Friday, April 29, 2011

Always Past Tense?

I can't recall reading a single cozy that wasn't written in past tense. It is the most common tense to write in. Most people prefer reading past tense to present tense--myself included. And past perfect or future tense would just be annoying.

But could a cozy work in present tense? One of the arguments for using present tense is that is makes the action more immediate. Everything is happening NOW. The reader is experiencing everything as the protagonist does.

Yeah, well, that's one of my problems with reading present tense. I know I'm not in Cute Little Town, Arkansas, walking into a bagel shop. Present tense throws me out of the story and unsuspends my disbelief.

So, how about you? Does present tense bother you? Do you think it would work for a cozy?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shakespeare’s Landlord (Lily Bard Mystery #1) by Charlaine Harris

Lily Bard has moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas, to get away from her past. [Bard/Shakespeare, get it?] During one of her insomnia-fueled late night walks, Lily witnesses the body of a nosy landlord being dumped in the park. She makes an anonymous phone call to the police, again to keep her past buried. As she goes about her cleaning woman duties in many of the apartments the landlord owned, Lily finds out much that is of interest to the local chief of police. When her martial arts instructor gets interested in her, her life may change forever.

Harris has a way with quirky characters. Lily Bard and the other citizens of Shakespeare are no exception. The story moves along at a good pace and certainly kept me guessing. As a matter of fact, I was convinced I had it figured out about a quarter of the way through. But I was wrong. This twist didn't feel like it came of left field like some do.

A fun, quick read. Just what I want out of a summer mystery. Think I'll check out some of Harris' other books set in Shakespeare.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Punny Titles

Not every cozy mystery writer uses puns in her titles, but a whole bunch do. I happen to like puns. Maybe it's the Shaggy Dog stories my uncle told so well. Many people love them, many don't. But they persist.

Here are a sampling of title puns from my bookshelf at home (I admit that I picked up a few of these just because of the titles):

Club Dead and Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse mysteries)

Sew Deadly by Elizabeth Lynn Casey (Southern Sewing Circle mysteries)

A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket by Beth Groundwater (Gift Basket mysteries)

On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle (Coffeehouse mysteries)

Needled to Death, Dyer Consequences and Fleece Navidad by Maggie Sefton (Knitting mysteries)

The Lies That Bind and If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle (Bibliophile mysteries)

Evans Above by Rhys Bowen (Constable Evan Evans mysteries)

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement

So here's the question: Would a title like these make you more or less likely to pick up the book?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

I devoured the first book in The Millenium series. The second one took a bit longer-vacation was over, after all. I have struggled with the third one for two weeks and thrown in the towel. What changed? The pace of the story. Even though the first two weren't action-packed, Blomkvist and Salander were constantly digging and figuring things out. In the third book, our two main characters are absent from the narrative much of the time. I am invested in those characters, not the new people from Sapo (the Swedish version of the CIA). Not even Berger, Blomkvist's married lover. I want Blomkvist and Salander, preferably interacting with each other. But they've been separated since the beginning of book 2. It's always hard to say whether the problem is with the original author or the translator. Did Larsson go on too long explaining the history of Sapo and reminding the reader of every little detail about our heroes? Or did the translator think we, as Americans, needed more explanation of how things are done in exotic Sweden? In the end it doesn't matter. The story became bogged down, and I didn't care to slog through it. So I turned to end to make see how it turned out, and put the book back on the shelf. It was a sad end to what started as such a fun ride.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Who Reads Cozies?

Obviously, I do. But who else?

I think the stereotypical reader one thinks of picking up a cozy mystery is a white-haired old lady, reading glasses perched on the end of her button nose. She sits primly in her overstuffed, doily-laden chair, a pot of freshly brewed tea on the pie-crust table next to her. Of course, the teapot is enswathed by a hand-knitted tea cozy.

But is that really who reads them? I guess a few, but seriously. How many women like that do you know?

I started reading Agatha Christie before I was in my teens. Could some of the readers be those middle graders who aren't happy with the books that are supposed to be for them? Maybe, but I sorta doubt it.

Many of the cozies I've been reading have a bit of chick-lit feel to them. The protagonist is a young woman (usually white, btw) who works for a living. While most don't live in the big city--something the heroines in chick-lit tend to do, or so I'm told--they often have an interest in the latest fashion, coffee, chocolate, etc. Oh, and handsome young men. So, I think the audience may cross over there.

What do you think? Do you read cozies and chick-lit? If you don't read both, what is it about cozies that draws you in? Do we have any guys out there who like the cozies?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The story of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander continues a year after the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They are separated, with Blomkvist trying to figure out where she is. After Lisbeth returns to Sweden, three people are murdered and the police are convinced she's guilty. Blomkvist is just as certain that she isn't. As he investigated, he learns more about the past of this complicated woman.

Another exciting tale that had me running for the bookstore to pick up the third, and final, book in the series before I finished this one. The stakes are even higher in this one, especially for Lisbeth. I won't go into more detail so as not to spoil anything.

There's still a lot of telling, but it's such a big story, that's kind of a blessing. The beginning of the book also has a lot of dialogue where two characters are telling each other things they both know just to tell us. Easily solved with a character who doesn't know.

Small quibbles aside, this book has one of my favorite lines in the series so far. We are learning that Salander has a twin sister who is quite different from her. Larsson writes, "Lisbeth was first. Camilla was beautiful." Six words that sum up what would have taken a lesser writer pages to get across.

So sad that Stieg Larsson died so young. Imagine how many other wonderful stories he could have spun for us.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Are There Subgenres That Cozy Authors Should Tackle?

I guess, technically, they’d be sub-subgenres, since Cozies themselves are a subgenre of Mystery.

Many of the sub-subs that have been covered already are Historical, Paranormal and Fantasy. Margaret Fazer writes two different series set in Medieval times, Madelyn Alt has her Bewitching series and, I have argued, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books are Cozies since Sookie solves a mystery in each book. And most of the modern cozies have an element of Chick Lit about them.

Then there are the sub-subs that are peculiar to Cozies. I’m talking about the cooking series, the craft shop mysteries, the professional woman (although not a police professional) series, etc.

What others can you think of that might work in the cozy realm? Looking at Romance subgenres what about Futuristic, Time-Travel or even Erotic? Okay, I’m thinking the last one would definitely NOT fall into the Cozy outline.

The Speculative Fiction oeuvre might give us a couple of the ones already mentioned plus Horror and Science Fiction in all its permutations. Gail Carriger already covered Steampunk with her Parasol Protectorate series. Anything falling under Horror would probably have to be funny in order to fit. And I’m not sure even that would help. Could we have zombies invading St. Mary Meade?

Any other suggestions?