Total eclipse of point-of-view

Happy Eclipse Day y’all! I will be spending the day enjoying the beautiful weather before I usher my three kids into the house to protect their eyes. It really is gorgeous in PA. Blue skies, no clouds. Perfect day to blot out the sun.

Also, I want to publicly thank Keenan for recommending Shetland on Netflix. It is an excellent mystery series based on the books by Ann Cleeves. It features Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez who solves murders on the Shetland Islands. It’s super bingeable as the first season is only two episodes, and atmospheric. The Shetland Islands are just as you imagine Scottish Isles to be — gray with rolling hills and croft houses, and the vast ocean encircling it all. Highly recommend. And the books are fantastic, too. I just took one out  of the library.

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So, I wanted to ask fellow mystery readers about point-of-view. I’m curious as to your thoughts on this as I’m brainstorming a new mystery. I’m either going to write it in first-person only or third-person with multiple POVs. I know I must select one based on the needs of story I’m writing, but it got me to thinking: do you have a preference? I know some readers who prefer third over first. Some who love multiple POVs, some who don’t.

Detective novels are almost entirely told from the perspective of the detective, so either first person or third, but usually only their POV. Raymond Chandler has Philip Marlowe narrate in first person, which gives the reader this direct insight into the mind of private ‘eye’ in seedy Los Angeles. Michael Connelly uses third person to narrate his Harry Bosch series. I read a page-turning YA mystery that employs four first-person POVs, and it worked well to see how everyone was impacted by the crime. Dan Brown uses third in his books in order to unravel the antagonist’s mindset. It really comes down to selecting a point-of-view based on the story the author wants to tell.

As I write this, I realize that I won’t know how to address my POV conundrum without writing a few scenes in various points-of-view to see how I want my mystery to unfold.

But please tell me, for science’s sake, do you have a preference when it comes to point of view? I am curious. (Also, ever read anything in second person? It is a trip.)

Interview: Albert Tucher

Welcome Albert Tucher, author of numerous stories featuring prostitute Diana Andrews, including “Sensitivity Training: in the Busted! anthology from Level Best.

Busted!What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Get a workout in first thing, then off to the local Barnes and Noble for writing time. My favorite table is free, of course. Write my thousand words without excessive teeth grinding. Note that I haven’t mentioned going to work. I have been a public librarian for almost forty years, but retirement is beckoning with increasing urgency.

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

Coffee. At the Newark Public Library I am legendary for my consumption.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

That’s hard to pin down. I had been reading crime fiction for thirty years before I ever tried to write it. By that time I think everything I ever read had been steeping somewhere in my mind.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Barnes and Noble takes care of that. Whatever they’re playing is fine with me. I write there because I like a certain amount of commotion around me. Tuning it out helps me concentrate.

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

Eighty-six percent cacao, and dark, dark, dark.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

To me Hawaii is the best place on earth, and the Big Island is my favorite island, but not for the usual reasons. I like the rainforest side more than the sun and sand of the Kona side. In Sensitivity Training Officer Jenny Freitas finds herself wilting under the Kona sun, and I feel the same way. I love to walk the streets of Hilo and look out at the bay. The dark clouds that almost always obscure the horizon make the place feel like the edge of the world. I get rained on a lot there, but that doesn’t bother me a bit.

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

I’m fascinated by the incongruously violent history of Hawaii, which seems to consist of incessant warfare. The modern equivalent of this history is the persistence of crime in such a beautiful setting. The rainforest region known as Puna has seen some terrible crimes, which I have called upon for material. Some names to Google: Dana Ireland, Ken and Yvonne Mathison, Brittany Royal, Boaz Johnson.

Place_Of_Refuge_CoverTell us about your main character.

Okay, stay with me. My original series character is an escort-level prostitute named Diana Andrews. I have published more than seventy short stories about her. She also stars in a series of six novels, of which only the first, The Same Mistake Twice, has been published. She is based in northern New Jersey, but in the third novel, called Tentacles, I send her to the rainforest of the Big Island with a client who neglects to mention that some nasty people are after him.

A supporting character from that book is Detective Errol Coutinho of the Hawaii County Police. Ideas for stories featuring him started to bubble up and demand my attention, and my recently published novella The Place of Refuge is one result. Coutinho has acquired several sidekicks of his own, including Officer Jenny Freitas. When I got an idea that required a young woman protagonist, she was ready and waiting. So, Jenny is a spin-off of a spin-off.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

For this question I need to return to my roots, meaning Diana Andrews. Start with Scarlett Johansson for beauty. Add Helen Mirren for poise and unflappability. Finally, a touch of Rhonda Rousey for the tough chick thing. Am I in love with her? Yeah, probably.

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

I’d have to expand the definition of mystery to include crime stories, which would allow me to invite Shakespeare, Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens. Now it’s a question of who wouldn’t be intimidated by them. Ruth Rendell, Robert B. Parker and Elmore Leonard would keep the pot boiling. As a bonus, Master Will could tell us once and for all, “Yes, I wrote the damned plays.”

What’s next for you?

Two more Errol Coutinho novels. One is called The Hollow Vessel, and the other doesn’t get a title until it stops fighting me every step of the way.

*****

Tucher_HeadshotAlbert Tucher is the creator of prostitute Diana Andrews, who has appeared in seventy short stories in venues including The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, edited by Lee Child. Her first longer case, the novella The Same Mistake Twice, was published in 2013. Another novella featuring characters from Sensitivity Training, called The Place of Refuge, was published in March. Anyone who wants to catch Albert Tucher at the Newark Public Library should do it soon, because retirement beckons.

Facebook : @Albert.Tucher.Writes

Twitter: @alcrimewriter

Pride before a fall

“Pride goeth before a fall.”

I’ve always prided myself on organization. I knew where I was supposed to be and when. I scheduled my Mysteristas posts well in advanced and I’d never messed up.

Until today.

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I have no excuses and I have no post. Mea culpa. So just tell me: what’s your best (worst?) “pride before the fall” moment?

By way of an apology, I’ll give a $15 Starbucks gift card to a random commenter.

Photo courtest of Oleg Afonin, used under Creative Commons license.

When Vindication Sucks

“I know I’m right, and so do you.” Anna Palmer looked at her partner, her eyes drilling his for a sign of concession.

“What we know doesn’t matter without solid evidence,” Kevin DeGross made a dismissive gesture with his hands. “There’s no way we can take what we’ve got and get a warrant.”

“Forget a warrant,” Palmer pushed. “We don’t have time. She doesn’t have time.”

“I’m not going down this road with you again. Every writeup I’ve ever received is because I’ve gone along when you’ve cut corners, crossed the line—”

“I’ve never crossed the line.”

“—and I don’t want to deal with that crap again.”

Anna felt rage rise inside her gut but pushed it down. Now was not the time. “Louise Jackson’s life is in danger. We need to protect her.” It’s not about me or you or your lousy career.

“We can pull him in for questioning.”

“Yeah, and hold him for how long?” Palmer asked, her voice dripping sarcasm.

And so it went. Palmer and DeGross battling each other, trying to gain traction and make a case for their particular position.

The next morning they got the call. A murder scene.

Anna Palmer arrived first.

“Evidence enough?” She spat the question, handing her partner a coffee.

 

It’s all better with friends.

 

Making a Motive

In Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot said of motives, “Most frequent—money. That is to say, gain in its various ramifications. Then there is revenge—and love, and fear, and pure hate, and beneficence.”

I think our favorite little Belgium detective is onto something…he does have the famed gray cells, after all.

Motives are a way for the murderer to seek vindication for what they see as a wrongdoing. With mysteries I’ve read—and in my own writing, no matter how creative I think I’m being—it seems that most motives boil down to one of three things:

Financial gain— a wealthy relative plans to make a new will, a surprise next-of-kin surfaces to snatch away an inheritance, or maybe—as is especially popular in cozy-verse—a competing store opens threatening to put our wily antagonist out of business.

orient_expressAffairs of the heart—Unrequited love, jealousy, betrayal. Nothing invokes more emotion than love in all its forms, whether it’s romantic, familial, or friendly.

Secrets—A secret identity about to be unveiled, a juicy tidbit overheard, a scandalous affair. I’ve found that this is usually the motive of the second murder in a mystery (if there is one), i.e., so-and-so saw something suspicious and is about to unmask the identity of the killer but then poof! they become the next victim.

What do you think mystery fans, can motives be simplified into these categories? What are your favorite motives? And who else is stoked for the new Murder on the Orient Express adaptation?!

The Magic of Vindication

I had a rare, magical weekend where I was able to make the time to binge read a series of novels. One of things that jumped out at me was the on-going vindication of the main character. Zoe is snarky, sassy, independent, and frankly, kind of annoying a lot of the time.  Yet, she’s really appealing, too. She does what she thinks is right, goes with her gut, and learns every lesson the hard way.

But, she’s almost always vindicated in the end. Her gut is a steady compass, and she gets herself into the worst trouble when she doesn’t listen to her gut. Often, her friends and allies are arguing against her gut, as it’s rarely giving Zoe the safe direction, and certainly not the easy one. But while the heads and hearts of all the characters are often distracted by  fear or safety or logic, Zoe’s gut zeroes in on the core of a situation.

As a reader, I can be impatient with main characters. Some of the novels I haven’t enjoyed as much in the past are the ones where the main character does silly things for silly reasons, and somehow manages to survive or solve the puzzle by chance.  There’s no vindication of their choices, there’s just annoyance at the lack of reality and common sense.

Zoe makes choices. They’re not always good ones, but they are deliberate, and when those choices are based in her instincts? The right things happen.  There are missteps, of course. Stories would be boring if there weren’t set-backs or if solving the puzzles was easy. What would be the point?

As Zoe’s magic grows and she begins to acknowledge who and what she really is–no spoilers for those who haven’t read the series–Zoe begins to realize that her instincts are worthy of trust.  Her personal growth results in increased confidence in her gut, and ultimately, she learns to fight for her choices. As a reader, I’m in love with her growth and the on-going vindication of her choices.

If you’d like to meet Zoe, and you like a little paranormal in your reading, check out the Covenant College series by Amanda M. Lee.

Interview: Pat Hale

Welcome to Pat Hale, author of Cole and Callahan novels!

cover2What’s your idea of the perfect day?

My perfect day includes a wake up yoga routine followed by coffee and the rest of the morning writing. A long afternoon walk in the woods with my dogs and then an hour spent with a good book and a glass of wine before my husband gets home from work and I have to start dinner!

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

I’m never without my mother and baby elephant ring. A gift from my daughter confirming that the female of the species stick together.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Stephen King’s book, On Writing, was and is an important influence. I still pick it up and randomly flip it open when I need a boost. I’m also a big fan of his writing style. He is a storyteller and makes the reader feel as though he’s speaking directly to you. I read Jodi Picoult for her plots. She’s adept at presenting both sides of an ethical dilemma, making the reader question their own beliefs.

Do you listen to music when you write?  

No, I like complete quiet. (Just the snoring of my dogs.)

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

It would be an M&M because it is a hard police procedural on the outside, but the inner layer (or subplot) is soft, wrestling with the heart and human compassion.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I read an article about the dedication of people working on hot lines and began to think what if the hot line volunteer wasn’t so good? What if the hotline was a way for a killer to select their next victim? I began playing around with that idea and that’s how the story began. It has wavered some in its final version, but it was the hotline idea that started the whole thing.

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

I’ve never set out to purposefully include religion in any of my stories, but a religious conflict or undercurrent always shows up. In The Church of the Holy Child, I wanted to write about a serial killer using a hot line then the priest appeared in my head. I think his dilemma adds a great layer to the story, but I didn’t start out with the idea in mind. I was raised strict Catholic and grew up fighting against the rigidity and what I interpreted as hypocrisies within the religion. I think the questions I wrestle with are always in my subconscious and often make their way into my characters heads.

Tell us about your main character.

Britt Callahan is half of the PI team of Cole and Callahan. She was previously a family law attorney, but when a case she lost culminated in the shooting death of the woman she had represented, she lost all confidence and resigned from the law firm. Griff Cole, her boyfriend, has his own PI business and convinced her to come and work with him.  Now Britt is trying to regain her lost faith and on a mission to prove her worth, primarily to herself.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Aaron Stampler from the movie Primal Fear, Lou Ford from the book, The Killer Inside and Norman Bates.

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

Stephen King, Robert Parker, Tana French, Sophie Hannah, John Hart and Dean Kuntz.

What’s next for you?

The Church of the Holy Child is the first in a series of Cole and Callahan PI novels. The second book, Durable Goods will be released before the end of 2017.

*****

Patricia Hale received her MFA degree from Goddard College. Her essays have appeared in literary magazines and the anthology, My Heart’s First Steps. Her debut novel, In the Shadow of Revenge, was published in 2013. The Church of the Holy Child is the first book in her PI series featuring the team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan. Patricia is a member of Sister’s in Crime, Mystery Writer’s of America, NH Writer’s Project and Maine Writer’s and Publisher’s Alliance. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two dogs.

Website: www.patriciahale.org

FB page: @patricia.hale.102

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7113831