Monday and the Mental Health Day

I confess, I took off from my current work in progress Friday and went to the beach or as we say here in Jersey, down the shore.

I had way too much to do to think I could take off  like that, but it was the last day of summer and besides my mind was working so slow I knew I wouldn’t miss much while I was gone.

My beach pal picked me up  and off we went, beach chairs , umbrella , cooler. sun screen, books and even a notebook and pen in case inspiration struck.  It didn’t, but that was okay.

I spent the day reading someone else’s book, staring at the ocean, or closing my eyes and contemplating the inside of my eyelids.  Occasionally I’d take a short walk up the beach and back.  There was a handful of people on the beach catching the last rays of tanning weather.   A few read.  Most just sat back in their chairs, eyes closed  trying to soak in enough summer to last through the winter.

We left before rush hour so we wouldn’t get annoyed at traffic on our way home.   And there was a rush hour, all those people who didn’t play hooky to go to the beach.  Or those  who were coming to spend the entire last weekend of summer’s end down the shore.

I got home with no more words written than when I left.  But I felt energized and when I stopped to think of it, I had acquired several new characters to incorporate into some book some where at some time if I ever needed them. (The lady at the deli definitely will have a place in a future work.)

So I guess you could call it a working day off.  Or a field trip.  Or just being receptive.

I like to think of it as Down the Shore.

Where do you go for your mental health day?

Why We Love The Fonz

A funny thing happened on the way to my mystery blog last night.

I was writing about why we like crafts along with our murders, when a friend called.

“There’s a new burger place that opened up the road.  Want to try it out?

“Sure,” says me who has been eating lettuce and soup for the last week trying to say bye-bye to those ten summer luvin’ pounds I get every year.

So we walk into this place , all read and old-time diner look, and sit down.  I say, “I expect the The Fonz to come out  and greet us.”

She agrees, so we start stalking about Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.  And why we both loved the Fonz.

The Fonz. He was so, I don’t know, so cool.  So what our mother’s told us to stay away from, so not somebody you’d meet at Sunday school, but so decent, yeah.

The bad boy who really is the good guy.  Moral and cares about people.  Way cool.

Henry Winkler made him come alive. Maybe it’s really Henry we love.

After I got home from the burger and Fonz Fest, I turned on the television, clicked on my DVR where I keep a permanent made for television Christmas movie collection.  I knew Henry Winkler would be there, not as the Fonz but as Uncle Ralph in the 2008 made for television movie, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Ralph is an ex NY cop who visits his niece, Jennifer, and her son, Brian, for Christmas.  On the flight he meets Morgan , a good natured peripatetic free spirit, soon to be love interest, and invites him to spend Christmas with them.  Jennifer is not happy because her fiancé (the stiff shirt, rich guy) is coming to dinner.  Many mishaps later, all’s well that ends well.  Made all the richer, funnier and more poignant because of Uncle Ralph, who I still love as if thirty or more years hadn’t passed. Maybe I love him more. See the trailer here. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I guess there might be people who just can’t stand him, but I don’t know them.

What do you think?  Why is he so easy to love?



 Since this is release month for my new series with FOUL PLAY AT THE FAIR, I’m continuing with our look at amateur sleuths.

Why on earth would anyone want to investigate murder? And what makes them think they should?  Last week we looked at a few of the reasons someone might feel compelled to solve a murder.  But not everyone would actually set about doing it.

So what are the qualities that we expect in our fictional sleuths?

Honest and Just Our sleuth must be just and have a strong belief in Justice. As well as a driving need to see justice served and wrongs righted.  “Murder is just plain wrong.”

Psychology Ability to understand people and what makes them tick.

Skilled  Our sleuth doesn’t usually have investigative skills, but life skills or even hobbies that can be converted into tools for solving crimes.

Intelligent She doesn’t have to be a brainiac, but she can be, but more than that, she must be good at reasoning and critical thinking.  Can she follow A to B to Z?  Does she want to?   Can she see the pattern of events, etc. without being hit over the head with them?

Intuitive. This trait has been much aligned, and sometimes rightly so.  “Women’s Intuition” is often dismissed, especially by fictional police and detectives as something to be looked down on, or considered just downright silly.  But intuition doesn’t spring out of nowhere with a full blown answer.  Intuition is what happens when our sleuths’ senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, etc and her understanding of psychology, and her critical thinking merge into an aha moment. That aha moment is intuition.

Curious Something doesn’t seem quite right, but what is it and why?  Something that is there shouldn’t be.  Or should be there and isn’t.  When something is out of her area of knowledge, she doesn’t pass it by, but asks who, what , when , where, why.  And can’t rest until she finds the answers.

 Tenacious Don’t tell my sleuth the case is closed.  Or that the police have done all they can.  Or that she should leave well enough alone.  That will just set her back up and make her more determined to bring the culprit to justice.

Ability to improvise or think on their feet.  Most amateur sleuths won’t consciously put themselves in danger, but if they find themselves in a sticky situation, they will come up with a way to extricate themselves and others.

Let’s see how my latest sleuth, Liv Montgomery fares on the list.

She has a strong sense of justice.   Especially since she’s moved to a new town and adopted it as her own.  No one messes with her new town or her new friends. She’s a town event coordinator.  As an event planner, she knows how to deal with people and being from Manhattan she uses her people skills (psychology) to keep them in line and keep their emotions in check. She’s intelligent.  You have to be to coordinate several events, food services, traffic flow and all the other aspects of a major festival. (critical thinking) These skills and her dealings with people and the necessary attention to detail that a planner must have, combine to make her intuitive about what will work and what won’t in an event and also in catching a murderer.  And because there are so many aspects of event planning that she must constantly juggle to make everything work smoothly, she knows how to think on her feet. And she doesn’t know the word “Can’t” (tenacious) Though she is a little bit of a control freak.

Of course there are other things that make a good amateur sleuth.

What qualities do your favorite sleuths have?

Next week.  Knitting, Cooking and Gardening, Oh My.



Why must amateurs sleuth?

Why do we willingly and enthusiastically suspend our disbelief to follow people just like you and me into a life of criminal investigation.

What makes us keep coming back to Saint Mary’s Mead and Cabot Cove? If we stop to think about it, Cabot Cove has more influx of new people and murders of the same, that it would put the town right up there with the Bermuda triangle.

Why do we think Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple, both lovely ladies who we’d want to have as neighbors (unless we were contemplating murder) are always finding bodies and discovering clues that lead to the villain?

Miss Marple Takes a Vacation

And do they really have time to knit and write novels when they aren’t investigating?

And what makes us want recipes, knitting patterns, craft projects, boyfriends, pets  and nosy mother in laws with our murder?

It’s ridiculous, would never happen, it just doesn’t make sense, totally unrealistic.  And yet those of use who read and write amateur sleuths, sometimes called cozies, willingly suspend out disbelief and can’t wait for the next murder to take place.

What is this phenomenon and how do we writers make it believable?

Back in the Golden Age of mystery, detectives were allowed none of these things.  They had a murder, followed clues and caught the bad guy. They weren’t allowed significant others, the closest they got to a girl friend was a client who was a broad with gams.  No book clubs, no cooking lessons.  No hunky detectives looking for love.

What’s a mystery to do?

Enter the amateur.

So what tears these ladies and the occasional gent away from their scrap books, candle making, geriatric nursing and makes them go after the bad gu

Something personal.  A situation where the sleuth has a vested interest in the outcome. That’s why so many series begin with the sleuth being the suspect.  Talk about your vested interests. Nothing will get you investigating quicker than the possibility of going to jail.

Someone she loves is the suspect.  Dear old Gran is found standing over the body of the milk man with a bloody meat cleaver.  Or Mom?  Maybe she hasn’t been acting quite herself lately, especially  since that new man in her life was caught in flagrante with the local librarian.  But our sleuth is convinced she’d never kill him, would she?

Someone she loves is murdered and the police (those men, and sometimes women,  who never listen) think it was an accident or arrest the wrong person.

Something is threatening her town or family or dearest friendsand the only way she can get to the bottom of the threat is to find out who really killed the victim. Think land schemes, politics, and capital greed.

Out Tomorrow

No wonder our sleuth feels compelled to investigate.  Nobody cares as much as she(and an occasional he) does.  We root for her because she’s like us, just an ordinary person with a strong sense of right and wrong.

Our Everywoman who stands for us all, who can bring justice to a world we can’t always control . . . . and doesn’t mind sharing her latest recipe.

What do you think?  Are amateur sleuths heroine material or are they just nosy busybodies?