Guest Blogger – Kathleen Kaska

The Grand Dame of Mystery Writing

Agatha Christie_mockup02 copyAgatha Christie is regarded as the most popular mystery writer of all times. Since the publication of her first book in 1920, more than one billion copies of her books have been sold worldwide. She wrote her first detective story while working in a dispensary during the First World War. Her sister, Madge, bet Christie that she could not write a mystery in which she gave her readers all the clues to the crime and stump them at the same time. Christie proved Madge wrong, and The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published. Her second book sold twice as many copies as her first, and she found that writing flowed easily for her. In 1926, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, gained her world acclaim. It is one of the most talked about detective stories ever written. Using a technique that had not been used before, many of her colleagues and readers accused her of breaking the mystery-writing rules. In her defense, she stated that rules are made to be broken and if done well, prove effective. Almost ninety years later, the controversy still remains. She’s gone on record to say that this Hercule Poirot mystery was her masterpiece.

But my two favorite Christie mysteries are two of her lesser-known novels. In these two action-packed stories, The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad, Christie ventured away from Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot and drove into light-hearted adventure. She sent her young heroines, Anne Beddingfeld and Victoria Jones, to mysterious locales, exposes them to harrowing danger, and allowed them to live life on the edge.

“I had a firm conviction that, if I went about looking for adventure, adventure would meet me halfway,” Anne Beddingfeld proclaimed. He archaeologist father has decently died. On her own for the first time in her life, Anne is ready for adventure. But her eighty-seven pound legacy would not last long. After a discouraging job interview, Anne was waiting to catch the train home, which put her in the right place at the right time. A man, startled by something, stumbled and fell off the train platform onto the third rail. Another man claiming to be a doctor, examined the body, declared the man dead, and hurried away, dropping a piece of paper with the words, “17.122 Kilmorden Castle,” written on it. Anne retrieved the paper and tried to catch up with the doctor, but he disappeared into the crowd.

Anne was determined to find the man in the brown suit. He obviously was not a doctor, since he examined the victim’s heart by palpating the right side of his body. After a clever bit of detecting, Anne was aboard a ship to South Africa. In Anne’s life there are no coincidences.

A few days later, she was in her cabin, recovering from seasickness when there came a knock on her door. Or to be more exact, an explosion. Her door flew open and a man tumbled inside.

“Save me,” he says. “They’re after me.” Anne shoved him under her bunk and got rid of the nosy stewardess, who was tracking the apparently drunk passenger. However, alcohol was not the reason for his clumsiness. A knife wound and the loss of blood gave cause for the young man’s unsteadiness. As Anne dressed his wound, they exchanged insults and cold stares, along with a bit of shoving. As he felt, she realized that it was him—the man in the brown suit! But he was gone again, and she was left standing with clenched fists and a racing heart. There was no doubt about it. Anne was in love, and she would find him no matter what.

“To Victoria an agreeable world would be one where tigers lurked in the Strand and dangerous bandits infested Tooting.” Victoria Jones, unemployed secretary, flighty female, habitual liar, is the star of They Came to Baghdad. Fired from her job for poking fun at her employer’s wife, Victoria found herself on her favorite park bench, eating a tomato and lettuce sandwich, and contemplating her future with no income. Before her pondering became too serious, however, she noticed a handsome blue-eyed man sitting next to her, and her plans for finding a new job were forgotten. A quick exchange of life stories, a few laughs, and Edward declared he must leave. “I don’t suppose you’ll ever think of me again,” said Edward. “Oh, Hell—I must fly.” Duty called and Edward was off to Baghdad. Victoria decided to follow the young man. Undaunted by the 3,000-mile distance and the mere three pounds to the name, she conned her way to the Middle East and quickly found herself penniless and alone in a strange hotel.

All of a sudden, there is a knock at Victoria’s door. Could it be Edward? Had word reached him that she was in Baghdad? Without hesitation, she opened the door and found a handsome stranger seeking refuge.

“For God’s sake hid me somewhere—quickly,” he pleaded. Victoria, never one to shrug off adventure, shoved him under the bed cover, propped up the pillows and leisurely leaned back while the hotel manager searched the room. Satisfied that the fugitive was not present, the manager left. Victoria pulled back the covers just in time to hear the dying man’s cryptic message. Now she must found Edward, but where should she begin? After all, she didn’t even know his last name.

Following the adventures of these two young women is almost as exciting as following Indiana Jones into the Temple of Doom. The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad are truly two of Agatha Christie’s most delightful mysteries.

 

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries set in the 1950s. She also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes ThIMG11_2661e Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. The Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books are finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, (University Press of Florida) was released in 2012. Kathleen has a new mystery series, which will debut later in 2016.

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.facebook.com/kathleenkaska

https://twitter.com/KKaskaAuthor

 

Who Said You Could Wear a Dress?

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By JL Simpson

I made it this month. Due to the hectic pace of life, family crisis and dumb stupidity I missed posting in September. I hope you didn’t miss me, actually you probably never even noticed. However, whilst I have forgotten to post on here I have been busy writing.

Even though people buy and read my books I do feel like a fraud some days. In my head a writer bangs away on a typewriter with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of their mouth, a glass of whiskey close at hand. Even worse, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, (clue ha ha, no pun intended).

Some writers plot. They have weird charts, spreadsheets, cards and all manner of paraphernalia. I just have a blank screen. I’ve tried to plot. I’ve tried to work out how many words the book is going to be, how many chapters, what the gist of each chapter is, whose point of view it’s in, what the hook is at the end. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work for me.

For me writing a book is a lot like childbirth. Yes, lots of screaming, sweating, swearing at my husband (just kidding). Every word is hard earned. No matter how much you practice your breathing, and think  you know what is coming, labor is like nothing you could imagine. Everything you thought you knew goes out the window. Writing is like that for me.  Even when I have a plan or a plot my characters just do what they choose. I start a chapter thinking one thing is going to happen and then Solomon or Daisy will do or say something that takes the story off on a tangent. Today I was thinking I knew all there was to know about my grumpy Irish PI hero and then another character mentions that he once went undercover as a woman. Now Daisy is plotting how to put this knowledge about the Irish git to good use.

Not only is writing unexpected but it’s also surprising. If you’re going to slug it out for hours and hours then it’s nice to have something exciting at the end. When I had my kids I never knew if I was having a boy or a girl, and when I’m writing a book I never know what is going to happen. The only thing I know for sure is that someone it going to die, Daisy and Solomon are going to give each other hell, Daisy is going to flirt outrageously and somehow someway she is going to solve the case. Who dies, who kills them and why are not things that concern me when I start the story. Thankfully every book so far has been delivered healthy, and once dressed in a pretty cover lots of people have taken a look and decided that they love my crazy creation almost as much as I do.

 

www.jlsimpson.com

Review – Lost Cause by JL Simpson

paty shadow (1)I’ve slowly started integrating my fellow Ladies of Mystery authors into my “to be read” pile.  To let everyone know I won’t give a 5 star review unless I loved the book and if a book doesn’t work for me, I’ll not review unless I liked it enough for a 4 or 5.  And again this is my opinion.

I am a picky reader. The characters have to grab me right away and I have to become engaged in the story in the first chapter or I stop reading. I don’t have excess time to read. I have to love a book enough to make time to read. While eating lunch, while cooking dinner, while my husband is watching some TV show I could care less about. I spend most of my day helping on our 280 acres and writing.

Lost Cause 400Lost Cause by J.L. Simpson

Daisy Dunlop thinks “heir hunting” is a perfect career. Too bad she has to work with her husband’s best mate, Irish PI Solomon Liffey. They’ve barely spoken since he took her husband Paul’s request to keep her safe far too literally and handcuffed her to the kitchen sink.

Solomon has no interest in babysitting a new partner, especially this one. The woman’s a bleedin’ liability. She has no concept of danger and could flirt for England at the next Olympics. As if that isn’t bad enough, she has a habit of sticking her nose where it’s not wanted, including into Solomon’s very private life.

Determined to keep Daisy safely out of his way, Solomon sets her the task of finding a missing lord. Her investigations land her in the middle of his case. Bullets fly, bombs explode, and the body count rises. When Solomon goes missing, the tables are turned. Now it’s his life that is in Daisy’s hands, and she has two missing men to find before it’s too late.

MY REVIEW – 5 Stars

I loved this book. I made time to read it. Every time I stopped reading I had a huge smile on my face. This book is cheeky, funny, and a well written intrigue.

Daisy Dunlop is a wonderful character. She lights up the page and has a vivid vocabulary. Her love hate relationship with Solomon is witty and well-played.  The two make a raucous duo uncovering the mystery and uncovering the secrets in Solomon’s life. What I also liked is while Daisy is working with this woman-killer PI she never once forgets how lucky she is to have a loving husband. The scenes between Daisy and her husband are hot and loving.

The secondary characters were rounded, moved the story along, and well depicted.

If you are looking for a humorous whodunit, this is the book for you!

BONUS!  This book is free right now! Amazon 

www.patyjager.net

Writing into the Sunset  

When Readers Attack

IMG_1610As an indie author, (I love that, it sounds so  much more hip and cutting edge than self-published), every aspect of the publishing process for my Daisy Dunlop Mystery series is down to me.  I don’t have an agent to send my work to for feedback, nor do I have an in-house editor at a publishing house. In order to work out if a book is any good, or not, I am solely reliant on the kindness and honesty of others.

As I write each of my books I’m sure they’re rubbish. The plots don’t work, the characters are out of character, the ending sucks, and on and on the never ending negativity goes. When I start out I have a vague idea of what the book is going to be about, but I’m usually a third of the way in before it even starts to  make sense to me. I never have a detailed plot because I prefer my writing to be like my life, unexpected, traumatic and a never ending series of embarrassing and yet funny disasters. Honestly, I have as much fun writing the stories to find out what is going to happen as I hope readers have reading them.

I have some lovely people who critique and beta read for me, including this blogs very own Amber Foxx. These people are in my corner, and I know I can trust them to tell me when something is not working. I rewrote the end of Lost & Found because Amber said it needed more, and she was right. I also have a wonderful Greek editor, (Yep she’s Greek and her English grammar is better than mine), who edits my books at a discount for me.

My lovely Greek editor, Sotia Lazu also does my book covers, oh to be multi-talented. Lost Cause 400When this is all done, the book formatted, the blurb written, the price chosen and the book goes live I then sit and wait for an audience response. Sales of my books are never meteoric, Daisy and I console ourselves with the fact we are working on a long term plan. After Lost Cause being out for eight months I have now decided to give it away free everywhere to help Daisy get some traction. Anyway, I am now getting emails almost daily from readers.

What are they saying? Funnily enough they all like the book. Honestly! Who would have thought people who bother to email an author would be people who enjoy the book? That’s not to say they don’t have something negative to say. The people who I am now claiming as fans fall into three basic categories, ex pat Brits (all men) who love the English slang, the swearing and the feel of home my books give them. Did I mention they’re set on the South Coast of England where I grew up? The next group are UK and US readers who love everything about the book, and the third are US readers who like the story despite the slang and/or the bad language.

lostfound_02So, my dilemma, one group love the slang and bad language, and one group is not so keen. I read a lot of US books and some days I’m not sure they’re even written in English, but I muddle through. I have cut the slang back to just enough to give it an authentic UK feel and even my Irish PI is less Irish than any Irish person I’ve ever met. Maybe my readers will learn some new exciting phrases they can use at home. Reading is an adventure like world travel, it broadens the mind without the risk of Delhi belly and sunburn.

Language is unique in every culture, but you learn to adapt. When we first emigrated to Australia my husband had a job in Melbourne and one of the guys asked him what he wanted for smoko. My husband told him he didn’t smoke. The guy looked confused and said, “No mate do you want something for smoko?” My husband, “I don’t smoke.” The irrate dude, “Something to eat?” My husband, “Oh morning tea?” The rest of the construction crew now wetting themselves laughing at the pompous sounding Englishman.

So, I think, in Book 3 Lost Property which is still a work in progress, Daisy will have too continue swearing, just a little, and Solomon will have to LostProperty_05_HDkeep sounding Irish. I figure if the Greek editor can muddle through and make sense of it, then the readers can work out what is going on. Besides, if you have no idea what something in a book is make it up. That’s what I do. Whenever I read the word banquette, and it comes up more often than you would think in a US book, I imagine a massive sofa with flashing lights, or a huge feast set out for a king, like a banquet but bigger…who knows what it really is? But most times I can get the plot without having to understand every US thing in the book.  I dare you, come with me, download Lost Cause for free and come on a UK adventure that will show you an England you never knew existed.

JL Simpson

Where mystery and mayhem collide.

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