Saturday, May 29, 2010

Romance with your Murder?

As an acne-covered teenager, I squealed with delight at the scene on television. Nancy Drew, frightened at the sight of a bat in her room (in Transylvania, I believe) rushed out, clad only in her nightgown, into the waiting arms of Frank Hardy.

Yes! Forget Ned. Forget the Bayport/River Heights commuting time. Forget the fact that Nancy was not a damsel in distress, but a strong detective in her own right. Forget the fact that these were completely fictional characters, and there must have been some other plot elements going on in that episode. They belonged TOGETHER!!!!

(Forgive the caps and exclamation points--still channeling my inner teen.)

There's nothing like a good murder to stir up those amorous feelings, or at least that seems to be the case in the mystery/suspense genre. I moved from Frank and Nancy to Remington and Laura, Lee and Amanda, Booth and Bones, Monk and Natalie (still upset that didn't turn into something), and Chuck and Sara. I also loved the married couples--Hart to Hart, and the standard that inspires so many: Nick and Nora.

Cozy series also play the romance card, often with a relationship budding over several books. Donna Andrews' Meg Lanslow met her paramour in the first in her bird series, and is working on twins now. Laurie King somehow drew me into a romance between a semi-retired Sherlock Holmes and his 15-year-old apprentice (although she was not fifteen at the time), although I really wished she had drawn that out a bit longer. (Yes, tease me, then make me suffer.)

While the genre of romantic suspense blends equal parts romance and suspense--both requiring an intense emotional expression and an emotionally satisfying ending, a romantic cozy often moves more slowly, similar to the 'will they ever get together' dynamics of the television boy-girl detective team. A recent, but highly unscientific poll on the Absolute Write message board seems to support that, with the majority of respondents saying they liked romance in their mystery, especially when it was not overdone. But there are other, more humorous interpretations.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Contest Thoughts

For those who may not have heard the news, this week I was thrilled to learn I was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest, in the mystery/suspense/thriller category.

For me, this was a turning point. I think for every aspiring writer, there comes a point where you question "the dream." Is this a pipe dream I'm pursuing--a pie-in-the-sky daydream with little hope of realization? Or is becoming an author an attainable goal? Is my writing a hobby that I dabble with, or a vocation to pursue whole-heartedly?

And that has been a tough question for me to answer.

Now, it's not that I have been treating my writing like a casual hobby--like the embroidered tablecloth my family has been working on for four generations, which will probably never be finished. I've studied and researched, and analyzed. I've joined critique groups. I've attended conferences and entered contests. I've written and re-written, and re-written again. I've embraced the criticism (eventually), deferred any praise. But my focus has been on craft, on doggedly developing my writing. And while I have spent time learning about the business of publishing and how it works, I've not spent much time looking up to see what's on the horizon.

I've not taken the time to dream.

Well, now the dream I've been afraid to dream is one step closer. Not that I'm there yet--I still have many milestones yet to cross. I'm still unagented. And I've only just begun querying my first completed novel. But the difference is that I now dare to believe that I will someday be published. Maybe this novel, maybe not, but somewhere along the line, I believe I can come up with the right project to capture the attention of an agent, then an editor (or vice versa) and achieve the dream of being a published author.

But until then, as Solomon said, "A dream comes through a multitude of business." So back to work.