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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Posted originally on April 21, 2010, but the content has since been slightly edited for better context.

 

The art of writing — though on some days, writing feels more like a science experiment gone wrong — is a slippery slope. The faster you try to scale the incline, the faster you lose your foothold and scramble downwards.

I believe writing is something that you discover, experience and learn over time and with patience and perseverance.

As I gather information about literary agents, editors, submission guidelines et al, I keep hearing two words – loud and clear – again and again. Critique Group. That seems to be the mantra today in the writing business, and rightly so!

As the publishing industry stands today, most of the houses are refusing to accept unsolicited manuscripts. In plain speak, they are not accepting manuscripts that come directly, if they are not exclusively requested by them, from the author. They will only look at manuscripts that reached their tables through a literary agent. This guarantees, for them, that the manuscript has gone through at least one round of checking for marketability and viability, along with some editing.

Literary agents, I hear, in turn want to make sure that the manuscript that they consider has at least been objectively reviewed. And this is where our two magic words come in.

A critique group consists of, as its name suggests, a group of people (writers in this case) who come together to critique each other’s work, objectively. Now, that last word is key. So, who constitutes a good critique group for you? A group of writers who are serious about writing, and are willing to be interested in your work enough to be critical about it.

Choose a group that fits your personality and your expectations of the level of critique. This is very important, or you’d be left being part of a group that does nothing for your learning process. It also helps to have the various members of the group writing for different age groups and in various genres. This provides for a better scope of learning.

I have been part of a face-to-face critique group for several years — I’ve been lucky enough to find peers (now my dear friends) who enhance my writing experience in all aspects. This may not always be the case. In which case, try different groups until you can find one that suits your needs.

Online critique groups are in now. And why not? They have some advantages (along with disadvantages, of course) over the traditional group. They eliminate the need for meeting in person at a fixed time – you can work at your own pace and time. The same point may also sometimes work as a drawback. Due to lack of a restriction in meeting time, others things may bump critiquing down the list when your plate is full.

It is also advised that you belong to more than one group in order to get as varied and in-depth an input on your work as possible.

This is what my critique group has been for me when it came to my writing:

–          My support group

–          My coaches

–          My cheering squad

–          My fellow-students

–          The harshest critics of my work

And I wouldn’t want them any other way. I have been fortunate enough to find a group where everyone is serious about writing and is committed to the mutual growth of every member as a writer.

In short, your critique group is a big part of your writing family.

Here are some basics that my group follows implicitly:

When you are offering a critique:

  • Begin the critique you’re offering with positive feedback.
  • Any comments (even the negatives you bring up) can and should be made constructively. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to wear kid gloves every time you offer a negative comment, but it doesn’t hurt to modulate it.
  • Offer your opinions as such and not as hard facts, because they are just that – your opinions.
  • Critique the work and not the writer. Refrain from using words like: “You said here…”. Instead, say, “This character sounds older than his age.” etc.
  • Remember that if a character expresses debatable opinions, that does not necessarily mean that the author subscribes to those opinions.

When you are receiving critique:

  • Be open-minded. You are asking for feedback, so be prepared to hear both positive and negative comments. In fact, be hopeful that you will receive more of the second kind, which will help you better your work.
  • Remember you are not your work – learn to effectively divorce yourself from your writing. This will allow you to receive comments/critiques much more openly.
  • Be respectful of others’ opinions. You have asked for them.
  • Finally, week after week, if all you hear is “Wonderful work”, “Nothing amiss” etc., then it is time to look for another group.

Did you notice something?

The principles above do not necessarily apply to only writing. They hold equally well to any other situation in life.

Consider the following scenarios, for instance:

–          You are required to review a technical document written by a peer.

–          You are discussing right and wrong with your child.

–          You are trying to pitch a new idea to your boss.

–          You are bargaining for a car at the dealership.

Aren’t the above rules relevant to these settings, too?

I think that’s the beauty of belonging to any group that thrives on the principle of give-and-take. It provides you with the discipline needed not only to have a better life in a particular field, but a better life. Period.

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Miss Read: it’s the name of one of my all-time favorite authors. Dora Saint was her real name, but she was better known by her pseudonym, Miss Read.

Dora Saint worked as a school teacher before she began to write full time. She admittedly gleaned many of the subjects and topics for her numerous novels and short stories from her real life experiences while living and teaching in rural England.

She wrote three popular series of novels — among other fiction and non-fiction volumes — set in the fictional villages of Thrush Green, Fairacre and Caxley in the English countryside. (As far as I know she wrote only two books set in Caxley as opposed to at least a dozen in each of the other two.)

When my sister first introduced Miss Read to me close to two decades ago, it was a perfect opportunity for me to transition my childhood love for Enid Blyton’s rural England to a more mature appreciation for the lifestyle via Miss Read’s books. The settings and happenings in Miss Read’s novels couldn’t be farther from the hustle and bustle of my own life; I couldn’t devour the books fast enough. Luckily for me, and scores of others who adored her books, she has had a prolific writing career.

On the surface, the stories follow the laidback routines of pastoral England with its thatched cottages and primly laid out gardens. If you care to delve deeper into the pages, however, you will have gained a firmer understanding of the basic human emotions such as: love, curiosity, competition, eccentricities and companionship.

Dora Saint, the author, does not sit on a pedestal and pass judgment on her characters. Rather, her writing is a testimony to her incisive, but compassionate, study of the human psyche and its usual (or not so usual, at times) foibles. And that’s what makes the books so precious in their quality.

Each of the books set in Thrush Green chronicles the lives of the inhabitants of that lush and charming Cotswold village. Who can forget the unparalleled eccentricities of Dotty Harmer; the righteous laziness of Albert Piggott; the cheroot-smoking boisterousness of Ella Bembridge; the nonchalant promiscuousness of Nelly Tilling; the epic miserliness of the Misses Lovestock? You can’t help but fall in love with each of these utterly disarming characters.

Fairacre books feature the school teacher Miss. Read and her supposedly uncomplicated life as it becomes entwined with those of the others in the village and thus adds another full year to her life in each volume. Each character helps make Miss Read’s spinsterly life (which she means to keep that way despite the constant wooing of one or two beaus and the innumerable attempts of the villagers to get her hooked up) read delectably rich and engaging.

Among many others, Dora Saint has inspired Jan Karon, the American author who wrote Mitford Series. Irish musician Enya named two tracks in two of her albums after Miss Read’s novels.

Dora Saint passed away on 12th April of this year. However, she lives on through the numerous characters she brought to life with the gentle strokes of her pen.

I can never tire of Miss Read’s works; they only get dearer to me each time I re-read them.

In fact, Miss Read’s books to me are what “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” are for Maria in The Sound of Music.

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Merriam Webster dictionary defines Dystopia as:

  • An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
  • Anti-Utopia

Dystopia derives from the combination of the two Greek words dys (meaning bad/hard) and topia (meaning place/landscape). Dystopia is also sometimes referred to as Cacotopia.

Humans have always been fascinated with imagining what future — near or far — has in store for them. Weaving dystopian stories is a natural progression of this attraction. So, dystopian fantasy (stories set in a less than optimal world) has been around, I’m sure, since man could exchange ideas with fellow humans using words. Dystopian novels have been published for more than a century now.

Dystopian fantasy is a popular sub-genre of science fiction or, more broadly, speculative fiction.

The young adult market is teeming with dystopian fantasies (Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Uglies by Scott Westerfield, to name a few), although many dystopian adult novels (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Children of Men by P.D. James among others) have been popular over the years, too.

With the recent release of the movie The Hunger Games (based on a YA book of the same name), this genre is probably more popular now than ever.

These novels depict either an individual fighting against oppression or a group of people coping collectively as a society with the dehumanized conditions.

Some of these stories are set in non-specified (in terms of time and geography) worlds, though generally speaking they are set in a future that is dark, dismal and oppressive. The reasons why society, in each of these books, has slid into this state is one of many:

  • The rise to power of one political or religious group of people who then begin a systematic oppression of the society.
  • An apocalyptic disaster, natural or otherwise, resulting in pockets of survivors.
  • An unnatural/mysterious fear or disgust of the world outside. This usually is the consequence of a disaster in the distant past, the details of which none of the living members of the society remembers.
  • Advancement of technology at a more rapid rate than humans could handle. So man has shunned technology and gone back to the dark ages.
  •  Technology has taken over humans, making puppets of them.

 When I first began to read dystopian fantasies I refused to take them seriously, because they seemed overly fantastical and set so far in the future.

And then I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale. This story takes place in the United States where a theocratic regime has made the lives of women sub-human.

The ultimate shock for me? The story unfolds (in an eerily unemotional first person narrative) the truth of how the society has hurtled towards this state within the life span of a modern American woman. This novel forced me to look at the disturbing possibility that something like this could happen to any country, any time.

Despite that realization, I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction. Why? Because, the eternal optimist in me shrivels up at all the gloom and doom in these stories. Who is to say what the future holds for us humans? Why look at it only through a pessimistic lens and expect the worst?

And the mom in me balks at the supposition that we may be leaving our future generations to such a miserable future.

Even if you haven’t had a chance to read a book set in dystopia, you may have encountered it in movies such as: The Matrix, Minority Report, Total Recall and Avatar.

So, do you like dystopian fantasies? Why or why not?

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Posted originally on March 24, 2010.

In times like these men should utter nothing for which they would not be willingly responsible through time and in eternity.

                                                                       –  Abraham Lincoln

I have at least a hundred and ten places in the world, big and small, I’d love to visit one day. They are anywhere from Egypt to Ireland to Turkey to Japan to Greece — the list goes on and on. And most of those places have sneaked into my list because of the books I’ve read over the years.

Isn’t it amazing how the image you have of the world is shaped, among other things, by the books (or any printed material) you read? That realization makes the act of writing that much more daunting – forget about how hard the craft itself is.

When it comes to writing books, non-fiction has more rules. Authors of non-fiction are expected to be cognizant of the subject at hand, and they are relied upon to include only proven facts in their books.

Not so fiction.

When writing fiction for adults there’s more leeway, because they are capable of discerning right from wrong. That’s the general belief, at least.

Writing for children? That’s an entirely different beast. Books are one of the cheapest and most commonly used tools to help shape young minds. And children  are more impressionable, and hence susceptible to persuasion.

It is well and good to keep books real. I’m all for it. Up to a point.

My problem is when books get gimmicky, all for the sake of sales or some other self-serving need of the creators of the book, and make the depraved characters in it look really cool. Is this really necessary?

Let’s say someone writes a book that has a strong subliminal message that it is okay to make a cheap buck by cheating someone else. And for whatever reason, that book goes out of print after only some hundred copies are sold.

Where do those hundred-odd copies end up? On bookshelves, where they will continue to live for a number of decades. Even if each one of them gets read by one child in each generation, that’s a lot of children brainwashed over the years. And they grow up into adults who affect more children by their beliefs, opinions, and actions. And hence the sphere of influence of that one book keeps growing.

Every book has a message in it, whether it’s an obvious one or not.

As a writer, the bottom line for me is: Would my conscience remain clear even if only one reader embraces the message in my book?

How do you keep your writing responsible?

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The main character (MC) in my current WIP (Work-In-Progress) loves Mango Lassi. Her dad, who is the better cook in the family and who also happens to be putty in my MC’s hands, makes it for her whenever she craves it.

This version of the recipe has been customized for my MC’s tastes. Basically, it’s simpler to make, but tastes as good as the original. :=)

Owing to its colorful personality, this drink lends itself very well either for a lazy summer afternoon or a rollicking garden party.

 

Mango Lassi
(Mango Milkshake)

 

Ingredients:

¼ cup Mango pulp (available in tins at specialty Indian grocery stores)
½ cup milk (skim or 1% will do)
½ cup buttermilk
a pinch of salt
a few cubes of ice

 

Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly in a blender. The mango pulp usually comes sweetened in the tins. In case it is not, you can sweeten the milkshake using half-a-tablespoon of sugar.

It is as simple as that and makes about 3 servings.

To make this less heavy and more like a punch, dilute it by adding ½ a cup of Sprite or Club Soda to the milkshake.

 

In case you’re interested, here’s the recipe for Aloo Subzi (Potato Curry), also from my WIP, that I posted last summer.

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Publisher’s Weekly has released year 2009’s hardcover  and paperback frontlist and backlist bestsellers.

Here’s a definition of backlist and frontlist from Google:

                A backlist is a list of older books available from a publisher, as opposed to titles newly published, which is sometimes called the frontlist.

My Impressions from the list:

Three facts jumped at me as I read the list:  

  • Notice anything in the pictures I have included in this post? Every book (including those that don’t feature in the photos) in the top ten list has a dark cover (and a theme filled with doom and gloom), except for the two Wimpy Kid books.  

Does that mean we are raising (by providing them these books as brain-fodder when they’re especially at the cusp of adulthood) a generation of possibly emotionally confused, dark-side worshipping humans?

Not so pleasant a thought, is it? But something we may need to mull over…

  • The book industry needs more (especially older) boy books: Writers, take note! Many people in the publishing industry (editors, agents etc.) want to disprove the myth that ‘boys over a certain age do not read’.

I think that’s a laudable goal to work towards. As I look at agents’ submission requirements, I come across more and more of them saying: “I would like to see humorous books, especially for boys” or “Interested in graphic novels” or something to that effect.

  • Unfortunately, there is no non-fiction book (not counting one about how a movie is made from a book) in the list.

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In times like these men should utter nothing for which they would not be willingly responsible through time and in eternity.

                                                                       –  Abraham Lincoln

I have at least a hundred and ten places in the world, big and small, I’d love to visit one day. They are anywhere from Egypt to Ireland to Turkey to Japan to Greece — the list goes on and on. And most of those places have sneaked into my list because of the books I’ve read over the years.

Isn’t it amazing how the image you have of the world is shaped, among other things, by the books (or any printed material) you read? That realization makes the act of writing that much more daunting – forget about how hard the craft itself is.

When it comes to writing books, non-fiction has more rules. Authors of non-fiction are expected to be cognizant of the subject at hand, and they are relied upon to include only proven facts in their books.

Not so fiction.

When writing fiction for adults there’s more leeway, because they are capable of discerning right from wrong (that’s the general belief, at least).

Writing for children? That’s an entirely different beast. Books are one of the cheapest and most commonly used tools to help shape young minds. And children (I’m lumping everyone from babies to teens here) are more impressionable, and hence susceptible to persuasion.

It is well and good to keep books real. I’m all for it. Up to a point.

My problem is when books get gimmicky, all for the sake of sales or some other self-serving need of the creators of the book, and make the depraved characters in it look really cool. Is this really necessary?

Let’s say someone writes a book that has a strong subliminal message that it is okay to make a cheap buck by cheating someone else. And for whatever reason, that book goes out of print after only some hundred copies are sold.

Where do those hundred-odd copies end up? On bookshelves, where they will continue to live for a number of decades. Even if each one of them gets read by one child in each generation, that’s a lot of children brainwashed over the years. And they grow up into adults who affect more children by their beliefs, opinions, and actions. And hence the sphere of influence of that one book keeps growing.

Every book has a message in it, whether it’s an obvious one or not.

As a writer, the bottom line for me is: Would my conscience remain clear even if only one reader embraces the message in my book?

Read Full Post »

Here are the first two installments: Whodunit -1 and Whodunit – 2

This three-part series has been my version of a shout-out to all my ‘sisters-in-crime’ – thank you, for having my back!!     

More of those amazing mystery series around:    

  • Southern Sisters Mysteries by Anne George: This author herself reminds me of Miss Marple. The humor in these books is sharp as a blade, and you never have a chance to recover from one farce before another is lobbed at you. The contrast (on all fronts — physical, emotional and behavioral) between the two sisters, Patricia Anne and Mary Alice, is just hilarious, and it lands them both in the funniest of pickles imaginable. I only wish that the author had lived longer to churn out some more of these gems – call me selfish!

     

  • Rei Shimura Series by Sujata Massey: This is set in modern-day Japan (at least half of the series, after which the author moved the whole setting to America – go back to Japan, Rei!!). Rei is an antiques dealer who finds herself in the most bizarre (and sometimes compromising beyond belief, during which the author finds it necessary to give the reader lurid and intimate details that only act as needless distractions for me) situations and sets about solving the conundrums behind them. The author does a wonderful job of introducing the cities and towns of Japan and their customs in a seamless fashion, thus making the books very attractive to me.

     

  • Ellie Quicke Mysteries by Veronica Heley: Taking place in a nondescript modern-day suburb of London, it features Ellie Quicke, a widow, who is coming into her own and finding her ‘self’ after being a wife and a mother forever. She lives in the coziest of houses, whose backyard borders the green on which her church is located. Throw in an insensitive daughter, a bossy aunt-by-marriage (who constantly reminds me of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations), demanding church co-patrons, and two fervent beaus and you have a winner. Watch out, though — this author can actually wring your heart with her direct, yet sensitive, treatment of some of the subjects (such as pedophilia and domestic violence) in these books.

     

  • Benni Harper Mysteries by Earlene Fowler: Benni Harper and her husband, Police Chief Ortiz, enjoy one of my very favorite relationships in all the novels I read. It is so sweet, yet so complicated like any ‘real’ relationship. (I’m not much of a fan of those books that depict relationships as if they can thrive and coast along without any bumps. C’mon, how real is that? Which relationship ever gets to the point of complete complacency? Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.) Anyway, Benni is a horse-riding real, live cowgirl (and stubborn as a mule when it comes to solving crimes). And you can’t help but love her sassy 70-something grandma, Dove, who is like a tablespoon of nutmeg in eggnog. This series has an underlying theme of quilting and folk art, which I love reading about.

     

  • Melanie Travis Mysteries by Laurien Berenson: This involves single-Mom Melanie Travis (at least for part of the series) and her travails in life. Because of her steamroller of an aunt, Peg, who is an authority in dog (standard poodles) breeding, Melanie and her son, Davie, find themselves owners of a poodle and busy dog show participants before long. As the titles of the books indicate, dog-show-world is where Melanie gets embroiled in mysteries, which she manages to unravel time and again. Even if you’re not up to the challenge of breeding and showing dogs yourself (or, especially in that case), you may just vicariously love to lose yourself in the fast-paced and muddling life of Melanie, like I did. Give it a try!

     

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. I could do a whole ten-part series if I wished to cover all the mysteries I’ve tried and liked over the years. (No, I won’t. Please don’t run away!)    

Btw, Happy Valentine’s Day (Sunday), everyone!! I’m not much of a red roses and balloons person, so that’s all I’m going to say about the subject. Besides, who needs pink candy when one can have black coffee?    

I know it doesn't look like much in the picture, but it is really a lot for those of us who try to make snowmen out of the few flurries that stick to the ground

 

P.S: Where I live, it doesn’t usually snow. But it did all day yesterday and some into the night resulting in a 10 inch accumulation (the highest in the last 100 years). Standing at my window, I feel like C.S. Lewis’s Lucy about to step into Narnia.    

    

   

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Meet ‘Blue Billi’, an amateur detective. Does she remind you of another feline in bubblegum pink? She should! They’re cousins, you see, and sleuthing runs in the family.

 

 Here’s the first installment of mystery series that I like: Whodunit – 1 

To continue my list of must-read mysteries:         

          

  • China Bayles Mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert: China is an ex-criminal lawyer who gave up the rat race to retire to the small town of Pecan Springs in the hill country of Texas, near Austin, where she runs a small herb store called ‘Thyme and Seasons’. Almost against her will, she continually finds herself embroiled in murder and mayhem, which her left brain cannot help but pursue until they’re solved. Impractical, whimsical and new-age loving Ruby,China’s best-friend, adds color and contrast to the super-practical China and her exploits. What’s not to like about this combination?

           

  • Sano Ichiro Novels by Laura Joh Rowland: Set well in the past – in the 16th century Japan teeming with warlords and samurai – you get to see a Japan (and world) in these books that you may not have chanced upon anywhere else. San Ichiro, a samurai and a detective, finds himself getting ever closer to the Shogun and the tangle of political intrigue that surrounds him. Ichiro gets married, a little into the series, to an intelligent woman (with nuances of an almost 20th-century feminist), who begins sleuthing against her husband’s wishes, thus adding tension to the already pulsating drama of the series. Sometimes, though, the icky factor on the physical side of the relationships seems almost gratuitous to me, and I put this series aside for awhile. And then I begin to miss the amazing imagery and the enigma enfolded into every page, and I run back to the library for more.

           

  • Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie: This series doesn’t even need any introduction. I like this series better than any others that Christie has managed to spin in her lifetime. The unassuming granny-like Miss Marple and her sharp wit are so much in contrast with each other that it is a downright winning combination. The episodes when she uses her doddering appearance shamelessly to her advantage are just scrumptious. And being the sucker that I am for high-teas and the English countryside, this has always been one of my favorites.

           

  • Goldy Culinary Mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson: One of the few culinary mysteries that really caught my imagination. Goldy Bear, a divorced single Mom (at least for part of the series), is trying to bring up a son and keep herself afloat and her sanity intact, all the while fending off a violent ex-husband. This is set in the exotic Rockies of Colorado, where Goldy runs a catering business. She finds herself, along with her best friend Marla Korman (now, how they both become friends is in itself an absurdly hilarious thread running through the whole series), entangled in many a murder-web. And just reading through the detailed recipes that Davidson includes in these books makes me feel full and soporific, like the little rabbits in Beatrix Potter’s ‘Peter Rabbit’.

           

  • Aunt Dimity Series by Nancy Atherton: Aunt Dimity is a ghost with a quirky sense of humor and a strong sense of honor. She almost makes you wish that you’d encounter a phantom or two in your own lifetime, if they all promise to be cousins of Aunt Dimity in how she conducts herself. Apart from the mysteries themselves, the beautiful location of the village of Finch and the idiosyncrasies of the various characters living in it make for a delightful read. Don’t forget to make yourself a pot of tea before you sit down with a book in this series.

           

  • Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters: Amelia Peabody is a Victorian archaeologist/Egyptologist who digs alongside her husband, Emerson. This series takes place in England and Egypt (mostly the latter) at the turn of the 20th century. The author is quick-witted and has an incisive humor, which Peabody embodies, naturally. The situations in which this couple (and later the next generation) finds itself are always larger-than-life and can happen only in books, but you still can’t help but embrace them. The only beef I have with the author: the cloyingly-sweet love that Emerson exhibits towards Amelia sometimes grates on my nerves. (Not a very appropriate thing to say in February and that too this close to Valentine’s Day, is it? But, there you have it.)

To be concluded on Friday…

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Ugh! Why did I have to go and make that promise so prematurely? I gave you word a few days ago that I wouldn’t do music clips in my posts, right? Now, I’m absolutely regretting it.

I’ll just depend upon your innate goodness now. I know how annoying it can be when you have to make allowances for other people’s ineptitude, but could you humor me just this once?

As you read this post (and the next two), could you please imagine the original score for ‘Pink Panther’ in the background? There’s a dear! The personality of this post just begs for that theme.

With that taken care of, what is it with mysteries and human nature? What draws us to the inexplicable and the unknown? I have no idea. (Hey, I never told you that I have an answer!)

I myself am a self-confessed mystery buff. I love books that deal with sleuthing and crime-solving. However, I have some stipulations to liking a mystery:

  • The person who has managed to get himself killed should be neatly dead and cold by the time the detective arrives at the crime scene. I’m not for those books in which the murdered, gasping and squirming, scribbles an enigmatic message in his own blood on the pristine white walls of his room before he finally croaks.

 

  • There’s shouldn’t be much happening at the scene in terms of blood and gore that the author feels compelled to describe in detail to the reader. Trailing entrails and oozing plasma? NO!

 

  • I can take it when the average Joe, or Jane, turns out to be the murderer, and that too only because they were sort of cornered into it. Depraved souls like serial killers and mass murderers? Nope, definitely not for me, thank you! I have a very impressionable imagination and I like to sleep, even if only occasionally, at nights.

 

  • If the book has some (multi-)cultural elements weaved into the storyline – especially those that I haven’t had a chance to come across personally in real life – then that book becomes a must-read for me.

Without further ado, here are some of the series I like and why I like them (in no particular order).

  • Mary Russell Novels by Laurie King: This is one of those many series of books that tried to resurrect Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. What sets this series apart? To begin with, Holmes is taken away from his habitual 221b Baker Street in London and plonked in the countryside. And the books manage to breathe life into Holmes in a whole different way: in these novels, he is as close as he can get to being a regular human with regular emotions, even if his intelligence is as other-worldly as ever. (We wouldn’t even want it any other way, would we?) But, there is this delightful twist — Holmes takes a backseat in this series to his protégé, Mary Russell. She matches wits with him again and again and comes up on top most of those times. An intelligent series that takes the two protagonists, and hence the reader vicariously, detecting all over the globe.

 

  • Constable Evans Mysteries by Rhys Bowen: Evan Evans (yes, you read that right – looks like ‘Evan’ is a very popular Welsh name) is as unassuming as protagonists could get. The simplicity of life in the village of Llanfair located at the foot of Mt. Snowdon (and the imagery used in the descriptions) makes me ache with the desire to go live in that village. Every book in this series leaves you with a good feeling about the world in general, notwithstanding the murder(s) that Evans solves in them. This author is extremely prolific. She has two other full-fledged mystery series in her kitty: Molly Murphy Mysteries set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century and A Royal Spyness Mysteries set in the 1930s London. She does justice to both the settings with élan and ease. It is hard enough to write one long-running mystery series without repeating yourself and the plotlines. To do three of them? That is just mind-boggling to me! If truth be told, I’m a bit jealous of this author, even as her vast talent enthralls me.

 

  • Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn Novels by Tony Hillerman: I don’t have enough superlatives to talk about these novels. They are set in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The protagonists, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, work for the Navajo Tribal Police and solve crimes in that area, all the while subtly educating the reader about the customs distinctive to each of the Indian tribes in the area. The stark, parched beauty of the southwestern desert comes to life in these books like it must never have done before. Medicine men, skinwalkers, shapeshifters, witchcraft — there is something to cater to tastes of every kind in these novels.

 

This post will be continued on Wednesday, to be concluded on Friday… What am I to do? I told you I like my whodunits!

You might have noticed how I snuck it in – yes, I’m going to post only every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from now on. Even though I joked about not pacing oneself and keeling over, it is a serious possibility in this multi-tasking life. So, I’m really trying hard to proactively find a better balance in all the things I do in a day. So, please bless me, and more importantly, keep coming back to visit me!!

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