Tag: Louise Penny

Louise Penny

3 things I’ve learned from Louise Penny

I’ve always been a fan of Louise Penny, but for the past few months I’ve been reading her work in an intentional way, trying to understand what she does and how she does it and how I might do it too. There are probably 100 things I’ve learned from her, but to focus on 3. First, food is important. Reading Louise Penny is like being invited to a feast. The smells and tastes of delicious food fill the pages, as in The Cruelest Month: “Gamache’s coq au vin filled the table with a rich, earthy aroma and an unexpected hint of maple. Delicate young beans and glazed baby carrots sat in their own white serving dish. A massive charbroiled steak smothered in panfried onions was placed in front of Beauvoir….” And so on. 2. Her characters are fun to spend time with, even the evil ones. They’re funny, insightful, honest. Of course at the heart of this all is the great Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and she never misses an opportunity to show you how great he is. For example, there’s a brief scene in The Cruelest Month when Gamache is playing with his dog, Henri. The dog, unable to […]

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And the Award Goes To…

The shortlist for the inaugural Staunch Book Prize, “created to make space for an alternative to the overload of violence towards women in fiction” and “awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered,” was recently announced. The award’s creators wanted to honor “stories in which female characters don’t have to be raped before they can be empowered or become casual collateral to pump up the plot” and that don’t “celebrate the cunning (often, charming sexiness/astonishing brutality) of serial rapists and the dogged brilliance of detectives” at the expense of female characters too often portrayed as two-dimensional victims. The shortlist for the 2018 prize, to be awarded this month, includes a political conspiracy thriller, a psychological thriller, an art caper, a thriller about the immigrant crisis, and a satire about terrorism. In the spirit of new literary awards, I asked my fellow Missdemeanors, “What prize would you create and what would the eligibility criteria be?” Here are their answers. RobinMine is easy. It would be the Amazing Grace Award, which was a nickname for Grace Hopper. Without her, computers would still take up an entire room and do only […]

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Pitching

 This past weekend I worked at the New York Pitch Conference, which is always a fun/exhilarating/exhausting experience. I’m the workshop leader for the general fiction group, which includes women’s fiction, literary, upmarket and so on. One of the great perks of my job is that I get to listen to editors and hear what they’re looking for and one thing I heard a lot this time was how important it is to know very clearly who you are writing like, and, if at all possible, to try and make connections with that person. Or, as one person said, more or less, if you want to be the next Michael Chabon, you should try to go to his readings, meet readers who are interested in his work, and, if at all possible, get him to write a blurb for you.  That led me to think about how one of the nice things about the mystery writing community is that the writers are so accessible. At the most recent Malice Domestic, I chatted briefly with Louise Penny and Nancy Pickard, was on a panel with assorted great writers, was in an anthology with other assorted great writers and went to the bar and […]

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Coming Home

   Five months can be a long dry spell. I’m not talking about writers’ block. I’m describing five months of unintentional isolation from my tribe, the people who share with me the same inexplicable passion for writing. After attending the fun-filled, event-jammed New England Crime Bake in November, which I also co-chaired, I was ready for a little solitude. But not five months.         Through circumstances not of my choosing, namely two monstrous hurricanes, I found myself on Outer Cape Cod, Puerto Vallarta, and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I am not complaining. Those are destinations where any writer could find inspiration and I did. But did I ever miss my tribe, the folks who still like to debate the Oxford comma and know what I am talking about when I am at a conference and excuse myself from an event because “I am peopled out.”         By the time I arrived at Malice Domestic XXX on April 26th, I was ravenous for the company of other writers. I wanted to talk about rejection, setting, character development, publishing trends, and soak in what others had to say. Because I was so hungry, I attended almost every event at the conference. I watched […]

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Dorsey's SASSIES AWARDS

 It’s award season, not only for books, but also music, movies, and plays. A lot of the time, I’ve never heard the names of people nominated, although that shouldn’t diminish the recognition that they deserve. But I’ve been thinking, well, maybe I ought to give out a few awards of my own. (DISCLAIMER: The awards made in this blog entry are solely attributable to the blog post writer, me, C. Michele Dorsey. No blame should be placed on the shoulders of my fabulous blog mates, the Miss Demeanors. ) Now that we have that out of the way, I am announcing the SASSIES, Still Awesome Sustainable Series I Enjoy Savoring.             I read a ton of books, lots of them are marvelous, but the SASSIES are about books I wait for, as in I usually know the pub date and anticipate it eagerly. The SASSIES have characters I consider longtime companions if not friends. Their authors are writers whom I admire and frankly have a literary crush on. I write sentences from their books in a notebook reserved for “Sentences I Wish I Had Written.”            Some of these writers have been writing the same series since the 1980’s. While I confess […]

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A voyage into a fictional universe. I'm in.

Lazy summer days are a time to dream. What if dreams and reading merged and it was possible to transport yourself to any fictional place? If I had a chance to literally dive into a fictional locale and spend a few days I’d pick Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. The settings are fictional London and – more importantly – classic novels including Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.  Fforde does a fantastic job of making the well-known fictional settings come to life and at the same time allowing the reader to experience them as an outsider. The characters are trapped in the role but the reader isn’t! What fun to be there and participate in the novels from the sidelines. What fictional setting would you join?  SUSAN: This is probably not a huge surprise, but I’d go with Agatha Christie’s St. Mary Meade. I love living in a small village, and of course, I’d love to know Miss Marple. I feel like you have more room to be yourself, oddly enough, in a place where everyone knows you. People know who you are, so you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, if that makes. I drew on that in writing […]

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Is there such thing as too many books?

 My husband claims that I don’t understand the purpose of a book tour (which is evidently to tout my own book). Recently, during the course of sixteen days, I traveled through seven states, visiting 13 bookstores. During that time I bought books. (Of course.) How could I not? Each store was a unique experience. Moreover, it was a chance to talk about we were each reading. The clerks had amazing recommendations and it was impossible not to follow up on their suggestions. One of my first purchases was The Lives of the Great Gardeners. It is a lovely surprise. Four to six pages on individual gardeners throughout the ages – from Le Notre and Thomas Jefferson to contemporary designers. Matthew Beaumont’s Night Walking promises to be a journey though London. The Art of American Still Life was purchased at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, one of two books accompanying a charming exhibit. The Sound of a Wild Snail is a marvelous tale of patience and harmony. Rising Tide was a favorite recommendation in Arkansas where much of the subject – a terrible flood – took place. My mother’s family is from the region and I recognized many of the names […]

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Feeding the Hungry Reader

French Comfort Food, by Hillary Davis, one of my favorite cookbooks,    How would you like a buttery grilled cheese sandwich filled with Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and bacon right now? Or perhaps a tuna melt on rye bulging with melted Gruyere? Maybe a plate of creamy macaroni and a combination of three cheeses, not one? Too plebian? We could add chunks of lobster.            Not feeling savory at the moment? Could I get you a plate of warm chewy chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven? Or a piece of apple pie with feathery light flaky crust? No? I could dish up a piece of moist golden cake with homemade chocolate buttercream frosting if you’d prefer.            If you aren’t hungry by now, you may not be human. Just the very description of these foods, often categorized as “comfort food” is enough to make a reader salivate, which is why most readers and writers are captivated by food in stories. Food helps to create atmosphere and lends authenticity to an environment. I defy you to read Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake series and not crave lobster. When Stone Barrington cuts into a steak at the legendary, now defunct, Elaine’s in Stuart Woods’ wildly […]

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