Mystery Most Historical, Part Deux

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Today, I’m following up on Liz Milliron’s post, introducing authors included in Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical.

Charles Todd is the pen name of the writing partnership, Caroline and Charles Todd, a mother and son team who write two series, the Inspector Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series. The Todds bring their love of England and the period to their stories.

Mark Thielman won the 9th Annual Black Orchid Novella Award with A Meter of Murder. A former prosecutor, his story The Measured Chest, is one of the twenty-nine stories in this anthology.

Kathryn O’Sullivan recently published the fourth in her Fire Chief Colleen McCabe series set in the Outer Banks village of Corolla, North Carolina. She won Malice Domestic’s Best First Traditional Mystery.

Martin Edwards is Malice Domestic’s British friend and will be honored as the Poirot Award at this year’s convention. In addition to writing many fiction and non-fiction works including the Lake District series and an award-winning non-fiction, The Golden Age of Murder, he is the president and archivist of the famed Detection Club, a group of mystery authors formed by Agatha Christie and her crime-writing friends.

Verena Rose, a member of the Dames of Detection the publishers of Level Best Books. She edits anthologies and her story, “Death on the Dueling Grounds”, appears in this anthology.

Su Kopil is a writer of short mysteries with offbeat characters with more than thirty published stories. Find her on Goodreads at: Su Kopil Goodreads page

Kathy Lynn Emerson writes under several different genres and several different names. As Kathy Lynn Emerson, she is best known for her historical mysteries including the Face Down Mystery series. She won an Agatha for her nonfiction How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries.

John Gregory Betancourt writes science fiction, fantasy and mystery as well as short stories. In 2007, he received the Black Orchid Novella Award for his novella Horse Pit.

Victoria Thompson, is a prolific writer of mystery and romance. She is currently writing the popular Gaslight Series set in 19th century New York City.

The award-winning Vivian Lawry is a writer of short fiction as well as mystery. Most of her work is set in the Chesapeake Bay.

K. B. Owen is the author of the Concordia Wells Mysteries set in 19th century Connecticut.

Yours Truly, Keenan Powell, is publishing her first story in this anthology, “Velvet Slippers”, which was inspired by a genealogy research trip to Adams, Massachusetts.

Everyone knows Edith Maxwell the very prolific writer of five series including the popular Quaker Midwife series.

Nancy Herriman writes romance and historical mysteries. Her current series of mysteries is set in old San Francisco.

Georgia Ruth has written short stories and a non-fiction book centering on North Carolina.

If you are at Malice, hunt down Liz and me and say hello. We will be on signing the anthology Friday night and speaking on the panel Small Stories in a Big World Saturday morning. The anthology will be available to purchase at Malice. You can also order Mystery Most Historical directly from Wildside Press.

 

 

 

Five Funnies, Off the Grid

When my last post went up, I was off the grid.  For five days, Hubby and I adventured in our narrowboat along English canals.  And what an adventure it was, put-putting along at 2 miles per hour!  We made 20 miles in the first 2 days.  It was like camping in a 30×6 foot trailer–exterior dimensions.  We’re not campers.  Nor are we sailors.  We’re not mechanically inclined, so you can imagine the laughs!  But we’re slowly getting the hang of it.  We didn’t stall out or hit anyone (well, not too hard).  We didn’t sink the boat.  Yay!

You see all kinds of boats along the canal, from shiny to rusty, from fancy cruisers to hard workers, from weekend pleasure to permanent homes.

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1.  Gardens sprout in flower pots atop these boats.

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2.  Car in a boat.  Has James Bond arrived?

Aside from the boats, there are also the most unexpected sights along the Cut:

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3.  Gnomes hide in the trees, guarding the entrance to a secret channel.

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4.  Gorilla hangs from an abandoned cement factory.

 

5.  But my favorite sight, which bedazzled me so much that I missed the photo op, happened as we squeezed our narrowboats into one lock.  Kayakers circled below the gates.  They were waiting for boats like ours to come through the locks, which would release water into the lower level of canal, giving them a brief minute or two of roiling water.  Was this a canal form of “white-water” rafting?

Somehow, all this–and more–will have to end up as research for a new mystery!

Bad Decisions Make the Best Jokes

Right now, my sense of humor is flickering like a dying light bulb in a scary basement. Ironically, I’m a little tired from writing funny books, not to mention the kids never sleep and my husband has been out of town. Right now it’s 11 pm and instead of sleeping I’m writing and listening to a cat puke. I’m just going to hope I don’t step on that in the morning. Even so, it’s mostly the funny books that have me beat. I’m currently in the final round of edits for a summer camp romance novel. I sent in a proposal to write the book last year (book for hire kind of thing). The publisher picked me to write it because of my light and funny voice and my amusing plot idea. Let me tell you, writing this light, funny romp has been absolute torture. The first draft I sent in was too funny and quirky. There wasn’t enough romance (bad considering it was supposed to be a romance).  I pretty much rewrote the book. The next draft was better, but I was still light on romance. Clearly, I’m not a very romantic person. I’m still tweaking things. There are some funny parts left, but I’m getting pretty surgical with these jokes. I cut most of them. This funny book is dead serious business. I can’t wait to take a nap when I turn it in. I think my sense of humor will come back after a few nights of good sleep.

I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up comedy lately. I’m too tired to watch anything with a story I have to follow at the end of the day. The funniest comics basically make fun of themselves. It’s all anecdotes about trips to the doctor’s office, bad dates, insecurity. This avoids the problem of meanness in comedy. If you’re making fun of yourself, it’s not mean and most people will relate. Although, I have to say, I’m sick of hearing about how slutty Amy Schumer is. Who cares!

My favorite funny mystery writer is Lisa Lutz. I love The Spellman series! I also love Heads You Lose. If you haven’t read it, it’s almost like a manual on how to write a mystery because it contains notes from the authors, Lisa Lutz and David Hayward, at the end of each chapter. They’re jokes, but I found them useful. I still need to read The Passengers, which is “a dead serious thriller (with a funny bone)” according the New York Times Book Review.

You know that quote, “Bad decisions make the best stories.” That pretty much sums up humor for me. Comedy and regret go together like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (I leave it to you to decide which is which).  My first book was certainly a study on some of my own bad decisions, not to mention societal bad decisions. (Reviewers who called it fluff–they had no clue how much personal struggle went into that book!)

Anyways, if the foundation of humor is spinning bad decisions into comic gold, it’s the one career that can legitimately be built on poor judgment. Well, I guess any career in the arts. If you fail–you can write a country song, tell some jokes, paint a picture–your imagination is the limit. I’d call it a silver lining, except that implies it might be worth money. It’s just a lining.

Better than the book?

Is anyone watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix? It’s a series based off of Jay Asher’s young adult novel of the same name about 17-year-old Hannah Baker who leaves cassette tapes for the people she feels are complicit in her suicide. The Netflix series is very well done, and is reaching a lot of fans, particularly a whole crop of people who never read the book (including my husband). There’s been some controversy in the depiction of suicide, but I’m not here to talk about that. Instead, I want to discuss literary adaptations, specifically for television.

How often do people bemoan films not being as good as the books? All the time. The major outlier, in my opinion, being Brokeback Mountain. The film is far superior to the novella its based on. Anyway, movies don’t offer adequate time for rich character development, and certainly never at the expense of interesting plot twists. But, TV… ah, that’s where things can get interesting.

Television series give books a healthy dose of time. A thirteen episode season, as in 13 Reasons Why, allows the writers to explore heavy themes and characterization in greater detail. It’s been ten years since I read the book, so bear with me, but the story is only told through Clay’s first-person narrative. But in the TV series, the audience is privy to the aftermath of Hannah’s death, through peripheral characters, including her grieving parents who must grapple with the mystery that is their daughter (How did they not suspect she was so unhappy?) and the 13 people, who contribute to Hannah’s suicide. While Jay Asher is an incredible writer, the TV series becomes something more layered and nuanced than the book. Also, the show provides for a more suspenseful, almost noir-like tone, which, again, I don’t recall in the book. Eventually, the book and the series become two of a piece, and they’re not really the same.

There are lots of other examples of successful TV literary adaptations. Gossip Girl. The Vampire Diaries. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, although the books are excellent. But we don’t get the sexual chemistry between Phryne and Jack in the books that we do in the show.

I just found out my favorite book series, The Raven Boys, will be adapted for television and I am so excited. I’m grateful though, that a pilot is being made, and not a film. A movie would just ruin it.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy TV adaptations of books?

Interview: Kevin Michaels

Please welcome Kevin Michaels, author of Still Black Remains

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Cover - SBRI don’t want to lose my tough guy cred, but the best parts of my day begin and end with me spending significant time with the woman who I’m deeply in love with….
I share a desk with my wife, Helen – actually it’s a large, over-sized old country table that we repurposed as a desk so we can sit across from each other while we work. I write every day. I need that kind of discipline, and even if much of what I write changes or gets thrown away, I am constantly working …staring at a blank page is working in my world if I can justify it as part of the creative process.

‘A perfect day of writing would have a lot of similarities to surfing – some times when you’re surfing you find that perfect wave and take it to shore – the combination of the sun, the waves, and the ride gives you an incredible rush. In writing, we all want that day where the characters take on a life of their own, the dialogue and action flow effortlessly, and the momentum carries the story past the outline into a new and exciting direction that is totally unexpected but better than you might have imagined.
At the end of the day there’s nothing better than sharing a glass or two of wine and sitting on the deck, watching the sun set.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

No signature accessories, colors,meals, or fragrances…although phrases and expressions are a different story. Much of my conversation tends revolve around excessive cursing (sometimes I get on a roll and sound like Samuel L Jackson). Hang out with me long enough and much of the conversation will sound like the dialogue from “Still Black Remains”……

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Crime fiction writers like Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker, Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block, and Wallace Stroby have had and continue to have the biggest influence on my writing. Each of them have that sparse, clean economy of words. Their descriptions are vivid and powerful, and they don’t use a lot of words to create images that are impactful (the same way Hemingway and Mailer did years ago). No list would be complete without some of my other favorites like Sam Shepherd, Stephen King, James Ellroy, Pete Dexter, and Don Winslow.

The book that made a difference was Prince of Tides. There’s a certain beauty in the writing of Pat Conroy that is awe-inspiring – there is a certain flow to the way he weaves his way through stories incredible images with everything he ever wrote. Prince of Tides and South of Broad both took away my breath – not only the beauty of his words, but the grace and style of the imagery in everything he wrote. There are times when you sit back as a writer, admire what someone else has written, and just say, “Damn….I wish I could write like that”.

I also think Bruce Springsteen is a great story teller – and if Bob Dylan can win a Nobel for his body of work, you have to recognize the talent in the stories Springsteen writes. There is tremendous feeling in his songs about everyday life (the pain, sorrow, heart break as well as what it means to get up every day, get dressed, go to work, and provide for your family – even at the cost of your dreams). When I was younger I loved Kerouac for his sense of adventure and Jack London.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I don’t work in complete silence –it’s impossible because of the variety of dogs, cats, children, and neighborhood distractions around me – but as I start to get deeper into revisions and rewrites I’m able to block them out. Music helps through all stages – everything I write tends to have its own soundtrack, even if it’s only in my head. I’ll choose music that it is appropriate to the story – artists and songs that would fill the worlds my characters live and work in. While I was writing Still Black Remains, I immersed myself in music by Notorious BIG, Ice –T, and Killer Mike, although every once in a while I snuck in a song or two from Bruce Springsteen just to break it up a little.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Still Black Remains would most likely be dark chocolate – probably Ghirardelli Intense Dark because it has a rich, deep flavor and a little bit of a kick.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I originally wanted to write a simple crime story about life in a gritty, violent neighborhood where violence is justified as being “part of the game”. One that explored the dynamic of a black street gang fighting against an older entrenched Mafia gang, but I quickly realized there was a whole dynamic of urban life in the inner cities that I wanted to explore, the same way David Simon did in “The Wire”. I wanted to tell the story from the POV of one character who grew up in the Skulls. How his life had evolved. What being part of a gang meant, and how it impacted his life.

One of the most powerful books I ever read was Dawn by Elie Wiesel. In the book, Elisha, the protagonist, lost his family in the concentration camps and in the aftermath of WWII joins the armed struggle for the foundation of a Jewish state, hoping to be part of the creation of a new homeland. At the same time finds comfort and trust, as well as a sense of family, in his friends. Everything changes when he is ordered to shoot a British hostage. Elisha survived the terror of Nazi concentration camps only to be ordered to become an executioner himself. Dawn addresses how someone can be haunted and ultimately changed by trauma; it looks at the philosophical questions of when killing becomes murder and exactly how murder (or the possibility of being a murderer) changes a person.

I liked that question of “does the end justify the means,” even it involves the death of someone else. Twist faces a number of morality issues in the story. His conflict is more personal than his gang’s conflict – it’s about using Michael Valentine’s kidnapping to get Malik back, or at least find out information about where he’s being held. What’s at stake for Twist is his soul – he’s forced to wrestle with the question of whether or not he can pull the trigger to kill Valentine and if he does, live with those consequences the same way Elisha struggled with being the executioner.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

My intention when I started Still Black Remains was to write about the struggle of a different generation trying to realize the American Dream against all odds, and through any means possible. The characters have learned that hard work by itself will never help them achieve what they want – they have to work outside the system to get what they want. The inner city landscape where they live is filled with desperation, anger, and a sense of futility and in many cases violence is both the solution to problems and the result of problems. Actions – no matter what’s involved or who gets hurt – are justified as being “part of the game”. That’s a common theme in much of my writing.

New Jersey is a tremendous source of inspiration in my writing and shows up as a setting quite often – the state has a landscape filled with a wide variety of people, backgrounds, life styles, and cultures mixed together. Living in the shadows of New York and Philadelphia gives most of us who grew up in New Jersey a little bit of an “attitude,” and that’s the kind of characteristic that sneaks into my characters’ actions and my stories. Life in the New Jersey neighborhood where Still Black Remains takes place is equally gritty, violent, and harsh. There was no way to soften the writing without losing the legitimacy of the story – New Jersey is as much a part of the book as the plot and characters.

Tell us about your main character.

Twist was born in an inner city. He grew up in a gang culture with brothers who were involved in the Skulls, and part of his early development was selling drugs as a corner boy. But he’s smarter than the others and has dreams of getting out of the “game” and becoming a businessman. He’s insightful enough to see that his future on the street is limited, and there are only two career paths – either dead or in jail. More than anything, he wants normalcy which is something he has never known his entire life. In a world where actions happen without deep thought or much personal reflection, he is more thoughtful and less reactionary than the guys in the Skulls. He takes things more personally which is both a strength and a weakness (unlike Bone and Cuba- his two contemporaries, he is unable to be cold and distanced).

I think Twist is smart, compassionate, and purposeful — he cares deeply for Malik, and wanted him to stay out of the Skulls and find a better life than the one he could have had in the Skulls. He recognizes Malik’s strengths and tried looking out for him, and Malik’s kidnapping is personal for Twist. Finding Malik (or at least learning what happened to him) drives him and is the undercurrent in his relationship with Michael Valentine. He cares for Maria too, but he can’t show her the kind of love she expects because he’s focused on Malik. The fact that Twist is engaged in some pretty heinous criminal behavior doesn’t make him a bad person – he has some qualities that readers will find heroic and hopefully have them rooting for him.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

In keeping with the mystery theme, I’d want:
Elmore Leonard
Lawrence Block
Robert B Parker
Raymond Chandler
Donald Westlake
And Norman Mailer ….not because he really writes mystery, but having him there would definitely keep the energy level high, although he might wind up throwing a punch or two…..

What’s next for you?

I have two other novels in the pipeline – the first that I’m finishing is one entitled All Those Yesterdays which is about domestic violence crossing three generations of a family. Domestic violence is a subject that I’ve actively written about over the past few years, and this book allows me to not only explore the topic in detail but to feature a strong female character at the heart of the story. In my other books I haven’t had the opportunity to do that, and it’s been exciting creating that kind of character will giving voice to an epidemic that affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. The second is tentatively entitled A Steady Rain and falls within the more traditional crime fiction category (“Breaking Bad” meets “Justified” with a touch of Winter’s Bone and A Simple Plan).

I also run a community based organization called Story Tellers that develops literacy through the art of writing. We started a few years ago in Asbury Park, New Jersey and within the past eighteen months have expanded into Georgia. Using reading, group exercises, and one on one mentoring, Story Tellers provides under-served teenagers and young adults the opportunity to write their own stories which can inspire them to discover the strength and power of their own voices. The goal of the program is to develop literacy, self-expression, and self-esteem.

Synopsis: Still Black Remains is an original work of fiction. It tells the story of Twist, one of the leaders of an inner city gang named the Skulls, and the architect of his gang’s decision to kidnap a mafia soldier in a last-ditch attempt to end a violent turf war. The war started when the Skulls tried taking a bigger piece of the drug business in their Newark, New Jersey neighborhood from the organized crime family who had once been their partners. Like most great ideas, the plan doesn’t turn out as expected. Negotiations between the gangs deteriorate, words fail, the violence escalates, and the only recourse left is the inevitable execution of the hostage. Chosen to be the one to execute the prisoner, the story covers Twist’s ability to pull the trigger, the consequences of that action, and his internal struggle. As the volatile situation grows more explosive by the hour, the lines between right and wrong blur; resolution comes with a price and Twist has to decide if pulling the trigger will get him what he wants, and if he can live with that cost.

*****

Kevin MichaelsKevin Michaels is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel LOST EXIT, as well as two entries in the FIGHT CARD BOOKS series: Hard Road and Can’t Miss Contender. He also released a collection of short stories entitled Nine in the Morning. His short stories and flash fiction have also appeared in a number of magazines and indie zines, and in 2011 he was nominated for two separate Pushcart Prize awards for his short stories. Other shorts have been included in the anthologies for Six Sentences (volumes II and III) and Actiion: Puls Pounding Tales (2).

In April 2017 his latest novel Still Black Remains will be published by Literary Wanderlust LLC.

He has also published a number non-fiction articles and stories in print publications ranging from the NYTimes.com and the Life/Style section of The Boston Globe to The Bergen News and Press Journal and raged in print at places like the triCity News, NY Daily News, and The Press.

He is the Founder and Creative Director of Story Tellers which is a community-based organization that develops and promotes literacy through writing. Story Tellers provides under-served teenagers, young adults, and women from distressed situations the opportunity to discover the strength and power of their own voices (self-empowerment through self-expression).

Originally from New Jersey, he carries the attitude, edginess, and love of all things Bruce Springsteen common in his home state, although he left the Garden State to live and work in the foothills of the Appalachians (Georgia) with his wife, Helen and an assortment of children and pets.

Author Website
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A book birthday – part 2

Okay, I could get used to this.

mystery most historical coverKeenan Powell and I have a joint birthday this time – Mystery Most Historical, the twelfth anthology from the folks at Malice Domestic, is now available from Wildside Press. The link is to Wildside – I’m not sure about availability from other vendors and no ebook is listed…yet. But anyway.

So Keenan and I thought it would be nice to highlight all the authors in the collection because there are some doozies. Some of us are new, with the sparkle still shining on the edges. Others, well, just check out these names.

Without further ado, here are authors 1-14 in the anthology. Next week, Keenan will highlight the remaining fifteen.

Mindy Quigley writes the Lindsay Harding mysteries. An award-winning author, Mindy has written three books in her Rev. Harding series and, according to her website, is working on a middle-grade project.

Michael Dell – this one is interesting. As far as I can tell, Michael is either the editor-in-chief of LCS Hockey (“the world’s greatest non-updated hockey site”) or the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies. You know, the computer people (his book, Honest John Churchfield, which I found by Googling “michael dell mystery author” is listed on Bookwire with a bunch of business books). I guess I’ll find out at Malice!

Carole Nelson Douglas writes the Irene Adler series. Yes, that Irene Adler. A series of books with “the woman” as a sleuth? Sign me up! According to her website, she’s the author of 62 novels (and a lot of them feature cats on the covers, so there’s a cat in there somewhere).

Liz Milliron – yeah, no clue who this woman is. <insert grin> Anyway, Liz has a couple unpublished novels under her belt, but her short fiction has been in Blood on the Bayou, Fish Out of Water, and Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales. See? The collection has all kinds of writers!

P.A. DeVoe is an anthropologist, she writes the young adult Mei-hua Adventure triology. The third in the series, Trapped, is nominated for the 2017 Agatha for Best YA Novel. She also has a story in Fish Out of Water.

Peter W.J. Hayes – I know Peter. He’s a member of my Sisters in Crime chapter (see, we accept misters in crime, SinC isn’t all women!). Peter has had a number of short stories published in Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, and Out of the Gutter. He was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association “Debut Dagger,” and has won awards from Pennwriters. Like me, he’s chugging along on a novel.

Susanna Calkins has written several historical mysteries and received awards for them. The fourth, A Death Along the River Fleet was released in 2016 and was nominated for a Lefty award for Best Historical Mystery. Susanna teaches at Northwestern University.

Carla Coupe has had short stories published in Chesapeake Crimes II and Chesapeake Crimes III. She has also had Sherlock Holmes pastiches published in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.

Valerie O. Patterson has written mysteries for middle-grade readers as well as short fiction. A member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, her book The Other Side of Blue was a finalist for an Agatha Award.

Catriona McPherson – well, where do I start? Catriona writes the Dandy Gilver historical series and The Reek of Red Herrings just won the Lefty for Best Historical Mystery and is shortlisted for this year’s Agatha in the same category. Her standalone thrillers have garnered praise from multiple sources. I just finished The Day She Died and it was chilling. And she’s a hoot to talk to.

Marcia Talley is another author who has racked up a number of awards, including the Agatha and the Anthony. She writes the Hannah Ives Mystery series, and has had short fiction published in, oh, lots of places. Like Catriona, she has a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Elaine Viets is well known for her Dead End Jobs and Mystery Shopper series, but she’s written darker mysteries as well. Her website says “a mystery for every mood” and in poking around her website I believe it. Cozy, Traditional, Dark – she’s got it all.

Susan Daly has published short fiction in a number of places, including Fish Out of Water, The Whole She-bang 2, and The Whole She-bang 3. On her website, she describes herself as “A refugee from the mind-numbing, soul-destroying worlds of banking and insurance” who has found peace through killing people in fiction. Oh, that sounds very familiar.

Shawn Reilly Simmons writes the Red Carpet Catering series for Henery Press. She’s held a bunch of jobs in catering and with books. Not only is she on the board for Malice Domestic, she is a member of the Dames of Detection, and an editor/co-publisher at Level Best Books (which puts out its own outstanding anthologies).

K.B. Inglee has been writing historical fiction since, well, a while. She has published her own collections, the most recent being The Casebook of Emily Lawrence and her short fiction has appeared in Murder Most Conventional, Fish Nets, Fish Tales, and Chesapeake Crimes III.

So there you go. The first fourteen authors in Mystery Most Historical. Check back next week when Keenan profiles the other fifteen. If you’re in Bethesda, hopefully we’ll see you at Malice. Pick up the anthology and lose yourself in a good story from a different time.

Oh, and one other thing. Keenan’s story, “The Velvet Slippers,” is deliciously gothic. I know I’m thrilled to be included with this group of authors, I’d imagine she is too, and I can’t wait for you to join us!

Humor and Laughter, Not

I write suspense/thriller stories. While there is humor interjected in some scenes it’s not like anyone is going to pull one of my books off the shelf looking for a good laugh. Ain’t happenin’.

Quirky shows, smart writers of smarter dialogue, natural comedians—all of these I enjoy. But these things are being covered well by my fellow Mysteristas this month.

So I decided to put on my Thriller Writer hat and dig a little.

What’s not to like about humor and laughter?

Turns out, there are a few things:

  • What about the bully in school? The target of derision is laughed at because everyone else wants to ‘fit in’ and the bully is laying down exactly what those rules are;
  • I go back and forth with Don Rickles and other comedians like him. While we can see flashes of huge, raw and tender compassion (and hear about it being part of his personal life), he was known professionally for mean comments that tore people down by splitting open their failings and splaying the wounds. Would he have been successful today? I sincerely doubt it;
  • Mental health issues abound in our society (don’t get me started on why I believe they’ve grown to such remarkable levels), but there are adults who find suffering human beings funny. There are adults who are still the kids in the background when the bully in grade school makes fun of the different kid;
  • How about when humor becomes a part of how to handle the job? Law enforcement officers who deal with deeply bad ‘products’ of our society on a daily basis, first responders who see the horror of a tragic event, ER staff who’ve come to the point that “treat ’em and street ’em” is about all they can emotionally handle? Does that make disrespecting another human being okay?

We’re living in a time and place that feels tenuous. Our daily news is filled with bad things we do to one another locally, and fear of what might happen next globally. So finding something that’s light and fluffy and silly can be a survival mechanism.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But when you’re ready, when you’re feeling stronger, push out just a bit. Replace the fear you feel with love. Tear a piece of the bad thing away, stare it down, and laugh in its face because you’re better than whatever it represents. You know what’s right, you’re good, and you’re gonna win in the end.

It’s all better with friends.