Showing posts with label cosy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cosy. Show all posts

11 September 2016

Don't Bury that Lede


James Lincoln Warren
James Lincoln Warren
by Leigh Lundin
featuring guest star James Lincoln Warren


Today’s article takes an international bent, one at which the British might cock an eyebrow, South Africans pretend not to look superior, Australians mutter, “WTF?” and Canadians cringe. “Oh, not another American diatribe to confuse the issue.” Yes, I’m talking about spelling, but words of particular interest to writers.

I’ve lived and worked in the UK so I’m a bit schizophrenic about the topic. On good days I might give myself an A- but other days barely a B. When it comes to those plural-singular collective noun & verb combinations, I want to shoot myself, e.g, “Manchester are a great team.” Manchester what? Even Liverpool and Leeds disagree… for different reasons, but do they say Manchester suck or sucks? No… yes… maybe… I’m off on an unwinnable rant.

We can blame the devil in Noah Webster for part of our dilemma, but no one ever credited natural language with logic. It’s up to us poor writers to struggle against the darkness. And the not so poor– Stephen King reportedly insists upon certain ‘international’ spellings. Double points to him because he provides a web page so readers can report typos and other errors.

Story v Storey

Our steadfast friend, James Lincoln Warren, has previously suggested we should use ‘storey’ to refer to a floor within a building and ’story’ for literary uses. JLW writes:

The reason I prefer “storey” to “story” when describing a level of a building above the ground floor is because it is more specific. “Story” can mean several things, but “storey” means only one thing.

For whatever it’s worth, etymologically, both words derive from the same origin, Latin historia. In medieval “Anglo-Latin”, historia was used in both senses as with “story”, i.e., “narrative” and “floor”. The Oxford English Dictionary therefore considers “storey” a variant spelling of “story”, and doesn’t show an example of the spelling with the “e” until Dickens, which suggests to me that the inclusion of the “e” in the architectural spelling is quite recent.

Brilliant and simple, right? So if we use story and storey, why not further distinguish other words the same way?

Cosy v Cozy

We North Americans recognize (or recognise– more on that later) two great British inventions, the cosy and the, er, cosy. One popularly keeps tea warm and the other warms readers of golden age mysteries.

Some American authors happily use this spelling, but exceptions abound including our own Fran Rizer, and why not? She writes Southern cozies with a ‘z’, thank you very much.

I like cosy as a noun, but when it comes to verbs and adjectives, my senseless sensibilities kick in. “She cosied up to him,” seems wrong, like she quoted Agatha Christie while serving him a pot of tea.

But if we expand our North American use of cosy with an ’s’, I suggest we negotiate ‘-ize’ endings. The poor zee (or zed) sees so little use, why not allow it to participate in ‘authorize’ and ‘pressurize’ and ‘legitimize’?

Celebrate, crossword puzzlers, celebrate!

Lede v Lead

The first time I came across ‘lede’, I had to look it up to make certain I wasn’t misreading it. The use of ‘lede’ as a variant of ‘lead’ is even newer than storey, dating back to the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Lede has been used to mean a headline, but more precisely refers to the opening paragraph of an article or story that summarizes (not summarises) the content following. Waffling Wikipedia suggests lede/lead combines the headline and first paragraph, but the ever precise Grammarist narrows its definition:

Strictly speaking, the lede is the first sentence or short portion of an article that gives the gist of the story and contains the most important points readers need to know… allowing readers who are not interested in the details to feel sufficiently informed.

In more dramatic forms, the lede can compare with a hook, but perhaps less obviously in, say, legal and technical writing. Professional journalism practices say a lede must provide the main points of a story, interest the reader in the story, and accomplish those goals as briefly as possible.

Newspapers used to be set in hot and cold lead (molten metal, Pb), so the lede of a hot lead could be cast in cold lead. As an interesting footnote, the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language comments upon lede:

Obsolete spelling of lead, revived in modern journalism to distinguish the word from its homograph lead, strip of metal separating lines of type.

Bury the lede” uses only the lede spelling. It’s sometimes misunderstood as burying a lead article within a newspaper, but it more narrowly means to begin an article with unessentials and postpone revealing salient points or facts until deeper in the body. For example, an editor might bury the lede for popular or political reasons.

Kerb – Curb, Tyre – Tire

If we succeed in making the spelling choices in the English language smaller while making the meanings more exact, why stop with these words? Why not use certain British nouns in exchange for North American verbs? “I tired of the tyre against the kerb, which curbed my enthusiasm.” Yeah, that works.

The words clew/clue seem to have sorted themselves out, although an author like  James Lincoln Warren might employ ‘clew’ in nautical and historical writings.

Back to crime writing, what the hell do we do about ‘gaol’, an unholy Norman abomination that dismays even the Welsh? We turn to James once more:

Interestingly, in Samuel Johnson’s definition of GAOL in his dictionary, he writes, “It is always pronounced and too often written jail, and sometimes goal.” He does, however, also list JAIL under the letter “I”. (There is no "J" section).

Publishing News

Congratulations to James for two stories soon to appear in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines. Tip your boater to him at the New Orleans Bouchercon.

09 March 2015

Me and the Derringers. (Maybe.)



by Melissa Yi.

At the end of my emergency room shift, I got a Twitter message that looked like this:

Quoi? Dr_sassy and the Derringers? That's never happened before. Sounds like a good band title, though.

My first thought was, Did someone tag me by accident? As in, they want me to know about the Derringer Award, which honours the best short mystery fiction published in the English language?

But another tag-ee, Britni Patterson, was already celebrating, so my heart kicked into high gear, just wondering if I was a chosen one.

And if so, which story was it? I had two eligible tales. “Because,” a biting tale of 490 words published in Fiction River: Crime, and “Gone Fishing,” a 12,000-word serialized Hope Sze novella commissioned by Kobo and kindly mentioned by Sleuthsayers last year.

I clicked on the link and found this Derringer short list:

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)
  • Joseph D’Agnese, “How Lil Jimmy Beat the Big C” (Shotgun Honey, May 12, 2014)
  • Rob Hart, “Foodies” (Shotgun Honey, May 2, 2014)
  • Jed Power, “Sweet Smells” (Shotgun Honey, July 28, 2014)
  • Eryk Pruitt, “Knockout” (Out of the Gutter Online, August 31, 2014)
  • Travis Richardson, “Because” (Out of the Gutter Online, May 15, 2014)*
  • Melissa Yuan-Innes, “Because” (Fiction River: Crime, March 2014)*
Ah. Because.

I do love that story.

Warning: it’s extremely noir. I don’t find it scary, but then I face blood, guts, vomit and potentially Ebola every day in the emergency room. I’ve already alerted the SleuthSayers powers that be that I’m not especially cozy. I’ve written what I consider cozies, and I love Precious Ramotswe and Agatha Raisin, but I also regularly stare into the darkness and take notes. When I attended the Writers of the Future winners’ workshop in 2000 and turned in a pitiless story about werewolves, the Grand Prize winner, Gary Murphy, stared at me and said, “I can’t believe that such a sweet-looking woman wrote this!"

I laughed. I adore werewolves. And good stories of any stripe.

But Cozy Monday may need a new name. Any suggestions? Cozy or Not; Cozy and Noir; Alternatively Cozy Mondays (because I’ll bet Jan Grape can stick to one genre better than literary sluts like Fran Rizer and Melodie Campbell and me); Cozy and Crazy…hmm.

Back to the Derringer. Until now, I never really understood why awards have a short list. Well, I understood whittling down the list so that celebrity judges don’t need to plow through a mountain of stories.

But now I get the glory of the finalist. I’ve won other prizes in a binary announcement. Either I win the award or I don’t. But right now, the uncertainty makes it all the more treacherous and exciting!

If you're curious, I’ve published “Because” for free on my website for the next week only. You can download it to your friendly neighbourhood KindleKoboiBooks deviceSmashwordsor any format for a whopping 99 cents. That price will triple in a week. Please admire the cover photo by 28-year-old French photographer Olivier Potet. The non-cropped version is even better.

If Because tickled your fancy, you can also download Code Blues, the first Hope Sze novel, for free, as part of a bundle on Vuze, until March 16th.

And please tune in on March 23rd, when I plan to write about how medicine trains your mind for detective work. Watson, anyone?

09 December 2013

Things I've Learned at Sleuth Sayers


Jan Grape
THINGS I'VE LEARNED AT SLEUTH SAYERS

by Jan Grape

I had two or three ideas tumbling around in my head for my column, however, nothing seemed to jell. I decided to peruse every one's column for this past week and "Wah-la." I decided that "transformative use" information from John M. Floyd made good sense.

As I've mentioned before, the first novel I wrote in 1980-81, was a private eye novel. Since I was a voracious reader of that genre, I noticed that no one was writing books or stories with a female P.I. At the time, I didn't know Marcia Muller had published her first Sharon McCone novel, Edwin of the Iron Shoes," in 1977. She's been called the "Mother of the female Private Eye." Marcia modestly smiles and says the second McCone book wasn't published until five years later. Sometime she admits perhaps she's the "Godmother."

To be quite accurate, Maxine O'Callaghan wrote a short story, "A Change of Clients," which debuted, Delilah West, P.I., published in AHMM in 1974. Delilah didn't make it to a book, Death Is Forever until 1980. Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski appeared in Indemnity Only in January, 1982. Immediately following was Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone in "A is For Alibi," in April, 1982. So I honestly didn't steal or copy their ideas because I had began writing my book in 1980. It was just that the idea of a female P.I. was definitely in the air. A friend handed me the Grafton book sometime later in '82, saying I know you're writing a female P.I. and think you might enjoy this book. A month or so after that I saw the Muller book and bought and read it.

The other idea I had when starting my book was a transformative use taken directly from Robert B. Parker of having my P.I., Jenny Gordon, work with a tough, smart, beautiful, black woman, C.J. Gunn. I wanted to show the interaction of the two women being close friends. He had Spencer and a black male friend who was tough and often helped. My naming my character came from the idea of Mickey Spillane having his character named Mike Hammer.  The Mickey and Mike were alliterative and I felt Jenny Gordon by Jan Grape might be memorable.

I published two short stories inspired by songs from singer/songwriters. The first was "Scarlett Fever," published in Deadly Allies inspired by a Kenny Rogers song. I didn't know him  personally but knew all of his songs. The second story was "The Confession" inspired by Thomas Michael Riley, a local Hill Country songwriter and published in Murder Here, Murder There.

The only short story that inspired me was one by Bill Pronzini. I don't remember the title of it, but there was a hit and run accident in it. My story, "The Man In The Red Flannel Suit" was published in Santa Clues, and has a significant hit and run scene.

Fran's definition of cozyesque is fantastic. My friend, Susan Rogers Cooper, writes what she calls, "grisly cozies." They are tougher than cozy but not hard-boiled. A few years ago when I owned the bookstore we called books either soft-boiled, medium-boiled, or hard-boiled.

When I was trying to get my Austin policewoman book sold, Ed Gorman of Tekno Books was packaging books for Five Star. At that time, the editor there was buying cozy mysteries only. Ed asked if I had a book for them to look at. I said, not really. Only thing I have is my policewoman book. He said, "Well, can you cozy it up a little?" I said, "I don't know, but I'll try." That wasn't working too well. As we all know, a bunch of police officers and most bad guys use rough language. I was trying to take out the bad language and checking for how much sex I could gloss over. I was about half-way through when Ed called back. "Our editor has moved up and she's now open to any genre of mystery. Thank goodness, I had a copy that certainly wasn't cozy and sent it to him. They liked it and Austin City Blue found a home.

None of my three novels are the Great American Novel, Eve Fisher, but I didn't try to write one either. I just wrote books that I liked and that I hoped others would like.

As far as researching, Dale Andrews, for the policewoman series, I actually took 10 weeks of classes of Citizen's Police Academy training in 1991. It was a program set up to help neighborhood watch folks learn all about the different aspects of the Austin Police Department. The accepted me because they knew I was a published writer of short stories. We had department heads or second in command come by and talk about SWAT, Fraud and Bunko Squad, Robbery Homicide, Firearms, Fingerprints, Ballistics, Medical Examiners, etc.

One night we all used the laser light, video training program called FATS. You watched a video on a huge screen and you held a laser gun. The scene would play out on the screen and you had to decide whether to "shoot or not shoot." It made you understand how few seconds an officer has to make a decision and to do the right thing. I did okay but I did "shoot" a bad guy in the behind. He was beating up a cop, then suddenly jumped up and ran away. My brain said to shoot and by the time I made the decision he had jumped up and turned to leave. We also did a "ride along" for a full shift with an officer in a squad car. That was fascinating and you soon realized every call could be a potential bad one. Dispatch said, "Check out a suspicious vehicle." At such and such address. We got there and it was a Winnebago vehicle, all dark. The officer didn't know if someone was inside or was gone. He wouldn't let me get out of the car. Turned out it was vacant.

For interesting searches nowadays I sometimes do online on my telephone, is for song lyrics. Not for
writing but for friends and for fun.

This concludes my article, and Leigh, you'll have to check this for commas. I'm sure I have too many. But I think I did okay with quote marks and such.

20 May 2013

Why I Write Cozies


by Fran Rizer



The fifth Callie Parrish mystery was released by Bella Rosa Books this month. This is the first one after a two-year lapse during which I occasionally vowed to just quit writing entirely.  I'm not too modest to share the full cover with you here although one change was made to this mock-up. The Thirteenth Child by David Dean was italicized before the book went to press.

Callie Number Five

If the bleeding rose on the cover bears a resemblance to the idea of SleuthSayers' blog background, it's fully intentional.  I've loved that since Leigh created it, and I wrote a bleeding rose into this novel so that the cover could be based on that idea.  Two of my favorite things about my current publisher, Bella Rosa Books, are that they allow me to suggest my ideas for covers before paying people to produce them, and they use my titles.

Callie Number One
Okay, enough about my latest venture into the cozy world.  Let's talk cozies in general.  By definition, cozies are considered "gentle" mysteries even though most of them have a couple of murders.  There's no graphic violence, little or no profanity, and when sex occurs, the author closes the door and leaves the places touched and loud panting to the readers' imaginations.  Also, the protagonist is generally a female whose occupation might be caterer, bed and breakfast owner, quilter, cat fancier/owner, nun, gardener, librarian, book store owner, herbalist, florist, dog trainer, homemaker, teacher, needlepoint store owner or whatever the writer can imagine.  In my case, Callie Parrish is a mortuary cosmetician, but, like me personally, she was formerly a teacher.  I didn't put her currently in the classroom because first, an editor of The Saturday Evening Post told me years ago that editors generally tossed stories about teachers into the slush can and second, Tamar Myers told me to find an unusual occupation for my protagonist. Since Callie's birth, I've discovered a few other books with funeral home workers, and one mortuary cosmetician, but it's not common.

I tried really hard to fulfill those characteristics in my first Callie novel, A Tisket, a Tasket, A FANCY STOLEN CASKET.  I thought I'd written a cozy, but Berkley Prime Crime marketed the Callie books as "Mainstream Mystery."  I don't know why, and I never bothered to ask.  It may have been because of Callie's occupation. Although Callie treats her clients with respect and gentleness, maybe Berkley didn't see working in a funeral home as a gentle profession.  
                                                                       
Please allow me a few minutes to praise Berkley Prime Crime.  They published the first three of the Callie books, and they treated me quite well.  I had substantial advances and two great editors while I was there. My original editor even sent me flowers when I had my first heart attack.   I didn't suggest covers, but they did allow me to comment on them before the books went to press.  Berkley is a division of Penguin and they have specific ideas about what they publish.  Agents know this and it's unlikely yours will send them something that doesn't fit that category, but if so, they will decline it.  That doesn't mean you can't write; it just means that it's not a good fit for Berkley.  They offered me the opportunity to write a series about a lady who coupons, but I have no interest in couponing, so that wasn't a good fit on my side.  I'm working on a different series now, and the first publishers I want my agent to query will be Berkley and Bella Rosa.  (Actually, I have about sixty pages into a cozy-type series as well as about a hundred into a paranormal series, and a new thriller in the works.  For some reason, I keep putting those on hold and going back to Callie--maybe St. Mary is my comfort zone.)

Callie Number Four
Callie Number Two
Callie Number Three

Why do I write cozies?  First, I didn't even read cozies until after I retired.  My taste ran more to Jeffrey Deaver, James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and early Patricia Cornwell, as well as my old favorites Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Mike Hammer, and the love of my youth Shell Scott.  (I had this gigantic crush on Shell Scott when I was ten-years-old, and he may be the reason I've always been attracted to blond and white-haired men).  A friend gave me one of Tamar Myers's Magdalena books, and I really enjoyed it, thought about it, and decided to try writing a cozy.  Until Callie, my works were published under a male pseudonym.  With Callie, I could write stories under my own name without offending not-yet-grown ex-students (Although I taught high school and junior college, when I retired, I was teaching fifth-grade.) nor embarrassing my then eight-year-old grandson.
                             
That's all well and good, but the truth is that now I like cozies.  I like the fact that they are easy to read and comfortable.  They are fun to write and fun to read.  I like the fact that most of them are series, and the main characters are like old friends.  Speaking of characters, cozies don't actually fit clearly into the plot-driven or character-driven categories.  A good cozy has both.  No, most cozies wouldn't make good action movies with lots of car chases and young, voluptuous actresses, but they do make good reads, especially at the beach or in the mountains or just on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Why else do I write cozies?  I love my readers.  They stand in line at book-signings and talk about Callie and Jane as though they are old friends. Some of them send birthday greetings to Callie since she celebrated her birthday in one of the books. They were upset when Jane used to shoplift and happy when she stopped.  Some of them want Callie to get married, and all of them are ready for her to get laid. (That may happen in the this new book, though, if it does, I'll close the door.)

The perfect place to read a cozy
I've received emails from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and many other places I've never been, including one from a lady who bought a Callie at a used book store in Russia.  A woman whose husband died on Christmas Eve wrote me that she received a Callie book as a gift that year and didn't think she could read a book with so much about funeral homes, but she wound up reading it, and it actually made her feel better.  A fan letter from a lady in Japan before the tsunami resulted in my genuine worry for her safety at that time and a wonderful reply when I emailed my concerns to her after that horrible event.

Sitting with my then nine-year-old grandson at a sushi bar four years ago, he asked, "Grandmama, do any of these people know you write books?"
"I wouldn't think so," I replied.
"Is this your grandmother?" asked the lady sitting beside him, followed by, "What did she write?"
He named the first book and she had read it!  What a thrill for my grandson, and what an awesome moment for me.

Why do I write cozies?  Not to teach something.  Not to convince anyone or enlighten anybody about anything.  I write cozies to entertain those who enjoy Callie. The mortuary setting probably is a turn-off to some readers, and I respect that, but there are enough folks who like Callie to make it worth my while and my publisher's.

I'm back on a roll and have just finished the rough draft of a Christmas Callie that will be released in October, 2013.  I've laughed so hard at the people who make fun of cozies that include knitting patterns and recipes as though they personally offend them that I'm adding a Southern and Gullah recipe section to the Christmas book.  By gosh, I set out to write a cozy, and sooner or later, I'll get it right!