Category Archives: Mysteries

Favorite Thing Mystery Monday…

Posted on September 20, 2010 by

My post today at Favorite Thing Ever is about the awesomely creepy Minette Walters novel, The Shape of Snakes.

And in case you missed it, kelly-yoyoKelly gives a most excellent pitch for Twitch City – The Complete Series, whose don’t miss central thesis is: Molly Parker is Lickable.

Other sources of televisual excitement in Dualand include the season premieres of both House and Castle, not to mention the CBC documentary: Queen Elizabeth in 3D. Really. That last bit isn’t a joke.

One book, two book, new book, blue book…

Posted on September 7, 2010 by

First, an exciting contest announcement: Favorite Thing Ever is giving away a copy of Indigo Springs. Entering is easy: surf here, leave a comment, and you’ll be in the running to win. No skill testing questions are involved.

Speaking of skill-testing, I am embarking on a new novel this morning.

I had been thinking to write a couple more squid stories, to go with the three already published and the two that are about to hit the market. However, after a couple of weeks of thrashing around the Battle of Las Vegas, I’ve conclusively determined that my head’s not currently in the Proxy War. So, as an experiment, I switched over to detailed planning on THE RAIN GARDEN, my next mystery project. Things clicked immediately. Presto, plotto, kazam!–I have an outline.

My plan as of two weeks ago had been to blast through a very rough draft of this book in November, as a Nanowrimo thing. Barring fire, flood and the common cold, I find that two thousand words a day for thirty days (less a couple days off) is a pretty sustainable pace for me. But since I’m ready now I’m darnwell gonna start now, keeping the end-of-November finish date but moving at more of a 900-word daily target. That will leave time for days off, a visit to Alberta, and Orycon.

I like the sustained push-push-focus of Nanowrimo, but it does tend to leave me bug-eyed and gibbering well into December. And there’s no reason to hold off if I’m ready to write the book now.

So, hey! What are all of you working on this autumn?

Cruising through the bookpile…

Posted on August 20, 2010 by

Kelly’s brother turned up on our doorstep out of the blue some weeks ago. He was on a business trip to Vancouver, and had ended up at a big fancy dinner at Federico’s Supper Club, which is just around the corner from us. So he ducked out and came to visit.

Part of catching up involved his telling us about a recent trip: he and his family had just come back from a Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean. They came back more tired than they were before they left, he said, because they went on so many shore excursions. (And, really–the Mediterranean? How could you not?) Still. The prospect of spending my downtime getting exhausted did not appeal. I vowed then and there to sit on my butt as much as possible while I was cruising.

So last week, amid the visiting and the wandering around various Alaskan towns, I finished Adam Nicholson’s Quarrel with the King: The Story of an English Family on the High Road to Civil War, reread the oft-mentioned Tana French novel In the Woods
and got two thirds of the way through In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory.

The Nicholson book was rough slogging at points. English history isn’t my strong suit, and this covers several generations of Pembroke family history, with regard to their relationship with the Crown. It goes from Henry VIII through to the Revolution. The best part, for me, was Nicholson’s lovely descriptions of the terrain around Salisbury. Here’s a snip:

Early on a summer morning–and you should make it a Sunday, when England stays in bed for hours after the sun has risen, the chalk downland to the west of Wilton slowly reveals itself in the growing light as an open and free-flowing stretch of country, long wide ridges with ripples and hollows within them, separated by river valleys, with an air of Tuscany transported to the north… At first, the larks are up and singing, but everything else is drenched in a golden quiet. Shadows hang in the woods, and the sun casts low bars across the backs of the hills. You will see the deer, ever on the increase in southern England, moving silently and hesitantly in the half-distance. It is a place of slightness and subtley, wide and long-limbed, drawn with a steady pencil.

I think if you already have a background in this era, it’s a delight. Otherwise, consider waiting on it until you know more. I might still try God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (P.S.), but not soon.

I have been trying to sell Kelly on Tana French, so as soon as she wanted In the Woods, I handed it over. (I finished it yesterday.) My initial reaction to the book is here. I was so ambivalent I gave it away, only to realize after the fact that I’d loved it, so we bought a copy for Kelly to read on the cruise.

In Triumph’s Wake is rocking my world, and will get its own post after I’m finished with it. Meanwhile, here’s a preview of tomorrow’s post about our day in Skagway:
Skagway

To Nano not to Nan?

Posted on August 9, 2010 by

A long time ago (1994, I think) in an apartment just a few blocks away, I took it into my head to participate in the Three Day Novel contest. It was a great experience: over a long weekend, I wrote something like 65,000 words of dystopian, after-the-eco-apocalypse SF, and duly mailed it in to Arsenal Pulp Press. I didn’t win–nobody won that year–but I was a better writer at the end of the weekend, and I had a finished novel in hand and ready to revise.


The one flaw in my otherwise cunning plan was that I had chosen to write something based on one of my oft-started, utterly frustrating, would-not-gel-for-friggin-love-or-money novella starts. Over multiple failed attempts to make it come together, I’d come to heartily dislike the whole project. But, somehow, I decided the solution was to bust the thing out to novel length. Good plan, right?

As it turns out, no. At the end of three days, I had gone from having an unworkable thirty-page story to revise to having an unworkable 220 page book to fight with.

Oops. It’s trunked now, and good riddance.

In 2004 or thereabouts, I formed a pact to do National Novel Writing Month with a few of my beloveds. The goal this time around was to draft up a literary novel I’d proposed to the Canadian Grant Deities a few months earlier; I’d written that proposal while fully aware that I was hoping to have a contract for Blue Magic by then and I was a little scared of ending up on the hook for two books at once. I know, we should all have such problems, right? But I figured that if I had a draft of the grant novel in hand, I could revise one while drafting the other. (This worst-case-scenario, timingwise, never came about, as it happened.)

This time I picked a novel I was in love with, something I was excited about writing. Much better plan. The biggest concern I had with the whole scheme was that, for several years running, my writerbrain had stopped dead in its tracks each November. This was, actually, another reason for doing it. Losing a whole month out of one’s working year… it’s a lot. I could have usefully allocated the time to research, but I simply didn’t wanna.

For me, Nanowrimo worked out pretty well. I tried to write 2,000 words a day–that put me ahead of the game whenever I needed a day off. I took those days, and still finished a bit early. The month was exhausting, and the book pushed many other commitments to the wayside, but I got the book written as planned. That first draft of The Wintergirls was certainly messy, but my drafts are all messy; that didn’t scare me. The cameraderie and public accountability also worked for me. I posted word counts, was encouraged by blog readers as well as my nearest and dearest, encouraged other… Nanites? Nanners? Nannies? … in their turn, and came out of it with a draft that’s now very polished indeed. This is now my go-to strategy when I’m potentially double-booking myself: get one of the books well underway in November, and hope the rest falls together. I did it again in 2009, and am very pleased with the current state of the resulting book, which I’ve now revised about three times.

Unless other contracts start falling around here like hail, I’m planning to write The Rain Garden this coming November.

What about all of you? Yes? No? Why or why not? Your Nano tales would be very welcome.

WIP – The Rain Garden

Posted on July 31, 2010 by

I’ve been bouncing from project to project a bit lately. Like many other writers, I have a Sekrit Project on the go, but as of Thursday it has been sent off to someone for a Look. In the meantime, I’m here:

Dill opens the back door of the overlarge truck, throwing his backpack inside. In the process he knocks loose an obstruction, a cinderblock-sized cardboard lump encased in box tape, emblazoned with the logo of an overnight courier company.

“Careful,” Fanny snarls as it bounces out of reach.

“Sorry.” He has to all but bellyflop into the back to retrieve it from behind the driver’s seat. Something shifts within the box as he sets it back on the seat. The sensation has a distant, disturbing familiarity; he examines the box, but it is too dim to see the printed return label.

“Hurry, will you? You’re letting out all the warm air.”

“Nag, nag, nag.” Squaring away both box and luggage, he scrambles back to a standing position, nose wrinkling as white puffs of truck exhaust billow around his ankles. Warm diesel fumes exhale clammy, petrochemical warmth onto his jeans. He climbs into the front.

The truck cab smells of dog and scrambled egg. Fanny hands over breakfast. Her make-up is minimal this morning . . . a whitish foundation, pink lips. For some reason, Dill is reminded of The Mikado.

Three little girls from school . . . Dill yawns. “You must’ve got up at the crack of dawn to do this.”

“Didn’t sleep.” Fanny’s knuckles whiten on the wheel. “Got the package and . . . ”

“And didn’t tear it open? Not like you.” Inside the bag is a medium coffee, double double, the breakfast sandwich and a trio of donut holes with chocolate chips–clustered in the bottom like that, they look like fish eggs. “Does that mean you already know what’s inside?”

“It’s my sister.”

“Sister. Sarah, right?” There’s something he’s not getting here. He bites into the lukewarm biscuit, dredging gossip: sister and Fanny are fraternal twins, she made it through a Master’s degree in . . . music theory? And then had a mental breakdown.

She ended up a heroin addict and a boozer in Vancouver . . . but she’d cleaned up, hadn’t she? Now she’s shipped something across the country and suddenly Fanny needs a favor.

This is going to be bad, Dill thinks.

Fanny pulls out. The truck waffles on the snowpack, then finds traction into the groove made by the vehicles that preceded it. Beyond the window, the whole world is grey–the gradually lightening sky, the dirt-tinged drifts, the hulking structure of the Saint Lawrence market.

“So. It’s from Sarah?” Dill repeats.

Fanny shoots him a look of white-hot suffering and grinds the truck into a left turn. The box moves again and Dill reaches back to steady it. Something shifts inside, like sand.

“Sarah, yeah. I mean no, that box isn’t from her, it is her. Her–”

Oh. It’s ashes. “Jesus, Fanny, I’m sorry. What happened?”

Snowstorm November06