Tag Archives: genres

Why Mysteries?

People have asked me why I like to read and write in the Mystery genre. My answer: mysteries have it all. If I need an intellectual challenge I can select one that has a complicated plot and denouement and slug all the way through to a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps I’ll spend a good deal of time working out a puzzle, deciphering clues and enjoying the challenge of working out the solution on my own, maybe even before the protagonist does. Mystery writers are great at creating suspense and misdirection and keeping us readers on the edge of our seats. They also generally play fair by providing the clues for the reader to utilize along the way, and they usually wrap up loose ends before the story reaches completion.

If I’m in the mood for a lighter touch, I can turn to the cozy or humorous side of the genre. These mysteries can contain romance, fantasy, laugh-out-loud fun, comfort settings and food, and often a beloved pet. In other words, they provide a happier, more positive and relaxed environment where I can escape from daily trials.

Then there’s the kind of story in which the protagonist sets out on an adventure of discovery and suddenly I’m learning about an occupation or foreign country and its customs and mores unfamiliar to me. Or the atmosphere or setting of a place will inspire me to draw or paint the feeling it gives me or recreate it in an original story of my own. How many times have you been reading something that sparked all sorts of creative ideas in you?

Series mysteries are very popular. As readers follow a specific character or characters through different adventures and become emotionally attached to them and their settings, these characters become “family” and readers enjoy following along in their lives. And, luckily, most series authors are good about making each book work as a stand-alone. I really try to read series books in order though, because the protagonist (and sometimes other characters) tends to learn and develop with each case he/she has to deal with and it’s nice to see how and why these developments occur.

Mysteries often contain atmosphere. British mysteries come to mind immediately. The phrase, ‘A castle in Scotland” immediately conjures up an image somewhat similar for most people, but along with that phrase can come, ancient, gray, crumbling stones, thunder and lightning, rain and fog, lonely, dark and dreary landscapes, ramshackle outbuildings, etc. Or perhaps you see in your mind’s eye a palace with all the finery that comes with that image. Plush, royal robes, crown jewels, carriages, a monarch. Words that are full of colorful paint.

Most of my favorite authors are traditionally published and their books have been edited professionally. That is extremely important to me as a reader, because correct grammar and sentence structure make for clear writing and thus, for me―understanding. I must add that I have read some self-published authors who have gone that extra step to have their books professionally edited and I say kudos to them.

I have a TBR pile (To Be Read) and there are many sub-genres of mysteries represented in it where international characters, each vie for my attention in this century and others, depending on my mood. I do have some memoirs, women’s fiction, biographies, fantasy and horror books, too, but most of my TBR pile consists of mysteries. Mysteries all ready to load onto paintbrushes. What’s your palate preference?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Without All the Love by Ginger King

My series The Lost and Found while not necessarily romance in genre, does contain some romance because the stories are all about loving in difficult situations.  Loving parents, running from a love we know is good for us.  Loving our friends who know us just about as well as we know ourselves.  Each book has a set of circumstances in the plot that are dramatic and thrilling (hopefully) on their own without romance or love.  So I ask myself why do even the best thrillers have some aspect of love and or romance? Is is because it is present even if what is experienced is the exact opposite of love?

Sometimes it is in the form of deep respect, an appreciation for an elder or mentor as in Jeffery Deaver’s The Bone Collector between Lincoln and Amelia.  Perhaps it is friendship and the lifelong bond it sometimes creates such as in the film The Sandlot as shown in the ending scene between Benny and Smalls.  Also there is familial love.  The kind that creates a good kind of crazy that only exists in the family dynamic.  Then there is heart wrenching family love found in books like Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.  So very many stories would be less without all the love.  Even the Love Story is about so much more than the romantic love between Ollie and Jenny but in that story their love is the reason for nearly everything that happens apart from the fatherly love of Phil.  In other books, the love is a result, a complication, a game changer to the plot.  Sometimes it is a large part, and sometimes small, but it is there none the less.

In the first book of the Lost and Found series, Diamond Road the action and plot move along because of what happens to one of the main characters.  Her set of circumstances are neither romantic or driven by romance.  They are driven by her need to survive, to come out of those circumstances whole and happy.  In the second novel of the series (coming later this year) Hope in Carolina there is way more romance than in any of the other books.  It’s strategic.  These new main characters needed to have a bond that they are not willing to lose despite the odds stacked against them.  As their story completes itself in the third book of the series the plot is predominantly a drama and criminal thriller with lots of action inside and outside of a hospital and a courtroom.  But what gravity would all of that have on these two characters without all the love?

If you stop and ask yourself these same questions about your own life, you realize that if we write about humans, the kind we know, the kind we are then you must admit that every story is a love story to some degree.  Here is a short excerpt from Hope in Carolina that is romantic in nature.  It’s about how some of the details of the world around us slip away when we are in the embrace of that certain person who holds our heart in such a way as to make us believe we are one with them.

Hope asked, “I mean have you ever kissed someone and you can’t even remember what you did with your hands? I never knew what my hands were doing, where they were.  All I know was how he made me feel.  One hundred percent his, and I was so totally in the moment with his lips on mine or his teeth gently nibbling at my neck or jawline.  For the brief seconds we weren’t’ joined we were nose to nose with a slight giggle coming from one or the other of us like we knew something, held some prizze no one else could ever possibly understand.  I still don’t recall where my hands were most of the time.  It was like they melted away and his lips were all I knew.”

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Rowing Against the Current

When I was a teenager, my best friend dreamed of singing in a band. She dedicated many, many hours to exploring the music she loved. She was so full of melody that she would burst into song at the drop of a piano chord. The only thing holding her back was her inability to carry a tune.

She overcame this little problem by devoting a few years of her life to singing lessons. Although she has yet to achieve international stardom in the rock ‘n roll band of her dreams, she is now an accomplished singer and is in demand at many local and regional functions.

I think of her often as I begin working on a novel that is outside my typical venue of graphically violent suspense. To be quite honest, what I am trying to write is the direct opposite of my typical mystery/thriller stories. I am undertaking a literary journey along unfamiliar trails.

Yes, this is all new territory to me, but it stems from a goal I set for myself a few years ago. My objective is to write novels within the genres of mystery/thriller/action (two novels completed), science fiction (working on it as we speak), western (I have an outline), horror (several works have been started), realistic fiction (halfway finished), fantasy (outlined and first two chapters written), humor (outline with a first chapter), and romance.

Romance is the jarring discord in the quest for my Writer’s Grail. As a woman, you would think it would be easy for me to write about relationships, love, and passion. I certainly thought writing romance would be a breeze.

I was wrong. It is not.

I truly admire all of my fellow authors who are romance writers. The nuances needed in a well-written romance are different from anything I have written. I struggle to create a tale of love that does not read like a Flintstones’ episode or a Debbie Does Dallas script.

Although I am sometimes clueless about how to make my romantic novel tick, I think I am going in the right direction. A decent tale of romance needs a spoonful of passion, a dash of conflict, a sprinkling of mystery, and a pinch of optimism.

I am excited and nervous about this venture. Even though romance is not my forte, I know that I will be able to overcome that tiny problem. After all, my tuneless friend now sings like a rock star.

J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,”
the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy

 

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