mystery

Prompt: The Attic or Basement

The prompt this week was purposely vague.

Have you ever lived in a home with an attic or basement.

What about it?

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Tips for Writing Crime and Mystery Fiction

My father fell in love with the Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun with little incentive. A long time cat lover, mystery novels involving a cat that seemed to solve the crimes, as well as about cat lovers (for the most part), was right up his reading alley. Like many, he gobbled them up as soon as each one was released.

Writing mysteries and crimes is a long-held tradition in storytelling and publishing. We have some members of Writers in the Grove who are steadfast fans of the genre.

Here are some tips on writing crime and mystery fiction to tickle your fancy and keep you up at night – reading.

5 Killer Tips For Writing Deadly Crime Fiction – Molly Greene: Writer: Molly Greene is the author of the popular Gen Delacourt Mysteries series. In this great summary of tips, she offers legendary advice:

Open with a bang or a body.

Think James Bond. Or Agatha Christie. James Patterson. Or Garry Rodgers. AK-47s. Or dismembered hookers. Biological bombs. Or a corpse hanging from a meat-hook. A sharp hook… which is the oldest storytelling device and still the best.

You’ve got about ten seconds to hook your reader and keep their face in the page. So start off fast and slowly add backstory. Build it up, then end with a bang. Maybe another body, too.

Among the many tips offered by the following articles is advice that applies to all forms of writing: don’t be boring, edit well, don’t write likeable characters, have plenty of conflict, have a very compelling and damaged detective/investigator, and know exactly what your story is about while you are teasing the reader along the journey.

Kendra Elliot to Speak to Writers in the Grove February 13, 2017

Kendra Elliot, author.

On February 13, 2017, author Kendra Elliot will speak at our Monday Writers in the Grove meeting at 9AM at the Forest Grove Community and Senior Center in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Elliot is a prolific author of suspense, thriller, and murder mysteries. After reading a newspaper article about NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, she decided she could sit down and write 50,000 words in 30 days, and did. She says on her website:

I sat down and wrote a contemporary romance but kept tripping over dead bodies in each chapter. I got the hint and my stories evolved into romantic suspense.

This Pacific Northwest native continues to live in the area and says she is obsessed with forensics, even studying with the FBI, and is involved in many writers associations and groups dedicated to her genre, weaving everything she learns into her fascinating stories.

Elliot has published numerous books including the popular series The Bone Secrets, Callahan and McLane, The Mercy Kilpatrick, and The Rogue River Novella series.

She will be talking about how she writes her books so fast and furious, publishing several a year, and about the publishing industry, dealing with agents and publishers.

Please join us for this fascinating presentation. There is no charge. We thank Kendra Elliot for her generosity in sharing her experiences with us.

November 27 Prompt – The Letter

The following prompt is from one of our Writers in the Grove members for our NaNoWriMo prompt-a-day project for November 2016.

How about a tribute to the Postal Service?

The envelope in the mailbox was to the wrong address, but the return address caught her attention.

Check out our list of prompts for even more inspiration.

November 26 Prompt – The Magnifying Glass

The following prompt is from one of our Writers in the Grove members for our NaNoWriMo prompt-a-day project for November 2016.

A little mystery prompt?

She picked up the large, gold magnifying glass from the desk.

Check out our list of prompts for even more inspiration.

Death By Window

Brick house with  reflection of trees in window.

The following was written by Writers in the Grove member, Gretchen Keefer.

Meyerink Detective Chipper looked down at the body on the porch. He remembered from the briefing sergeant Corvus had given him that this was an adult male identified as M. Dove, indeterminate age, no obvious trauma. Yet he was dead. Dead on the doorstep. Dead dressed ready for the day in a gray suit and white shirt.

Sergeant Corvus appeared beside the detective, pencil poised to take more notes. Corvus was efficient and effective at his job. He was quite large, husky and coal black. His straight black hair shone, his darting black eyes noted everything, and his long, sharp nose appeared to intimidate even the most experienced suspect. Chipper, a much shorter officer, felt somewhat daunted by his sergeant also. In his plain brown suit, Chipper appeared even smaller than usual when Corvus stood beside him. Yet they worked well together. Chipper carefully and thoughtfully generally found the right suspects; Corvus was adept at making them sing.

“What do we have so far, Bill?” Chipper asked his assistant.

Corvus replied, “The neighbor discovered the body when she went out for her morning paper. That’s Mrs. Flicker there, with her husband. I have their contact information.”

Chipper noted the middle aged woman with salt and pepper hair. Her husband stood protectively beside her.

Corvus continued, “She was incensed. She felt it was simply unseemly for Mr. Dove to be lying drunk on the porch so early in the morning. She stormed up the porch steps, calling to him to get up. Then she screamed. The noise alerted her husband, who called 911.”

“Broken neck, Detective,” the medical examiner approached Chipper and Corvus, removing his gloves. “A clean break. He probably didn’t even know what happened.”

That was small consolation to Detective Chipper. How did one die of a broken neck on a clean, uncluttered doorstep? There was no ice or frost or any oily substance to cause a slip. There had been no robbery. All of M. Dove’s effects were still on him. There were no other marks, contusions or signs of an assault.

“Have you talked to the rest of the neighbors yet, Bill?”

“Yeah. No one saw anything so early in the morning. All were busy with breakfast. Could be that short round fellow is lying. He quailed at my questions.”

Chipper smiled. Many people quailed at Corvus’ questioning.

“Should I round up the usual juveniles, sir?” Corvus asked.

“This wasn’t an attack. There is something else going on here.”

Detective Chipper looked around for some clue. He examined the porch, the carefully swept steps, the clean front of the house, the large picture window above the door. The window drew his attention. It was too clean for a window facing the prevailing weather. It probably had been recently washed. The trees in the front yard reflected clearly in the pane. He went closer. There he finally saw the faint feathery outline of a shape that matched what M. Dove probably looked like in motion. Spotting a passer-by with the same build as M. Dove, Detective Chipper asked him to walk slowly, strut, rush forward and hop up the steps. The detective was convinced the vague outline on the window matched a move Mr. Dove could very likely have made.

Perching on the sill of the large window, the detective peered closely at the image on the glass. He could still see the waving trees from the front lawn behind him. He could also see through the house to the trees beckoning from the back yard. It was a very enticing view. The sun had not yet reached this part of the house so there was no glare off the glass. He tilted his head and turned it sharply to look at the scene in the window from several angles. Now he was certain he knew the cause of death.

“Accidental Death,” ruled Detective Chipper. “In the early morning light M. Dove mistook the image of the trees in the window for a passage to the back yard. He simply flew into it and broke his neck.”

That decision made and the case closed, Detective Chipper spread his own wings and flew off.

Round Robin: The Smell was Familiar III

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group. Please note that there was an overall time limit for the writing and not all stories completed well.

Susan: The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart. It took a moment to register but it was an Avon scent. Roses, Roses. I remember the bottle clearly as it sat on the mahogany vanity. It was made of a silky looking, almost clear glass in the shape of a flower. The center of the flower had a small plastic cup that turned, and when opened, delivered a heavenly fragrance. It was a very special bottle and was only used on rare occasions. The last time the bottle was opened as when Dotty went to the dance at the old grange hall.

Margaret: When I got there I was taken aback by the big crowd. There were a lot of young men there. I thought I should be able to take my pick, but every time I looked again, he had disappeared. What should I do now, she wondered. There was nobody there I knew. Maybe I should just leave.

DK: As I turned to go, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and a soft voice asked, “May I have this dance?”

I looked up into the face of the most handsome young man I had ever seen. My words fled from my brain and my mouth, and I was barely able to say “yes.”

He put his arms around me. The music was slow. “My name is Brad,” he whispered. What’s yours?”

“Monica,” I replied.

“What’s that perfume you are wearing? It smells wonderful.”

Lorelle: I blushed and dropped my head to his shoulder. I could hear the beat of his heart echoing through my body, and felt my heart slowly match his rhythm as our feet moved across the floor of their own volition. As I seeped into him, pressing closer, his breath warm through my hair, tickling my ear, I knew I’d found home.

The scream of anguish cut through my peaceful senses. Brad and I whirled toward the noise as everyone came to a halt on the dance floor. The musicians instruments made awkward screeching sounds as they trailed off to quiet.

Dotty stood at the edge of the dance floor, tears pouring down her face. Her dress was dirty and torn, bits of dark flesh peaking through. She put her hands up to her face and screamed again, then pointed at me.

Cheri: Dotty and I had a history, and much of of Dotty’s history was wrapped up in histrionics. She was drama, and when you couple that with her desire to receive the most attention, her fit made sense. Was this another attempt to get attention? I wouldn’t hold it past her. Last year at the church picnic, she almost “drowned,” men flocking to her side to “save” her. It was always something. But the real injuries on her body seemed like something more, something real – after all, how do you fake real injury and why would you want to? But the real question was, “What does this have to do with me?” In a million years I wouldn’t hurt a soul. Does this have something to do with this amazing man I just met? Suddenly it all made sense. Dotty was…

Susan: …willing to die to get all the attention. Everyone here knew her and her games. It appeared as someone was tired of them and had shot Dotty. Dotty was dramatic but harmless, so why would someone shot her? Someone had obviously called 911 and the paramedics were arriving. I was pushed closer into Brad as they passed by. Brad’s arms held me closer with a firm loving grip. It was as if we had know each other all our lives.

Bev: But why had she pointed at me before she collapsed? Or had she? In the crowded room I could have mistaken her pointing at us. Maybe she was reaching out for help? I pushed through the crowd and rushed to her.

“Dotty, what is it?”

“Monica, I’m, sorry,” she whispered.

Prompt: The Smell was Familiar II

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group.

Dorothy: The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart. That was my heart? At least I could feel again. My heart had been broken for so long, it was new and I was excited to feel its warm flow. The light pounding in my ears was like music, a soft drum. I let the pain go and felt alive again. Wow, how can freedom come so quickly, so quietly.

Bev: All because of that wonderful scent! I turned toward it. Where had it come from? Was he here? It couldn’t be. In the crowded shopping mall I whirled in search of the source.

Susan: The man next to me was startled by my sudden movement and he called out in pain as he twisted his ankle on the slick tile floor. I bent down to help him to his feet when I realized the scent had come from him.

It wasn’t an earthy or manly musk scent, but a light feminine floral fragrance. I wanted to drink it in and be transported back to that dance. But instead, this poor guy was laying at my feet, clutching his ankle.

Margaret: How could I get him up? Maybe I would have to take him to a doctor. Did he have any family near by? There was no phone nearby to call for help. I felt so helpless.

DK: Always the caregiver, in my panic over his injury, I had forgotten where I was: in a crowded mall. Of course there was help. Within seconds an EMT team was hovering over him.

“Are you his wife?” They asked.

“No, just a passerby,” I muttered.

“But I’m his wife,” called a voice in the crowd. As the stylish woman shoved her way toward us, I found myself staring at a tall lady with my face. She stared back. It was unreal. She smelled of the very same perfume that I had noticed earlier on the injured man. The same perfume used by my mother before she died in an auto accident two decades earlier – before foster care, and the separation from a twin sister I had never been able to find. Until now.

Lorelle: I stepped forward. “I’m sorry. We bumped into each other. It’s so crowded here.”

She looked at me and a flash of recognition flickered across her face. She knows me, I thought, and it’s her face she sees. But how?

She turned away from me toward her husband as the EMTs lifted him onto the stretcher. One turned to her. “I think it’s just a sprain but we need to get him checked to make sure it’s not broken.”

“Where are you taking him?”

“Mercy General.”

“I’ll meet you there,” she assured them. Then she turned back to me.

I wanted to run. Escape now. Fear clutched my heart, dampening down all the feelings of a few moments ago. It rattled in my ears. I could barely hear her next words.

“My name is Sally Sparrow. You are Olive Sparrow, aren’t you?”

I couldn’t speak. My stomach clenched. How did she know my birth name? I’d hidden that name so deep, tucking it into the dark recesses of secret thoughts and memories. She knew my name. It wasn’t possible, none of this was.

Cheri: But it could only mean one thing – Sally knew about me. This was not about just knowing about my existence – she knew about personal aspects, such as my name. When I finally could speak I asked her, “How do you know who I am?”

After what seemed like eternity, she quietly motioned me over, away from the crowd. I saw her eyes quickly dark to the left, and I instantly looked left as well. My deep breath in spoke volumes to those who could hear. To my complete surprise, a woman looking very much like my mother was standing there, tears in her eyes. Sally touched my shoulder and softy spoke to me. “Our mother is alive,” she simply said. It was clear that the perfume that reminded me of my mother had the ability to reach deep into my soul, but having her standing in front of me was a total different experience. Suddenly I passed out. When I started to come to, all I could smell was the perfume. I was happy. I was sad. I was confused. When I looked up, I saw my mother’s face. She had some explaining to do, but I wanted to enjoy the memories that the perfume brought to mind. They were happy memories, and much more innocent than my new reality.