MISS DEMEANORS

Hot Weather, Cool Books

It’s hot out there Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21 but the thermometer on my car’s dashboard is already registering temperatures of one hundred. My phone informs me that it’s a mere 87 degrees F today. I won’t lie, when the mercury (or whatever they use in thermometers these days) reaches past 85 degrees, I don’t feel like moving much. I used to tease my mother, who grew up someplace a lot hotter than the place where I grew up, for moving so slowly.  Then I spent a summer in her home state, and I got it. Hot + humid = walk real slow. Hot, or not, reads Hot weather puts me in a quandary about what to read. Part of me gravitates to sultry Southern stories, books like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Cutting Season. Perhaps through some sympathetic literary magic, immersing myself in a hot fictional world will help me feel cooler. The other part gravitates to stories set in the coldest winter, like Murder on the Orient Express and Mystery in White. Reading about crimes set in cold climes might help me imagine that it’s not so […]

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The Mystery of Endings

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Right? Not always. Have you ever had the bad luck of happily reading a book, reaching the climax, turning the page to find out what happens and seeing a message, something like, buy book two to find out what happens? I have. In both romances and mysteries. And I’ll tell you what happens for me: I never buy that author again. But those ransom kinds of endings are just the most egregious examples of bad endings.  More of them are like the one described in a comment posted today in a Facebook reader’s group. I don’t have permission to quote the comment so here’s the gist of it. The ending “stunk.” After a big buildup it seemed like they suddenly remembered they had a deadline, made something up and spit it out. I’ve read a number of books that ended like the one referenced in that Facebook comment. It seems as if the author was bored or tired and just stopped writing when he or she hit the climax and failed to provide a denouement, “the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot […]

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GIVING CHARACTERS CLOSURE

I began writing the Sabrina Salter series when I was on vacation in St. John ten years ago. I was sitting at the dining room table in a lovely villa looking out at the hexagonal pool and the pergola beyond it. A hammock hanging from the pergola called me, but not to come lie on it. No, I wondered what would happen if someone stormed through the periwinkle blue gate and shot a man who fell back onto the hammock. I imagined that a woman discovered his dead body and became a suspect in his murder. How Sabrina crept into my head.             That’s how Sabrina’s story began in my head. Soon I was more obsessed with Sabrina than the murder she was accused of. I began wondering what her story was. How had she come to live on St. John? What did she do for a living? Did she have a lover? Who were her friends? Did she have a pet? How was her relationship with family? What was her childhood like? Getting to know Sabrina better             Sabrina lived in the crevices of my mind day and night. Her evolution was organic. She had a painful past. She […]

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Memorial Day Reading List

I was going to draw up a list of great books to read for Memorial Day, and then I happened to wander over to the American Writers Museum and saw that they had already compiled a wonderful list. So I thought perhaps I might just borrow/steal/be inspired by it.

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Summer Kickoff

people have different rituals to mark the coming of summer. It could be ice cream, or the first day at the beach–or unlimited reading.

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WORDS: Five We Misspell, Five We Mispronounce, and One Pet Peeve

Who cares about spelling anymore? With spelling tests in schools fast disappearing, our children are left to blunder along, trusting in technology to set things right. The upshot? In my opinion, although we may make fewer mistakes on paper, we are losing the ability to spell. And therefore to read. So, in an attempt to stem the tide of illiteracy, I humbly submit five common words just about everyone misspells followed by five words most people mispronounce and one small, very personal pet peeve.
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An Interview with thriller writer Jaime Lynn Hendricks

Jaime Lynn Hendrick’s debut, Finding Tessa released last year to great success and greater reviews. I caught up with this extremely prolific author (how prolific? VERY), and asked her to share a little about her publishing journey and writing practice. The answers are delightful, intimidating, and inspiring.

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The Locked Room Mystery

Book covers

Later this summer I set sail across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary II, the perfect place for a locked room mystery! While much larger than Agatha Christie’s vessel in Death on the Nile, it has a common essential element – no one can come on or off. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of a locked room mystery, here are a few essentials and a confession.

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Becoming a Woman of Mystery

My question to my fellow Missdemeanors–if you had the opportunity for a do-over, if you could walk away from your current life and reinvent yourself, where would you go and who would you be?

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I Knew That: The Mystery of the Mind

I learned two things this week. Two things I knew but seem to have forgotten. Both are important to my work as a writer. I may have to get a tattoo as a permanent reminder. First: It’s the Characters, Stupid. Duh, of course I know this. I’m a reader and a writer so why was I surprised when that thought occurred to me after I finished reading the latest two books in a historical mystery series of around fifteen books that I’ve loved for years.  Thinking about the series, I suddenly clearly saw the skeleton of the books, the bones on which the author has hung the flesh of every story in the series. And, for the first time, I found the books repetitive and boring. I noticed the research dumps, such as detailed descriptions of historical places incidental to the story and the lists of every item of clothing every man or woman was wearing. I also noted the similar verbiage used from book to book to describe recurring characters. Was I seeing it because I read the books back-to-back? Or had the author gotten careless, and it was more obvious? I don’t know. Now I know how hard […]

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