Mysterious business


Anyone looking at the blog will see a big gap this year in published blog posts. Things went off course for me when, in January, I volunteered to do the homeowners association newsletter. I’d written newsletters before, I knew how to tweak my antique Microsoft Publisher program and make pretty PDFs to upload rather than print, and I could set my own schedule. How hard could it be?

What I learned (again) is that me splitting my writing focus isn’t something I do very well. Although both projects involve writing (i.e., typing), real estate legal stuff for a newsletter is a different critter than mystery-writing legal stuff for a story. I was jumping back and forth between subjects, which wasn’t good for either of them.

Now add in the presidential campaign. I’m not actively involved in campaigning, but oh, my goodness, where did the time go?

Now that the election is winding down (one hopes), I’m slowly righting my fictional writing ship that had foundered and I’m getting back on course. The short story I was working on is nearing completion (just a short story?!?) so that’s one more brick in that story wall. Me not being a natural born killer made sorting out the story’s howdunnit challenging. I thought that all my years of reading mysteries and watching detective programs had given me a good grounding in fictional crime. Sadly, writing mysteries is more difficult than reading and watching them.

While I’ve been nudging my fictional ship back on course, I’ve also assembled a nice little play-acting company of amenable, uncomplaining plastic actresses and actors courtesy of the talented and persnickety engineers at Playmobil. The detail of the accessories that come with the little actresses and actors is a great aid to memory and imagination.

And now, having taken a step in getting up after I’ve fallen down, on to completing the story.

 

The general setup for the stories:

The apartment building is to the left, with an office area in front of it. The office and its garages (which doubles as offices when needed) are in the center. The Border is behind them. Above it all is the castle on the hill, which also looks down on the church across from the office. The church bell takes getting used to for the story characters.

The apartment building is to the left, with an office area in front of it. The office and its garages (which doubles as offices when needed) are in the center. The Border is behind them. Above it all is the castle on the hill, which also looks down on the church across from the office. The church bell takes getting used to for the story characters.

 

Where the characters live

Although my stories rarely involve the family members of the characters, having someplace for the characters to live when they aren't in a scene adds depth to my thinking.

Although my stories rarely involve the family members of the characters, having someplace for the characters to live when they aren’t in a scene adds depth to my thinking.

 

 

Cold War Germany

The red and white barriers are reminiscent of the barriers that were on the actual border before the German Reunification. Off to the left is the train station -- track numbers, schedules, and a map -- which usually wasn't so close to the border, but my table top has limited real estate.

The red and white barriers are reminiscent of the barriers that were on the actual border before the German Reunification.
Off to the left is the train station — track numbers, schedules, and a map — which usually wasn’t so close to the border, but my table top has limited real estate.

 

 

Items my actresses and actors could use for mischief

Possible weapons

Possible weapons

 

Story scenes:

The picnic scene

The office is having a picnic for the U.S. Bicentennial. Naturally, because conflict is what drives fiction, a fight breaks out at the picnic.

The office is having a picnic for the U.S. Bicentennial. Naturally, because conflict is what drives fiction, a fight breaks out at the picnic.

 

The office scene

A colleague of my brown-haired main character tells her how he overheard what the red-head said. The colleague has his name taped on his back as the other characters do. That way, they don't get mixed up with each other.

A colleague of my brown-haired main character tells her how he overheard what the red-head said.
The colleague has his name taped on his back as the other characters do. That way, they don’t get mixed up with each other.

 

Finding the body

My main character (the brown haired character at the back) and her colleagues are surprised to find the missing man outside their office, lying in a stairwell near the road (the white stripes are a pedestrian crossing). The back wall of the "office" is open (it's a child's play set), so I had to put in a paper wall to ever so slightly increase the realism.

My main character (the brown haired character at the back) and her colleagues are surprised to find the missing man outside their office, lying in a stairwell near the road (the white stripes are a pedestrian crossing).
The back wall of the “office” is open (it’s a child’s play set), so I had to put in a paper wall to ever so slightly increase the realism.

 

Interlude after the body was found

The main character had errands to run. The other office members were left to talk to the police after the military police gave her permission to leave.

The main character had errands to run. The other office members were left to talk to the police after the military police gave her permission to leave.

 

No, I’m not giving away the ending.

PBS is looking good for Saturdays although it’s very odd when an established program changes its main characters, especially if you’ve missed any transition.  So far, the story is still ticking along, but the only character from the previous programs is Dennis Waterman.

New Tricks, cast and characters

 

Up-side is, it’s still on.

Scott and Bailey‘s up next.

The latest Miss Marple in the PBS series Masterpiece Mystery is Endless Night, a bit of an oddity because Miss Marple isn’t a character in the book.<-  [highlight to see spoiler]   Continued spoilers, and a good review, are at the blog, The Agatha Christie Reader.

I’m happy that the stories continue to be made for new audiences as well as for those of us who apparently can’t get enough of Mrs. Christie’s books (the blue volumes in the near-top left and right shelves).

In addition to being happy to see the remake of the story, I liked seeing Tamzin Outhwaite’s name in websites about the episode. I last saw her in Redcap.

I was also tickled to see Janet Henfrey in the cast.  I so enjoyed her as Mrs. Bale in As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.  Her attention to the shipping forecasts reminded me of my dad talking about the persistence of “gale-force winds” in the Scottish isles, an apparent feature of the radio weather reports in England in the early 1950s.

It makes it hard for younger people in the acting profession to get work when so many of their older colleagues continue to work well in the craft, but I do enjoy seeing familiar faces in familiar stories.  Aspiring novelists may also have a tough time breaking into the ranks of well-known stories and characters because of the devotion of readers to their favorite writers.  I know that if I’m reading another one of the Christie books, I’m not reading the stories of newer authors.  I try to balance it by reading contemporary authors during the day when it’s easier to concentrate and saving Mrs. Christie for my soothing nighttime reads.

So, I’m sitting here, allegedly multitasking by checking a Sisters In Crime email list, emailing a thank-you, cribbing information on formatting ebooks, and watching the movie Scoop on Netflix.  I’ve read that multitasking doesn’t actually work, but it seems that I’m doing it anyhow.

While I’m multitasking, a little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I’m missing something. It’s a nagging little feeling, nothing momentous (thank goodness), but just something.

Through my haze of reading, typing, muting the story when suspenseful things are happening (I’m fine with mysteries, but I don’t [gracefully] do suspense), I think, “Lovejoy.”  It finally dawns on me that one of the primary characters in the movie is Ian McShane, an actor I haven’t seen onscreen in years. That little voice isn’t in the back of my head, it’s coming from the television.

Now I’m going to have to waste time looking on Netflix for Lovejoy. I don’t have much hope, but you never know.  In the meantime, back to Scoop.

1955 08 Aug 21  in crib

 (my little brother)

 

Inspired by the choice from the popular television series Sherlock that my daughter and her husband made for the name for their soon-to-be-born son  (and no, they didn’t go with “Sherlock”), I’ve put together a list of baby names from mystery stories with which I’m familiar.  Some names, of course, would have to be for brave and adventurous parents, but the lists should have something for most mystery-loving parents.

Girls

Agatha (call her Aggie), for the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie, or Ngaio Marsh’s character, Agatha Troy Alleyn
Amelia, for Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody books
Anne (Beddingfeld), the sleuth in Agatha Christie’s book, The Man in the Brown Suit
Ariadne, for Agatha Christie’s writer-sleuth, Ariadne Oliver
Barb, for Elizabeth George’s detective’s sidekick, Barbara Havers
Bertha (call her Bertie), for Erle Stanley Gardner’s Bertha Cool/Donald Lam stories
Beverly, for Clair Blank’s young detective, Beverly Gray
China, for Susan Wittig Albert’s detective, China Bayles
Cordelia, for P.D. James’s detective in An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
Eileen, for Agatha Christie’s “Bundle” Brent
Emily, for Dorothy Gilman’s Emily Polifax
Emma, (Mrs. Peel) from the mid-1960s television series, The Avengers
Georgiana, for Rhys Bowen’s royal detective, Lady Georgiana
Goldy, for Diane Mott Davidson’s detective, Goldy Bear Schulz
Harriet, for Dorothy Sayers’s, Harriet Vane
Honey, from the 1965/66 tv series, Honey West
Jacqueline, for Elizabeth Peters’s romantically literary detective Jacqueline Kirby
Jemima, for Antonia Fraser’s detective, Jemima Shore
Minette, for author Minette Walters
Nancy, for Carolyn Keene’s iconic Nancy Drew
Nora, from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books
Precious, for Alexander McCall Smith’s detective, Precious Ramotswe
Prudence, aka Tuppence, from Agatha Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence stories
Susan, for the significant other of Spenser, Robert Parker’s detective/enforcer
Tess, for Laura Lippman’s detecive, Tess Monaghan
Vicky, for Elizabeth Peters’s detective, Vicky Bliss

Boys

Adam, for P.D. James’s detective, Adam Dalgliesh
Archie (Goodwin), the sidekick of Rex Stout’s detective, Nero Wolfe
Cadfael, for Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael
Charles, for Simon Brett’s detective Charles Paris
Charlie, for Earl Derr Biggers’s detective, Charlie Chan (meant to counter the “Yellow Peril” Asian stereotype of the time)
Dee, for Robert van Gulik’s detective, Judge Dee (hey, the name works for rocker Dee Snider)
Endeavor, for Colin Dexter’s detective Inspector Morse’s first name
Emerson/Ramses, the son of Elizabeth Peters’s detective, Amelia Peabody
Edgar, for Edgar Allan Poe
Ellery, for the (partnership) author Ellery Queen
Gideon, for John Dickson Carr’s detective Gideon Fell
Guido, for Donna Leon’s happily married detective, Guido Brunetti
Jim, for Lilian Jackson Braun’s cat-sitting detective Jim Qwilleran
Per, for Maj Sjöwall’s partner Per Wahlöö
Perry, for Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, of course
Peter, probably the super-name concerning mysteries, for Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey, Charlotte MacLeod’s Peter Shandy, Reginald Hill’s Peter Pascoe, and authors Peter Lovesey or Peter Robinson
Pierre, for Hugh Pentecost’s detective, Pierre Chambrun
Reginald, Ruth Rendell’s detective, Reginald Wexford, or for the author Reginald Hill
Robbie, for Colin Dexter’s Robbie Lewis, initially from the Inspector Morse stories
Roderick
, for Ngaio Marsh’s detective, Roderick Alleyn
Simon (Templar), for Leslie Charteris’s detective, The Saint
Virgil, for John Ball’s detective, Virgil Tibbs
Walter, for Walter Mosley who writes the Easy Rawlings series
Wilkie, for Wilkie Collins

On Netflix, I have just discovered Phryne Fisher.

The first two episodes of the series (all that I’ve seen, at the moment) are of excellent quality, capturing the elegance of the 1920s. I also find the characters to be engaging.  I’m hoping that the books are as evocative.

01 Jenny Milchman and Nancy Pickard

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of listening to Nancy Pickard at our monthly first-Saturday meeting of the Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime at the Mysteryscape bookstore.  Nancy, whose most recent book is The Scent of Rain and Lightning, introduced Jenny Milchman to the Border Crimes members.

Jenny, who released her debut novel Cover of Snow this past January and is now on a 7-month bookstore tour with her family, told us about her friendship with Nancy, her publishing journey, and together they recounted the differences between Nancy’s start as a published author and Jenny’s.  It was a rewarding meeting and I was pleased to meet Jenny in person after making her acquaintance online.

Next Page »