Are we ghoulish enough for you? If not, here's a ghoul for you. Still not scared? Will three do?
Friday, October 31, 2008
These are members of our household getting ready to head out to a Halloween party. Chris is in the jumpsuit, grandson who lives with us. Holly lives next door in our rental with the others, she granddaughter Jessi, the next girl, Elaina is my daughter-in-law and the creature on the end is my youngest son.
This is what they're supposed to be: prisoner, Playboy Bunny though she's mostly covered up with her jacket, police officer--though I've never seen one before with a garter (her boyfriend, not in the pic is also a prisoner--the black and white striped variety), female boxer, note the pink boxing gloves and pink robe--covering a most sexy outfit, Gladiator--and he really looks scary.
Happy Halloween and I'm glad I'm staying home!
Our god-children have always come, though, and they're always so cute in their costumes! It makes it worthwhile getting everything ready.
Romance with an edge
The big kids come without costume. They might wear a sweat shirt that lets me know their high school. What business do they have extorting candy? Now that cars no longer have hubcaps, kids seem to have lost their sense of mischief.
It's the adults that get me. You know the ones. They show up at the office in clothes that should have long ago been consigned to the thrift shop or the dumpster. So, who are you supposed to be? I'm a hippy from the 70's, man. Get real. If you want to dress obnoxiously, save it for Super Bowl Sunday.
I went to a Halloween party on Friday where a woman showed up in high heels, fishnet stockings, black skirt and white blouse open half way down. She said she was a sexy teacher. She was a little scary because she was well-endowed and threatened to spill out, but what does sexy teacher have to do with ghosts and goblins? I'm not against sexy costumes. I believe a little costume action can spice up a relationship, but there are more appropriate days on the calendar to take it public. Valentine's Day, May Day, and Midsummer's Eve come to mind.
With a sixteen-week football season in the fall and a month of spring break in March do we need another excuse to behave badly? My opinion is that Halloween has lost its meaning and is now just a run up to the season of greed. I say Halloween, bah humbug!
We’d start out going from door-to-door. As we ran into other kids we learned where the best treats were. Back in those days, it was the homemade cookies, candied apples and popcorn balls. We usually visited those houses more than once.
On this particular Halloween when I was around ten or eleven, my friends all tired out long before I was ready to quit–so I kept on knocking on doors by myself. I found myself in a neighborhood I didn’t know too well, about five blocks from home.
I had to climb a bunch of stairs and knocked boldly on the door. A mean looking man yanked the door open and it only took me a moment to see he was holding a rifle or shotgun. (I don’t know the difference to this day even if I do write mysteries.)
He squinted at me and said, “Do you know what I do to kids who come trick-or-treating?”
My heart was pounding so fast, I stammered out, “I don’t know.”
Of course I expected him to say, “I shoot them,” and I knew when my mom found out I was dead she’d be mad because I’d been trick-or-treating by myself.
Instead, he grinned and said, “I give them candy,” which he did.
That was enough for me. I said, “Thank you,” and high-tailed it home as fast as I could go. That was the only time I trick-or-treated by myself.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I love Stephanie Plum, out and about in Trenton, NJ, having messy adventures, solving the whodunit as she goes along, and losing a car most times around. I’ve been known to laugh out loud, even as my brain cells are trying to process the clues so well laid down by Ms. Evanovich.
But I’m just as intrigued by the stripped-down lifestyle of Jack Reacher in a Lee Child’s novel. A stark farmhouse set in the midst of fields, a NYC apartment – it’s gritty, it’s tough, and the laughs are few and far between. But it suits Reacher to a tee – Mr. Child knows his hero understands the underbelly of man’s (and woman’s) motivations, and his settings reflect that.
However, I also love to wander the early twenty-century English villages and countryside of Agatha Christie mysteries – as great on a re-read as they were the first time around years ago. The details of life, the struggles, the joys and the search for the truth – for me, all surround the central mystery and add to the enjoyment of trying to figure it out. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the mysteries are fun to try to unravel.
Like horses? Carolyn Banks’ novels with Robin and Jeet Vaughan are surrounded by equines as Robin solves the mysteries of who did the killing…and there’s always a smile or two as you canter along on the wonderful rhythm of Ms. Banks’ writing.
Want more horses? Tami Hoag gives readers some ugly crimes in the “beautiful people” and moneyed set of the Wellington winter horse circuit. From lonely canals with predatory alligators to private clubs with predatory men.
So…what’s your favorite mystery setting – the big city, a lonely farm setting, a Victorian mansion, a dressage barn or a childhood neighborhood? Whatever it is, enjoy the mysterious mood set by your favorite mystery author.
Romance with an edge
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Oh, did I mention my stories take place inside of lighthouses? Does that make them paranormal, romantic, lighthouse mysteries?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Before I was ever a writer, I was a reader. I read cereal boxes, the small print warnings on cough syrup and anything else laying around. I like to read. But it has been brought to my attention lately that I have been reading more used books and books from the library. That's an okay strategy in this economy, but many small independent bookstores are hurting. I just heard about another today, in danger of having to turn off the lights.
I am an author from a small independent press. I need to support the industry that supports (or may someday anyway) support me. I'm going out tomorrow to buy a book from a small bookstore. Won't you join me? You can always wrap the books up as a Christmas present.
Monday, October 27, 2008
So after becoming Vivian's follower (I'm hoping she issues cool Monk-like robes or something), I read her post, which mentioned her love of Nancy Drew. This reminded me that the first mystery I read was actually The Secret of the Old Clock, #1 in Carolyn Keene's (pen name!) Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series.
I received Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase and The Bungalow Mystery for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 (the same year, I also scored the Dark Shadows board game). At first I was disappointed (with the books, not the board game); I hadn't gotten to the stage where I actually asked for books as gifts. But after I read the first book, I was hooked. Mom gave me a bunch of her old Nancy Drew books (the blue bound editions). I plowed my way through those and by the time I was in my early teens, I'd amassed most of the books in the series.
When I hit my '20s, I'd fallen out of love with Ms. Drew and her irritating habit of doing everything perfectly. I still understand why the books were and are so popular, although I admit to having problems when they were updated to meet the current times' politically correct standards. The formerly swarthy villains (ALL bad guys were described as 'swarthy') joined the Rainbow Coalition, Nancy's already feminist leanings became more prominent, and the adventure were modernized to appeal to a more sophisticated readership. These are all good things, I realize that. But my childhood memories felt betrayed and I was quite happy when they reissued the original versions of some of the books for those of us who enjoy things for what they were and as a sign of the times they were originally written or filmed.
On a sad note, my entire collection of Nancy Drews died a stinky death when one of our cats peed on and in the box I'd stored them in, in my parents' garage. There is no bringing back a book from a dousing in cat urine.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
As I've read mysteries over the years, I studied them because I wanted to be able to write them. Finally, I succeeded after many tries and much study.
A few tips I've learned include the following:
Between a good beginning and a powerful end, a well-written mystery has to keep the reader's attention through the use of foreshadowing, tension, drama, and action. The reader has to want to turn the page or go to the next chapter to find out what happens next. Only the writer can accomplish that with good writing, dialogue, believable characters and action.
Write a good story: Huh? What does that mean? That means that no matter what tips or tricks or whatevers may be in a mystery, if the story isn't well-written, with correct grammar, spelling, sentence structure, the story won't fly. Kathy Pohl (The Writer June 2007) states it's important to learn the craft, the basics, of writing. Without knowing the basics of writing, one can't write a good story.
All the wonderful ideas found in the mind can't become written stories if the creator can't write the words so that they can be enjoyed and understood by others.
Create strong, believable characters: In a mystery, the writer knows one thing about one character before writing: The killer, if there is a murder, will kill someone. Other than that one fact about the antagonist, nothing else is know about any of the characters. The writer must develop each one thoroughly so that he or she is real, rounded, and believable to the reader.
Flat, one dimensional characters cause stero-types and boring reading. Multi-dimensional characters cause readers to care about them. Even an evil killer can have traits or background that will allow the reader to see him as a person.
Don't rely on a technique: Using a technique such as outlining or storyboarding should be an aid, not a master. Outlining never worked for me, because I work out the story/plot so thoroughly in my head, that it's real before I start writing. Bestselling crime author Tony Hillerman says that outlining doesn't work for him. He tried with the first three novels he wrote and failed and felt guilt-ridden and inadequate. When he decided not to try to outline, he found success.
If outlining works for you, great, but don't become a slave to a technique.
Have a strong plot: Any story must have a plot, a storyline. A conflict is necessary, a climax, a resolution, an ending. In a mystery, there must be a crime or some other type of mystery to be solved. A good book has a major plot and at least two or three sub-plots. For example, a couple who meet as a result of the mystery and who are attracted to each other
create a sub-plot inside the main plot of solving the mystery.
So far I've written three mysteries: The Base Stealers Club, Case of the Missing Coach, and Midnight Hours. The first two are young adult and the last a mystery/suspense novel.
Want to know more?
My blogs: Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap Vivian's Mysteries
website: Vivian Gilbert Zabel
Saturday, October 25, 2008
After the question was asked, the table would lift high enough to tap two legs on the floor, once for yes, twice for no. Each of us swore we weren't causing the table to move, but tap the floor it did, causing some of us to run from the room screaming. But that didn't stop us from repeating our spooky game every chance we could.
The Ouija board was supposed to predict the future, but my cousin Mary didn't marry Sam Gufstason, the name spelled out on the board more than once. It was during this period that I discovered my psychic ability. One night before spending the night at Mary's house, I dreamed she would be waiting to scare me in a dark, L-shaped hallway.
The following night, after leaving the bathroom to return to bed, I knew that she was there in the hall, although I couldn't see her. From then on, I had premonitions of things to come. Once, unbeknown to me, my sister-in-law gave birth to a premature baby. When the phone rang, I grasped the receiver, saying, "It's a boy." When I put the phone to my ear, I heard my brother-in-law say exactly the same thing. I always seemed know who was on the phone years before caller I.D. was available. I have to admit it was a bit unnerving.
A news reporter during the Vietnam War, my beat was the nation's largest Naval Air Station in Lemoore, California. I instinctively knew which pilots would never return home. I didn't want to know and did my best to block out any psychic revelations that came my way. Eventually, I was successful. Now, I welcome them and the premonitions are beginning to return.
I also found that I could accurately read palms and people appeared at my door asking for readings. I obliged them and probably could have made a career of it, but foretelling unfortunate events really takes its toll.
I haven't read a palm since visiting my brother at his coast guard station years ago. One night at the base in Neah Bay, I did an impromptu reading at the NCO club. A young man asked if I knew when he had been born. When I told him, he backed away, yelling, "You're a witch." Another reason I blocked my psychic power. I don't look good in tall, black, pointed hats.
I now realize that I was probably responsible for the table taping as a teen, and years later I actually met Sam Gufstason, who was married to a woman named Mary.
By the way, I'm writing a book about my mysterious psychic experiences.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I was in the seventh grade when I discovered a collection of Poe’s stories and poems in a box of books that belonged to my dad. I can still see the book. It had a cloth cover and inside were marvelous prints. Talk about sleeping with the light on! The Masque of the Red Death, in particular, scared the bejeezus out of me. I kept imagining the Red Death , himself, showing up.
The story that stuck with me, however, was The Cask of Amontillado. Some scholars say that story is Poe’s best story, possibly the best in American literature because there are no wasted words.
The story details a horrific act of revenge. The narrator, Montresor, gets back at his enemy, Fortunato, by sealing him up alive in the wall of a wine cellar. What did Fortunato do to deserve such a fate? Montresor claims he suffered insults from Fortunato. Insults? They must have been doozies.
Montresor says he bore the insults as best he could and continued to smile in Fortunato’s face. Here’s a note to everybody. Vent! Don’t keep your feelings bottled up! If Montresor had vented once or twice, this whole incident could have been avoided.
Fortunato isn’t the most likeable guy. He’s something of a wine snob. Montresor uses that snobbery to lure Fortunato to his end. But does snobbery, even wine snobbery, merit immurement? I hardly think so.
By the way, I think immurement is a great word for an act of murder. It rolls easily off the tongue, like defenestration, another great word. So architectural, both of them. But, I digress.
There’s an imbalance in The Cask of Amontillado that needs to be corrected. As Montresor says in the beginning, “A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.” Since first reading the story, I believed somebody needed to unredress the wrong.
Four decades later, I got my chance. I wrote a story, The Montressor Hit, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Poe’s death. It was published in Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine in 1999 and remains one of my favorite short stories. It is now up on my website, though I’m not urging you to go read it. It’s really just a humble effort. (And yes, I did misspell Montresor, and no, it was not intentional.) Instead, go read The Cask of Amontillado again. Published in November, 1846, The Cask of Amontillado hasn’t lost a bit of luster in 162 years.
On Saturday, I'll be giving a talk at the most wonderful bookstore, Cheesecake and Crime, in Henderson NV. I'm going to tell what I do to research for my Native American elements in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series--and most especially the latest, Kindred Spirits, which has a lot about the Tolowa people in it.
We plan to spend the whole weekend with them, won't be doing much writing related stuff.
Now the mystery is, how did the cute sailor I met 57 years ago on a blind date and I actually make it for 57 years as a married couple? (Everyone said it wouldn't last.)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
When it's time to go to sleep, there's no way the house will be completely without light. Nightlights are posted in strategic areas like by the kitchen counter, the hallway, the bedroom, even the room where the dog sleeps because Rascal's afraid of the dark also. Why she's afraid is another story which I'll share elsewhere.
For some reason light has magical powers of reducing fear.
I know I'm not the only one who's afraid of the dark. Other mystery authors also know that. It's not surprising that many scary scenes are played out on a dark landscape. Also, the reverse can be true. Witnessing evil in broad daylight can have a chilling effect, since it's so unexpected.
What about you? Are you afraid of the dark? I wonder how many of you use nightlights?
I've put up a quiz here for you to 'fess up.
Also, please leave a comment about what works better for you in your mystery or someone else's - a scary scene played out in the dark or in the light.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Hubby and I have gone out of our way to stay in haunted hotels. We've stayed on the Queen Mary a couple of times and it definitely has a spooky aura. We also spent a weekend in the old hotel across the street from the Alamo in San Antonio. All night long someone was knocking on doors--and that someone wasn't visible.
One of our favorite Bed and Breakfast hotels in Ventura, the Bella Maggiore, has a haunted room. We stayed in it one night and didn't have a visitation. However, on a previous weekend, we definitely felt that eerie feeling when ghosts are about.
The Springville Inn where we live boasts of three ghosts. I don't think they visit any of the hotel guests but prefer to hang around the kitchen and back staircase.
Though I primarily write mysteries now, I always have some sort of Native American spiritual or mystic happenings in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. (Kindred Spirits, http://www.mundnia press. com/.) In the past, I wrote a book called Kachima Spirit which is all about a haunted house and several ghosts which is still available as an e-book and trade paperback from http://www.hardshell.com
With Halloween coming on, maybe some of the rest of you would like to share about any ghosts you've experienced.
Anyone who reads mysteries enjoys suspense, so we'll do our best to offer it. We invite you to follow our mysterious road and see where it leads.
Some days, you may discover a post from a member blogger. Other times, a turn in the road could lead you to a post from a guest with distracting links to follow. Just make sure you come back. We don't want you to get lost along the way. Otherwise, something bad might happen to you.