comic and genuinely jolly charity Santa who's been using her Village Blend as a place to warm his mittens. When she finds him brutally gunned down in a nearby alley, a few subtle clues convince her that Alfred's death was something more than the tragic result of a random mugging--the conclusion of the police. With Clare's boyfriend, NYPD Detective Mike Quinn, distracted by a cold case of his own, and ex-husband Matt investigating this year's holiday lingerie catalogs (an annual event), Clare charges ahead solo to solve her beloved Santa's slaying. Then someone tries to ice Clare, and she really gets steamed. But she'd better watch out, because if she fails to stop this stone cold killer, she may just get the biggest chill of her life.This very special holiday entry in Cleo Coyle's nationally bestselling mystery series includes a bonus section of delicious holiday recipes as well as a glossary of coffeehouse terms, instructions on making espressos and lattes without an expensive machine, and tips for creating tasty coffeehouse syrups at home.
Looking forward to it!!
Friday, October 9, 2009
Also on this page, download your free computer wallpapers! I looove free stuff!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Murder Mystery Board Games
However, it appears that there is a whole new world of Clue games out there from Hasbro. 'Cluedo', as it was first called when it was invented in 1949 by Anthony E. Pratt, now has a DVD version, a card game, a Harry Potter and a 'The Office' version (I wonder if Michael Scott is the victim?). Other than that there are also a whole variety of games out there to help you host a murder mystery party. I've never been to one, but have any of you? I would love to hear first hand from someone who had been to a murder mystery evening.
Murder Mystery Jigsaw Puzzles
Have you heard of these? I've actually done one, and for someone with the boredom threshold of an antsy three-year-old (me!) when it comes to board games and jigsaw puzzles, it was cool! To me there were three levels of interest: first, I kind of like jigsaw puzzles anyway, second, the picture on the box cover is NOT what you'll be putting together (Yippee!) and then you are actually solving a mystery at the same time! Great fun! Find a complete set of Alphabet murder mystery puzzles (Not connected to Sue Grafton's 'Alphabet' series of murder mysteries) at Mystery Game Central.
Computer Murder Mystery Games
I'm not much of computer gamer, but I have been tempted by the CSI Computer Games. I have to admit, though, as much as I looove CSI New York (Gary Sinise is so believable as an investigator/cop!) I cannot stand the gruesome elements, and I'm deathly afraid the computer game would expect me to get upcloseandpersonal with someone's bullet-riddled esophagus, or something. Yuck!!
So for a lily-liver, some of the best interpretations of mystery to computer is the Nancy Drew series (the Hardy Boys have a computer game series, too) and the Agatha Christie games are also very good! Except... I can't solve them. Again, that three-year-old's short attention span. By the way, this 'ants in my pants' feeling only seems to apply to games. I can read or write for hours on end and not get antsy.
Anyway, Mystery Game Central has a wonderful rundown of these computer mystery games as well! Have any of you played them?
Online Mystery Games
A world that is new/foreign to me is the online gaming community. Oh, I've known it existed, but who knew there were mystery games out there? There seem to be many, but one that is intriguing to me is Sleuth. According (again) to Mystery Game Central, it is an "open-ended online detective game where you solve mysteries by searching for clues, questioning suspects and interviewing witnesses." Sounds like fun!
I suppose I wrote this in response to my realization that Christmas is coming. Do you have mystery lover on your gift list for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? A teenager? A pre-teen? If the 'giftee' of your choice won't sit still to read, how about a mystery game of some sort?
For a great rundown of all kinds of murder mystery games see (wait for it...): Mystery Game Central
So... have you ever tried any of these types of mystery games? If you have, chime in and tell me about it!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
*Note from the editor: Welcome to Camille Minichino, aka Margaret Grace, author of the wonderful ‘Miniature’ Mysteries, that are miniature only in that they deal with miniatures and dollhouses. Enjoy her unusual and wonderful take on why she writes mysteries! It’s really more what mysteries are to her! Enjoy!
Why I Write Mysteries
by: Margaret Grace (aka Camille Minichino)
I write mysteries because it's so much like doing physics. You might even say,
MYSTERIES = MC2
[Some people think I see everything in relation to physics. As if that's a bad thing!]
We often hear that mysteries are like puzzles, that writers and readers enjoy putting the pieces together, ending up with a satisfying solution, much like turning 1500 jagged pieces into a reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers.
I'm in accord with that notion, but only to a certain extent.
Surely, mysteries are not like jigsaw puzzles, where all the pieces can be piled before us with one brisk dump from the box, and what's required is simply to sort them by color or shape and fit them together.
Neither are mysteries like Rubik's cube puzzles, where the faces of a block are bound as one, but in the wrong order.
We have everything we need; our job is to make the correct twists and turns.
Is a mystery like a crossword puzzle? I don't think so. Again, all the clues are there in a couple of columns. In most cases, there are black squares that are cues to word length. We fill in the blanks and enjoy a sense of accomplishment when every square is filled in.
How about an acrostic?
Now we're getting closer.
Closer to mysteries and to physics. Especially if we're looking at a diagramless acrostic.
Contemporary acrostics use two sets of clues: one set might be a list of definitions or word play phrases, the other is a quotation that emerges as correct letters are transferred to a grid that has no marks for word length. The solver works in both directions, sometimes figuring out the definitions, anagrams, or puns, and other times using insight into what the quote is about. That is, sometimes looking at the pieces, sometimes at the whole.
There's often also a vertical clue, where the initial letters of every definition spell out the quote's author and source. This gives us even a third set of clues to work or "see through."
In the same way, in a good "whodunit" mystery, there are many sets of clues that unfold: some are hidden in plain sight, some are subtly presented, some not; some are within the character profiles and arcs, the setting, or the plot. These mysteries are solved not by simply putting a given number of known pieces together, but by first sorting out the pieces that matter from the ones that don't. Maybe there are a couple of red herrings; maybe there are no herrings of any color.
I've seen puzzles where the manufacturer has deliberately included extra pieces that don't belong in the scene. Those puzzles are more like the great physics problems: figuring out the messy universe.
But solving the mysteries of the universe may take a while. In the meantime, I have nothing against working and reading on the small scale of a good, messy whodunit.
Neither doing physics nor reading mysteries should be taken lightly. Remember Woody Allen's admission: "I'm astounded by people who want to 'know' the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown."
Thursday, October 1, 2009
But... (you knew there was a but, didn't you?) I do have a writing career to attend to, and I must get organized! I'm in the middle of so many things, it's driving me slightly bonkers!
Sooooo... I'm going to take a brief... very brief, really... break, less than a week, to allow me time to catch my breath and work uninterrupted.
I will be back October Sixth with a wonderful treat, Margaret Grace also known as Camille Minichino on why writing mysteries is like physics. ?? I know! If you have a perplexed look on your face, good... you'll have to come back next Tuesday, October 6th at 8:01 AM to find out just how writing mysteries is like physics!
Also coming up:
Elizabeth Spann Craig on 'Why I Write Mysteries'
Publisher Spotlight on... Poisoned Pen Press
Author Q&A's on Cleo Coyle and Sue Ann Jaffarian
Marion Moore Hill 'On Touring' - A Mystery author takes her show on the road.
As well as....
More reviews, more author interviews, seasonal reads, and lots more!
I am still looking for: reviewers, opinion pieces, Why I Read Mysteries, Why I Write Mysteries, author profiles. I'm open to suggestion! If you've written a blog piece on some aspect of murder mysteries, especially cozy, and want someone to host it, think of me!
See you Tuesday, October 6th!