Mysteries

In my first mystery, The Body in the Attic, I meant to write an Agatha Christie type murder where a body is found in the first chapter and then countless witnesses and suspects are introduced until the murder is solved.  That was my intent.  And I didn’t quite stick to it.  But I just finished reading Mary Angela’s A VERY MERRY MURDER.  She purposely structured her book to be like a Christie novel, and she pulled it off.  She even used a Christie story for her protagonist, Professor Emmeline Prather, to teach in her Crime and Passion English class–an elective class that focused on mysteries and romances.  Even better, Angela used the same murder technique for the current mystery that Christie used in hers.  If you’re a Christie fan, it was awesome!

Such attention to detail, alas, I didn’t manage.  I discovered poor Aunt Lynda’s body in the first chapter, yes, but then I introduced a subplot that intrigued me a little too much, and before long, another body was required to move the plot along.  Which, I have to admit, I was pretty happy with.  Which shows that even if you outline, like I do, the best laid plans can go awry.

In my second mystery, The Body in the Wetlands, bodies seemed to pile up without my even trying.  One murder leads to the next and the one after that until Jazzi and Ansel, along with Detective Gaff, finally catch the killer.  The moral of the story?  Try never to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And of course, there’s another dog in this story.  I grew quite fond of Cocoa, the chocolate Lab.

I’ve been reading quite a few mysteries lately, and back when I read Christie, the actual murder and puzzle are what made me turn the pages.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed Miss Marple and Poirot.  And Christie could draw a character in only a few brush strokes, so I “knew” them–what motivated them–but didn’t get to know them, if that makes any sense.  Lately, though, I’m every bit as interested in the characters in the story, who they are and what they’re doing, and I’m disappointed if they’re not filled out more.

I liked Mary Angela’s professor and how seriously she took teaching college students who often weren’t as motivated as she was.  I enjoyed the budding romance between Enmeline and Lenny, and I loved the widow who lived across the street and didn’t miss anything.  She was a whiz at baking and let Emmeline know her Christmas cookies were inferior.  All fun stuff that added layers to the story.

I guess, these days, I enjoy lots of different kinds of stories hung on a mystery plot.  The only time I’m disappointed is when the end of the mystery–how it’s solved and whodunnit–aren’t handled well.  After all, it’s a mystery, even if the murder only serves as a foundation to wrap other subplots around.  But I expect a murder, clues, red herrings, and a satisfying conclusion.  The rest is all extras.  I don’t want a murderer pulled out of a hat or for the clues to not add up.  Other than that, I go along for what I hope is a fun ride.  Whatever you’re reading now, I hope it keeps you turning pages and you’re happy you read it when you close the book.

And happy writing!

 

 

 

Advertisements

He didn’t!

I went to writers’ group last Wednesday and listened to three of our members, all topnotch authors who volunteered to read.  Les Bock is writing a crime thriller, and some of the scenes he comes up with blow my mind.  I don’t see the twist coming, and it’s usually something I’d never expect from him.  Kathy Palm is working on a middle grade horror book, and she’s read enough, I know that she can go to creepy places that make me squirm.  Ruth Baker, a playwrite, usually visits serious subjects but she read something fun and whimsical.  My point is, if you talked to any of those three people, you’d never guess what they are capable of imagining.  It reminded me of a time a visitor came to Scribes and I read an unusual piece, and she looked at me and said, “But you seem like such a nice person.”

I AM a nice person, but I don’t always WRITE about nice people.  If everyone in a novel was nice, there wouldn’t be a story, no tension, no conflict.  Now an antagonist doesn’t always have to be a bad person.  Two good people can be coming at the same thing from different points of view, for different reasons, and clash.  But a strong antagonist sure makes an already good story even better, whether he’s on the page or behind the scenes.  And a bad antagonist can make readers chew their fingernails.

In Julia Donner’s Western historical AVENUE TO HEAVEN, Annie Corday’s ex-husband made me cringe with fear every time his shadow fell across a page.  When he finally decides to return to Chicago, he has a wooden coffin delivered to her front door to let her know his intentions.  And honestly, after reading about some of the things he’d done, a quick death would probably be better than most of his other options.  He was so obscenely bipolar, smiling and proclaiming his love while he beat her senseless, that he made me queasy.  Villains like that make a reader turn the pages.  They stay with you. (https://www.amazon.com/Avenue-Heaven-Westward-Bound-Book-ebook/dp/B076HVGS98/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1539399302&sr=8-11&keywords=julia+donner+kindle)

If you’ve read any of the posts in the Q & A blogs that I posted from Ilona Andrews, one of the questions reminded me of myself when I was young and first starting to write.  The person asked how she could make her characters distinct, because hers all ended up being a lot the same.  Ilona Andrews’s answer made me smile.  She replied,

I suspect that your ethics keep getting in the way.  You have a strong sense of right and wrong, and when confronting a problem, you, and your characters, are thinking about the best way to resolve it according to your set of values.  Try to look at it from their point of view. 

And that’s the trick, isn’t it?  Each person in a story has his own code of morals and ethics, his own rules that he might bend, his own way to rationalize why he did what he did, whether good or bad.  The trick is for the author to get inside his character’s head when that character walks into a room, to see the world through his eyes, shaped by his experiences, needs, and wants.  And that character might do things we’d never condone, things that horrify or shame us, but our job is to make him and his actions believable.

Julia Donner was an actress and singer at one time.   She performed in many plays and tells me that when she writes, her characters come to her wholly formed, because she studied characters and their motivations for so long on the stage.  It took me a long time to write unlikeable characters, because I could always imagine what my mother would say if she read my story.  And a sex scene?  Heaven forbid!  Then a wonderful, wise woman who edited many of my early stories told me, “Blindfold your mother and gag your old Sunday School teachers. Listen to your characters and write them the way they are and say what they’d say.”  And she was right.  I stopped thinking about my audience and started thinking about my characters, living in their skins.  And then they did all kinds of things that I’d never expected, because I’d freed them to be themselves.

So whatever you’re working on at the moment, I hope your characters are distinct and real.  That doesn’t mean they get to decide where the story will go, because it’s YOUR story.  But it means that when they walk into a scene, they make it come to life, because they’re very much alive in your imagination.  Happy Writing!

 

Oh, those Alpha Males

I’m near the end of reading Ilona Andrews’s MAGIC TRIUMPHS.  Her heroine, Kate Daniels, is so strong with so many sword skills and so much magic that her love interest, Curran Lennart–whom she marries and has a child with later in the series–has to be exceptional, too, to be her equal.  So, in the beginning books of the series, he’s a shapeshifter who is the Beast Lord of the entire Atlanta pack–a shifter who becomes a giant lion who can kill and maim every bit as well as Kate.  She’s a female with an attitude, and he’s a male with enough ego and confidence to stand up to her.  He’s strong and sexy, but let’s face it.  That’s not enough.  He also has to respect Kate and be there for her.  He has to have a tender side when he deals with her.

I have to admit, I can take or leave most alpha males as heroes.  I’m just as into witty or clever heroes–men who are masculine without swagger and macho.  I don’t write alphas because that’s not my first inclination when I think of a hero.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading about them–especially if there’s a great cover with abs that ripple and biceps that bulge.  You know the ones.  The ones that snag your attention when you scroll down twitter or Amazon covers.

I happen to think Julia Donner writes some of the best male characters around, but for me, Ilona Andrews writes some of the best alphas.  I love “Mad” Rogan in her HIdden Legacy series, and I fell hard for Hugh D’Ambray when he switched from villain to hero in IRON AND MAGIC.  I’ve only read the fourth and final book in Staci Troilo’s Protectorate series, TORTURED SOUL, but that fourth Brother was an alpha to remember.  Another to add to my list–and he might be an all-time favorite–was Keir in WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughan.  All of these men were efficient killers who worked hard to do the right thing against impossible odds and to care for the women they loved.

How about you?  Do you have a thing for alpha males?  What’s your favorite type of male protagonist?  Do you have some favorites?

Whatever you’re working on now, I hope your characters come alive for you and happy writing!

 

Family and Friends

My sister Patty called today and said she was running to KFC to grab a bucket of chicken and sides, and what if she brought them to our house for a late lunch?  The hub and I love fried chicken, but I never make it.  I make more chicken recipes than any woman should, but frying a whole, cut-up one always seems like a lot of work to me, so I avoid it.  Having a bucket of it delivered to my door, though?  That was sort of like having the heavens smile on me.  So, of course, I said yes.

My cousin, Jenny, lives with Patty and came, too.  Once we finally all got settled and dug into the food, the usual flow of conversation began.  There’s nothing like family to sort out recent happenings, old stories, and new gossip.  Family remembers the time Patty thought her hair was too greasy, so I washed it for her with Comet cleanser.  It took my mom a month to get all of the green powder gunk out of her hair.  That led to the time Patty wanted her hair teased for the biggest updo she’d ever had and went to the prom looking like the Bride of Frankenstein.  And then Patty remembered my false eyelash phase and the time I took them off and left them on the sink top and Mom thought they were a spider and flushed them down the toilet.

The hub and I have friends that go back years and years, too.   John and Scott buddied up in second grade and are still BFFs.  He’s known a lot of his friends since high school, and every time one of them marries, the wife becomes part of the “group.”  When all of us get together, the talk often goes back to the old days when the guys worked together at a little hamburger drive-in near Packard Park and the girls’ softball games.

When I start a new book (like I am now), once I have the hook and the big question the plot hangs on, I usually write a chapter to see and hear my characters, and then I make character wheels to flesh them out.  And one of the first things on each character wheel is the character’s family.  What was the mom’s name?  What does she look like?  Did she work?  What job?  What kind of personality did she have?  Any habits?  Did she and the character get along?  Any special memories?

My mom was a wonderful cook, but she always shooed us out of the kitchen, so when I married my hub, I had no idea how to boil a potato, let alone brown a pork chop.  I’m always jealous of my friends who learned special family recipes by cooking with their mom or grandma while they were growing up.

I repeat the same questions for my character’s dad, any brothers and sisters, and any relatives that influenced him/her.  Did the son tinker with cars in his dad’s garage?  My dad raised chickens, and it was my job to gather the eggs and feed them every morning.  My mom hated the sound of the recorder when I had to learn to play it in school and made me practice it in the chicken coop.  Luckily, the chickens weren’t music critiques and seemed to enjoy it.  Often, once I see my character through his family’s eyes and how he sees them, it helps me understand what motivates him and why.

After I scribble out his family background, then I work on his education.  Did he graduate high school?  College?  Trade school?  Did he like school or loathe it?  My grandson had serious ADD/ADHD and school was an every day torment for him.  Was my character popular or a loner?  And what did he do once he grew up?  Escape as fast as he could or stick close to home?  Then I scribble out where he lives and what kind of vehicle he drives.  And finally, I list two friends and how he gets along with them.  Are they old friends or new?  Did he lose any old friends and how?  Any romantic interests presently or in the past?  And then I list someone he doesn’t like and it’s mutual–an antagonist (in his life) or a villain.  By the time I finish all of those, I have a pretty good feel for my character and what shaped him.

If it’s true that no one goes unscathed by family (for better or worse) and friends are the family we choose, there’s a lot of rich history and drama, along with memories, before a character steps onto our pages.

Wherever you are on whatever project you’re working on now, happy writing!

 

Not Enough

I got notes back from one of my critique partners.  More red than usual.  I wasn’t surprised.  I was trying to change an old–and not so wonderful–writing habit.   I’m more than happy to write:  She smiled.  He frowned.  And more times than should be humanly possible: He sighed.  A friend at writers’ club called me on it.  “We can do better than this, can’t we?”

Yes, yes, I can, but only if I work at it.  The problem?  My brain only seems capable of concentrating on so much.  In this book, I wanted to step up my tags and step up my pacing.  And as usual, things I normally do fairly well sagged a bit from neglect.  Not the end of the world.  Red ink circles show me what I need to fix.   Thank you, Mary Lou!

On my next book, my learning curve should go more smoothly.  The old and new should blend better.  AND, I should have enough ideas, witnesses, victims, and suspects to reach 70,000 words without panicking.  Plotting mysteries, for me, takes more than plotting romances.  Now, I know, I’m addicted to plotting when a lot  of my friends don’t even have to bother with it.  But for my mysteries, I’m not plotting enough.

I’m not sure why, but if I came up with 40 chapter ideas for the urban fantasies I wrote a long, long time ago as Judith Post, I could pound out 80,000 words if I wanted to, no problem.  Urban fantasy craves more description, battles that escalate the longer the book goes, and strong characters.  All things that demand words, so that word count grows organically.  It just happens.  It flows.

When I switched to writing romances as Judi Lynn, I used the same format–40 plot points, but this time, I only needed 70,000 words.  For romance, characters interacting with each other made up the majority of the words I used.  And 40 plot points morphed pretty well into 70,000 words for me.  The same hasn’t held true for mysteries.  I sang a sad dirge when I reached the end of this book’s first draft and was 10,000 words short.   I struggled to hit 70,000 words for my first mystery, too.

Now, I have friends who can cough up 100,000 words with no plot points with no problem.  And yes, I’m jealous.  They’re wonderful people, or I wouldn’t like them anymore.  But every writer’s different, and for me, starting a book with no plot points is like traveling across country with no maps or GPS.  I’d be lost all the time and take a winding, unusual route.  I might never reach my destination.

When I write mysteries, I’ve found that my chapters are shorter.  And I need more subplots.  I also need more suspects.  In this book, I introduced a perfect suspect and then didn’t do anything with him.  I gave him an alibi before I found the next body.  Shame on me.  When I figured out I’d made a mistake, I had to go back and add him in more scenes, and then, I had enough pages.  But going back and threading in scenes is a pain in the derriere, so I don’t want to do that again, if I can avoid it.  So, for my next mystery, I want to have 50 plot points before I forge ahead with the book.  And I want to list the victim/s, family members affected by the murder/s, witnesses, suspects, and anyone who might interfere with finding the killer.   And who knows?  Maybe I’ll end up with more words than I expected.  But at least, I’ll have plenty of material to work with.

Whatever you’re writing, and however you write, have fun with it!  I’ll be deep into editing this week.   Happiness is making words better!

My webpage (and I put up chapter 33):  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter”  @judypost     (I’d love to hear from you!)

Feedback

I love my writers’ group.  I’ve probably said that so often, you’re sick of hearing about it.  But I’m back to work on my mystery, and I finally read the first chapter to them on Wednesday.  I’ve rewritten the stupid thing so often, I was happy with the content, but I’d lost all  feel for it.  And, as always, they let me know what worked and what didn’t.

When I start a book, I’m in plot and character mode, and I have to concentrate on description.  I never get enough in there, so I have to go back and add it.  Now, in our group, each person  has their niche of what they nail best in critiques.  Mary Lou is a whiz at word choice and hooks, adding backloading for each paragraph and the ends of chapters.  Kathy Palm–a YA author–makes me think about emotions and description.  There were a dozen people there on Wednesday, and each person gave me good feedback.  I left my chapter at a happy place–a stupid thing for an author to do for the first chapter.  You want a hook to encourage the reader to turn the page and read chapter two.  So I fixed that.

On Thursday, I rewrote the entire thing, and it’s LOTS better than it was.  Thanks to Scribes.  It might even be good enough to survive the entire manuscript.  I’m pretty happy with it.  I admit, though, I go back over and over again to tinker with my first chapter, so it might change again.

The whole process made me think, though.  Even when I read books, I tend to reread most of the first chapter again.  What do I look for in them?  Characters I care about.  That’s probably as important to me as everything else.  Sure, I need a hint of what the book’s problem is going to be, but I don’t mind slow starts.  As long as I have a character I care about and a hint of where I’m going, I’ll keep reading.

I just picked up two new authors to ME.  Almost everyone else in the world has read John Grisham, but I’m not a fan of lawyer books, so I’ve avoided him.  Except he’s been around long enough, I thought I might want to give him a try.  So I picked up Sycamore Row and read the first few pages in the book store.  Then I bought it.  Why?  I liked his writing style and his voice.  Yes, he started–bam!–with an intriguing hanging.  But that, in itself, wouldn’t hook me.  It was his choice of characters that reeled me in.

The other book I chose is a good, old, 1811 London mystery.  with all of the fog and cobbled streets that go with that era–WHERE ANGELS FEAR by C. S. Harris.  The book starts with a prologue–a beautiful, young woman walking into a trap, and you know she’s going to die.  It brought back wonderful, fond memories of Martha Grimes’s pub mysteries and her fabulous prologues.  I love them, but I kept going and read the first chapter of the book to see if I wanted to read more.  This sounds cruel, but it’s easy to kill a person in a dramatic fashion.  It’s harder to keep the rest of the book interesting.  And I liked Harris’s main character so much, I started her book first and I’m waiting to give Grisham a go.  (My daughter’s reading that book, though, and she’s loving it).

In both books, the first chapter ends wih a mesmerizing line.  C. S. Harris ends with He’d promised Melanie he wouldn’t kill her husband.  But she hadn’t said anything about not making the bastard suffer.

The other thing that intrigues me in a first chapter, I have to admit, is the setting.  It can be mundane, as long as it offers something a little unusual.  For Harris’s book, she says, “She blamed the fog.  She wasn’t normally this nervous.  This afraid.”  A great hook.  But Jenna Bennett sets her Savannah Martin series in Nashville, Tennessee and makes her small town of Sweetwater, an hour away, sound intriguing because she grew up there and knows almost everyone.  The setting becomes personal.

For my chapter, I tried to include a great main character, some interesting side characters, a Midwest setting, and a story question that would pull you in.  And some humor.  What hooks you when you pick up a book?

It’s cold in Indiana.  I hope you can hibernate as much as possible.  Happy writing!  And happy reading!

Business…and…Mysteries with Romance

I finally got my official contract from Kensington.  It takes what feels like a long time between receiving a 3-book deal to getting the official 20+ page tome of subject heading after subject heading that I mostly have no clue about.  That’s when I’m grateful I have my agent, Lauren Abramo, from Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.  I think most of what Kensington offers is set in stone–like the Ten Commandments–but what I concentrate on are my writing deadlines. And when do my books come out?  I know my deadlines–and I’ve given myself more time between books now that I’m writing mysteries, but I still don’t know when my books will come out.  Kensington won’t decide that until 2018.

My 6th and last romance, SPECIAL DELIVERY, is due out Nov. 7th, and I wanted to give it a fair shot, so I paid for a blog tour.  In truth, I thought Kensington would promote my romances, but not so much.  MOST writers have to promote themselves these days.  That was a learning experience for me, so I’m promoting this one a little myself.  Of course, BookBub is the BEST, but I can’t afford it, and it’s harder to get accepted by BookBub than to pass through the eye of the needle these days.  The price for my tour isn’t terrible–$60.  But it takes a day or two to decide which tour you want and to get everything ready for it if you want each blog stop to be unique with a different excerpt or blog at each spot.   And, yes, this is time well-spent.  You want to start a good two months before your book comes out.  I’m using Goddess Fish Promotions again, and they’re great to work with.

Now, with the business stuff behind me, I can concentrate on my favorite thing–writing. The first mystery is done and sent.  And this time, probably because I just finished writing them–I’ve added a romance subplot to the clues and red herrings.  This is where it got a little bit tricky.  I’ve been reading (okay, I’m a little obsessed with) Jenna Bennett’s Savannah Martin series.  She mixes mystery and romance into almost a fusion.  There’s lots of TALK about sex (nothing graphic, though), lots of steam, and gritty murders.  It makes for an intoxicating cocktail.

This is the thing, though.  I’m finishing book #10, and Rafe and Savannah still aren’t married.  It almost feels like the TV show Castle.  The chemistry is intoxicating, and they keep growing closer, but how long can you flirt with HEA and not deliver?  I’m thinking they get married in the next book.  Thank God.  But this prolonged tease let me know that even though in romances, the HEA comes at the end of the book, that’s not the way it works in other genres.

I make no secret that I’m an Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs fan–from the days I wrote urban fantasy.  And werewolves and werelions don’t just walk in and sweep the heroines off their feet either.  It took a few books before the hot guys won the hotter women.  So, I didn’t let my characters–Jazzi and Ansel–walk down the aisle in book one and have their HEA.  I don’t think I can come up with one diversion after another for 10 books, but I know that stalling is a good thing.  And dead bodies are great distractions to keep heroines and heroes too busy to plan ahead.  But what happens after the “death do us part” clicks in?  Do things get (yawn) boring?  I’m thinking of Castle and other TV shows.   Can you keep them interesting after marriage?  What do you think?  I was a sucker for Tommy and Tuppence, Nick and Nora, and marriage didn’t hurt them.  Any opinions?

Happy Writing!

 

My webpage (posted every Thursday):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, I don’t want angst

When I’m yapping to my friend and fellow writer, M. L. Rigdon, about my idea for a new book, and I rattle off a list of things that I can see happening in it, she always stops me and says, “That’s all well and good.  You love plotting.  But…”  And then she lists the sacred mantra of character development:  1. What does the character want?  2.  Why does she want it?  3.  What will she do to get it?  Mary Lou starts books with characters who tug at her.  I start books with ideas.  A good book needs both. No matter how you start, you have to end up with both.  And you have to find balance.

Mary Lou, who used to perform on stage, has no problem whipping up fully developed characters in her nimble, supple brain.  She has no trouble developing angst either.  After all, the ebb and flow of drama pulses in her veins.  Her Regencies (written as Julia Donner) drip with angst.  And wit.  And humor, thank God, to offset it.

For Julia Donner’s books:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=julia+donner

One of my other fellow writer friends, Kyra Jacobs, writes contemporary romances, like me.  I like them, along with lots of other people.  I’d love to visit the Checkerberry Inn, but she’s partnered up all the hot men there in her three book series, so I’d only get to look and drool.  But her books are fun, fast reads with heartwarming characters that lift my mood.

For Kyrs’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Kyra-Jacobs/e/B00E5PIJ04/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 

That’s what I tried for when I wrote my Mill Pond romances.  I wanted to create characters who hooked me and life challenges I could relate to.  So I think I balanced the characters–what do they want, why, and what will they do to get it–and the plot (all the things that get in their way), but I still get feedback occasionally that my romances don’t have enough angst.  Now, I know I”m never going to please everybody.  I also know that I purposely tried to write fun, light romances–quick “feel good” reads, because sometimes, that’s exactly what I want.  Sometimes, I get damned sick of baggage piled on top of baggage. That’s why I’m not very good at deep, literary novels.  I’ve had enough baggage in real life.  I sure don’t want to read about it.  But the first time I read that my books could use more angst, I tried to add some.  Let’s face it.  No one gets through Life with a free pass.  But I got the same comments on that book.

So, I thought I’d add more angst between my protagonist and her romantic interest.  And I think I did a better job on that.  But I got the same review on that book as the earlier ones and fewer stars.  Sigh.  I’m grateful for every review I get (okay, maybe not EVERY review.  There are some I could do without:)  And I even think maybe I have a glimmer of what the reviewer meant, because–and I know this sounds strange since I’ve never met her–but I like this reviewer.  I’ve learned, though, that what one person calls “angst” might not be what I would call “angst.”  And if I ever write another romance, I’d fiddle with my next theory, but now I’m off to try my hand at mysteries.  Kensington offered me a three-book deal, and I’m pretty happy about that.  But let’s hope they have enough angst. Because I don’t have a theory on that yet.  And I’ve noticed that my least favorite book in a favorite author’s series is the one where she was the most depressed.  Bigger sigh.  I still haven’t made up my mind, I guess.

How do you define angst?

For my romances:  https://www.amazon.com/Judi-Lynn/e/B01BKZDQ68/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1501354126&sr=1-2-ent 

My webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

On Twitter:  @judypost

Hooked

I mentioned once before that I’m studying cozy mysteries again.  I read them for years, and then sort of got sidetracked by urban fantasy and then romances.  Now, I combine them all in a big stew of happy reading and watching with an occasional steam punk thrown in.  I’d never watched the Hallmark mysteries, so I’m catching up on those, and it’s fun to see that a romance subplot is thrown into almost every single one of them.

I’ve read some mystery authors who are new to me, too.  And that’s what got me in trouble.  I stumbled onto Jenna Bennett’s Samantha Martin series.  The only time that I’ve been able to read one author, back to back, over and over again, was when I discovered James Fenimore Cooper when I was in middle school.  I admit it.  My young teenage heart fell in love with Natty Bumpo, also known as Hawkeye.  He was so brave with so much honor.  This quote might prove it.   It takes a Mohican only minutes to bury his dead…but many moons to bury his grief. He’ll wander the hills alone until he’s ready to come down.  If anyone could walk in another man’s moccasins, it was Natty Bumppo.

It pains me to admit that the reason I’m reading one Samantha Martin mystery after another is because I’m crushing on her romantic interest–Rafe Collier.  Rafe is brave, too, with honor, but it’s buried under many layers of sexy bad boy.  And what a combination that makes!  If Rafe Collier quirked his brow at me and drawled the word “darlin’,” my knees might melt.  Now bad boys, in general, don’t interest me, but GOOD bad boys, who are heroes under all the naughty things they do….well, they’re pretty darn hard to resist. At least, on paper.  And it’s so easy for an author to get them into trouble.  Talk about tension waiting to happen.

I’ve never written a bad boy.  I don’t think I’m frisky enough to pull one off.  My protagonists are always pretty squeaky clean and above board.  They win the heroine because they’re so dependable and good–like Natty.  So it’s fun for me to read someone whose character is used to people assuming the worst of him, and who’s fairly happy to reinforce that opinion.  In fact, Rafe has a natural gift for it.  If you have a thing for bad boys, here’s a link for Jenna Bennett’s:  jenna bennett savannah martin series.

I’m about ready to do rewrites for my first mystery, and as usual, my protagonist falls for a good guy.  I got comments back from my critique partners, so I’ll finish it way ahead of my Oct. 2nd deadline.  And Ansel Herstad, the tall, blonde Norwegian who’s Jazzi’s love interest, got good reviews.  I like him–a lot.  Will he make female readers swoon like Rafe does? Probably not.  But like I said, I don’t think I can write a bad boy and pull it off.  So I’m happy with Ansel.

Do you write mostly “good” characters?  Do you have a favorite love interest who makes you keep buying books?  Did you ever write a “bad” boy/girl for one of your stories?

It’s hotter than blazes in Indiana.  If you’re sweating, too, hope you get to hibernate–like I have–and write.  Happy Writing!  Judy

 

Webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel 

Twitter:  @judypost

Plodding at Plotting

An idea kept tugging at me for a second mystery.  Actually, it was an idea a friend gave me, and I’ve been wanting to use it since Ralph shared it with me.  When I first decided that I’d like to write a “house flipper” mystery, I had no idea there were already some out there.  I always buy my favorite authors and I’ve looked at a few others–found Jenna Bennett’s Southern Belle mysteries and love them, but didn’t know she wrote a Do-It-Yourself series as Jennie Bentley until I stumbled on one.  I’d never watched Hallmark mysteries either until other friends recommended them.  And guess what?  There’s a fixer-upper house amateur detective on those, too.  It’s fun to see how other writers mix niches with murder.  Guess it just goes to show that every idea’s probably already been taken, so you just have to write what you want and put your own spin on it.

For my first mystery, I came up with a set-up, a few plot points for each fourth of my book, and an end.  Then I sort of winged it.  I like how it turned out, but I did a lot of rewrites.  This time, I want to take my time and have 40 steps to keep my story afloat. Our friend, Ralph, used to buy old houses and fix them up to rent.  He can answer any questions I have about house repairs.  I invited him for supper one night–yes, a bribe, and he knew it, so I had to spring for ribeyes–and he had lots of ideas that I would never have thought of.

He said that once, he worked on a house for a few months to divide it into an upstairs and downstairs apartment, and he watched an old man across the street leave his house at the same time every day, walk down the street, and return about an hour later with a grocery bag from the local butcher shop.  And then one day, the man didn’t didn’t leave, and Ralph worried about him.  He didn’t see the old man for the rest of the week, and he couldn’t believe how relieved he felt when someone dropped him off, along with a suitcase, and the old man returned to his usual routine.  That idea stuck with me.  So I played with it and came up with an idea for a mystery.  I’ve fiddled with that until I have a set-up for the first fourth of my new book.

I like to have a subplot for my books, too, so I’ve mapped out one for Ansel, the contractor who just moved in with my female protagonist, lucky girl.  And for the moment, that’s as far as I’ve gotten.  But it’s time that I zero in on the criminal.  What does he want?  And what makes it worth killing for?  How is he going to interact with my characters? Can you hear me rubbing my  hands together, plotting away?

Ideas aren’t tumbling out of my head, but that’s okay.  They’re stewing, and eventually, they’ll end up making a tasty whodunnit.

 

Happy Writing!