Tag: mysteries

mysteries

Catching up with author Deanna Raybourn.

We are thrilled to have bestselling author Deanna Raybourn with us today at MissDemeanors. Deanna is the award winning author of fifteen novels and novellas including the wildly popular Lady Julia Grey and Veronica Speedwell series. Tracee de Hahn: Deanna, You are prolific! When you start a new project do you have in mind that it will be series or does that evolve? How does that impact the project and character creation? Deanna Raybourn: I always know before I even begin the actual writing if I’m creating a series or a stand-alone. It means that the character development is a bit different and how I relate the backstory changes. In a series, I can let out bits of the past over a much longer period of time because the arc is much broader. In a stand-alone, I have to be ruthless about deciding what matters and whether it makes the cut of what goes in because I only have so much space to work with.  TdeH: I’ve dipped back into your books recently and the trip down memory lane makes me wonder if we’ll ever see Ryder again?  DR: He was a fun character to write, but Ryder’s day is […]

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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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Dining with Agatha Christie

One of my favorite rooms at Greenway House was the dining room. Here was where Agatha Christie celebrated holidays with her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, her daughter Rosalind and her grandson, Matthew.  You’ll note there’s a small pitcher in front of Agatha Christie’s seat, whereas the other settings have wine glasses.  That’s because Agatha Christie was a teetotaler. Rather than alcohol,  she preferred to drink Devonshire cream. (Just as a side note, I looked up the calorie count on  Devonshire cream and it’s 73 calories a tablespoon!) She also liked to drink a glass or two of Devonshire cream while she wrote. Perhaps this is a secret to a long career. At one end of the dining room was this intriguing little knick knack, that I assume is a raven. The whole house is awash with knick knacks and I was told that, when the National Trust was going through the house, they uncovered Agatha Christie’s Order of the British Empire medal under a pile of books. Incidentally, there is a person who has the job of being a Writer-in-Residence at Greenway House and she is leading a writing workshop in which writers will be prompted to use objects in Agatha Christie’s collection as a starting point for their […]

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Happy Labor Day!

Today is a day when we celebrate those who labor, and also those who’ve stood up for the rights of those who labor, and in honor of that, I thought some Labor Day mysteries might be in order. So if you’re interested in murder and the labor movement, here are some suggestions:  1. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. When the last honest man in a mining town known as Poisonville is murdered, the Continental Op goes in to take on the whole town. 2. For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen, in which Molly Murphy has to go undercover in the garment business. 3.  A More Perfect Union by J.A. Jance, in which Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont. investigates a murder involving a union. (Possibly not an incredibly pro-union book.) 4. A Red Death by Walter Mosley, in which Easy Rawlins has to spy on a supposed Communist organizer. Also, I’m happy to report that the Miss Demeanors have been honored by making Feedspot’s list of the Top 100 Mystery Book Blogs and Websites for  Mystery Readers & Authors. We are number 18 and are in some very good company. You can check it out at: https://blog.feedspot.com/mystery_book_blogs/ 

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The Writer

I have an article in this month’s issue of The Writer titled “What is this thing I’m Working On.” The idea came to me when one of my students sent me some pages and said, “What is this? ” She wasn’t sure if she’d written, or should be writing, a memoir, a novel, a narrative non-fiction or something else. Though we were certain she was not writing a poem. Although, in my own writing history, I’ve generally had pretty good idea of what I was doing, I could relate because I did stumble into writing mysteries. I’ve always loved reading them, but when I first started writing Maggie Dove, I was really more focused on the fact that she was a mystery writer than that she would be a detective. I’d written The Fiction Class, which was about a woman teaching a fiction class, and thought that it would be nice to have a follow-up about a woman teaching a mystery-writing class.  But then a body showed up. And Maggie Dove had to figure out what to do about it, as did I. Sometimes life takes you on unexpected journeys and sometimes those journeys take you off a cliff. But occasionally they take you […]

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Favorite stories

Today is the first day of my Gotham Writers spring schedule, which means that I will be spending today teaching. So I felt I should include something educational in today’s post.  One of the things I’ll be talking to my students about is how to plot a novel, and something that is very useful in that respect, is to start taking apart stories. Not everyone looks at it this way, but I think there is some validity to considering a short story a very short novel. So with that in mind, what are some good short stories to tear apart and learn from: 1. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” by Sherman Alexie.  Read this for voice, for first person point of view, and for the beautiful structure. Everything you want to know about narrative arc is in this story. 2. “Labors of the Heart,” by Claire Davis. Read this for character and dialogue and that hopeless yearning that fuels the best stories. 3. “Afterward,” by Edith Wharton, which contains one of my favorite plot twists in all literature. 4. “A Death,” by Stephen King, first published in The New Yorker. A real master of story telling.  5. “Wants” by Grace Paley. Just love her voice. 6. […]

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Must A Main Character Be Like Me?

I am in the midst of rewriting large portions of my fourth book this week. There are three POV characters in this story. One is an African American female police officer, aged 27, single sans kids. She’s been a cop for three years and is very smart with a high EQ, but a troubled history. Another is a hugely successful 37-year-old Black female orthopedist of West Indian descent that armchair quarterbacks injuries on a sports network as a medical commentator. She’s in a heap of trouble. The third is a 35-year-old former Caucasian attorney turned stay-at-home mom to twin boys, one of whom is autistic and homeschooled. She’s a walking anxiety disorder with a sharp wit. All the characters are American. None of them are particularly like me, though I am sure my personality and observations bleed into all my characters. Specifically, their back stories and cultural heritages don’t match my own (though the orthopedist is of West Indian descent and so is the Jamaican half of my family).  I have things in common with all of my POV characters, though. And, most importantly, I’ve done my research.  All this writing has me thinking this week about character creation. How like me should my characters be? How much latitude do I have, as a […]

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New Year's Resolutions

2018 is fast approaching. Now is the time to take stock of 2017 and figure out what to do better next year. In addition to my annual, post-holiday binge pledge to reduce my consumption in a variety of ways, I also hope to be gentler with my family and myself in 2018. Slower to anger. Kinder. More patient.  I asked the MissDemeanors for their resolutions. This is what they said.  Michele Dorsey: To practice forgiveness and remember it is a gift you give yourself. D.A. Bartley: To err on the side of kindness. May 2018 be a year of compassion and peace. Robin Stuart: Breathe. Literally. Just pause each afternoon for 5-10 minutes to focus only on breathing to quiet the noise, reflect, re-center. Paula Munier: Ritualize my life. Starting with my morning routine: Instead of stumbling around the house and the Internet until the caffeine kicks in, I’m going to establish a more productive and inspiring way to begin my day: tea, yoga, walk the dog. I’ve got the electric tea pot and the yoga dice and the dog, so all I need now is a little good karma. Alexia Gordon: I resolve to choose a one-a-day or one-a-week challenge (e.g. a stitch a day, a book a week, a letter […]

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Finding inspiration in Paris

We are thrilled to host Ashley Weaver, author of the Amory Ames mysteries. When she’s not writing, Ashley is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. The Miss Demeanors have written several posts about our love of libraries and Ashley has worked in one since she was 14; first as a page and then a clerk before finally obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University.  Now, I’ll turn it over to Ashley to talk about her latest book!   What inspired your book? It’s a question authors often get asked, but I find it’s not always an easy one to answer. For me, story ideas sometimes come out of the blue, with no recognizable links to any one influence. Other times, they come together in little pieces as I write, like a puzzle being slowly assembled. However, my newest book, The Essence of Malice, combines two specific inspirations, both with roots in things I have loved since childhood: Paris and perfume.    I have always been enamored with Paris. Growing up, I had a giant poster of the Eiffel Tower hanging above my bed, and I dreamed of one day taking a trip to the City of Lights. I would check out audiocassette tapes from […]

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Cosima

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m writing a story about a woman who is the daughter of a serial murderer and I needed to think of a name for her. She’s very well-educated and her father, in addition to being a killer, or perhaps because of it, was a great pianist. I considered Aria, which I think is a pretty name, but I was concerned people would confuse her with Arya Stark, and also it seemed somewhat playful and I did not picture her father as being playful in any context.  Then I thought of Cosima Wagner, a woman I’ve always found fascinating. She was born on Christmas Eve 1837, the illegitimate daughter of the great pianist Franz Liszt. Her name derives from St. Cosmas, the patron saint of physicians and apothecaries. She was not a great beauty. She’s always reminded me a bit of Wallis Simpson, another interesting woman. When Cosima was a young woman she married pianist Hans von Bulow, who was Liszt’s most devoted student, but perhaps not the most exciting and romantic individual. During their honeymoon, they went to visit the German composer Richard Wagner, a very exciting and romantic individual, with certain major personality flaws. The next year they visited […]

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