Last February, I ambitiously challenged myself to produce an entire rough draft for a novel in 12 weeks. The time frame was essentially arbitrary, really I just imagined that 3 months fit nicely into my schedule. I had had the plot outlined for several months, just sitting around for a time when I could get it all out in one go. I started out strong.
Then life happened. (I know, like I couldn’t have seen that coming.)
And I can’t complain, it was good “life.” My first book got published, (wow!), and a novelette to boot. I really can’t complain. But I still have a half-manuscript, a wonky first draft it its most awkward form, waiting for my attention. So, I forget the 12 week delusion and I get back to the grindstone. 🙂
In 10+ years of trying to get published, I’ve received feedback from supportive friends and family. In the course of getting published, the feedback has been positive, constructive, and sometimes embarrassing. Now, that I’m published, my book just started receiving feedback from complete strangers — people who are in no way connected to me, the industry, or my publisher. Mystery fans are actually reading my stuff? WOW!
At the authors panel I attended earlier this month, we were asked why we had chosen to write mysteries in a specific era.
There are several reasons why I chose the 1950s, not all of them very interesting. But in short, it’s an era that had more colorful charm than grizzly forensics. Since I’m all about the puzzle of a good mystery, that works well for me. The 1950s had great fashion, textures, music, and it was a complicated time socially as everyone tried to create a normal — better — life after the war. Basically, there’s a lot for me to work with.
The challenge is the era’s rampant sexism and racism. Not a good thing. And while I’m not a huge history buff, I can’t simply gloss over the pieces I don’t like. Of course, I’m writing murder mysteries not social historical commentary, but I really do try to use social accuracy to enhance the story and the mystery part of the adventure, without making it so central as to distract the audience. (And I sincerely hope I’m doing a good job.)
After all, we’re reading mysteries to enjoy ourselves.
Last week’s panel was a blast! I learned a lot, sold some books, and I got to meet two vastly diverse and talented historical mystery authors. M. Louisa Locke writes the Victorian San Francisco Mysteries. And Jeri Westerson writes the Crispin Guest Mysteries (among other things) which take place in Medieval England.
Both women were very friendly and supportive to me personally, as well as being all-round fascinating people. I was having so much fun listening and participating, that it was near the end when it suddenly dawned that I’d never met other historical mystery authors before. I’ve been writing mysteries alone for over 6 years, and I’m the only one I know who writes mysteries set in 1950s Seattle, but I’m not really a tribe of one. 🙂
And now my reading list has grown to include more great historical mysteries!
M. Louisa Locke Jeri Westerson
Tomorrow, I’ll be attending my first panel as a writer. The PCA/ACA* conference has me booked with two other historical mystery writers. I’m the newbie and the only one who writes in the 1950s. (They write in the middle ages and Victoria era, but I’ll explain more when I know more). Basically, I’m not sure what to expect tomorrow. I’ve made business cards, and I’ll have several copies of my just-released book available for the consignment sales. Apart from that, I’ll just be winging it and having fun. :-)
*In case you don’t know (I didn’t 😉 we’re talking about the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.
I’ve been selected as a mystery author panelist for the PCA/ACA National Conference. I’ll be joining a couple of (far more established) authors of historical mysteries. I’m not wholly sure what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to meeting other fans of the genre and the opportunity to discuss my work!
I confess that I’m a picky reader, but I don’t think I’m alone.
To help folks decide whether or not they like the Elliott Bay Mysteries series, I’m including a freebie. The Tugboat Murder is only 15K words, so it’s somewhere between a short story and a novella. But it’s a single crime that’s solved over a single weekend (in 1950s Seattle, or course) so I’m calling it a “Mini-Mystery.”
My wonderful publisher, Barking Rain Press, is prepping it now and The Tugboat Murder should be available, totally free, on their website by the end of March.
Read what you love, especially if you love mysteries!
After a recommendation from another mystery fan, I’m reading my very first Agatha Raisin.
M.C. Beaton’s storytelling is smooth and enjoyable, but I haven’t quite clicked with Mrs. Raisin herself. The character is funny, yes, but she’s also a bit grumpy, petty and even rude.
Still, the expansive series has a huge following, so I won’t give up. I might find myself in the fan ranks before the end.
I’m not a particular fan of the romance genre, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a mystery that just happened to have a splash or romance, provided that the mystery itself was compelling, puzzling, and downright exciting.
By the way, since classical or “traditional” mysteries omit overt sex, I’m really only talking about subtle romance — not the racy stuff that makes you blush and hide your book cover when you’re in public.
For those of you who read Agatha Christie, (and I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t) you know that the Queen of Crime often laced a bit of romance in her books. In fact, several of her stories end with a solved murder and a couple in love. So in short, a little romance with my mysteries great, but there better be a clever crime to solve!
When my editor and I finished working on my first book it disappeared into the design process I began to wonder how I could help mystery fans decide whether or not my work fit their interests. After all, there so many types of mysteries, and I don’t want anyone spending their time or money on books that aren’t actually their style.
To that end, I wrote a 15 thousand word “mini mystery,” called The Tugboat Murder. It’s a single mysterious murder and the whole story takes place over a weekend. More importantly, it will give curious mystery lovers a chance to sample my storytelling. It will soon be available, free and in its entirety, on the Barking Rain Press website.