Friday, April 4, 2008

A Writer's Journey

Along the lines of my last post, I found Nan Higginson's latest entry encouraging. She was recently nominated for an Agatha Award for her short story "Casino Gamble" and she talks about her transition from aspiring mystery writer to published and award nominated mystery writer. Perhaps there is hope for me yet!

I admit, I haven't read her story yet (it's next on my list!) but I really enjoyed some of the other nominees in that category. I thought "A Rat's Tale" by Donna Andrews had a really fun play on perspective and I plan to experiment with that concept. I also really liked Rhys Bowen's "Please Watch Your Step." Isolated old New England houses may seem cliché in the mystery genre, but she pulls it off. They also both blended some darker concepts with quirky humor which I found appealing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Long Way to Go

Image Courtesy of Zaptel

I have always enjoyed a good mystery. However, through starting this blog and, for the first time, actively researching the genre, I'm realizing I hardly know anything at all!

I have seen probably every episode of Murder She Wrote and Law & Order (if you count that as a mystery). I've also read most of the Ellery Queen books and the Alfred Hitchcock collections. My grandmother has saved a large amount of old mysteries, some out of print, that I've read dutifully over the years (partly for the mystery, but also because I sort of love the scent of the musty 1940s books that have been collecting dust in my Grama's basement.) I'm also pretty good at Clue, even the Simpson's version.

However, I'm quickly realizing that barely scratches the surface. Additionally, while I am a published writer and feel I can impart valuable advice and knowledge on both the creative and business aspects of writing, I have never published a mystery story.

You may be asking yourself, how did I get here, and why am I reading this clueless girl's blog! Well, I don't know, but I'm glad you stopped by!

More seriously, this realization has been both a little intimidating and a little exciting. Yes, it seems I have a lot to learn, but sharing what I discover and how I solve some of the amateur problems in writing a mystery may be more beneficial and interesting than those so called "published" mystery writers' blogs. At least that's what I'm going to tell myself, and you dear reader, until I accomplish my next goal: publishing a short mystery.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Step Aboard the Orient Express

Photo Courtesy of Krikketgirl

Ever wish you could solve the mysteries you read about in a more hands-on way? You can with some of Agatha Christie's most famous stories.

The Adventure Company has converted three of Agatha's (yes, Agatha and I are on a first name basis) books into video games: Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and Evil Under the Sun. As a player, you actually get to explore the setting to look for clues and meet the characters.

The games have a similar set up to the books with a few twists. For example, in Murder on the Orient Express, you play via a new character who is Hercule Poirot's assistant. Fortunately and unfortunately, the games also have multiple different endings that deviate from the original stories. This makes sense because why would you want to solve a mystery you already knew the answer too. However, part of the reason I like these so much is usually the ending. I still think I'll try to check it out, especially because And Then There Were None is coming to Wii!

On a related note, I just watched the 1974 version of Murder on The Orient Express. I know its supposedly a classic, and I do like the original mystery, but I was actually sort of disappointed by it. Perhaps my ADD got the best of me, but I had trouble staying focused, and my boyfriend even fell asleep during it. There were some interesting 70s style lighting that added a nice eerie/retro layer to the film and the acting was good (Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, and Ingrid Bergman, oh my!). However, I thought the dialogue was stilted and often confusing and the pacing didn't seem to convey the sense of urgency and tension that the book does. I think I'm going to netflix the 2001 version.

Friday, March 14, 2008

D.C. Walking Tours

Unfortunately my Amazon order for The Mystery Reader's Walking Guide: Washington D.C. fell through. (They sent me the New York City book by mistake and then realized they didn't have the D.C. version). BUT, I just found at least some of it online! Enjoy, and hopefully I'll have some pictures and first hand experiences of some of these tours soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mystery Exercise

On the way to my grad school writing class yesterday, I passed by the infamous Mayflower Hotel. It has, of course, been in the news lately due to the whole Eliot Spitzer prostitution thing. Don’t worry, as this is a mystery blog, I will refrain from getting into my thoughts on that whole thing! However, while I was starring up at the windows wondering which window belonged to room 871, it occurred to me that there was probably someone in the room, or at least staying in the room, right then.

How strange it would be to go on a trip, check into this randomly assigned room, unpack your clothes, and then, the next day, your seemingly cookie cutter hotel room is hot news. Would I look around the room to see if I could find anything telling and unusual that the housekeeping crew had missed?

I thought it might be fun for my throngs of readers to explore this creatively. I will change the scenario to a less politically charged and way more fictional (and therefore fun) alternative:

While you are on vacation or a business trip, you read about a business man who was found murdered yesterday. The police have already arrested someone for the murder. Among other evidence, they learned that the victim made several phone calls to the suspect from your hotel room last month.

So, what do you do, how do you react? Do you find something that exonerates the suspect, or that proves he/she did not work alone?

I hope you guys have fun with this, and feel free to post your ideas in the comments!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reading this Thursday

For those of you in the D.C. area, Linda Fairstein will be at the Baileys Crossroads Borders to promote her new legal thriller, Killer Heat, this Thursday, March 13, at 7:30 pm .

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Photo Courtesy of Darwin Bell

You can read Elizabeth Zelvin's Agatha Nominated short story "Death Will Clean Your Closet" on her website. For the most part, I liked it. I thought the descriptions were well done and the pacing was interesting. She often concludes paragraphs with a nice staccato sentence. I also liked how she wrapped things up, which I consider one of the most important parts of any short story, but especially a mystery story.

However, I thought some parts were a little impractical. [Spoiler Alert] For example, for a significant part of the story, the protagonist, Bruce Kohler, who is also the main character in her Death Will Get You Sober, seriously considers that the body he found in his closet might have been there for the last 90 days. He says he smelt something weird, but figured it was the restaurant next door.

Luckily, I have never been around an actual decaying body, so I can't say for sure how it would smell, but based on my experience with dead animals, the smell would not be confused with food, and would probably get pretty strong well before 90 days had passed. Ultimately, the resolution does not depend on the reader believing this happened, but I was still bugged that he he thought that might have been the case in the first place.

One other minor grievance...I don't like it when characters use the word "dude," unless it's as a joke. I guess there could be people out there that call their friend "dude" on a regular basis still, but to me it just comes off as false.