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A Year of Cozy Crime

My pick for the year

This has been the year of cozy murder mysteries and madcap capers for me. Cleverly plotted novels with minimal to almost no violence combined with sparkling wit have livened up my drab pandemic year.

#1 Dial A for Aunties

Undoubtedly the book of the year (even though there are three months to go) for me. This one was a laugh-riot with shades of Weekend at Bernie’s. A woman accidentally kills the man her overbearing mother and aunts set her up with on a blind date and havoc ensues. The only thing that was slightly off putting was the abundance of Chinese and Indonesian phrases the book was peppered with. Ai Yah! Would have been nice to have a glossary at the end.

#2 Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Bought this book on a whim because the cover reminded me of my own Dragon Aunty Returns! Best decision ever. Wickedly funny caper about a struggling, single mom who is mistaken for a hit woman & gets mixed up with some unsavoury characters – read Russian mob! I believe there is a sequel and I am looking forward to reading it.

#3 A Line to Kill

The latest installment of his Daniel Hawthorne series. An invitation to a lit fest at an island, sinister happenings and a murder. What’s not to love? I love the way Horowitz blends fiction with reality and the first-person narrative.

#4 Decagon House Murders

Inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, this book follows the same closed room mystery formula. The book was creepy and quite unsettling, like the original it is inspired by.

#5 Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage.

MC Beaton aka Marion Chesney is one of my favourite authors and her Agatha Raisin books are clever and wickedly funny. Agatha is an alcoholic Miss Marple with designs on her handsome neighbour who she almost ends up marrying. But there’s a catch in the form of an ex-husband who lands up dead in the middle of the action. No plot spoilers here, you will have to read the book.

Writing Short Stories: the Long and the Short of it

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“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”

(Neil Gaiman)

Over the years, I’ve experimented with many different forms of writing but the short story has always eluded me. Always by accident, never by design. In the light of recent developments, I view this as a shame.

I have recently finished writing a collection of short stories and I find that writing short fiction is hugely enjoyable, at least for me! It holds a lot of promise. I would actually go so far as to say that short stories are, perhaps, the most challenging thing I have ever worked on in my entire career.

You may ask me why. Well, I’ll tell you why.

Brevity

You don’t have the luxury of writing till the ink in your pen runs dry or the battery in your laptop out of charge, the latter a more likely scenario. You don’t have the luxury of 50,000 words or more. Short stories are typically between 1,000 to 7,500 words though some pieces of short fiction can be as long as 30,000 words! But let’s forget about that for a minute. Say you have a limit between 2,500 and 3,000 words to tell a good story. You need to make sure you keep that limit in mind when setting out or else you may get terribly lost and waste precious time.

Plot

It’s always good to have an idea fleshed out into a tidy plot before you start writing. With a well-defined plot in hand (or in mind) you will find it easier to stick to the word limit rather than amble along as you may have in the case of a longer work of fiction or non-fiction. Figure out how the storyline will develop within the word count. I found it helpful to have a beginning, middle and end and have an approximate word count for each section.

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Characters

Don’t go overboard with a host of characters with complicated sub-plots. Keep it fairly straightforward unless you have a plan to weave all the different characters and their stories into your main plot. Remember, you are not writing a novel and it’s difficult even for an experienced writer to have different things going on at the same time. The story becomes heavy, clumsy and loses focus.

Twists don’t always work

You don’t necessarily need a twist to make your tale work. Often, there is great value in simplicity. Also, open endings work really well. The reader can interpret it whichever way he or she likes. That increases their engagement in the story and which author doesn’t want the reader to get engaged?

Short stories are good practice before you go ahead and write the longer novel if you haven’t written one already. You can write a couple of short stories and then expand them into proper novellas or works of fiction. One of my short stories was actually an idea that I had (inside my head for years) for a longer novel.

My head is already buzzing with more ideas for stories I’d like to write down. What about you? Go on, give them a try.

If you would like to read my short stories, do click on this link: http://bit.ly/2x7mBUm

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