April 27, 2013

Interview with Daisy Forrest Greene

Penny’s had a week! So I'm filling in for her today. Oh, I’m Daisy Greene. My sister and I own a lovely little gift shop called Champagne Taste in Old Towne. Recently, I consented to do an interview with Jeff Moody, a reporter from the Bostwick Bulletin. He's been bugging me daily about giving him a story on the joys and trials of running a small business. But I know he really just wants to get the inside scoop on the latest bit of murderous lunacy that’s been going on around here. My sister, Rose, should be here since she was knee deep in the whole mess, but she’s away for a couple of weeks. So I’ve got my incredible little dog, Malcolm, with me to keep Jeff in his place. I find that you can’t always trust reporters, can you? 

Jeff Moody: Daisy, you and Rose opened Champagne Taste just a few years ago. How is business? 

Daisy Greene: Actually, very good. We seem to be building quite a reputation for unusual and one-of-a-kind items. We’ve had people come in from as far away as Philadelphia on a friend’s recommendation! And that’s just a lovely thing to hear as a shop owner. 

JM: I guess it would be. So the recent break-ins and the murder of that vagrant haven’t had a bad effect? 

DG: Not so much. In fact, now that the killer has been caught we have been getting a lot of people coming in to find out the gory details. Of course, I usually manage to sell them something and tell them very little, so that’s okay. 

JM: Well, I think we’re all waiting for a first hand account of what went on. You and your sister found the body, didn’t you? How did that come about? 

DG: Oh, well, Rose and I like to walk every morning on a path near our house. We were out that morning and my poor little Malcolm here found that unfortunate man lying in the bushes. I’ll never forget it. It was dreadful. 

JM: So you decided to investigate? 

DG: Well, not really investigate. We're not detectives. But so much was going on in the village. We’d had these pointless break-ins. And now we had a dead body not half a mile from our home. So, yes, we felt like we had to do something. But investigate – I think that’s too strong a word. 

MJ: What would you call what you and your sister did? 

DG: We just listened and watched. We did ask a few questions and we actually found a number of clues, but they more or less fell into our laps. 

JM: Huh. The police aren’t talking, but they do have a suspect in custody. Right?  

DG: Right. 

JM: Can you tell me who it is and did you really catch this guy?   

DG: I’ve been asked by the police not to give out any information. But I will say that while I had a hand in the capture, I’d have to give most of the credit to Malcolm. He stopped that lunatic from aerating me with a whopper of a knife.  And my sister, Rose, is actually the one who put most of it together. And my mother helped. So I’d have to say it was a joint effort. 

JM: I understand that your ex-husband was in charge of this investigation. How did you like working with him? 

DG: Not much. I find that he and I do much better if we simply keep our distance. But we managed to be somewhat civil and, I have to admit, that while he’s a really lousy husband, he is pretty good at his job. 

JM: And what would you say was the scariest moment of this whole ordeal? 

DG: Well, looking right into the eyes of a maniac and knowing I was next on the hit list! That gave me nightmares. I think Malcolm has them, too. 

JM: Speaking of… would you mind getting him off my leg? 

DG: Malcolm, stop that. It’s rude. Sorry. He’s fine, now. He gets a little carried away. 

JM: I can see that. Well, I have to ask – would you consider letting me write the full account of this nightmare in Old Towne? 

DG: Actually, I’m afraid you’re too late. My friend, Penny, has already written it! You’ll be able to read all about it next December when it’s released. She called it Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My! I’ve had a peek and she did a pretty good job at getting the facts straight. I think you’ll like it.







April 19, 2013

The Process

I can't speak for other writers, of course, but when I write my brain seems to have a mind of its own. Well, it would, wouldn't it? What I think I mean to say is that while one side of my brain has a definite idea in mind, the other side tends to roam all over the place. Case in point, a little ghost story for campers. Nothing too scary, no Carrie here. More Ichabod Crane. So...

It was a dark and stormy night and all the kids were sitting around the campfire. Someone said, "Come John, tell us a story," so John began. Yes, good beginning. Sets up a nice scene, gives an inkling that some sort of horror could be lurking.

Too trite? Too obvious - dark night, thunder in the offing? Maybe I should go another way. A more normal kind of day, but still add a little something ominous. Okay.

It was a sunny afternoon and they were all sitting around the campfire. But where was John? All right, but if it's a sunny day, they wouldn't be sitting around a campfire, would they? They would be hiking or fishing or skinny dipping.

Hmm, how about it was a sunny afternoon and they were all sitting down to lunch. That would get them all together. Oh come on, no one wants to hear a story about lunch.

What would work? Rain. Rain is always mysterious. It was a rainy morning and they were all - what? what were they all doing? Obviously not sitting around a campfire. Rainy morning, stuck in their tents. Do they all pile into one tent, so John can tell a story? That wouldn't be much fun. It would be crowded and would smell like wet gym socks.

How about changing it up a bit? It was a starlit evening with a soft breeze coming over the hill. John and friends were walking along the water's edge? That's nice. It's soothing, idyllic, peaceful. John could tell a story about camping under the stars when he was a kid.

Or better yet, it's just John and Mabel walking under the stars, holding hands, a nightingale's singing in the distance. She looks into his eyes, immediately they know, he leans down and gently kisses her. Wonderful! Good start. I like it.

But will my audience like it? Sure. Who doesn't like a nice love story? So this is it. John and Mabel falling in love on a balmy evening in springtime.

Wait a minute! What the heck have I done? John and Mabel? Love? Springtime? This is a ghost story - for campers! Delete, delete, delete!!!!! (The problem with computers is that you don't have the dubious satisfaction of yanking the paper out of the typewriter, crushing it into a tight ball, and making a three pointer into the trash can.)

Okay. Back to the drawing board. Spooky camping story. Needs a good beginning. Something that sets the tone. A little eerie, with a hint of some nameless horror to come. Let's see, I've got it! I think this will work. It was a dark and stormy night and all the kids were sitting around the campfire. Someone said, "Come John, tell us a story," so John began.

And so the process goes.

April 11, 2013

Time Management and the slightly ADD

I totally identify with that email that goes around now and then about the woman who goes to the kitchen in the morning, pours milk on her cereal, sees her car keys, remembers the bag of fruit she left in the car, dashes outside to get it, notices the dog's paws are muddy, turns on the hose to rinse the dog, but sees that the petunias are drooping, turns to water them, glances at her watch and realizes how late she is. With car keys in hand she hops into the car and leaves for work. On her way home she smells something very odd the whole drive. She remembers the bag of fruit - really hot bananas. Upon arriving at her little castle she finds the front door open, the hose still running, the petunias washed away, the dog rolling in the mud, and a bowl of disgusting mush sitting on her counter attracting flies.

That's me. Although I have no dog and the cats wouldn't let me near them with a hose. Just a minute...Sorry. I'm back. Had to put in a load of laundry. Trying to find the time to write, even just a Friday blog, is quite a challenge for me. I hear the mailman... No very large check from the Maryland Lottery. Perhaps tomorrow.

Today I've been pretty focused. I managed breakfast and a trip to the salon for a haircut uninterrupted...I've got to get my iced tea. Where was I? Today. Yes, I started a craft project, a cute little cigar box jewelry box, but got sidetracked looking for feet and ate lunch instead. I read a book with lunch and realized I really need to be writing something. So I started a short story for Intrigue Publishing's September conference. However, while I was at the computer I stopped to check something on my health insurance's website. Which reminded me to call my daughter regarding my own website which is in need of an update.

Meanwhile, ever present in my mind is that four letter word - Dinner! Yes, I can count, but anyone who has made dinner most every night for going on forty-two years knows what I mean. It's always there, lurking in my head. But dinner or not I have left my character, Angela Delphinium Forrest, standing on a street corner in Annapolis with her dog, Percy, and it's really chilly! And she's just getting over the flu. I need to get them home.

But the short story isn't due for while, and I've promised myself I'd blog every week. So I'll work on the blog. Excuse me, if I don't make the bed now, I'll forget and my husband will just fall asleep on the mattress cover.

I'm back. Now, iron will! I will get Angela and Percy off that corner before they are arrested for vagrancy or worse! I have absolute certainty that they will be well on their way home by five o'clock this afternoon. But first, just let me put the sheets in the drier and give my son a call. He's not feeling well.  Okay. Back to work. Right after I trim this hangnail that's bugging me silly.

April 5, 2013

SEX and the cozy mystery

Let's talk about SEX. Specifically, if I write a mystery and add a little sex to it, can it still be a cozy? What, you thought I was going to talk about my sex life? Not so much. We'll talk about Agatha Christie's sex life.

No, I've been trying to figure out which genre my novel, Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My!, falls into. I consider it a Cozy Mystery. But would Agatha Christie agree? She was the master of the cozy. She set the standard - a nice little murder mystery with no on-screen (as it were) violence, no off-color language, and no sex.

Her sleuths seemed quite naive, but were actually pretty worldly and astute. The likes of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot were never shocked for they were all too aware of the evil people were capable of. But it was all very civilized. They solved crimes with the use of 'little grey cells' and a deep knowledge of human nature. They never resorted to fisticuffs, car chases, or firefights.

Her books were filled with a lots of evil people who thought nothing of knocking off victims both innocent and not so innocent. Murder, often an alarming number of murders in any given book, was perfectly acceptable, but not in front of the reader! 

Her stories contained no bad language, though they did have an awful lot of French, which I found annoying.

And, of course, no one was bed hopping. There were no steamy scenes. An Agatha Christie novel was suitable for anyone ten years old and up. Let's face it, Agatha Christie knew what she was doing. She was writing for an age that liked to pretend that sex didn't exist.

Fast forward to 2013. As a writer of cozy mysteries today, I have to ask myself if strict adherence to that template will work for me. I mean, we live in a time when sex is everywhere and really deplorable language has become part of everyday vocabulary, not that that's a particularly good thing. It just is.

So how much sex and/or language can be inserted into a nice little mystery and it still be considered a cozy? In Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My! the sex is pretty much limited to a small dog who has no sense of appropriate behavior.

The woman who edited my manuscript found his behavior offensive and inappropriate in a cozy. Luckily, my publisher (Intrigue Publishing) agreed with me that Malcolm is just plain amusing. Yes, humping is not strictly Christie-kosher, but I think it works.

As to language, there is some in my book that you would never hear from a Christie character. It isn't gratuitous. I didn't add it for shock value. I think it all fits in with the characters. When people are angry, scared or stressed they sometimes say things they wouldn't in other circumstances. But, again, according to my editor, not in keeping with the cozy model.

So I think what I've got is, perhaps, a Modern Cozy. There is still no on-screen violence. I personally think that is the most important aspect of the cozy mystery. I don't think you can cross this line and still have a cozy.

But there is some amusing 'sex'. And there are some references to adult relationships, but nothing at all overt. And there is a bit of language. But really, a ten year old can read Roses and Daisies and not be scarred for life. Actually a ten year old probably knows a lot more 'language' than I do and, I'm afraid, they might know more about sex.

So, what do you think? I'd love to hear from other writers and readers.