Guest Blogger ~ Robin Henry

Great mystery/thriller books writers should read… by Robin Henry

It is time for year end lists!  Here’s my list of favorite mysteries and thrillers I read in 2022.  NOTE—I read these in 2022, some of them were published earlier…

Each of these are a great mini-masterclass for mystery writers, too. Each does a wonderful job of keeping the reader curious, building suspense, but without frustrating the reader.  Several of them are also playing with form, like epistolary or traditional historical.  If you want to write a great mystery or just get lost in one for a while, these are all excellent choices.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

An excellent use of the epistolary form, and just a fun mystery with a load of crazy characters who will keep you guessing.  Definitely recommended for Cozy fans…

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Domestic Thriller by the current Queen of the Genre in my opinion.  So many family secrets…but somehow all loose ends are explained and tied up at the end.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Need a book that will make you stay up until 2 AM?  Look no further.  This apartment building is creepy and so are the people who live there…

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up, you’ll love every moment you spend with the gang. One of the most fun things about Osman is the observations he makes about the world through the eyes of his characters.  Surrender to it and you won’t be sorry.

Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St. Olaf’s Church by Indrek Hargla

English translation by Adam Cullen, English version published by Peter Owen

A finely plotted traditional medieval whodunit.  If you’ve been wishing for a new Father Cædful, try Apothecary Melchior…

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Gritty, alternative history mystery set in the Berlin of a partially victorious Third Reich.  The Cold War looks a little different and the Americans under President Joe Kennedy (mobster father of John, Ted, and Robert) is cozying up to the fascists. The book is simply fantastic and also a little frightening because of the way Harris understands human nature.

See more book reviews along with free writing tools at http://readerly.net

Robin Henry is a librarian and independent scholar turned book coach who loves history and mysteries along with her hot beverage.  You can find out more at http://readerly.net or contact her at readerlybooks@gmail.com 

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone who reads this blog, writes for this blog, and guests on this blog has had a wonderful year reading all the unique and interesting posts. I know I enjoy each post for different reasons. Some are about how to write a mystery, some are about marketing, and some are about how the writer came up with the story, premise, characters. Some are vignettes about a writer’s life. There is always something interesting to learn from a post at Ladies of Mystery.

Today, as I write this post, I am starting a read through and edit pass before book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series heads out to my critique partners. By the time you read this, the manuscript will be in the hands of my CPs and I will be fleshing out the next Spotted Pony Casino book.

Even with the holidays, I still have books in my head that want to get out. I have slowed down the last few months which has driven my on time, schedule-to-keep-self crazy! This book that is just now being read by critique partners was (on my white board) to be published by now. Life got in the way and while my disciplined self is kicking my backside for not getting it done on time, my family self is saying, it’s okay. Things happen and you begin to see that hanging out with friends and family are more important than getting that next book out on time.

And that is why, I backed off on my goals for 2023. Next year I have two wonderful trips planned. One with family and one with friends. They will take away a month and a half of writing time. And I plan to do more in-person events, which when you live as far away from where most in-person events happen, I have to add 2 extra days for travel.

I’m taking a marketing class while getting ready for company for Christmas and helping my daughter with a wedding 2 days after Christmas. Yes, life is always interesting!

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a Healthy Happy New Year! See you in 2023!

NOT THE THANKSGIVING I HOPED FOR

We’d been invited to have Thanksgiving with one of our grandsons and family and I really looked forward to it. We’ve gone there in the past. He lives in another foothill community, up a winding road to a hill top retreat. His father-in-law, a master chef, prepares the feast—always gourmet.

Besides the wonderful food, many other relatives and friends join the festivities.

However, this year for us it wasn’t too be. I came down with a vicious bug. No way could I go anywhere.

All was not lost, however. We share our home with our granddaughter and family and she looked forward to doing her own Thanksgiving. She and her hubby made the food with the help of her two oldest daughters.

Though I didn’t have much of an appetite, what I did eat was delicious, and hubby didn’t miss out on a Thanksgiving meal.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much, only that I haven’t felt like doing any. I’ve kept in touch with family members via Facebook. I learned my brother-in-law was too sick to go to their big family feast. One of my author friends has the same symptoms as I do, and she had chicken soup for her Thanksgiving meal.

I’ve had many great Thanksgivings in the past, many I prepared myself. These days, I’m happy that the younger generation is taking over those duties.

Despite not feeling well, I’m thankful for so much in my life, having my husband of 71 years, my big family, and my friends including all my author friends, the joy of creating a fictional world and sharing it with others, and still being able to enjoy life.

My hope is that all of you who read this post, had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to what’s coming next.

Marilyn

What To Write

While I always have a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head, when I finished the latest Spotted Pony Casino book, I wasn’t sure which idea I should write next.

Should I just pick one of the titles? I have a list of gambling terms that I use for the titles in the Spotted Pony Casino series. Or should I use one of my ideas and figure out which term/title would work for it? I pondered this as I began the next Hawke book. I like to be thinking about several books ahead while I write the current one. It’s how I can finish up one and dive right into the next one, because I’ve been thinking about it in the back of my mind.

I had a little help from my subconcious.

One night as I was taking a shower a scene popped into my head and I knew which idea I’d be using. I got out of the shower and wrote the scene down. Now that I know the direction the next story is heading, I can pick one of the ten titles I have to go with it, and I can begin plotting the suspects and motives.

When I finish writing the current Hawke book, Bear Stalker.

Because I write two series, hopping from one to the next I have also been wondering which of my Hawke ideas would be the next book. There are times I can have two to three books in a series lined out in my head and on paper, but I’m working on book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series and while I have three more ideas written down, I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go.

The other night, just as I was about to drift off the opening scene for the next Hawke book trickled through my mind. I immediately grabbed the notebook by the bed, went into the bathroom and closed the door to not wake hubby and the puppy, and started writing it down.

As I wrote the opening scene, I realized the story would play out differently than I had originally planned for this scenario. I love when my brain figures out a better story line than what I’d first thought.

This new idea should make the readers who like when Hawke tracks in the mountains happy and will keep them wondering how many bodies Hawke will come across. 😉

When ideas come to me like this- out of the blue when I’m not trying to figure something out-I call them gifts. Because they are always better than what I had come up with while forcing myself to figure out a story line.

The mind is a wonderful thing. I hope we don’t lose our originality and creativity to machines.

Conformity – Celebration or Curse?

by Janis Patterson

There is a plague spreading through my neighborhood and no, I don’t mean the recent Covid Crazies. This new assault is visible, concrete and sublimely ugly. I live in a nice, mid-century development of nice, middle-class custom homes, mostly single story and at one time all of natural brick. The different hues and shadings of the different bricks were beautiful, and one of the most appealing facets of the area. A former cotton field, this was starkly bare land when my parents first built this home, but as people moved in they planted trees and now we live in a forest of towering trees, mainly oaks and crepe myrtles, some twice as tall as the houses they shelter.

But that is changing, and not for the better. The soaring price of real estate and congruent punishing taxes has priced a lot of the old residents out of their homes, many of which have been snapped up by developers and flippers. (My thoughts on these two categories of humanoids are not suitable for public pixilation!) Sadly, the result is that our neighborhood is subject to both the denigration and degradation of conformity, and the lovely old brick is being covered by thick layers of paint with no shading, no personality and definitely no taste.

Painted almost exclusively a dead flat white or a dark, depressing grey, these once beautiful and individual homes now resemble nothing so much as the love child of Soviet brutalist architecture and a rogue box of Legos. In the setting of gracious old trees and carefully tended gardens the result is not only ugly but jarringly distressing.

One of the flippers proudly said the painted brick trend was new, modern and made a more cohesive neighborhood. He then asked me what I thought of his newly decorated grey lump, whereupon I asked him did he mean other than the fact it was hideous? Hmmm… even in this riotous real estate market the painted brick houses seem to be moving more slowly than the traditional brick. Perhaps the concept of good taste may be taking a beating, but is not yet truly dead.

So, you are doubtless thinking, has this woman lost her mind? What does this have to do with writing?

I fully believe there is such a thing as synchronicity amongst human beings. Bringing individual architecture (and remember, this is a neighborhood of custom-custom houses, each individually designed and built) into a fast (and relatively cheap) homogeneity in order to appeal to the (theoretically) vastest amount of people is a form of seeking the lowest common denominator with no thought or regard for individual tastes. The same thing happened in publishing.

Remember before the tsunami of self-publishing became practicable? Remember the pigeonholes of genre fiction? The ever-tightening pigeonholes as dictated by traditional publishing? If you didn’t write to their exact specifications you didn’t get contracted. They always wanted (and I quote) “… the same as (insert name of currently popular author here) but different…” Forget creativity. Forget individuality. Conformity at all costs. I can remember when some publishers even put out tip sheets, dictating what should happen in a manuscript almost to the exact page.

Now I understand that traditional publishers have to make a profit – that is right and natural – but don’t the readers have rights as well, mainly the right to read whatever permutation of fiction they want? If the trads dictated that Regency romance is to be super-sexy with only the barest nod of the head to history, what happens to the reader who finds written sex boring and is fanatic about historical accuracy? Or vice-versa? What about in mysteries the dictum that a dead body should appear in the first chapter, the closer to the first page the better?

Thus self-publishing was born, and thank God for it! It has freed writers to write what they want and get it before the public, and given readers to find the exact kind of book/genre they want. Sexy psychic vampire nuns on the planet Zeon, anyone?

Yet a certain conformity has crept in there, too, as more and more writers write to market. If talking cats who live in a needlework shop and solve crimes with their telekinetic powers are suddenly big, there are star-chasing writers who will writer them, often with widely varying degrees of both success and ability. At least there will always be variety, no matter if some constantly try to write to market without regard as to if the market is right for them or not.

Also the indie author is getting shafted by more and more pirates/thieves and are even getting short shrift from the sales outlets which make money from their sales. Amazon has a monthly subscription program for readers called Kindle Unlimited, which it pushes far more than books that are ‘wide’ – i.e., available from other retailers. A self-published book written by an unknown can be so far down in the algorithms that even with a search for the exact title and author you might have to go 10 or 15 pages in to find it.

For a self-published author to be in KU they must be totally exclusive to KU, and woe betide any lone outlet which has been neglected to be removed by any retailer, no matter how small, distant or obscure. The writer will have that book pulled instantly from KU and even runs the risk of having his entire account and all his books cancelled.

Nor does it stop there. Unfairly, traditional publishers can put a book into KU even while keeping the title wide. Here conformity only seems to affect the independents. There are also pricing/payment options available to the trads that are denied to self-publishers. I cannot help but wonder if the trad books on Amazon are as plagued by the buy, read, return, refund plague which afflicts self-published books – and their authors’ incomes,  but that is a rant for another day.

We have come a long way from the tastelessness of painted brick to the pitfalls and traps of self-publishing, but it is all part and parcel of the curse of conformity which seems to be infecting our land. America was founded on the right to individuality and self-responsibility, be it business, bricks or reading material. Celebrate this by supporting your courageous and dedicated self-publishers. Go buy one of their books today. You’ll enjoy it.