19 February 2013

Readers Choice

by David Dean

In spite of earlier reports of my departure, which resulted in much joy and merry-making, I'm still here.  And, as I've warned those that have ears to listen (okay, eyes to read...but you get the point), I'm not leaving till I'm done--I need help and your going to give it to me, and even after you do, I've still got one more posting for you to get through on March 5th.  Sorry, but those are my terms.

Being a sucker for punishment, I intend to write another novel and would like to begin very soon.  I am not satisfied that I should write only one (how should I put this?) non-bestselling book, but am determined to produce another.  My theory is that I should continue to throw novels against the wall until one sticks--it's worked for others; why not me?  But that's where you come in--what should I write next?

Having outlined four different stories, I thought you might get a kick out of helping me pick one to get started on.  I like them all (though I have my favorites), but can't seem to settle on which one might be the best bet out of the chute.  So what follows are brief synopses (teasers really, as I'm withholding the conclusions) of my ideas for your consideration.  As I know we are all drawn to mystery first and foremost, I must ask you to remain open-minded about my offerings as they span four genres--consider also the commercial potential--this is a subject of which I've had very little experience.  Up until now, I've written whatever I felt like writing.  But, as I would also like for a few folks to actually read what I've written, I ask for your help.  To paraphrase Rod Serling, consider the following offerings:

Mystery Novel:  A fourteen year old girl, and her two younger siblings, arrive home from school one day just in time to save their father from hanging himself.  It is the anniversary of their mother's unsolved murder.  The eldest girl determines that she will get to the bottom of the mystery of her mother's death and enlists the aid of her eleven year old sister and nine year old brother in the cause--commands them really, as she has stepped into their mother's empty shoes.  Using the newspaper stories that covered the murder, which occurred only blocks away near the railroad track that runs by their home, as well as possible clues of a secret life that she gleans from her father's intended suicide note, she maps out an investigative strategy.  The suspects range from their father to their mother's employer, a doctor; a yet undiscovered lover (and potentially his wife), a nun who may have disapproved of mama's extracurricular activities, a violent tramp that was the police's original and favorite suspect, their grandma (dad's mom), and finally a completely unknown person.  It doesn't take long for the children to start rattling some cages, and soon, it appears that they have garnered some very unwelcome attention from a stalker with violent intentions.  But they can give as good as they get, and the culprit is eventually uncovered.

Horror Novel: A man is awakened in the middle of the night by a great sound, as if the world is cracking.  This is followed by screams, then silence.  Discovering that his wife and children are missing, he scours the house, then the neighborhood, but soon realizes that most people, and all children, have vanished.  In short order, he also discovers that those remaining are not alone; that something(s) is in the dark with them--killing them.  Over the next few days, as he struggles to survive in a world populated by demons, giants, phantoms, and monsters, he begins to understand that Judgement Day has come and gone, and that earth has been given over to hell to rule.  In a world where one can be endlessly terrified, tortured, and horribly killed, only to live again to suffer the same torments, he searches for salvation and release.  When he stumbles upon hell's only weakness, he begins to fight back, and little by little to regain his humanity, and his hope.

Speculative Fiction Novel: With a nod to Beowulf, this story centers on a young Norse Viking named Thorfinn Ratspiker.  So called because he lives in his father's barn where he excels at spearing rats with short javelins known as "darts"--a talent he picked up from their Irish slaves.  He is the illegitimate child of one of these captive women, and is small and slender, and thought to be slow-witted .  When his father, the Viking chieftain, warns him of his half-brother's impending return from raiding and his intention to remove Thorfinn from any chance of inheriting the throne, Thorfinn takes the hint and flees north.  After slaying a gigantic wolf that was terrorizing an impoverished village, he is told of a kingdom still farther north, whose king and populace are living in fear of a cannibal giant.  This bloodthirsty monster is only kept at bay by a steady sacrifice of slave children to sate his appetite.  Thorfinn, buoyed by his recent victory, and unable to return home, continues on to this kingdom to try his luck at freeing the people and to be hailed a great hero and richly rewarded.  What he discovers is that there is far more to the monster than meets the eye and that something even more sinister lies at the core of this kingdom.

Thriller Novel:  A young police officer finds out that his ne'er-do-well little sister and her sketchy boyfriend have vanished while sailing in the Bahamas.  Their boat has fetched up on a small cay in the Exuma chain without them or any clue as to what happened.  Taking a leave of absence, the officer charters a sailboat out of Miami, intending to recreate his sister's voyage based on what he knew of the couple's sail plan.  The captain, a tough old Haitian, agrees to his plan and they set off, only to discover that a large tiger shark follows in their wake--not a good omen according to the captain.  After meeting with the police in Nassau, and being assured that nothing new has been learned, they go to find the boat.  While doing so they pick up a new follower, a large black yacht, that neither draws closer nor stands farther off when they challenge.  His sister's derelict sailboat reveals nothing, but the locals assure them that it arrived on a northerly current and must have been abandoned to the south of their island.  Continuing on they stop over at a cay rumored to be a drop-off point for South American cocaine, prior to its being flown to the U.S.  Here they encounter not only only the crew of the black yacht, but a beautiful island girl in their company.  Having convinced them she is being held captive by drug-runners they help her to escape and flee southward with the yacht in pursuit.  But during the voyage, they grow suspicious that the girl may know something about the young man's missing sister, and is leading them to a similar fate on a deserted island known as Starvation Cay.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it--these are the horses in the race!  Make your pick and place your bet!  The winners will recieve an autographed copy of the book upon publication (if, and when, that ever happens)!  How can you go wrong?  But you can't win if you don't play, so think it over and let me know your thoughts in comments.  Thanks one and all!


  1. You are welcome here anytime, David. My preference in order would be for plots 4, 1, 3, 2

  2. For what it's worth, not being a published writer, yet, I choose door #1. But I think the older sister and younger brother are enough for us readers to keep track of. Good premise. The other child would simply interfere with the progress of your story. Like Cathy in the old "Father Knows Best" TV series. Then again, who am I to suggest anything to you, and established author? Pardon my hubris, Toe.

  3. Hmm… I'm a little leary of 'adult' themes with MG/YA characters, but like the plot. I think I'd go with 4,1, 2 (somewhat to my surprise, oh ye Grendl fans), and 3.

    The island Disney leases from the Bahamian government had been a base for drug runners, complete with runway. The plane left behind is used as sort of a prop on the cay.

  4. David, I would read any of the four and suggest you write them all with the thriller being the first. Then put out the speculative, followed by horror, with the mystery being last. Long ago, I was advised to identify the audience before writing fiction and I'd want to know if the mystery were slanted toward young readers or old folks like me.

  5. I like the thriller idea and also the first plot, but, given the rather adult suggestions, I would definitely make the children older if you do that, at least make the oldest girl well into her teens.

    However, why pick one? You can plan to do them all and have your next four years of writing all set!

    Good luck.

  6. I like the sound of the mystery, although you can't count on commercial success for--well, for anything, of course, but especially for an adult novel with a child protagonist. The Caribbean thriller sounds the least distinctive, though of course it's impossible to tell what it might become in your hands. But what I really think is that you'd better start with whichever one you're most moved to write.

  7. Oh, and I really like the speculative fiction, especially as it sounds as if the reader would be some way into the novel before realizing that it IS speculative fiction rather than pure historical or fantasy.

  8. I am thrilled with the responses thus far. Thanks everyone. I was a little worried that one and all might say, "These are the choices...really? You know, I've been planning to unplug that pesky sink all week..."

    It would appear that, early in this race, the thriller has a distinct lead. The mystery appears to have some interest, but has also drawn some concerns. I did not envision it as a YA type story which, I admit, presents a serious challenge. However, challenge is intriguing and I did manage some success with "Mariel" which featured a child protagonist versus an adult murderer. A full-length book might not be as easy though.

    So far, I'm not feeling the love for the spec fiction or the horror. Elizabeth being an exception to that as regards the Beowulf re-working. I definitely like the advice to write them all. As to which of these I prefer, I will withold testimony until the close of business.

  9. I don't remember the author, but there's the novel ROOM seen through the eyes of a little boy and has very adult themes, more intense than described here. So I go with 1,4,2,3. cathy

  10. I'd go 1, 4, 2, 3 - I like the idea of the children solving the murder in #1 (I've done that myself in a few short stories), and I'd be interested to see what's at the end of the Caribbean voyage in #4. As for the horror and the speculative one - I don't read much horror, but I'd be willing to read any alternative to the "Left Behind" drivel. The speculative moves me the least, mainly because of its Beowulf/Conan lineage. How about setting it down in old Antarctica, before the ice set in?

  11. David, my choices are 4, 3, 2. I don't like children who solve adult mysteries.

    Good luck with what ever novel you choose.

  12. I don't like children who solve adult mysteries.
    Louis, thanks for the great visual of you shaking your fist while shouting: "...and I would have gotten away with it, too -- if it weren't for you meddling kids!" lol

    I vote: 3,4,2,1 -- which, of course, mirrors only my personal reading preferences.

    Personally, I think you're a total B*s&@#d for NOT including any "clunkers" in your list, the way a mere mortal would. LOL Just yankin' your chain. I'll miss ya, buddy. And I wish you the very best of luck on whichever novel you decide to forge ahead with first.


  13. As it is nearing my bedtime, I've tallied the figures, and the winner is...the thriller by a head! By my count the thriller garnered five first place votes, while the mystery rang in three and the spec fiction two. Sadly, the horror story got not one first place vote.

    My own first place preference, as I promised to reveal, is the mystery. Clearly some concerns were expressed over this one, but I think it is the most interesting story and has the most potential; not however the most commercial appeal, I fear.

    Happily, the thriller was my second pick and the one that will probably be the most fun to write. So, as the greatest minds in modern fiction have been brought to bear on this subject, I hear and obey (I'll write the mystery later).

    Thanks so much everyone for playing with me. It was a lot of fun, and the ordering of the choices was very interesting to follow. You have all been very good sports.

  14. Leigh's comments about Disney, runway, and drug runners sways me to change my vote. Go with the thriller! In your hands, it should be a terrific read. Yours truly, Toe.

  15. Thanks, Toe, that puts a bow on the thriller vote; thriller it is!

    I've actually been to Norman's Cay, which was the site of a drug-running set-up complete with airstrip. There are some 700 islands in the Bahamas, most of them uninhabited.


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>