adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cozy Mysteries

The ‘cozy mystery’ might be considered a sub-genre within the broad crime/mystery category of fiction. It is typically low on graphic violence and sex, the main protagonist is usually an amateur detective of some sort — often with some odd interest that plays a role — and it is commonly set in a small community. It is apparently somewhat popular these days. I didn’t know I was writing cozy mysteries with my two Cully Beach novels but they sort of are.

Except that the whole mystery part is somewhat played down in favor of the relationship side of the plot. So one might be as inclined to put them into the chick-lit/dick-lit category. Not that a book can not fit into more than genre, of course. They are set in a smallish town, the protagonist-investigator is an amateur with an odd interest — in this case, surfing — and they are not very graphic. So I guess I could have marketed them as cozy mysteries, eh?

If I get around to my folk festival mystery (which still consists of rather nebulous notes), it might well fit that sub-genre as well. And I do tend to put in a fair amount of humor, another common component of the cozy. I’m not really into heavy, violent stuff.

Now I think the novels of my sister and niece (Jean James/Mary James) comes close to fitting the cozy mystery category as well. Certainly their two ‘Pate and Faircloth’ books do. “Wherefore Art Thou, Jane,” and “Methinks I See Thee, Jane,” are set largely in rural Panhandle Florida, with a professional snake hunter as the main protagonist, and are unabashedly humorous. The upcoming “Hell is Naked” (out in November, I’ve read an advance copy) is borderline, maybe. Certainly not overly graphic and with a bit of humor, but set in the ‘big city’ (Los Angeles) and starring an ex-cop.

I suppose it is a formula of sorts — and I am glad I did not know of it before I wrote “Shaper” and “Waves.” They just are as they are because that is the way I conceived them. But I am happy to market them any way that might bring in more readers!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Quest! A Quest! (a poem)

A Quest! A Quest!

Name me a task, set me on the way
to my Holy Grail—
Through the night-dark forest to journey,
across the broad sea to sail,
and over the sky-kissed mountains to pass,
where the lost winds wail.
Name me a quest, set me a task—
one you know I shall fail.

A quest! A quest!

Give me a quest, show me a path,
tell what I must seek
along the roads beyond these roads
where I have proven weak—
these roads where we have walked and spoken
and found no more to speak.
Set me a path, give me a task—
let the way be bleak.

A quest! A quest!

Name me a task, grant me my quest,
send me where you will;
I sought elusive yesterdays—
the Grail lies distant still.
As distant as the morning sky
above the nearest hill—
to glimpse, to aspire, to name a quest
I never need fulfill.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

somewhat early-draft-ish — I am sure there will be eventual changes

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

House Plans and World Building

Thorough world-building needs be a part of any fiction effort, whatever the genre. It is not just for fantasy and science fiction! I took as much care laying out my fictitious Florida town of Cully Beach as I did in creating the world of the Mora or of Donzalo’s Destiny.

So I laid out a street map of Cully Beach with every place mentioned in the novels (‘Shaper’ and ‘Waves’) clearly marked. I also drew up floor plans for not only the Cully Beach Surf Shop but also Kay’s Korner. I worked as a draftsman at one point (before you had those CAD programs to let you cheat!) so it was not that big an undertaking for me. This would be the house as originally built in the Fifties, as it was when Ted Carrol bought it and moved in:

And this was after he renovated it into the surf shop, still living in the back (and adding a shed behind it for board building and repair).

It is very much a typical small block house of its period, flat roof, terrazzo floors. Rather like the one my own family moved into in ‘53! Having it sketched out like this helped me visualize things, like where Ted would sit at breakfast (a lot goes on in the kitchen area in the books, for some reason), where the aloha shirts would be racked in the shop, how one would access the restrooms.

For Kay’s Korner I actually use the same basic floor plan, assuming it was a stock design for a developer at the time, but the place was heavily remodeled with a second story added at some point. And the old house from the Thirties next to Ted’s place (where the DEA agents hang out for a while) is quite simply based on the place I live right now—didn’t need to draw up a plan for that one!