(urban fantasy, witches, Greek and Norse myths)
For the next few months, I’m going to be busy pounding out my third mystery. I won’t have time to write anything new for my webpage, so I’m going to offer up chapters from one of my early books that I self-published, an urban fantasy. EMPTY ALTARS features my favorite Greek/Roman goddess, Diana, and an older Norse god, Tyr. I hope you like it. Here’s chapter one: https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
The first books I published were urban fantasies. I was proud of myself. I’d gotten an agent. Dystel and Goderich formatted my e-books to put online. But I’d always written mysteries before I tried my hand at UF, and when I read a chapter of Fallen Angels to my writers’ group, they looked stunned. Every person started his/her critique with, “I don’t really know this genre…” and then they asked why the only protagonists were fallen angels, vampires, werewolves, and witches. Weren’t there any humans? Etc. Etc. After this happened enough times, I pretty much knew that urban fantasy wasn’t and never would be their thing. So I sort of stopped volunteering to read. Which didn’t bother me. We have such good writers in our group, I’m happier to listen.
When my agent pushed me to try writing a romance, so that I could get a publisher, I signed up to read again for my group. And it didn’t really surprise me when my romance chapters didn’t impress them either. I got more of the same feedback. “I don’t ever read these…” Which I knew they didn’t. My group is made up of serious writers and serious readers. That’s why I like them. And my romances are lightweight, not serious. If you ask many romance writers, a lot of them struggle to get respect. Hell, I don’t read that many romances, but when I do, I can appreciate the skill that goes into writing them. The same goes for sci/fi and fantasy, memoirs and noir. They might not be my thing, but I know that it’s hard to write anything well.
I write a webpage, as well as this blog, and when I first started posting a few romance blurbs between other posts, I got such a kick out of a reader’s comment. She said that she really enjoyed my urban fantasies and was even going to reread some of them, but she just couldn’t make herself read a romance. When I mentioned that I was going to try to write a mystery, she commented that she’d follow me to mysteries. She liked those. And the truth is, that made me happy.
I completely undersand how she feels. Some things appeal to you. Some things don’t. It doesn’t matter how good the writing is. It’s just not your thing. But I’m hoping that the readers who liked my urban fantasies might crossover to mysteries. I never expected them to be romance fans. It’s still iffy, though. I’m not writing hardcore mysteries. Amateur sleuths might not excite them either. But that’s what my editor likes:) And I like them, too. So I’ll cross my fingers and toes and see what happens!
I put up chapter 7 for a Babet & Prosper story on my webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
On Twitter: @judypost
I posted chapter 5 for Babet and Prosper’s A NICE, QUIET TOWN. Watch out for burrowing dragons! http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
I finished the first draft of my mystery. I like it, which is unusual. I usually can’t stand a book by the time I finish it. This worries me. Am I not being hard enough on the mystery? But I rewrote so many scenes so often, maybe I worked through the hate earlier and got it out of my system.
I tried a couple of new things with this book, which I’m not sure about. That’s one of the joys of having great and brutally honest critique partners. If something doesn’t work, they’re happy to tell me. And I want to know. I enjoyed writing my Babet and Prosper urban fantasies so much, I wanted to put a few of their touches into the mystery. I wanted to really bring my characters and their world to life. I wanted the setting to be a strong element in the story. But I was worried about getting the balance right. I didn’t want to detract from clues and suspects.
I’m so close to the story, I can never tell what worked and what didn’t. So I’ve sent it off to the joys of red ink. If it comes back bloody, it’s not personal. My friends are determined to make my book as good as it can be. And sometimes, they don’t agree. One person writes “loved this,” and another writes “this has to go.” I know them so well, I usually know what’s going to bug whom. The thing to remember, because new writers who join Scribes sometimes look at the red ink and get overwhelmed, is that you’re still a good writer, but screwed up. It happens. It’s not the end of the world. You can fix it.
While my friends mark up my book, I’m giving myself a break from all thoughts of it by writing a a short novella, chapter by chapter, for my webpage. I always try to switch gears at the end of a book. I need distance. I need to think about something else to gain perspective. And yes, I turned to Babet and Prosper. There’s nothing like a dragon that tunnels underground like a trapdoor spider and waits for tasty mortals to “drop in” to jostle me out of my routine. And how do you track and fight a demon dragon? Yup, this story’s just plain fun time for me. B&P are my feel-good go-to between longer works.
When I finish the novella, I mean to start plotting my second mystery. I’m going to take longer at it this time. I forgot how intricate writing a mystery was. I need a clue or red herring or suspect/witness, etc. in nearly every chapter to keep the mystery plot moving. I don’t want to try to pull those out of my Muse’s creative genius on demand. My Muse got a bit grumpy about that this time. So I’d rather have 40 stepping stones along the way. I figure that’s enough to keep the mystery from sagging.
I’m enjoying a little Inbetween Books time right now. I hope you have a wonderful Fourth. And happy writing!
I just put Babet and Prosper’s A NICE, QUIET TOWN, chapter 4, on my webpage. Hope you enjoy it!
My daughter has been (sort of nicely, but only a little) bugging me to write a new Babet and Prosper. I’ve been busy. I’ve been making my fingers thin trying to pound out my new mystery. Yes, my fingers should be in great shape. My fanny? Don’t ask. But Holly didn’t care, so I thought of a new story to put on my webpage. It probably has mistakes and might be rough. I’ll try to polish it this weekend, but I sort of promised to put something new up this Thursday, and well… here goes. Hope you like it.
I’m working on a mystery. I finally reached the third turning point (three-fourths through the book–and yes, I do construct my plots that way), and I’m heading into the last 80 pages. This is when I look at my remaining plot points and pray that I have enough twists and turns to make it to the The End. If not, a little creativity is in order.
Almost (there must be one out there that breaks the mold, but I can’t think of it) every mystery starts with a dead body. A crime would work, too, but it’s not as common. The body doesn’t have to be on page one. It doesn’t even have to show up by page five. But someone usually stumbles upon it by the end of chapter one. Not always. Mystery readers, especially for cozies or traditionals, know that while they’re hanging out with the protagonist and getting to know her and the book’s setting, a dead body will show up eventually. It’s worth the wait.
Martha Grimes, in her early books, grabbed her readers with a hook–a prologue. They’re frowned upon now, but I liked them. Some nice, oblivious person would be walking along a street or locking her front door, and we KNEW she’d be dead by the end of the chapter. A great way to build tension. A lot of thriller writers use that technique–showing the victim in a way that we know they’re already doomed. It works. If you’re not writing a thriller, though, you have to space out victims more sparingly:) You don’t off somebody whenever the pace slows down, so you have to come up with different devices to keep the tension high enough to turn pages.
The thing I loved about witing urban fantasy is that you could write a battle every time you wanted to up the tension. Pitting your protagonist against someone who could kill her works really well. I just finished reading Ilona Andrews’s MAGIC SHIFTS, and it was a FAST read because there was a battle in almost every chapter. Lots of action. I loved it, but that doesn’t fly in an amateur sleuth mystery. Protags don’t wield swords or shoot magic.
What does work? Having the sleuth at the wrong place at the wrong time. Having her get nosy and digging through a desk that’s not hers when someone walks into the office. I’m halfway through a mystery by an author who’s new to me: A Cutthroat Business by Jenna Bennett. I’m loving it so far! First, her protagonist is a Southern Belle. I haven’t read one of those since the last Sarah Booth Delaney cozy I read by Carolyn Haines. Bennett’s protagonist is a real estate agent…so, of course, she takes a client to a showing and finds a body in the last room they stop to view. See? The nice, bloody corpse comes at the end of the chapter. More fun that way!
Also, of course, the police show up and the client who wanted to see the house doesn’t seem to have any money, but he has done some prison time–and the protag knew him when they were growing up–a smartass, sexy ex-con. Bennett finds one clever way after another to keep her protag involved in the investigation. Eventually, though, (and I hate to say this), another body is needed to boost the pace near the middle of the book. Sacrifices must be made for every novel, and for mysteries, well…. someone must die.
I’m sorry to say (and my daughter wasn’t happy with me, because she fell in love with a certain character when she read the pages I’ve done so far), I had to kill off someone, too, for the second plot twist in my book. And that made me wonder: how many bodies does it take to keep a good book going? In urban fantasy, you’re lucky. Very rarely does one of the good guys have to die, and you can kill bad guys at random, on every other page if you want to. In mysteries, though? Bodies are up for grabs. Good guys die as often as not-so-good guys. I’m thinking–and I haven’t researched this–that it takes at least two bodies to move a mystery plot. The first body happens at the beginning of the book and somewhere later, the pacing and clues start to fizzle, and an author has to stick in another victim.
What do you think? Can you think of a mystery that only has one victim and the entire plot goes from there? Okay, maybe in a P.I., because usually the private eye gets beat up close to the time a second body would pop up in a traditional mystery. LOL. This is probably why it was so hard for me to write romances. I couldn’t kill anybody:)
My webpage (with a new creepy short story): http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel