No, No, NaNo or, Just Do It

NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month–the month* in which participants vow to write a 50,000-word novel–and some of them do–began yesterday.

The goal–if you want to reach 50,000 words and win NaNoWriMo (which from this point on will be called NaNo), you need to write an average of 1667 words a day.

I’ve registered for NaNo–there’s a website–at least three times, maybe four. Unfortunately, every year, as soon as I signed on, I became claustrophobic and began to hyperventilate. Mentally, not physically, but mentally is bad enough. There was something about having to write a novel in a month that made me feel the walls were closing in, as if I had to do something I didn’t want to do, as if someone were forcing me to write that novel in a month. No one was forcing me, but seeming can feel a lot like being.

Eugène Delacroix (1834): Hamlet, I, 2 - The qu...
Eugène Delacroix (1834): Hamlet, I, 2 – The queen consoles Hamlet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain. {{PD-Art}}

For example, consider what Hamlet** says to his mother the first time we see them together. He’s been going around wearing customary suits of inky black day after day, and suspiring all over the palace, and although his mother knows he’s grieving for his dead father, she says everybody does that at one time or another, and asks why he seems so much more miserable than others in the same situation.

He answers,

“Seems,” madam? Nay, it is; I know not “seems.”

In other words, this isn’t put on, he’s genuinely perturbed. Of course, there’s more to it than he lets on: After his father died, before the funeral baked meats, like the casseroles and tuna sandwiches the neighbors brought in, had been consumed, his mother went and married her husband’s brother, who doesn’t have much to recommend him. That would make any prince suspire. And Hamlet must be irritated that his mother is so clueless. She asks a silly question, and he sasses her. “Nay, it is; I know not “seems,” is, in modern terms, something like, Well, d’oh.

Anyway, back to NaNo. The mere act of registering gives me a serious case of the fantods.

David Garrick in Hamlet, I, 4
David Garrick in Hamlet, I, 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain. {{PD-Art}}

Hamlet could have addressed his fantods by confronting his mother and his uncle and asking  straight out what in the world they thought they were doing, but instead he takes the passive-aggressive route and pretends he’s unhinged.

I, on the other hand, have, every year, faced my dilemma head on: I’ve dropped out. No novel, no problem.

 

This year, however, I’m confronting it by plowing on through. I shall, and I will, write 50,000 words by November 30. I’ll go from beginning to middle to end, I’ll  submit my scrambled manuscript through the NaNo website, and I’ll win.

On the basis of my experience, both past and present, I’ve come up with some helpful hints I’m happy to share:

  1. After you register for NaNo, be proactive. Fill out your profile. You don’t have to use your real name. Title your book. It doesn’t matter what, just name it and record it on the website. Join a community. Then write a synopsis. If you don’t have a plot, wing it. Nobody’s going to read it, and it might end up working out. Complete these steps and you’ll receive badges. I got one for filling out my profile, one for joining my community (I told them where I live), and one for “creating” my novel. I take issue with that creating business, but if it makes them happy to think so…
  2. Badges make you feel better, so award yourself some for personal achievement. I gave myself a Plantser badge, because I usually have to write for a while before my characters tell me what they want to do (flying by the seat of my pants, or pantsing), but then, once things get going, I come up with a rudimentary framework (plotting). Plotter + pantser = Plantser. I also gave myself a Rebel badge to declare myself a NaNo Rebel!, state my belief “that rules are meant to be broken,” and admit that on November 1, I’ll “start writing anything but a brand new novel.” I could not have phrased that better myself. Plantser and Rebel might seem contradictory, but who cares.
  3. Relax. Getting all het up won’t help. By Thanksgiving you’ll be so antsy your family will make you take your plate and eat out on the porch.

Now for the Don’ts:

  1. On November 1, don’t let a podiatrist operate on your foot. It won’t hurt, but it’ll take a chunk out of your day that you should spend working on your novel.
  2. On November 1, don’t have two meetings, even if they promise to be interesting and you want to go. See #1 regarding chunks.
  3. On November 1, when you want to quit, don’t. If you feel the queasies coming on, follow Eloise’s lead: Say, “Pooh pooh to you,”***  and get over it. (Eloise and Hamlet’s mother have a lot in common.)
  4. Don’t schedule the Sisters in Crime chapter newsletter you edit (and write) to post on November 1. Before you post, you’ll have to tweak, and you’ll tweak everything, even things that don’t need tweaking, and you’ll add content, and it’s already too long, and it’ll be 9:00 p. m. before you press Publish.
  5. Don’t download the trial version of Scrivener**** that’s available to every NaNo participant. Even if you’ve used it before, you won’t remember how it works, because it’s big and complicated, and you don’t need it right now anyway, you can get it later, and MS Word is sufficient, and if you have Scrivener, you’ll open it and work out how to color code, and then you’ll spend the rest of November color coding everything from plot points to red herrings to subplots to your cats, if you can figure out how (blue for Ernest’s gray coat, much of which currently adorns my sweats, and rust for William’s elegant cream tabbiness).
  6. On November 2, don’t open your email. Don’t open Facebook. For goodness’ sake, don’t open your blog. Opening your blog will lead to writing a post, any post, because you’ll do everything in your power, even write, to get out of making up 1667 words, which by now have increased to 3334 words because you had surgery and two meetings and a newsletter on November 1. Email might not pose a problem– it depends on how popular you are–but Facebook will take you directly to Candy Crush and you’ll be lost. (Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, and Candy Crush Jelly Saga, all of which you sneered at during the years sanity prevailed.)
Screen shot of Scrivener; ready open a new project

There are other d0’s and don’ts, but I’m too tired to remember what they are. Except for the one about getting enough sleep. Last night, I didn’t. A nap is inevitable, but there goes another chunk of writing time.

Anyway, that’s my take on NaNoWriMo. Contrary to the what you’ve read here, I have a positive attitude. I’m going to make it.

Because I want to call myself a winner. I want to experience the satisfaction of a job well done. I want to finish a novel so I can go back to short stories where I belong. I want to be a winner. I want a tee-shirt.

But above all, I want Scrivener. I want Scrivener when I create, plot, organize, research, file, write, revise, prepare a final document. I want to join the legions who say Scrivener is the greatest gift to writers since the eraser. I want the 50% discount on Scrivener that winning will earn me.

But above all else, I want Scrivener so I can color code. 

 

***

* A man invented NaNoWriMo. We know this because it takes place in November.

** For a quotation, an example, a whatever, go to Hamlet. Hamlet and Mark Twain. Everything you need is there.

*** I think Eloise says “Pooh pooh to you.” Somebody says it.

****Scrivener is a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month.

***

I’ve now written about 1370 words. Only 1964 to go before midnight and I’ll be caught up. Blog posts don’t normally count, but if your main character participates in NaNoWriMo and writes a blog, they do.

Laura Oles presents Inside Photo Secrets for Authors, March 9 @ Sisters in Crime (Austin) – Free and Open to the Public

Laura Oles
Laura Oles

Inside Photo Secrets for Authors

Storytelling through photography has long been a powerful method of connecting people emotionally. For authors and writers, the use of photography can greatly assist in reaching and retaining readers. However, the digitization of photography has left the public largely confused about this new medium’s rules and regulations.

At Sisters in Crime – Austin’s March 9 meeting, member Laura Oles, a photo industry journalist and author of Digital Photography for Busy Women, will cover some current issues surrounding digital photography.

Topics to be covered will include:

  • Basic guidelines for using photos on your author blog & website
  • Creative Commons: What it is and why it matters
  • When you can and cannot use photos you find online
  • How to determine if a photo has been edited (for fictional story lines, etc)
  • What metadata is and what it tells you about the photo
  • How to use photography to strengthen your author page and blog posts
  • Tips for taking that perfect author headshot
  • Examples & resources for writers to find photos to use under license
  • General photography tips for powerful imagery
  • Why authors should use Pinterest & how to get started

Laura Oles was fortunate enough to have entered the digital photography industry long before Photoshop had become a verb. She is a founding team member of Pixel Magic Imaging, which was purchased by DNP Photo Imaging America in 2006, and has continued to advocate for digital solutions that improve the experience for shooters of all skill levels. She spent over ten years building and leading sales and marketing teams and understands the challenges of helping businesses establish a strong, unique presence in a crowded marketplace.

Laura has published over 200 articles in industry and consumer magazines and has been a columnist for Digital Camera Magazine, Memory Makers Magazine, Picture Business, PhotoInduced, ClubMom (now Cafe Mom) and others. Her book, Digital Photography for Busy Women, was named a photography category finalist in USA Book News.com’s ‘Best Books’ awards. In addition, she has served as an expert speaker for a variety of imaging conferences and conventions across the country. She continues to consult and write for the digital photo industry.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter (Austin) meets the second Sunday of each month at 2:00 p.m., at Recycled Reads, 5335 Burnet Road, Austin. Meetings are free and open to the public.

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A Pitch-Perfect Paragraph–For Readers Who Know Cows

English: Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel...
English: Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel. The light coloured bull calf (1 month old) belongs to the cow on the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) “Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel” by Richard Webb is licensed under [CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
I head into the house for my hat and my cane and the keys to my truck. There’s not a thing wrong with me but a bum knee. Several months ago one of my heifers knocked me down accidentally and it spooked her so bad that she stepped on my leg. This happened in the pasture behind my house, where I keep twenty head of white-faced Herefords. It took me two hours to drag myself back to the house, and those damned cows hovered over me every inch of the way.

~ Terry Shames, A Killing at Cotton Hill

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AMW Workshop: Special Invitation for Procrastinators

Austin Mystery Writers spent Thursday making last-minute preparations for Anatomy of a Mystery, the free workshop it’s sponsoring today from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at BookPeople in Austin. I offer two photographs as proof. Some of the people in them are duplicated. (My assigned task was to cut up paper for the raffle. Mission accomplished.)

IMG_2550IMG_2551

This post, which is being typed around a large cream tabby who insists on operating the space bar, is directed to people like me–people who forget to register, to sign up, to RSVP. People who put things off.

Part of large cream tabby
Part of large cream tabby

The message is this: RSVPs are not required for Anatomy of a Mystery.

If you wake in the morning with an insatiable urge to attend a workshop about how to write the mystery novel, do not despair.

Come on down to BookPeople.

Authors Reavis Wortham, Janice Hamrick, and Karen MacInerney, all of whom have proved they know how to write–and have accepted for publication–multiple mystery novels, will share some of their secrets with other writers, aspiring writers, and readers.

It would be a shame to miss this opportunity just because you forgot to tell us you were planning to come.

It would be more of a shame to miss the great swag we’re handing out.  One example is pictured here. There are also some books and who-knows-what-else.

Swag
Swag

So take the advice of a veteran procrastinator: show up at Anatomy of a Mystery–and if you can’t stay all day, spend the morning or the afternoon with us.

And don’t worry about crowds. If the room is SRO, you can have my chair and I’ll sit on the floor.

Provided, that is, that you promise to help me get back up.

IMG_2439.1AMW- logo

She Cannot Get Away

Kaye - testimonial - pictures - croppedIf you read the previous post, reblogged from Gale Albright’s Visions and Revisions, you know mystery novelist Kaye George attended the Austin Mystery Writers meeting last week. Kaye, who for a number of years served as AMW’s Grand Pooh-Bah, moved to Tennessee last winter, leaving Gale and me forsaken and forlorn.

At the Last Lunch, celebrated at the Elite Cafe in Waco, Gale and I presented Kaye a certificate declaring her Member Emerita. It was supposed to say Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita, but, distraught over her impending move, I forgot that part.

The bull pictured on the certificate is an homage to Kaye’s first published novel, CHOKE, in which heroine Imogene Duckworthy narrowly escapes death by goring. I don’t believe that’s a spoiler, since Immy later appears in both SMOKE and BROKE.

Gale and I were foolish to suffer so over our friend’s disappearance because, thanks to the miracle of email, social media, and the Eyes of Texas, which are perpetually upon her, Kaye cannot get away. She’s been gracious about our continued presence in her life. She even suggested AMW publish an anthology of mystery stories, and so we shall. Each member has agreed to write two stories related to a central theme.

The prospect of putting out an anthology is exciting for those of us who haven’t published widely (roughly four of the eight current AMW members), but for me it’s also stressful: What if I can’t deliver? What if I’m already written out? What if I have to tell Kaye George the dog ate my homework? She knows I don’t have a dog.

At this point, I should tell a story related to the questions raised in the preceding paragraph. But it’s nearly 4:00 a.m., David just exchanged sleeping on the couch for sleeping on a bed, and I’m left downstairs hearing, sort of by default, Marvin Hamlisch first say that the music of the ’80s exemplifies our country’s return to family values, and then introduce a very old person I don’t recognize to sing “Under the Boardwalk.”

In other words, I’m outta here. The story will wait until tomorrow.

***

Oh, jeez. Now they’re singing “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.” Those family values just won’t quit. What are the PBS folks thinking? 

I have to retire now, before we all drown in sarcasm.

Kaye George Comes to Austin

Austin Mystery Writers were in a dither over a visit by Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita this week. Gale Albright supplies the gripping details.

Visions and Revisions

The members of Austin Mystery Writers were clustered at their literary haunt in the BookPeople café on Thursday morning, eagerly awaiting the arrival of famed author and Grand Poobah emerita Kaye George.

“Gosh,” I said to the group. “I hope she remembers the little people.”

august 15 bp 050I need not have worried. With all her usual charm and warmth, Kaye George appeared wearing a big fedora, carrying a giant magnifying glass, and blinding us with her dazzling smile.

We had missed Kaye George. Once a guiding beacon in AMW in Austin, she had moved to Waco, then Knoxville, Tennessee, too far away to attend the weekly critique group meetings.

However, that didn’t stop Kaye from being an active participant in AMW. She’s still a major player in the group, we’re glad to say.

august 15 bp 058Kaye George has been an inspiration to fellow writers. She fought hard to become a published author

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1st Line: The Private Patient

English: 149 Harley Street
149 Harley Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Philip Halling [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“On November the twenty-first, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death.” ~ P. D. James, The Private Patient

Mystery Novelist Janice Hamrick & Death Rides Again

The day Eddy Cranny got himself murdered started bad and went downhill from there . . . especially for Eddy. ~ Janice Hamrick, Death Rides Again

Janice Hamrick
Janice Hamrick

When I reached the second floor of BookPeople for the June 19th launch of Death Rides Again, Janice Hamrick’s latest mystery novel, my day turned around and started uphill at a gallop.

Janice, who lives in Austin, made news in the writing–and reading–communities when the manuscript of her first book, Death on Tour, won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Published in 2011, the novel was nominated for the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award.

Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival
Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival

In 2012, Janice followed Death on Tour with Death Makes the Cut. Now she presents the third in the Jocelyn Shore series, Death Rides Again.

Critics have been complimentary. So have readers. From her tour of Egypt, to the high school where she teaches, to a family reunion at her Uncle Kel’s ranch, main character Jocelyn Shore has a talent for solving murders and gathering fans as she goes.

DeathRidesAgainCoverWebAt the book launch, Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator of MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, interviewed Janice before an audience of mystery lovers. This was the second time I’ve seen the two together: at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, Janice appeared on a panel Scott moderated. The subject was using humor in mysteries, something Janice does well. (See quotation from book, above.)

I took copious notes, as I always do on such occasions. The conversation ranged far and wide, however, and my notes comprise two pages of scrawl, on the diagonal, a series of jottings devoid of connective tissue. Turning them into paragraphs would take several hours and considerable energy (for reason, see “Why I Am Not a Journalist”), so I’ll share a few bullets:

  • Janice got the idea for Death on Tour from a trip she made to Egypt (during which no one was murdered). The idea for Death Rides Again came from a setting–her family’s ranch near Brady.
  • Some reviewers class the Jocelyn Shore novels as cozy mysteries; others don’t. Janice is glad the books aren’t easily categorized. She describes them as funny but hopes they have more depth than the typical cozy.
  • Asked what she learned while writing the series, she said that between Death on Tour and Death Makes the Cut, she learned, “I can do it.”
  • She’s working on another book–not a Jocelyn Shore–but she doesn’t talk about that one yet.
  • Janice rises about 5:00 a.m. and writes before going to work. She sets out to write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week. On a bad day, she says, she can produce 300 words and feel okay. On a good day, she can “blast right through” her goal.

DeathMakesTheCut_cover_webNow this is where things get personal. I began this post by saying my day went uphill because I attended the book launch.

Goals have never been my friends. Most people find them energizing. To me, setting goals is stimulus for digging in my heels, heading off at a 45-degree angle from the rest of the group. When my CP, who likes goals and thinks I should like them too, makes me set some for the coming week, I growl, scribble in my notebook–almost, but not quite, singing Nyah nyah nyah to myself–and then ignore them.

But Janice’s description of her 300-word goal–low enough to attain and feel good about, low enough to sometimes blast right through–spoke to me. Her system is so logical, so sensible, so humane. Sitting there in that folding chair, I heard the little light bulb above my head click on, and I said to myself, Well, d’oh.

So, on that basis, I’ve decided to jump into Round 3 of  A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, with the following goal:

  • I will write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week;

and this stipulation:

  • I will not rise at 5:00 a.m. to get the job done.

Now back to the book launch:

deathontourcover

The question on the mind of nearly everyone in the audience was, What happens next?

When you’ve spent quality time with a character like Jocelyn, gotten to know her and her family, watched her fall in–and maybe out–of love, deal with matters of life and death, turn shaky post-divorce self-esteem to strong self-confidence–you don’t want the relationship to end. Three books, the number Janice contracted to write, aren’t enough.

So what might influence Janice’s publisher to ask for a fourth Jocelyn Shore novel?

Here’s Janice’s answer: Buy the book! 

***

You can follow Janice’s blog at blog.janicehamrick.com.

The Jocelyn Store mysteries are available from booksellers listed on Janice’s website.

On Saturday, July 20, Janice and Hopeton Haye, host of KAZI Book Review, will appear at the Pflugerville Library for an interactive discussion about the Jocelyn Shore series, mysteries, and writing. On Saturday, August 31, she will sign copies of her books at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble.

***

For more information about A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) click here.

To read what other ROW80 participants are writing, click here.

***

IMG_2264

If You Don’t Love a Character…

L-R: Robin Allen, Kaye George, Janice Hamrick, Hopeton Hay

Sunday’s Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter presented a New Authors panel: Robin Allen (If You Can’t Stand the Heat: Stick a Fork in It), Kaye George (Choke; Smoke), and Janice Hamrick (Death on Tour; Death Makes the Cut). Hopeton Hay, host of KAZI Book Review, served as moderator.

Here, listed in no particular order and attributed to no particular panelist, are the tips I gleaned from the discussion:

  • If you don’t love a character, get him out of your manuscript.
  • Characters don’t always behave.
  • Publishing the first book makes writing the second easier.
  • There is no one correct way to write a book.
  • Characters come to life during the writing, not during the outlining.
  • Write characters worthy of subplots; they will carry the book.
  • Writing is torture.
  • Writing is necessary for good mental health.
  • Sexual tension between characters is hard to sustain over time, but marriage ends things.
  • Publishers encourage authors to have a social media presence.
  • Publishers discourage authors from having a social media presence.
  • Publishers don’t market books.
  • Authors must actively market in order to sell books.
  • Without limitations on time, it’s easy to screw around all day.
  • Agents don’t know everything.
  • Plot in advance but be willing to change the plan.
  • Writers who pants successfully have a lot of the plot in their heads.
  • Not everyone needs to write daily.
  • Sometimes a character disappears without telling the writer where he’s gone.
  • Writing a novel requires large blocks of time.
  • Writing a novel can be done in twenty-minute segments.
  • Experience makes a difference.
  • Establish a writing calendar.
  • An excellent manuscript doesn’t ensure publication.

ROW80, AMW, Dorothy, & Tallulah

Promotional photo of Tallulah Bankhead.
Promotional photo of Tallulah Bankhead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I owe A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) another Wednesday check-in. Fortunately, I finally have something significant to report.

My original goals were to sleep (get to bed before midnight, I believe); eat well (get off the white stuff, processed foods, added salt, sweeteners); and show up at critique meetings with  something to be critiqued (in other words, write).

Before I discuss progress, I’ll note that Austin Mystery Writers (AMW) is alive and well. Several members have been on hiatus, dealing with other projects (such as work), another can’t attend regularly (again, work), and this week our Grand Pooh-Bah moved a hundred miles to the north. Only two non-Pooh Bahs remained to stay the course, and we considered four eyes insufficient to ferret out the flaws in our respective manuscripts.

Last night, however, concern vanished. Two new members joined us, a third has promised to drop in next week, and two others have listed themselves as maybes.

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being in a critique has been a good experience for me. In addition to ideas and advice, I’ve received  encouragement and support for my writing and for my personal life. My partners have helped me over some rough spots in the past couple of years.

I’ve also learned a lot. Since we’ve been together, one partner has published a novel and has more in line for publication. Two others have completed manuscripts. While in one sense I’ve been stalled–scrambling down bunny trails, trying to get my plot under control–I’ve learned about the business of writing.

As to my own WIP: Pieces continue to fall into place. Listening to a presentation at the Austin Sisters in Crime meeting last Sunday, I had a brainstorm–a detail that would make a central character’s motivation much more credible. I flipped to the next page in my notebook and scribbled it down. I’ve also had another idea about reframing the novel to update it a bit. When I realized that Molly hadn’t once, in nearly three hundred pages, gone online, I pulled out Chapter One and inserted Internet.

Today I retyped Chapter One. The experts say not to do that–especially considering the number of times I’ve rewritten it, trying to get the foundation right–but I’m not revising so much as remembering. It’s been through many incarnations, and typing requires me to read more closely than I would if only my eyes were involved. I’ll continue this process for three or four more chapters, inserting new segments where appropriate (I hope!). Projected changes add originality. They give Audrey Ann, a minor character, more opportunity for mischief-making. Audrey Ann is a hoot, and I look forward to spending more time with her.

(One of my critique partners suggested Audrey Ann would make a good victim, but she’s too much fun to kill. Very much like my first intended victim, whom I couldn’t bring myself to knock off. If this becomes a trend, I’m in big trouble.)

I’ve added a progress meter to the sidebar on the left. Five percent represents progress on the current draft–in other words, what I retyped today. I’ve been working on this project, and talking and writing about it, for a long time. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve eked out just four thousand words.

Now, as to my plan for eating real food: Sometimes I have and sometimes I haven’t. I have, however, dropped nineteen pounds since the first of the year, so I claim at least modified success.

(Who am I trying to kid? I rock.)

Regarding sleep: It’s after 1:00 a.m. No excuses.

One last thing about Austin Mystery Writers: When the other left-behind critique partner mentioned we might need to put several of the coffee shop’s tables together to handle the potentially large turnout, it occurred to me that if we works things right, AMW could become the Austin equivalent of the Algonquin Hotel’s Round Table. A heady thought. Critique partner said I could be Dorothy Parker. She wants to be Tallulah Bankhead. I wish I could be the glamorous one, but with my evil tongue, Dorothy P. is right down my alley. More’s the pity. I’ll try to be nice.

*****

Repost: Review of Kaye George’s CHOKE

I’m reposting this review in honor of Kaye George, author of the Agatha-nominated mystery, CHOKE.

Agatha Christie's signature
Agatha Christie's signature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kaye is currently in Washington, D. C. , where the Agatha Awards will be announced tomorrow at the annual Malice Domestic “fun fan” convention. Malice Domestic salutes “the traditional mystery—books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie,” and “loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence.”

Austin Mystery Writers send congratulations and best wishes to all Agatha nominees.

To Kaye and her heroine, Immy Duckworthy, we add an orange pickup load of harmonious vibrations and a plea to get back to Texas as soon as possible.

*****

Question: If you combined Lucille Ball with Inspector Clouseau, what would you get?

Answer: Imogene Duckworthy, amateur PI and main character of Kaye George’s new mystery, CHOKE.

Immy is a delight–the 22-year-old unwed mother of 3-year-old Nancy Drew Duckworthy (Drew), she lives with her retired-librarian mother, Hortense, in Saltlick, Texas; slings hash at her Uncle Huey’s cafe; and wants with all her heart to be a detective like her “dead sainted father.”

When Immy up and quits her job (Huey wants her to work double shifts again), and then explains her sudden unemployment by telling Hortense that Huey pinched her bottom (well, he DID pinch the other waitress’s bottom), Hortense heads to the cafe to give Huey what-for. Then Huey is murdered, the police take Hortense to the station, and Immy has her very first case. Guided by the Moron’s Compleat PI Guidebook, she sets out to find the perp.

The Moron’s Compleat PI Guidebook says nothing about staging a jailbreak, holing up in a Cowtail motel, or color-coding her list of suspects. But it does mention disguises, just what Immy needs to investigate on her home turf. An outfit that combines “Buns of Foam” with “Boobs and Belly,” however, leaves the amateur PI in need of the Jaws of Life, and the reader in stitches.

Kaye George’s CHOKE is a different kind of mystery. In most detective novels, the reader watches the sleuth-protagonist work his way through chapter after chapter, picking up clues and discarding red herrings, until he finally comes up with the answer. In CHOKE, however, the reader picks up clues while watching the gullible, ultra-literal, but enthusiastic Immy charge through to the solution while remaining blissfully clueless.

With CHOKE, first-timer Kaye George has accomplished something special: an original mystery, an original Immy, and a novel that leaves readers laughing and wanting more.

FTC Disclaimer: No one gave me this book. I bought it with my own money. Kaye George is one of my critique partners, but our relationship did not influence my review. I did not tell her how to write CHOKE, and she did not tell me what to write in my review. In fact, I never even critiqued the manuscript, and my introduction to the novel came when my copy arrived in the mail. I wish I had critiqued it, because I would like to take credit for “Boobs and Belly,” and the part about the letter opener, and the chicken. But the whole thing was Kaye’s idea. Even the orange pickup on the cover.

Book Review: Kaye George’s CHOKE

Question: If you combined Lucille Ball with Inspector Clouseau, what would you get?

Answer: Imogene Duckworthy, amateur PI and main character of Kaye George’s new mystery, CHOKE.

Immy is a delight–the 22-year-old unwed mother of 3-year-old Nancy Drew Duckworthy (Drew), she lives with her retired-librarian mother, Hortense, in Saltlick, Texas; slings hash at her Uncle Huey’s cafe; and wants with all her heart to be a detective like her “dead sainted father.”

When Immy up and quits her job (Huey wants her to work double shifts again), and then explains her sudden unemployment by telling Hortense that Huey pinched her bottom (well, he DID pinch the other waitress’s bottom), Hortense heads to the cafe to give Huey what-for. Then Huey is murdered, the police take Hortense to the station, and Immy has her very first case. Guided by the Moron’s Compleat PI Guidebook, she sets out to find the perp.

The Moron’s Compleat PI Guidebook says nothing about staging a jailbreak, holing up in a Cowtail motel, or color-coding her list of suspects. But it does mention disguises, just what Immy needs to investigate on her home turf. An outfit that combines “Buns of Foam” with “Boobs and Belly,” however, leaves the amateur PI in need of the Jaws of Life, and the reader in stitches.

Kaye George’s CHOKE is a different kind of mystery. In most detective novels, the reader watches the sleuth-protagonist work his way through chapter after chapter, picking up clues and discarding red herrings, until he finally comes up with the answer. In CHOKE, however, the reader picks up clues while watching the gullible, ultra-literal, but enthusiastic Immy charge through to the solution while remaining blissfully clueless.

With CHOKE, first-timer Kaye George has accomplished something special: an original mystery, an original Immy, and a novel that leaves readers laughing and wanting more.

FTC Disclaimer: No one gave me this book. I bought it with my own money. Kaye George is one of my critique partners, but our relationship did not influence my review. I did not tell her how to write CHOKE, and she did not tell me what to write in my review. In fact, I never even critiqued the manuscript, and my introduction to the novel came when my copy arrived in the mail. I wish I had critiqued it, because I would like to take credit for “Boobs and Belly,” and the part about the letter opener, and the chicken. But the whole thing was Kaye’s idea. Even the orange pickup on the cover.

Tuesday Teaser 5 (on Thursday)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

My teasers:

She said, “You play your cards quite close, don’t you, Thomas.”

He said, “I have no cards at all.”

Elizabeth George, This Body of Death

Teaser Tuesday 2

I didn’t post yesterday.

My resolutions for 2011, as I stated in an earlier post, are

  • to blog every day; and
  • to eschew perfectionism.

Yesterday I was busy eschewing.

**************

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

My teasers:

“A woman with morals,” Carl said. “I like that.”

~ Karen MacInerney, Berried to the Hilt: A Gray Whale Inn Mystery