Guest Post: Lesley Diehl

Welcome Lesley Diehl, author of the Eve Appel mysteries

Crazy for the Holidays: An Irreverent Look at Writing beyond the Festivities

The stores started playing holiday music the end of summer. Now “Jingle Bells” has been running through your mind in an endless track, and you’re finding you hate the colors red and green. The smell of evergreens makes you ill. The holiday season approaches, and you don’t feel very Ho, Ho, Ho-ey. You couldn’t care less about decking hall, bedroom, study or bathroom with boughs of phony firs or that prickly stuff with the red berries that are probably poisonous. You know you’d better get yourself out of this mood or you’ll find yourself sitting in a slushy snow bank sucking on yesterday’s pork chop while others are dining on turkey and fixin’s in the glow of a toasty fire, or however your family celebrates the season (I trust it’s not gnawing on a bony chop, but every family has its traditions.) Hey, you’re a writer, so quit your whining and write yourself out of holiday overload. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek formula for how writers chase away the holiday grumps:

1. Laugh your way out of fatigue

Holiday get-togethers with family and friends, but mostly family, are wonderful opportunities to see the funny side of family interactions—the cozy mystery approach to making exhaustion work for you. I’m not much for writing holiday stories, but I have done short stories featuring a fictionalized version of one of my aunts. These included Thanksgiving tales of exploding cranberry sauce, an out-of-control chef with a cleaver, or mashed potatoes with a body in them. All of these tales were based upon actual events in my family, exaggerated a bit. So as you sit at your family’s holiday table worrying that political or religious differences may erupt into arguments that can only be settled through the use of weapons, consider how you can work the events into a short story. It’s wise not to let family members know you are contemplating putting them into your WIP unless you’re certain it will be a best seller—nothing bridges ideological differences like fame and fortune. Since I couldn’t count on wither, I took no chances and waited until all the relatives I wrote about were dead.

2. Kill your way into the new year

I’ve never written a Christmas themed story based upon my own experiences because I’ve always found family Christmases to be rather sad times in my life. My family didn’t make a big deal out of presents, but my friends’ families did. Late Christmas day my friends would call and invite one another over to their houses to compare gifts, sad but not the grounds for murder. “She had means, motive and opportunity. When her friend invited her over for the afternoon, she wore the cloth jacket her mother bought her for Christmas in the secondhand store, but overcome by jealousy when she saw her friend’s new fake fur coat, she smothered her friend with the coat then set the house on fire, destroying all the evidence of her foul deed. Justice was served when she wore her fur coat for a walk in the woods and was mauled to death by a nearsighted bear who mistook her for a rival.”

3. The holiday romance

I’ve never written romance but I’ve had a few. It seems the ones most filled with real angst were those during my high school years. A boy I’d liked since seventh grade finally noticed me. One year and the one following that, during the holidays, he would drive by my house and then turn around in the driveway. He never stopped, never came in to say hi, just kept driving by and turning around perhaps ten or so times on a night. For some reason, I found that so romantic. I think we went out a few times, but he was a bad boy and that was a romance that was not to be. I hear he gained about 150 lbs after high school. Now you know why I don’t write romance. What a sorry tale that would be.

4. Poetry anyone?

I used to write poetry long before I penned mysteries. In my high school years, it was mostly social commentary based. I thought one of my best poems was one written about Africa, Haiku it was, then I realized years later I had violated the proscribed form of the piece. Much later as an adult I wrote romantic, erotic poetry, then took a sharp turn back into social commentary. This holiday season my thoughts run to political commentary as in the following Haiku violation:

Why is the campaign
Longer, so much, much longer
Than my sanity?

5. Creative cookery

I love to cook so you’d think this would be the season for me to let fly my creative culinary side. Unfortunately I discovered last year that I do not like turkey, and I’m not really fond of ham. What to cook for the holidays? I’m leaning toward spam.

So what’s quirky in your life?

*****

3578Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks, frequents yard sales and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories. The third book in the Eve Appel murders (from Camel Press) A Sporting Murder was awarded a Readers’ Favorite Five Star Award and her short story Gator Aid a Sleuthfest (2009) short story first place.

Visit Lesley on her website at www.lesleyadiehl.com and on her blog at
www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog

Get newest book in the Eve Appel mysteries, Mud Bog Murder

Book Blurb:
mud_bog_murderWhen Jenny McCleary leases her property to be ravaged by the annual mud bog races, the small rural town of Sabal Bay, Florida, is divided into warring camps: environmental activists versus monster truck fans. Jenny, who frequents the consignment store owned by Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, doesn’t seem to mind when Eve and Madeleine join the protesters the day of the races.

During the race, Eve catches Jenny’s airborne head after it is tossed into the air by the wheels of a truck. Now every protester is a suspect in Jenny’s murder. What’s left of her alligator-gnawed body is found near the airboat business of Eve’s Miccosukee Indian friends, Sammy Egret and his grandfather. When more evidence turns up nearby, Grandfather is arrested.

Even without the disembodied head, Eve has her hands full. The town resents her role in the protests and is boycotting the consignment shop on wheels. She is torn between two men—GQ-handsome, devoted PI Alex and tall, dark, and exotic Sammy. Jenny’s sweet and needy teenage daughter is dating a petty criminal. Will Eve and Madeleine ever be able to move into their new digs? Not unless the town forgives them. And not if whoever decapitated Jenny gets to Eve before she and her sleuthing buddies solve the mystery.

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12 thoughts on “Guest Post: Lesley Diehl”

  1. All great suggestions, Lesley! My plan is to spend at least half of every day, after December 26, pouring prose from my fingertips. Not sure what the story is about yet, but that’s the plan.

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  2. Hahaha, what great tips, Lesley! I can get a bit bah-humbug about Christmas, but it helps to laugh. And as you point out, it’s all wonderful fodder for mystery writers 😉

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  3. They say that laughter is the best medicine and I agree – especially during this holiday season. Christmas memories can put smiles on our faces but they can also put tears in our eyes. We need humor more than ever. And humorous mysteries like yours, Lesley, help the smiles outweigh the tears. Love your books!

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  4. Love the idea of getting ideas for writing by watching the family around the Christmas Day brunch. This should prove to be interesting. My writing is lagging right now because of the holiday rocketing toward us, but after Christmas, I plan to get back to it full force. Very interesting and amusing blog.

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  5. Welcome Leslie! I love your haiku and I completely agree. We do beef for Christmas. Lamb maybe? I’m taking the last week of the year off and I am committed to finishing Draft Zero of my current project. Around running my kids to swim practice, of course.

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  6. Caffeine won’t do it for me. I need a pitcher of margaritas and a bowl of chips and salsa or maybe a vat of wine and a pound of dark chocolate.

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  7. I heard friends yesterday say the just ‘weren’t in the holiday spirit’ this year. I account it to be barraged by Christmas music, posters, movies, product, etc long before Halloween! No wonder they aren’t in the mood! I happen to be one who shops early and enjoys Christmas movies and music, so I don’t think it affects me that way. Loved your article. Blessings for a great Christmas… if it ever actually gets here!

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