Category: Inspiration

Question of the Week: Hunting for Easter Eggs

I’ve been thinking about EASTER EGGS recently–and not the kind hidden by the Easter bunny. In fiction, Easter eggs are cultural, literary, or personal references embedded in the text that only a few readers will understand–little gifts for those who find them.

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Grabbing Mystery Plots from the Headlines

Read about it in the newspapers or see it on TV news and a few weeks later you’re watching a fictionalized account on TV. The weekly Law & Order show is probably the best example of that approach.  I read the New York Times every day and occasionally watch TV news. My mysteries and my romances are influenced by what I read and see, not just the scandalous headline stories but by everyday events and human interest articles. As you may know, I’m a pantser and I do no advance planning or plotting before starting to write. So even though I may have a particular news story in mind when I type the first words of a novel or a short story, the reality is that my subconscious is in charge and that news story is just the jumping off point. Like most authors I devote months and, in some cases, years, plotting and writing a novel. Because of my pantser process, the extended writing time and the more complex exploration possible in the hundreds of pages of a novel, my books are more complex than a forty-five-minute TV show. And by the time I write The End, the book I’ve written […]

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Vacation Reading: a Mystery Novel, a Memoir, another Mystery Novel, and Vampires

I finally got to travel last week, and I loaded my kindle with plenty of reading material. Four in one week is not my personal best, that is reserved for the vacation where I read a book a day, ran out of books, and had to find a bookstore in a panic before the flight home. Obviously before kindles. I read a mystery novel (times 2), a memoir, and a sliver of vampire fiction by Octavia Butler, who never disappoints in the “taking a trope and turning it inside out, on its head, and sideways” department.

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OH DANNY GIRL

Welcome to a special weekend edition of Miss Demeanors. I am bursting at the seams to announce the arrival of Oh Danny Girl, more than fifteen years after it was written. And rewritten. I tried relegating the manuscript to my bottom desk drawer, but the whining was becoming deafening. Here’s a sample:   Nora: Sooner or later, you’re going to have to let us out of here. Danny: We deserve a chance, Michele. Michele: You had a chance. You were shopped in an earlier edition by the first agent I had years ago. Nora: Come on. You know we were pitched in the wrong genre. That smarter agent, Ms. Crank, told you so. Danny: Right. Besides, aren’t you the one whose creed is, “Let the reader decide”? Michele: Who told you that? Nora: Sabrina Salter. Michele: You’ve been talking to Sabrina? Oh Danny Girl really has been in the works for more than fifteen years. As with most books, there is a story about the story. ODG, as I’ve come to call it, was the book I wrote when I finally dared to call myself a writer, to admit how much I loved writing, and began to believe in myself. […]

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The Question Every Writer Asks

Authors know—once you begin writing, there’s no turning back. You’ll never read a book again without noticing stuff like dialogue tags, metaphors, and plot structure. You’ll never meet someone new without, in the back of your mind, filing away certain physical characteristics and mannerisms for future use. You’ll never read printed material without wielding your metaphorical red pencil. And you’ll certainly never observe life around you without asking the question, “What if…?”

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How Shall I Kill Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

One of the challenges mystery writers face is coming up with new ways of killing people. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of methods. If you’re stuck for ideas, all you need to do is consult the classics [warning: may contain spoilers]. In her sixty-six detective novels, Agatha Christie killed dozens of victims by stabbings, gunshots, drownings, hangings, and even strangulation with a ukulele string. But her favorite was poison. More than half Dame Agatha’s victims kicked the bucket by poisoning—arsenic, cyanide, digitalis, hemlock, nicotine, opium, strychnine, you name it. “They can’t be poisoned all the time,” she is reported to have told her editor at HarperCollins. “But I am happier when they are.” Agatha didn’t like blood and gore—just a neat little murder, usually off-stage, because her real interest was the who and the why. At the other end of the murder spectrum is Christie’s contemporary, the New Zealander Ngaio Marsh. While we admire her elegant prose, her wit, and her puzzle plots, it’s the inventiveness of her murders we can’t forget. While her top four methods are pretty standard—stabbing, poison, asphyxiation, and blunt instrument—it’s the grisly circumstances that set her apart. One of her victims was lured into a boiling […]

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Writerly New Year Resolutions

I was thrilled to ask the Miss Demeanors this absolutely original and inspired question: What are your writerly New Year resolutions? Keenan Mine is to read more outside of traditional mystery. I’m currently writing a gothic psych thriller, or think I am, so as the year goes by, I will read more of them.  (I’m open to suggestions.) Completely outside of the mystery genre, I’m currently listening to Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes, which is included in the Audible plan. I haven’t read anything by her before but she’s quite popular so I was curious. So far, so good. It’s women’s fiction, about a young Irish woman living in New York City who is packed off to rehab by her family. But funny in a Bridget Jones kind of way. Right now, I could use funny. Also I’m open to suggestions on funny reading. Connie Your writerly question, if not original, is at least traditional. We all make resolutions at this time of year, and most of us break them within two weeks (or am I speaking only of myself??). I am resolving this year to have a finished manuscript in three months’ time, plus a stand-alone pretty well laid […]

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