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Our blog is meant to evoke fun with the magic of myths, folklore, movies and the mayhem of murder and madness. We have to keep it interesting so if you like different genres of movies and books then you're at the right blog. Our authors are a wide range of experts and our readers know what is top of the line in their favorite genres. Sometimes we post recipes that might be fun to try if a culinary author has one in her book that we think is especially yummy or one that Terri and I have created and want to share with you. Enjoy Guest Blogger Alice Duncan's monthly muse on her books and writing mysteries.
Plus you won't want to miss our book reviews, author interviews or our guest bloggers. So grab your favorite beverage then join us for some magic and mayhem! The good news is that you don't have to leave the house or your comfy chair. We have something for everyone's taste and every month we have a different topic for our bloggers: ones we feel that might be useful in your own writing and reader points of view. Not to mention, life in general. So join us and be sure to have a notebook handy as your to-be-read pile will grow as you add books, recipes, movies and t.v. series you won't want to miss. Not to mention folktales, myths or ideas you may wish to explore. Be careful what you wish for because on mayhemandmagic2 you just might find it.
Friday, October 22, 2010
I love writing funny. I also love reading funny, my favorite contemporary funny gal writer being Janet Evanovich. Laughing out loud is not something I do easily, so, when an author can get me to let go with a guffaw, it’s got to be a real rib tickler such as Stephanie Plum not being able to grab a bail jumper because he’s nude and has covered himself in Vaseline. I’ll never be able to top that one.
But what’s funny to one person may not be to another. For example, I impulsively offered to share this blog with the resident ghost in my cottage. Well, it is Halloween, and Fred is awfully shy. I thought this might be a perfect opportunity for him to come out of his closet, or cellar, or the rafters, or wherever it is he lives, and try his hand (I don’t know if he has hands as I’ve never seen him) at interviewing me. And that’s the point I’m getting at. I’ve never set my eyes on Fred but I have experienced his version of funny, and it ain’t mine. His form of humor borders on slap stick. It’s quite physical and that’s probably no mistake, with his being being only spiritual. He’s tugging at me right now, so I’ll let him explain.
What? Oh, I’ve got to do the typing? I guess that answers my question about the hands. Okay, fine. Here’s Fred.
I’ll get right to it. I do not understand this living person’s sense of humor. She took offense when I started the truck in the middle of the night, then when she raced for the door to get a flashlight, the knob fell off in her hand. Now that was a hoot! Then I made the stove run out of propane in the middle of dinner, and I started the electric fireplace in the early morning hours. The cats were cold. Pranks are what I like. It’s my way of letting people know I exist.
Oh, fine. I’ll get to the questions.
How do you create humorous situations in your work? You obviously have no use for playing tricks, do you?
I think playing tricks on people can be mean spirited, Fred. Get it? Anyway, I do funny in a number of ways. First, I like to create quirky characters. In Dumpster Dying, the protagonist’s lawyer is her boss’ father, a white haired gentleman who has run through at least four wives by outliving them all, wears a white suit smelling as if he has just pulled it out of mothballs, and runs his law practice from a retirement home.
Another approach is to describe my characters in unusual ways such as the man managing the shooting range in Dumpster who wears a” mustache that covered an area of his face where his mouth must have been.” I also get a lot of mileage out of portraying one of the detectives in the book as never far from his spit bucket.
The situations that arise as part of the story may be what usually occur in life , but in an unusual way. In my Sleuthfest 2009 winning short story, when the elevator doesn’t work, my protagonist Eve takes the stairs instead of trying another elevator. Why? Because she’s with her close friend Madeleine, a woman prone to running into trouble wherever she goes. Eve cannot trust that being with Madeleine might not just jinx another elevator. Of course, it doesn’t, and Eve arrives at the room out of breath while Madeleine is already there enjoying the bubble bath.
I also like sarcasm. I think it’s funny. Not all people do, but I find sarcasm the penultimate way of working through some really difficult events and emotions. All my female protagonists are sarcastic, full of sass, and tender/tough. This makes for a laugh here and there as when the aunt in my Thanksgiving story “Murder with All the Trimmings” uses spam to fashion a special holiday tribute to her dead husband.
That’s it? You think that’s funny? Don’t you ever get physical?
Certainly, and you’d like this one. The protagonist has the opportunity to punch the murderer in the nose in Dumpster Dying. In another manuscript I have geese attack the village doctor, an unsavory guy. Those aren’t really pranks, however. They’re odd situations, a combination of quirky characters in weird interactions with each other.
I like both the cerebral and the physical, so understatement, overstatement, and an unusual simile or metaphor work for me as well as having a gator grab the bad guy off the riverbank for dinner. Here’s an example from Dumpster Dying, when the bullet from a revolver plows through teased hair. It left behind “a part, as if a tiny lawnmower had cut a swath through tall grass.” Or I had fun with my protagonist’s request to be rescued from an alligator. Her new friend, Donald offers an understated “shoo” to the gator.
I think your protagonist should have planted a stink bomb in the bad guy’s car. Now that’s funny.
Only to you, Fred.
So, okay, if a writer does all the things you suggested, then they have a funny book?
Maybe. Have you read Dumpster Dying?
Parts of it. I’m not very computer literate. Besides, if I started up your computer late at night, you’d hear it, so I read over your shoulder sometimes. In my insubstantial opinion, the book needs more pratfalls and physical humor.
As they say, to each his own. Go work on your Halloween costume. What are you dressing as?
A ghost would be good.
That’s funny. You are a ghost.
Okay, then. How about a human? Can I borrow your stilettos, black skirt, and sequin top?
Oh, shoo Fred, or should I say “boo”?
Dumpster Dying Cover Blurb
Ah, the golden years of retirement in the sunshine state. They’re more like pot metal to Emily Rhodes, who discovers the body of the county’s wealthiest rancher in the Big Lake Country Club dumpster. With her close friend accused of the murder, Emily sets aside her grief at her life partner’s death to find the real killer. She underestimates the obstacles rural Florida can set up for a winter visitor and runs afoul of a local judge with his own version of justice, hires a lawyer who works out of a retirement home, and flees wild fires, hand-in-hand with the man she believes to be the killer.
Dumpster Dying Log Line
Emily Rhodes came to rural Florida for the cowboys, the cattle, and to do a little country two-step, not to fall head first onto a dead body in a dumpster.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Titles matter. In an interview last winter, Tess Gerritsen said that she passes up books in the store with titles that don’t grab her, and she’s not alone. We’re all busy, and so many books clamor for our attention that a weak title can be the non-kiss of death.
So, what IS a good title, and how do you come up with it?
A good title catches the reader’s eye and tells her something about the story. If the book is part of a series, the title should announce that, too. John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series used designer colors: copper, azure, etc. The early Ellery Queen mysteries all mentioned a nationality: The Chinese Orange Mystery, The Roman Hat Mystery, The Siamese Twin Mystery, and so on. Sue Grafton’s alphabet titles have reached “U,” and Janet Evanovich is up to number fifteen. You know that a letter means Kinsey Milhone, and a number means Stephanie Plum is back.
Sheila Connelly connects her titles to her character’s apple orchard: Red Delicious Death, for example. And Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Charlie McNally novels all use a monosyllable that functions as a noun, verb, or adjective followed by “Time.” Drive Time, Face Time… Lynne Heitman’s books about former airline executive Alex Shanahan are Hard Landing, Tarmac, and First Class Killing.
But what if you don’t have a series yet? OK, what’s a major event or object in your story? Use it. That’s how we got Rear Window, Mystic River, and The Maltese Falcon. Maybe you can refer to a character, as Carol O’Connell does in Mallory’s Oracle and The Judas Child. Thomas Perry does it with The Butcher’s Boy, and Elmore Leonard gave us Up In Heidi’s Room. Using a character for the title goes clear back to the Greek tragic poets, and Shakespeare did it, too, naming nearly thirty of his plays after characters. You know most of them, don’t you?
If you don’t want to use a character, how about a literary allusion? For centuries, authors have fallen back on the Bible and Mythology for ideas. The Sun Also Rises, Ulysses, and Lilies of the Field are among zillions of them. Later writers referred to earlier writers: Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”), Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress), Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (“Battle Hymn of The Republic”), and thousands of Shakespeare quotes. At one time, I could assign my classes fourteen different works with titles that came from Macbeth, including Frost’s “Out, Out—,” Anne Sexton’s All My Pretty Ones, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Robert Penn Warren, Mary Higgins Clark, and Jonathan Kellerman are among those who tap into nursery rhymes: All The King’s Men, All Through the House, Along Came A Spider…
Many contemporary writers use song or movie titles because they carry emotional links for people of their own generation (Who were you killing when this was Number One?). Ed Gorman uses oldies, such as Wake Up Little Susie, and Sandra Scoppettone uses twists on big band tunes, including Gonna Take A Homicidal Journey.
When I got the idea for a novel that involved rock and roll, I developed a still-growing list of song titles that suggest violence. In fact, five of my published works use song titles that suggest the story line, including “Running On Empty,” about a couple discussing their crumbling marriage while driving; “Susie Cue,” about a lovely pool hustler; and “Stranglehold,” about a guitar player who is accused of throttling a singer with a guitar string.
My only published work that isn’t a song title is a play on one. My wife hated the original title, and she must have been right because every agent this side of the Asteroid Belt turned it down. She finally convinced me to change it, and Who Wrote the Book of Death? came out in May. I like the title because it still sounds violent and the story involves writers using pseudonyms. I liked the original title, too, but maybe nobody else remembers Vaughn Monroe.
What was that other title? you ask.
Ghost Writers in The Sky.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
This past weekend I made a trip to see my family in the Kansas City area....on Saturday night we ate at CRAZY OLIVES which is located on the boats (Casino) and I loved the restaurant. Because I love chicken so much I had Chicken Fried Chicken but the atmosphere was wonderful. Old wine barrels and it was kinda wonderful in an old world/new world kinda way.
Then I went to the slots and this was my first time. I can tell you right now I had way way too much fun. I did come home with 2.67 Hee hee....well it was more than Frank walked away with and I mean a dollar slot carried me for over an hour so it was cheap entertainment for a while.
Like the tv show Castle in which Rick Castle soaks up everything I was much the same way Saturday night. I loved the free drinks. Took in the hard core gamblers, there was a Sherlock Holmes themed slot machine and I lost the most on that one just because I wanted to match wits with the detective and wouldn't give it up. I won the most on the Lucky Numbers one and the Egyptian Slots....LOL it was the most fun I had in a long while. My daughter was surprised how much I loved and how much her father could care less about but then again he did lose more money than I did and to be fair her father is rather not one to think of it as entertainment. He took it too seriously that's okay I was having enough fun for all of us.
I think the trick is to set a limit and no more no less because it can be rather addictive for us fun loving carefree types. LOL....anyway I love adventures so it worth it.
On Sunday we made homemade sugar cookies and decorated them and by "we" I mean little Aiden, Chase, Jay's girlfriend Erin, myself, my daughter Melissa and we made...bats,ghosts, witch's hats, pumpkins, brooms, frankensteins, black cats. We went a little crazy and dozens of cookies later Melissa's kitchen had touches of purple, black, gray, white, orange, lime green and yellow colored frosting everywhere.
I went to Hobby Lobby (there is a story behind this that I will address later in the week) but all I came home with was Disney Mickey Mouse Kit and some floss. Never made it to Barnes & Noble but did stop at Hastings on the way home.
The Ghost & Gangsters Tour of Kansas City didn't happen yet Melissa had bought the tickets but forgot to make the reservations in time however she did find out it's all year round so we are going in the spring.
The Chiefs lost their football game on Sunday afternoon so we had a few bored and grumpy men around the house.....LOL
So you ask what I am doing right now? I am munching on a black frosted bat and thinking that on my next trip to Kansas City I want to go to Goardman's an shop for a new purse.....meanwhile the middle of November the Kansas City bunch will be at my house.......
I did watch the movie The Lovely Bones late Saturday night......Melissa came home and went to sleep I watched the movie.I couldn't turn it off I had to know and then when I knew it was so sad!
So what all did everyone else do last weekend?
Monday, October 18, 2010
For the life of me I cannot keep up my end of conversations. I try I really do but to be honest I have lost the art of conversation. I do the same thing over and over again most weeks and it's a good week if I find a stain remover good enough to remove stains. I mean who actually wants to talk about stain remover to their friends and family?
Somewhere along the way my life became boring, my husband is very quiet so not much happens that he discusses with me. My friends all live pretty exciting lives in their own and to top it all off I am a hermit. Truth be told when I am around a bunch of people I still have nothing to contribute. I do a lot of listening but I wonder how I became an author because aren't you supposed to have something to write about so okay mine is fiction but it still had to be believeable.
This weekend we are going to my youngest daughter's house and I have to say within twenty four hours I will be out of conversation. Nada I got nothing and she once again will think she has the most boring mom in the world. LOL
You know I was not always like this and I hope that some day I can make watering the plants sound interesting but I don't hold out much hope at the moment because it's laundry day........
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Today tell us about one of your favorite poems or just give a title. Mine is called A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT by Emily Dickens.
On my end of the map in Kansas it'sa beautiful almost poetic day so I thought I'd like to hear what everyone's favorite poem is today. If you can't think of a poem then tell us about a short story you like to read.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
What is your favorite mystery to read that is set in "Fall Season"? One is Turkey Day Murder and I think it's written by Leslie Meir who seems to write a lot of holiday themed books and is very good at writing mysteries with a theme.
Right now I have I Married A Witch on the DVR and can't wait to watch it, the fall movies are the best. Hocus Pocus, Arsnic and Old Lace, Midnight Lace and on and on.....
Do you still carve pumpkins? Dress up for Halloween? Buy candy or the treaters that come to your door? Do you toast marshmellows and tell ghost stories? Do you have a favortie ghost story?
Do you have any fall traditions that you family continues to carry through each year?
Frank and I love Halloween so we buy candy for the treaters and the last few years I have went with my grandsons trick or treating. Last year I made a traditional family supper and to me this is one of the best times of the yer. All the color and crisp air however this year sinus problems plague me so I hope that by Halloween there has been at least one frost.
Last year I bought a cape on clearance sale and so I will dress all in black with my cape and be Grandma Death Along!
Since the kids will home for Halloween Frank will carve a pumpkin and we already have decorations set out both inside and outside.
Let the good times roll..
Monday, October 4, 2010
In a way, my inability to think of anything to write is good because it means that September wasn’t quite as awful as the other months in this particular year have been, although I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the telephone with computer gurus, including my beloved grandson, Riki, who’s a very accomplished computer geek, bless him. It’s weird when people remote into your computer and start doing things while you’re just sitting there watching the cursor float across the screen and open and close things. In spite of my anti-virus program, Avira, which is supposed to be really good, my computer managed to pick up a virus (kind of like I got pneumonia about a month after I got the pneumonia shot a couple of years ago). Still, remoting into someone else’s computer is kind of like magic, in a technological sort of way.
Anyhow, to cure the virus, Riki told me to install a program called Viper Rescue on a flash drive and then run it on my computer. Man, did that thing work! It not only erased the virus, but it stripped my computer of my web-page-making program. Naturally, being me, I couldn’t find the disks for the program (I probably gave the stupid thing away during my recent fit of house cleaning in order to get ready to sell this house, which not a single person has bothered to look at so far, and move). Therefore, I had to buy another copy of the same program. Fortunately I managed to find one on eBay for cheap(ish). Sigh. I don’t have money to throw around, y’know?
Then my iPod refused to recognize books I’ve downloaded from Audible.com, so I had to call Audible. Their technician, who, I think, lives in India or Pakistan or somewhere like that, managed to fix that problem. He remoted into my computer to do it, which was again kind of interesting, although the important thing is that my iPod and my computer are now on speaking terms, and I’m listening to CAUGHT, by Harlan Coben, as I walk the wieners in the morning. Phew! I don’t know what I’d do without my iPod, which my daughter Robin gave me a couple of years ago. It’s amazing how attached one gets to technology when one isn’t looking, isn’t it?
Then yesterday my ISP began refusing to send outgoing mail, so I spent an hour or so on the phone with a representative from Cable One, my provider. He remoted into my computer, too, but couldn’t fix the problem. He did, however tell me lots of interesting things about computers, none of which stuck in my leaky brain. He suggested I call Riki, so I did.
Bless Riki’s heart, he doesn’t mind helping his idiot grandmother from time to time (at least, if he does mind, he doesn’t let on). By that time I’d looked up the problem of Windows Mail not sending outgoing mail on the Internet and discovered I should have something called Windows Vista Service Packs 1 and 2. When Riki called me after he got off work, my computer was madly installing Service Pack 1, so he couldn’t help me. He asked me to call if I still had the same problem today, and he’d remote into my computer. He said he thought he knew how to fix the ISP-not-sending-email problem.
So I awoke this morning to the stirrings of several dachshunds who wanted their breakfasts, only to discover that my ISP is again sending e-mail! Success! Of a sort. Now my Pandora Computer Radio refuses to work on Firefox, and my computer isn’t allowing me to install Adobe Flash Player, even though, until this morning, I could listen to Pandora all day long on Firefox if I wanted to (I like to listen to music while I write and/or edit). Pandora still works on Internet Explorer, though, so my life isn’t completely music-free. I still can’t delete a whole bunch of messages that have been sitting in my Delete Box since May. Also Spybot Search & Destroy isn’t working correctly, either. Sigh. I think my computer hates me.
Come to think of it, maybe September wasn’t such a great month after all.
One good thing happened, though! I got a whole box full of ARCs of PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL from my publisher, and I’m going to be giving away three of them during my October contest. If you’d like to enter same, please send me your name and home address at email@example.com , and I’ll toss your name into Daisy (by winner-picking wiener dog’s) special contest doggie dish. If you’d like to read the first chapter of PECOS VALEY REVIVAL to see if it’s your cup of tea, you may do so here: http://aliceduncan.net/page55.html
1. A Glimpse Of Evil by Victoria Laurie (A)
2. Sink Trap by ChristyEvan (A)
3. Seance by Mark McShane (B)
4. DiedTo Match by Deborah Donnelly (B)
5. Currently Reading The Lover's Knot by Clare O'Donohue rating so far (B)
6. The Devil Amongst The Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb : Currently Reading rating so far (A)
7. Delicious and Suspicious by Riley Adams Currently Reading (A)
8. A Killer Plot by Ellery Adams - A+
Short reading month as I did more cross stitch than reading in the past month:
Cross Stitch Finish: Halloween Sampler
Current WIP's Snowman & Santa Sampler
Next Up: Another Snowman and possibly start Crypt Club Halloween Project.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Wouldn’t it be nice if every editor and agent in the world loved every word we wrote? Yes, it sure would. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.
Nobody likes to be rejected -- especially a writer who has poured her heart, soul, time, money, and creativity into writing a book. Even after publishing 26 books, with contracts for four more, I still don’t like it. A few months ago I had an e-book rejected. While I agreed with the editor’s reasoning, it still hurt.
It’s some comfort to know there are reasons your manuscript might be rejected, none of which means something is wrong with your work. The line could be over-bought or is shutting down. The editor might have just bought a book very similar to yours. Perhaps yours is simply not the type of story they’re looking for, or your story line isn’t right for their readers.
It’s important to remember that receiving a rejection isn’t the end of the world. First of all, give yourself a pat on the back for actually completing the manuscript and getting up the nerve to submit it. These are no small accomplishments.
While your first instinct might be to cut your rejection letter into small pieces, set it on fire, bury the ashes in your backyard, then run over it with your car, don’t. Put the letter aside for a few days, then go back to it. There may be valuable information in it that will help you get published.
Look for the positive. Did the agent/editor tell you specifically what he/she liked about your manuscript? Getting any sort of feedback is fabulous. Receiving a two page, single-spaced letter detailing each and every thing that didn’t “work” (which actually happened to me) is painful, but it’s also the very best thing an author can hope for.
Take the time to read the agent/editor’s comments and carefully consider them. After all, this person is a professional; you thought enough of him/her to query in the first place. He or she knows a lot more about publishing that you do – for now, anyway.
Ask yourself if you can make the suggested changes. Can you re-work whatever it is the agent/editor didn’t care for? Is it a matter of plotting or character motivation? Is it something deeper, such as voice? Most importantly, if you make the changes, will you stay true to your vision of the story?
Remember that in the end, this is your work. You’ll be the one standing in front of women’s groups, panel discussions, friends and relatives talking about it for months, or years to come.
Remember too that once your book is published, it will become your brand. If an editor accepts your cozy mystery with a light paranormal twist on the condition that you revise it and turn it into a full blown horror story, it means you’re a horror writer. That’s what your editor, and your readers, will expect from you. Make sure that’s what you want to do.
Most importantly, don’t let a rejection stop you. Once you submit your manuscript, immediately start writing something else. Believe in yourself, in the story you created, and pursue your dream.
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