A little belatedly I am taking part in the September Sisters in Crime Sinc-Up for writers. (There are a few days left of September, right?)
So one of the prompts was this question, "If someone said 'Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,' how would you respond?"
Well, someone did say something along these lines to me once...
I was at a mystery conference, and a fellow author introduced me to an older gentleman--I'll call him George--who apparently is a huge history buff. My friend told George that I write historical mysteries set in seventeenth-century London.
George's eyes lit up and he told me that he had just been in London recently. I asked him what he had liked about his trip.
George told me that he had liked seeing the Cheshire Cheese, a tavern that had been rebuilt in 1667 after the original was burnt down during the Great Fire of London.
We-l-l-l-l....the Cheshire Cheese was actually the setting of my second novel--From the Charred Remains. In fact, I have a murder happen there just before the place burns down. So I told George this, and again, his eyes lit up. Then he asked me about my protagonist.
I started to tell him about Lucy, my chambermaid-turned-apprentice, and he held up his hand and said, "I don't read books about women."
I couldn't even begin to tell him about all the wonderful crime fiction that feature female detectives, sleuths, lawyers, reporters and a zillion other investigators that he was missing out on with such a dismissive stance. Patricia Cornwell's forensics specialist Kay Scarpetta. Rhys Bowen's amateur sleuth Molly Murphy. Kerry Greenwood's private investigator Phryne Fisher. Sara Parestsky's kick-ass V.I.Warshawski. Hank Phillippi Ryan's intrepid TV reporter Charlotte McNally. Not to mention the unflappable Miss Marple!
And for anyone who likes strong female protagonists in historical mysteries, I've got a few that you MUST check out: Meg Mims writes the "Double Series" featuring feisty Western heroine Lily Granville; Anna Loan-Wilsey writes a terrific series set in New England featuring Hattie Davish, "a travelling secretary and dillettante detective," and Alyssa Maxwell writes the charming Gilded Newport Series with Emmaline Cross--"a Vanderbilt by heritage, a Newporter by birth, and a force to be reckoned with!" Well-written historical mysteries all!
Hopefully we can turn the Georges of the world around, one fabulous female protagonist at a time!
What about you? Who are your favorite female sleuths, detectives and investigators? Why do you enjoy them?
I am just one tough scene away from finishing my edits on my third book--The Masque of the Murderer--and returning them to my editor. It's been a crazy few weeks at my day job, so I'm just gritting my teeth and finishing.
So-o-o, since I have to save all creative thinking for this final scene, I thought I'd just share a few images of the food and drink that will get me through to the end. Usually I'm just a coffee person, but I've got a few go-to items that I will turn to in a crunch.
Pretty simple really, and perhaps a little disgusting when combined, but so be it.
These peanut chews are for the fast fast fast writing (taken as necessary):
I started eating these peanut chews when I worked in a movie theater in Philly. In between serving customers popcorn and candy, I was always writing term papers, as fast as I could. I found Goldenberg chews made me good and hyper, which seemed to facilitate fast writing. (They probably also make me feel sneaky, but that's another story).
Much later in life, having married a Milwaukee man, I discovered New Glarus Spotted Cow. I totally equate this beer with relaxing contemplative thinking. No idea why. But it sure beats water.
Of course, by combining the two, I am running the risk of writing some pretty loopy passages. On the other hand, perhaps this combo will elevate my prose to a whole new level.
What about you, any crazy food and drink combinations to make your writing faster, better, stronger?
I am always a sucker for book lists that ask things like: Have you read more than 6 books on this BBC book list? (I've read 47/100, which made me feel pretty good). Or, "How well-read are you?" (Gulp, just 40 out of 155). Or, how many of the 100 best-loved novels of all time have you read? (44, so a little better). And of course, How many of these top 101 crime novels have you read? (Just 18, ouch)
And then I look at what the "experts" identify as the "best" 100 novels. The Modern Library's 100 best novels (I've read 18 of 100). One hundred best American Novels (1770-1985) (I've read 12 of 100). And, of course, responses to such lists (I've read 13 of 100). And lists that combine both such lists. (For the record, I've read 31 of 100).
The lists are fun, but sometimes, puzzling. (Seriously, Ayn Rand? Not sure I'll ever see the attraction there). Mostly these lists just remind me of all the books I want to read, but haven't gotten around to it. So I thought I'd create a list of books I thought that I've wanted to read. See if any are on your to-be-read pile!
[update: I have actually crossed one off my list!]
Books in the "Why am I waiting to read this?" category:
Books in the "This looks interesting, I'll read it if I remember it" category
Books in the "It MUST be good because everyone loves it but I couldn't get into it the first time I tried" category
Let me know how many of these you've read! (and since I need to prioritize, let me know which one I should read first!
It's a Saturday. I'm taking a few hours to finish the revisions on my third Lucy book. I carefully negotiated this time with my husband (aka the Alpha Reader), which of course was more like,
"Ohmygod, Ohmygod, Ohmygod....I gotta get these revisions finished because I need to get the copy edits and we need some ARCs and I need to finish the fourth book which is due in April and what was I thinking working on a side Young Adult novel which has not been contracted and I need to write some blog posts and won't the kids be upset that I'm not spending much time with them this weekend and I wonder how that book club I did last night went and don't I have a few more events coming up when are they anyway and I think there's some day job stuff I need to finish up and ohmygod etc etc"
I usually do most of my writing at night, when the kids are in bed, but when deadlines loom, I need to carve out extra time in my schedule. And of course my dear Alpha Reader just held up his hand and said, "Don't worry. Take a few hours today." Seriously. Best. Husband. Ever.
So off to my coffee shop I went to work--mostly guilt-free--to work on these book three edits.
But I wasn't here too long before someone I knew from the neighborhood stopped by to say hello. Seeing my 350 pages of manuscript strewn about the table, my laptop open, the remnants of my morning bun (which I really wish I hadn't succumbed too) and my mostly chugged non-fat latte, she said to me, "I wish I had time to sit around writing a book."
Although her tone was dismissive, or perhaps envious, she is a lovely woman, so I think I just smiled politely and said "Well, I think its about carving out time and--"
But she just shook her head. "I just don't have that kind of free time to just sit around and write," she repeated and walked away. The implication was clear. Writing is a leisure activity, like laying out at the pool. But if she had just had the time to do it, she'd easily knock out a best-seller.
So what I didn't say, but which I wish I had, is this: It's not really about the time. It's about the will. It's about the drive. It's about the focus. Obviously, you need time to complete a novel, but all the time in the world won't help you write if you have no will or drive.
If writing were just about "finding free time," I'd feed you the bonbons* myself.
Real writers write.** They don't just think "I've got a great idea that will become a best-seller just as soon as I take a few weekends off from my busy schedule." They carve out the time, by hook or by crook, and they sit in their chairs, with their pads of paper or at their keyboards, and they WRITE THE FRIGGING STORY!
[**As much as I wanted to end with a pithy closure, I just want to acknowledge that I completely understand that some writers have true and very real constraints upon them. Not everyone has an Alpha Reader who can help them carve out the time they need. But I don't put those writers in the bon-bon sun-tanning leisure crowd of wannabe best-selling authors. To those writers I say, Try to keep at it. A page here, a scene there, and eventually the book will be done! My first novel took me ten years to write!]
[**I don't think I've ever had a bon-bon, but now its on my list of things to try]
So the question I have is this: What kind of writer are you?
Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.