Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows' Eve Rituals

So, now is the time for my October 31st rituals. They are two-fold. First, I have to dress the kiddos up and take them out to acquire enough sugary goodness to rot their teeth before puberty. The youngest will be a pirate. See, he's planned on being a pirate for weeks. The costume is made, right down to the eye patch and plastic sword. Except yesterday he decided he wanted to be a Power Ranger again. Nice try kid.

The eldest has decided that he is too old and too cool for candy begging--although he will deign to take his little bro around to get the goodies. And he will wear a black cape. That's pretty much it. :sobs: They grow up so fast.

The rest of my ritual revolves around NaNoWriMo. Unless you are some hapless soul who wandered in here and can't find the exit, you're one of my writer friends and probably know all about National Novel Writing Month. 30 days. 50,000 words.

Last year I went in with a 50 page outline. This year I only have a 15 pager. I'm a wee bit apprehensive, but I'll manage. I hope.

Naturally I'm staying in the 19th century and continuing to work on Death by Scandal (or Murder by Scandal. I can't decide on a title.) The story is humming along and I have a firm idea of where the next 10K are going. I hope to write them this weekend. Yes, that is absolutely insane. But this year I have a secret weapon.

I have my new office downstairs which means I can write late at night if I want and tonight I intend to hit the ground at midnight. I have a coffee pot and by that time I will be armed with my children's Halloween candy.
What more can any writer as for?

Obligations in November? I have a few. Full time job. Kids in school. The conclusion of soccer season and beginning of basketball. Thanksgiving. Two camping trips planned. A jury trial next week. And those 50,000 words. Piece of cake.

So how about you. Do you NaNo? I want to hear about everyone's project!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Know Who (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)

Todays post is familiar detectives in mystery. Those dependable, tried and true investigators.

1. LOLs: No, I don't mean Lolzcats. I mean Little Old Ladies. They are a snoopy breed with free time and disposable income. Between cups of tea and their knitting, they manage to ferret out evildoers from our midst. THE CLASSIC: Miss Jane Marple of course.

2. Nosy Kids: If there is anyone more curious than an LOL, it's a kid. Put a gang of them together and apparently they are more potent than a trained police force. Hey, school only lasts a few hours and if it's summer then they have nothing but free time. I'm including teens and that means THE CLASSIC: Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys tie FTW! (but I'm not ignoring the 3 Investigators or Trixie Belden!)

3. Falsely Accused: They don't want to be embroiled in a crime and would rather not try to investigate a murder, but they have no choice. The coppers think they did it and--not fancying a looooooooong sentence breaking rocks (or a date with Old Sparky the electric chair)--they must marshall their faculties and find the true bad guy. THE CLASSIC: That guy on the Fugitive. Richard Kimble maybe? I'm too lazy to google it. Or I don't care enough. Take your pick, but feel free to correct me in the comments.

4. The Professional: This is where you find the defective detective (police or private) or cop with a mistake in his past that he's trying to atone for. Maybe he convicted an innocent man and discovered it too late. Perhaps he was an alchoholic and now his wife and kids no longer speak to him. But he's always got personal reasons for his Holy Crusade for Truth and Justice. You can bet that the other cops will try to thwart him, but he's the Good Guy and will prevail. Not only is he battling the forces of evil, but his own personal demons as well. THE CLASSIC: Sherlock Holmes. He's a brilliant drug addict with serious personal issues.

5. The Investigative Reporter: Of course he is after the story, but mostly he just has a passion for revealing the hidden. Expect lots of freedom of the press speeches with this one and expect those in power to be engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the crime. But Clark Kent is not deterred by those who seek to hide under rocks. He believes in absolute truth, justice, and the American Way. Just don't ask his real identity. THE CLASSIC: Carl Kolchak of The Nightstalker.

So who am I missing? You tell me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 Things You Can Learn From a Dame

Especially if the dame is Dame Agatha Christie. Okay, so I blogged about 5 tropes that chap my hide in mysteries. Now it's time to feel the love. See, there is bad familiar--that brother-in-law you will smack if he says "You gonna eat that?" one more time. Then there is that good sort of familiar--Mom's apple pie. You know how it will taste, but you love it. What tried and true favorites still make my tastebuds tingle?

1. The Locked Room Mystery: I love a good puzzle and nothing is better for me than the How Dunnit. I think my favorite may be Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun. Then again, you can't count out the ABC Murders (originally published as Who Killed Roger Ackroyd). Nobody does it like the Dame.

2. The Big Speech: The one where Charlie Chan lays out exactly what happened and how he deduced the solution. Then the lights go out. A gunshot rips through the darkness. *happy sigh* Yes, it's cheesy, but I love it. Just in case I missed something, it's reassuring to know all the answers. Monk also does this and Hercule Poirot was another master of the explanation. It's all in zee leetle gray cells, Hastings.

3. The Romantic Crimesolving Duo: In movies the king and queen were Nick and Nora Charles of the The Thin Man series. In TV, it was Jennifer and Jonathan of Hart to Hart. In literature, Tommy and Tuppence were my favorite romantic duo in all of the Agatha Christie novels. Even as a married pair, the sizzled with attraction for one another and the smart repartee kept me grinning. Nothing spices death like a pinch of love.

4. Exotic Locals: Remember the Carribean in Sparkling Cyanide? Or the gorgeous visions of Egpyt in Death on the Nile? I want to go someplace when I read and nothing appeals to me more than these exotic settings. Mysteries seem more mysterious, romance is more romantic, danger is more dangerous. It takes the known and familiar and sweeps it away. I can be completely immersed in the alternate world of fiction. For a bonus, anything written by M.M. Kaye can do that for you. I've recently decided to purchase (I've lost my old copies somewhere in a move) all her books and reread them. I can't wait.

5. It was nice knowing you: Mr. Redshirt extra guy from the away team. Mr. Bit Player who dies only to serve as exposition. In Agatha Christie, this was usually a maid or handyman who snoops too much and falls prey to the murderer. She made this work so well for her. That's what makes Miss Marple so cozy. A nice safe murder of a minor player. Lovely.

So those are some of my favorite Agathaisms. What makes you smile in a good sort of familiar way?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Butler Did it!

Okay, so I've blogged a lot about romance lately and I've been reading stacks of it, but I've recently returned to my first love. I'm a fickle bitch, but for me there is nothing like a good mystery. I had gotten bored and frustrated with the offerings on the market. Nothing did it for me anymore. Cozy? Blah. I don't need another niche mystery about knitting or dog training or herbal gardening with a bit of sleuthing on the side and a safe love interest. Snore. A savage police procedural? A twisted legal thriller? Um, no. Thanks. I work in the justice system. I want escape, not a further dose of my life. Private Detectives? Not so much. So he drinks and has issues with his ex. Whatever.

But then I (insert happy snoopy dance of joy) discovered historical mysteries and it was Calgon, take me away once more. Recent joys have been Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive and Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave. Both are excellent debuts set in Victorian England. 19th century Europe? Squee!

Now I'm happily back to writing mysteries (historical of course!) and I've been thinking about the familiar tropes of the genre that rub my kitty fur the wrong way.

1.Dangerous to Know: This is the amateur sleuth who manages to stumble across the dead body of a minor player in the first 30 pages of every novel. Seriously, how many dead bodies can one person find?

2.He had it coming: The victim is EEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIILLLLLLLL!!! With capital E and stuff. He's a baddy mcbaddy who evicts little old ladies, kicks puppies and steals candy from kids for kicks. It isn't a question of who had a motive, but of who didn't. Oh, and the one person who doesn't have a motive? That's your killer. Yep. This is especially prevalent in cozies where bad stuff shouldn't really happen to good people.

3. Vee Haf Vayz of Making You Talk: tricking the killer into a public confession or going to retrieve incriminating evidence or moving the body or any other bluff to magically solve the crime. I like to call this the Scooby Doo Method of crimesolving. It seems to work best with overconfident/panicky/stupid criminals. I'd have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

4. Keystone Cops: This is an older but a goody. The inneffective/corrupt/stupid police. They are incapable of solving the crime. Good thing the knitting circle's little old ladies are on the job! This is another trope that cozies are especially guilty of. Naturally an inquisitive elementary school teacher is better suited for solving crimes between classes than trained professionals. Bonus points awarded if she receives assistance from cute kids and a dog.

5. Can Johnny Come out and Play? I seriously hate killers who leave playful clues or engage in games with the cops. Poetic messages, children's rhymes, a black rose, hints about the next victim, taunting calls to the detective's unlisted number? Jack the Ripper beat you to it. Been there, done that, have the 19th century T-shirt to prove it. Time for fresh meat.

Okay, that's enough ranting for one day. I feel better now. Much better. Whist and charades anyone?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

La La La! I can't hear you!

Ever been in your own little world? Of course you have. That's why you're a writer. Lately I've been inhabiting the fantasyland of my latest book. Since it is set in the nineteenth century, I find I've gotten a little strange. French phrases have begun to pepper my vocabulary. I felt chilly this morning and wondered where my pelisse was. I find gaslight strangely soothing.

Yes, I've well and truly lost it. Worst of all, I intend to stay in my London fog (no, not the coat) for at least another couple of months. My poor family.

But this started me thinking about imaginary worlds and books. Isn't this why many of us read? I want to be transported from my land of dirty dishes and homework to something different, something not mine. I want history, far away lands, vampires, victorian drawing rooms, flying monkeys. I want to be transported. That is basically why I read. Any author who can take me away (Yes. Just like Calgon.) is someone I will return to over and over.

That is what the best authors do. They create another world and invite you to step into it. I suppose this explains my current fascination with historical fiction. It is so very clearly NOT the here and now. I'm gonna ruminate on this for a couple of days--perhaps over a nice cuppa or some sherry. It's almost calling time and I need to be ready to recieve callers. Please instruct my groom to prepare the carriage. I have some shopping to do on Bond Street and I need to see my modiste.

Monday, October 6, 2008

10 Things I Hate (and <3) about you

Actually it's just five things I hate and five things I love in a hero. These are my personal preferences.

1. Mr. Forced seduction. Yuck. No want. You can add spanking and all manner of asshole coercive behavior to this. I don't find it appealing in any way shape or form. IMHO all this does is reinforce the stereotype that no means yes and that all women really want a man who treats them like crap.

2. Mr. Insert-Stupid-Name-Here. Need I say more? Don't name him Racque Woodmount. Just don't.

3. Mr.Rake to Mr. Pussywhipped in a single kiss. I mean really. Do men really go from hounddog to family man just like that? He beds anything that moves until he gets a gander of our heroine and suddenly he just wants a country house and babies with the misses while they play whist with the vicar on friday. Right. And speaking of, why is it supposed to be appealing that he's been indiscriminately promiscuous? Diseases? Surprise teenage bastards showing up on your doorstep looking for Daddykins? That's another no want!

4. Mr. Perfect. So don't name him Racque, but don't name him Gary Stu either. You know this hero. He's taller and handsomer than anyone else and more masculine and smarter plus he can shoot, fence, drive, and make whoopee better than any man in the history of forever. I like my heros flawed and tasty. Keep your rainbow-pooping Gary Stu in your own fantasy.

5. Mr. Personal Security System. He protects her from herself for her own good. This is sort of an offshoot of number 1, but deserves it's own spot. I include all the stalkerish, watching-her-sleep, hiring-someone-to-follow-her stuff here. I'm all about him keeping her safe, but this is usually just another form of abusive, controlling behavior. If she is TSTL and can't even be trusted to take a hand in her own safety, why is he supposedly wanting her in the first place? Get a dog you can kennel. Sheesh.

Okay, so now I sound like a picky bitch. (guilty!) I hate uber-controlling, violent, sexaholics with stupid names. So what do I love in a hero?

1. Mr. Tortured Soul. Oh, he's misunderstood and has a tragic past, but he tries to smile through the pain. Come here, baby. I'll make it better. Looooooooooove him.

2. Mr. Not Conventionally Handsome. Yes, I'm a sucker for the scarred or maimed hero. I realize as I'm drafting this list that I must have some sort of deep-seated nurturing instinct run amok. Oh well. I love him anyway. So there. I have a distrust for the too pretty. I don't want a man better looking than I am and I doubt I'm the only woman out there who feels that way. He should be manly, but he doesn't need to be Gerard Butler (although I sure wouldn't boot him out of bed if I managed to get Gerry drunk enough to...nevermind. Staying PG here.)

3. Mr. Humor. Love me some funnyman. Not the yucking it up sort of way, but a wry appreciation for the absurdity of life and a man who doesn't take himself too seriously gets me right in the... *cough* ...moving right along... *fans self*

4. Mr. Smart. No big dumb meatheads need apply. This slot in my heart is reserved for the intelligent man. Bonus points if he's got common sense. I have a serious affection for the geeks of the world. I think one of my favorite heros is the slightly nerdy man with unrequited love for the heroine who rises to the challenge to protect her and wins her heart. Om nom nom nom.

5. Mr. Capable. I don't want a perfect Gary Stu, but the guy should be capable of providing for his family, changing a lightbulb or at least shooting the bad guys. If he's good for nothing, she needs a puppy instead. And I adore a man who is very talented at something. Good with his hands. Yeah, that too.

So basically I'm looking for a capable, intelligent man with a wry sense of humor, unconventional looks and a tortured soul. Got any spare ones lying around?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blog? What Blog?

Um, yeah. I haven't blogged in a bit because my life was operating a critical mass for about 10 days. Whew. When squeezed by life, online activities were the first thing to get chucked out the window. I'm back and blogging again. In fact, I may double-dip and blog again later today.

I was inspired by Dear Author's Super-sizing of Alpha-Males post a couple of days ago. I'm going to blog about my loves and hates for heros and then again for heroines. As always, feel free to join me in feeling the love (and the hate, cause we all know snark is fun.)