Tag Archives: murder mystery

Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 3

7456038The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes.

Prologue and first chapter were read: 19 pages. (We never discussed this, Carol, but I assume a prologue is not a legit chapter but a prelude and needs to be included.)

“Paul is dead!” What an opening line! (I’m showing my age, but I immediately saw the Abbey Road album cover. For those of you too young to understand, Google “Beatles Paul is dead.) Once I brought myself back to the present, it was still a killer first sentence (pun intended).

For me, it went somewhat downhill from there. It’s smoothly written, but the author pushed too much backstory, too much flashback, too much telling not showing. (Brenda is going to disagree with me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strong storytelling here. What surprises me is how the author breaks every rule Carol presented in class. Okay, with the exception of the “Paul is dead!” opening line.

The point of scene is excellent. The story takes place on a small Caribbean island and the descriptions are as lush as the landscape.

Characters are aplenty. There was the main character, Esti, of course. Then we have: the police officer who questioned her; an old family friend (in flashback); Paul, the victim (in flashback); Lucia, a local who had seen Esti talking with Paul. That would be five in the first nine pages, the prologue.

The actual first chapter introduces us to Esti’s mother, Aurora. Then come the two uppity kids from the school who seem to be members of the elite crowd: Danielle and Greg. Their main purpose seems to be to instruct Esti (and, in the process, us, the readers) about local legends, history, idioms and island patois. Oh, and establish that Danielle is in direct competition with Esti for the role of Juliet in the school play. Apparently, she’s sizing up the opposition.

The chapter had too much going on. The locations were varied and moved rapidly: the school grounds, the theater, another area in the school grounds, a flashback to the cemetery in the States, and, finally, her house. Her house took up the first chapter. The others took place in the prologue, the first 9 pages.

Prologue moved fast, first chapter not so much. Too slow, too much backstory. The two schoolmates showing up didn’t fit with the flow, I didn’t think. It seemed out of place.

Bottom line, it’s a ghost story and a murder mystery. How can you go wrong? Besides, Brenda says I’ll love it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got much in the way of finding improvements for The Other Siders.



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Saturday Softcover: You have to love book signings!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from HA

We had the pleasure of spending Thursday evening (along with another 100 or so fans) with Craig Johnson, the author of the LongmireLongmire series of books. (Yes, as he pointed out, Longmire was in books first.) For those of you who are unfamiliar with the TV show and/or the books, click here for A&E’s website, and here for Amazon’s list of books. The error, as of tis writing, is Amazon does not include the 9th book in the series, A Serpent’s Tooth, in the list.

The first book in the series, The Cold Dish, was meant to be a stand-alone novel. Johnson didn’t feel any compelling need for writing a series. Not so the readers and, consequently, the publisher. They all wanted more.

For somebody who didn’t want to do a series, Craig Johnson has done a bang-up job.

Sheriff Walt Longmire’s beat is Absaroka County, Wyoming. Johnson is still a rancher in Wyoming; he’s extremely well-versed in the western culture and attitude. His scenes are vivid, dialogue is realistic and true to the area.

In The Cold Dish, Cody Pritchard is found dead near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Two years earlier, Cody has been one of four high school boys given suspended sentences for raping a local Cheyenne girl. Somebody, it would seem, is seeking vengeance, and Longmire might be the only thing standing between the three remaining boys and a Sharps .45-70 rifle.   With lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and a cast of characters large enough to fill the vast emptiness of the high plains, Walt Longmire attempts to see that revenge, a dish best served cold, is never served at all.

To quote one reviewer: If you’ve never read a Longmire mystery, get thee to a bookstore.

And, not being able to leave well enough alone, I must interject a comment on the TV series. I went and got the books after seeing the first episode last year. (I’m the sort who notices if something is based on a book.) We’ve discussed here a time or two about my attitude on casting in Hollywood. The good news is, Craig Johnson has the same attitude. The actor who plays Longmire is 6’4″ NOT 5’7″. 🙂 They’ve made some minor changes to characters (not nearly as ridiculous as the major changes made in True Blood). If you watch the TV show, do yourself a favor and buy the books. You’ll get a deeper appreciation for the characters.

See you day-after-tomorrow for Monday Moans.

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Tuesday’s Tutor: What’s Your MDQ?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

At June’s WIFYR conference (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers), Cheri Pray Earl, my excellent teacher, asked us to identify our current book’s MDQ.

Our what?

Our MDQ—Major Dramatic Question.  I’d never had it put that way to me before.  She pointed out that many genre’s have a rather obvious MDQ: the major dramatic question in a Romance is “Will they get together?”  For a murder mystery—no surprise here—it has to be “Who Dunnit?”  For a Western, “Will Good triumph over Evil?”  (Which will often be the question in fantasy or sci-fi as well: the characters just wear different costumes there.)

So I was writing a fairytale mash-up: kind of a combination of The Princess on the Glass Hill, which I was surprised to learn almost none of my writerly friends were familiar with, and Cinderella with touches on an old Greek legend, three magic tinder boxes, and a possible whiff of East of the Sun and West of the Moon.  I realized, pretty quickly that morning, that it was all about getting the MALE “Cinderella”-type and the Princess together.

Oh, no!  I was writing a Romance!

I don’t normally even read romances.  On the other hand, most of my favorite historical novels contain a good dose of romance, so I guess . . .

Anyway, figuring out my MDQ—will Ashlad and the Princess ever get together—has been very instructive.  The answer—SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT—is, of course they’ll get together . . . after much travail!

Which brings us to the next questions:


What are their lives like before they get together?

  •  She lives with her wicked King/Father in a glass “castle”
  •  He lives —well, think a mild version of Harry Potter: poor, picked on by brothers, alienated from struggling father


What interrupts their “ordinary” lives?

  • He meets a witchy woman who gives him 3 magic tinder boxes, tells him to follow his heart
  • She refuses the demands of her King/Father to choose a suitor


How will he escape his mundane existence and get to see the world?

How will she escape her imprisonment and avoid marrying a “prince” she doesn’t love?

  • He will have to master . . . hmmnnnn
  • And she will have to . . .

Check with me as I discuss my WIP on July 31 . . . OR . . .

Wait a little longer and read my book: Glass Mountain Princess

And, BTW, what’s your MDQ?

See you day-after-tomorrow for Thursday’s 13!

 Have questions about writing (grammar, punctuation, getting published, etc.)?  Brenda Bensch, M.A., a teacher of multiple decades’ experience in Utah’s university/high school/community ed. classrooms (English, fiction/non-fiction writing, study skills, drama, humanities, debate, etc.), invites you to “Ask The Teacher” at http://BenschWensch.wordpress.com

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Saturday’s Softcover: Turn Up the Heat, Castle!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from HA

We’re going completely off our regular review style this week. We’re starting out discussing a TV show: CASTLE.

For those of you not familiar with Castle, it’s a regular season crime-drama about a tough-as-nails homicide detective and her squad. Sounds typically mundane, I know, but there’s a twist—his name is Rick Castle.

Castle is a crime-fiction writer who calls in favors from his buddies, the Mayor and Chief of Police, to get assigned to ride-along with the homicide crew. He’s run into a rough spot with his writing—killing off your main character in your private detective series will tend to leave you with nowhere to go. He figures he’ll get inspiration hanging with this bunch of real, live police.

It worked out so well for him, he’s written a set of murder mysteries based on the detective and her partners. The main character’s name in the new book series is Nikki Heat. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, as to how well that goes over with Detective Kate Beckett.

Now for the crux of this book review: The Nikki Heat books as discussed in the TV series actually exist. Yes, fictional murder mysteries with fictional characters based on fictional murder mysteries with fictional characters have actually been written.

The twist? They’re written by “Richard Castle.” Yes, written by the fictional writer. Please note: there are no other authors listed (i.e. Richard Castle and [fill in the blank) a la James Patterson. No author has taken credit for writing under the pseudonym of Richard Castle; as a matter-of-fact: the acknowledgements are written as if by Castle and speak of the fictional characters on the TV show as living people. Twisted, but fun.

Speaking of which: James Patterson is among a few real-life writers who have made appearances on the show from time-to-time, who also include Michael Connelly and the late Stephen J. Cannell.

There are four books in the series with a fifth one due out in September.

Now… a review of the books: They’re great! If you’re a fan of the TV show, you owe yourself the first book, Heat Wave, just because you can. The characters, while based on the TV characters, have enough differences to make them fresh and not just reruns.

If you enjoy plot twists, car chases and crashes, gun shoot-outs, tense situations, fun characters, and murder mysteries, give this series a shot. You’ll be glad you did.

See you day-after-tomorrow for Monday Moans.


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