Move Over Miss Marple

Move Over Miss Marple WordleI’m delighted to announce that in April I’ll be leading a course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Fayetteville, Arkansas. More commonly known as OLLI, the institute is a division of the University of Arkansas. I’m glad to have this chance to return to a place that holds such happy memories; I earned my master’s degree at the university and taught undergraduates there for four years before moving on in pursuit of my doctorate.

During the OLLI course, we’ll be exploring the role of female sleuths in mystery fiction since the days of Miss Marple. The course is structured to run in two-hour sessions meeting once weekly, which allows participants to research authors and writing practices as well as giving everyone time to read excerpts in between sessions. I’m already collecting material to share and looking for more—see details at end of this post.

First, here’s the description for “Move Over, Miss Marple” from the OLLI spring catalog:

This course will explore the role of female sleuths in American and British mystery fiction. The first session will introduce types of female characters—both amateur and professional—in crime solving fictional roles. We’ll explore the differences in character roles and responsibilities within the context of the genre.

In the second session, we’ll discuss how the characters’ dialog and action help bring a region to life in a mystery series. We’ll investigate the way writers create a sense of place, blend fact with fiction, and address social issues and controversies as part of plotting the sleuth’s role.

Our final session will focus on the increasingly popular sub-genre of crime fiction known as the ‘cozy’ mystery. We’ll analyze key structural elements and characteristics defining a cozy mystery. Using the information developed in the first two sessions, we’ll study the variety of types and sleuths within the sub-genre.

The course is appropriate for both writers and readers looking for a deeper understanding and appreciation of women in the mystery genre.

I’ll be sending advance packets via email to registered participants and plan to include “Recommended Reading” lists and (hopefully) excerpts of books that relate to our session topics. And while the main focus is on American and British mystery fiction, I can easily extend that to Canada or the Caribbean. That’s where you all come in!

READERS: who are your favorite female sleuths? Share details in the comments (author, book/series title) and a brief explanation why you’d recommend these to others. I’ll add your name to a drawing for a free copy of Deadly Ties (Kindle or Audiobook edition, your choice). Keep for yourself or pass along as a gift!

Have a favorite website that features cozy mysteries and/or female sleuths? Share that, too! This could be a great way to drive more traffic to sites you enjoy and want to support.

WRITERS: if you have a female sleuth, I’d love to consider promoting you and your work—to include excerpts or sample chapters—as part of this course. Email dogmysteries [at] gmail dot com for details.

You’re also welcome to post in the comments of this post for additional publicity. And if you’ll suggest other authors’ work for inclusion , I’ll add your name to the drawing, too.

READERS AND WRITERS: I’d be very grateful if you’d help me get the word out via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Reblogging in part or whole is welcome with a link back to my website. My goal is to introduce course participants to as many authors, books, and websites as possible.

In addition to sharing the “Recommended Reads” with registered participants, I’ll happily post the collection here by the end of April so we can learn about “new to us” authors and celebrate books together!

A Twist of the Taleidoscope

 

Tree of Knowledge

Tree of Knowledge © Storm Thurgerson

I’m a guest today of fellow mystery writer Marja McGraw on her new website, writing about a twist on an old mantra. Here’s the lead-in:

The Golden Rule of “write what you know” is embedded in my DNA. That’s my only explanation for how I came to write “Three Little Bears Visit New York City” before I hit kindergarten. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me; after all, if people go to the woods on vacation, why wouldn’t a bear go to town?

And New York City was a place I knew something about. My maternal grandfather had been a photographer in New York, and my father talked about how different “the big city” was from upstate New York where he’d been born.  I used to watch my dad doing the New York Times crossword puzzle (in ink!).  So the name, the place, was embedded in my consciousness early on.

(Does Marja’s name seems familiar? It should! I’ve featured her work here on my site recently. Read the first here and more recently, here.) I hope you’ll stop by http://marjamcgraw.blogspot.com/ and read the rest. I’ll be back here in a few days with a new post.

p.s. For the curious: “taleidoscope” is not a typo! Unlike a kaleidoscope (which has brightly colored images), a taleidoscope uses mirrors and a lens to reflect the world around us.

 

Fayetteville Literary Festival

Susan Holmes, author

Susan Holmes, author

I’m honored to be one of the authors invited to participate in the Fayetteville (Arkansas) Literary Festival this fall! I’ll be part of a discussion titled “Writing in Genres” and will share information about writing a regional mystery series.  (If you’ve just found this site, the series I’m talking about is the Waterside Kennels mystery series, set against the backdrop of the Ozarks and Eureka Springs.)

The festival is a four-day event in early October, featuring writing workshops, readings,  and author events. Organizational partners include the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Schools,  Fayetteville Education Foundation, and other community institutions/agencies.

According to Nancy Hartney, Reference Librarian at the Fayetteville Public Library, the festival’s roots can be found in Fayetteville Public Library’s long running Ozark Writers Live festival, which began in 2007.  The original OWL served to showcase Southern and regional authors and as inspiration for new writers.

From the festival’s website: True Lit is a collaboration between multiple Fayetteville institutions interested in celebrating literary adventures for all ages. The four-day festival includes many events that are free and open to the public.

“The event has grown each year with both participants and authors looking forward to the next year of talks and workshops,” commented Willow Fitzgibbon, Manager of Adult Services at FPL. “We are excited to help build a regional literature festival from OWL’s success.”

Previous guest speakers at the Fayetteville literary festivals have included Donald Harington, Miller Williams, Daniel Woodrell, Pat Carr, Roy Reed, Robert Cochran, Richard A. Knaak, Jo McDougall, Jack Gantos, and Kevin Brockmeier among others. What a distinguished group; I’m thrilled to be included!

In addition to the author presentation, I’ll be signing copies of Deadly Ties. And, if my publication schedule stays on track, I’ll have copies of the second in the series (tentatively titled Murderous Ways), too!

 

Who’s Been Here?

According to these nifty stats WordPress provides, people for 21 different countries have visited this website. Thanks to all!

I hope you’ll come back often.  In the next few weeks you’ll have the chance to “meet” other mystery authors and read excerpts of their work. Stay tuned!

Who's Been Here?

Who’s Been Here?

My Writing Process (A Blog Hop)

Susan Holmes Author Photo 300dpi

I’ve been tagged!  Tagged, that is, to participate in a blog hop for writers. My thanks to C. A. Newsome and Corrie Fischer for inviting me to play along!

Every Monday authors blog about their own writing process, using a standard format and answering the same questions.  This is definitely a multi-genre hop; I’ve seen mystery, paranormal, young adult, and romance. Follow the links to “meet” more writers.

What am I working on?

I’m writing Death Tracks, the second in the Waterside Kennels mystery series. This one picks up soon after the events of the summer chronicled in Deadly Ties. After the trouble she had over the summer, all Maggie Porter wants to do is run her boarding kennel and training business. And she wants to spend time with her own dogs—an aging Cocker Spaniel, a champion Labrador Retriever and a Beagle retired from federal service.

Alas, a quiet life is not to be. First, an abrasive community member launches a campaign to enact a “dangerous dog” ordinance which could force Maggie out of business—or into jail. When he’s found dead near the kennel, some in the community have their own reasons for wanting to pin the murder on Maggie herself. Under a cloud of suspicion and with her home and business at risk, she sets out to clear her name and finds herself caught in a murderous land feud that could tear the mountain community apart.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

You’ll find elements of the traditional cozy mystery in my work: an amateur sleuth, a small community, connections to local law enforcement, and a mystery my sleuth is motivated to solve. There’s an eclectic group of characters, a hint of romance, and plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing.

You won’t find vulgar language or graphic violence in my books. I do push the traditional definition of a cozy, though, by introducing a bit more suspense, a bit more trouble than you might see in a typical light-hearted, whimsical romp. My characters—including the dogs!—are good, bad, and sometimes both. That might be why my work has been called “a cozy with an edge.”  Still, they’re the sort you finish with a sense of satisfaction. Mystery solved, justice served, the villains get their comeuppance, and you’re not left with violent images to disturb your sleep!

Why do I write what I do?

I like puzzles. I like writing about ordinary people in challenging situations. If my sleuth gets into trouble, she’s smart enough to figure a way out. She’s loyal and willing to stand up for what she thinks is right.

I write about the Ozarks because I love the region. I want readers to see beyond the stereotype and appreciate the beauty of the place and its people. I’m fascinated by Ozark myths and legends, and by the family stories handed down from one generation to the next.

How does my writing process work?

I start with a “What if …?” and tinker until I can see how the pieces fit together. Then it’s time for research. I won’t start writing until I know the end of the story. From there I work backward to identify key plot points, character actions, and major scenes. I’ve tried various software programs but eventually go back to what works best for me—sticky notes I can move around on a board.

For many years I wrote with my beloved spaniel, Alix, at my feet. Now I have a rescue kitty, Buddy, who keeps me company. He prefers to supervise me in my office, where he’ll watch my progress from the comfort of a window seat. When he thinks I’ve worked long enough, he strolls across the desk and stands on my keyboard.

Somewhere around the third or fourth draft (I’m a serial reviser), I’ll send bits to my beta readers. I work with three or four beta readers, each with a specific focus. One, for example, is an expert dog trainer. If she says something won’t work, out it goes and I’ll revise until she’s satisfied.  Another is a mystery writer, who is wonderful at spotting plot issues and talking through scenes. A third is an English professor and avid reader who understands the writing process, has a keen eye, and is a wonderful listener. And so it goes, until the book is the best it can be.

Keep on Hopping!

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out author Corrie Fischer’s post from last week. And on March 10th, look for new blog hop posts by authors Rae DaviesGeorge Jackson, and L. A. Remenicky.