“Murder. Theatre. Solitaire.” An Overview

As I put the final touches on the formatting for my upcoming novel, (and prepare myself for the possibility that unseen mistakes will still have to be corrected in the coming days), I thought I’d take some time to acquaint you with Murder. Theatre. Solitaire. (No spoilers, of course.) Some of this I’ve mentioned before, but not all in one place, in one appeal.

It began life as a Nanowrimo project a few years ago. I had no intention of publishing it at that time. It was at first merely a challenge to myself. I had up until that point reached the word requirements for Nano multiple times, but I had never completed an entire book during November. I was determined to write an entire novel, beginning to end, within the time period. That’s why I opted to try a mystery. The genre, it seems, lends itself well to the “this happened and then this happened” flow which would be crucial in finishing a whole story so quickly.

Yet only if it wasn’t an in depth procedural. That would have required more research, and besides, Nano or not, I’m not interested in writing one of those. I knew I wanted to focus more on character and less on procedure and bureaucracy and such. Plus, I didn’t want to pursue the story from the perspective of the police. That, to me is a difficult perspective to get correct, and the focus is extra sharp from readers. I felt I would have more freedom to go the “amateur” route.

I won Nano with this idea, but thought no more about it, until months turned into years on my planned second novel, and it became clear that “Novel 2” simply wasn’t going to work. Reboots and all, I just couldn’t make it happen, and the rest of my writing was being delayed because of it. So when I finally iced that, I thought my first ever mystery deserved a chance at life beyond Nano after all. I began the usual editing and revising process on it, and here we are, less than a month from launching it.

I’ve been calling it a “quasi-cozy” mystery. It does have several elements of the “cozies,” amateur sleuth, less gore, unified setting, and so on. Cozies have anywhere from a slightly lighter tone, to a straight up darker-comedy vibe. (Like the movie “Clue.”) Those qualities appealed to me, even when this was just a Nano experiment.

Yet it is not totally a “cozy.” I don’t know if i can give many reasons why it isn’t without giving away plot points, but suffice to say, I bent or even ignored the conventions of the cozy mystery when I felt moved to do so. I started there, but chose to go in the direction the story took me, for the most part.

It’s on the shorter end of the novel spectrum, at about 54 thousand words. The story, though third person, is from the perspective of Milton Crouse, a regional, semi-professional theatre director. Milton has been working too hard lately, and his sister has insisted he take a break from theatre work for a while, so he can collect himself. He reluctantly agrees, and his sister books him for a week in November at a Vermont mansion turned retreat known as Elwood Mansion. He is forbidden to take any theatre related material with him.

He’s allowed to play cards though, which he does frequently wen trying to relax or think. Experienced in almost all versions of solitaire, Milton is rarely without a deck of cards, wherever he goes.

Yet not long after his arrival at the modest but comfortable “mansion,” one of his fellow winter guests turns up dead. A blizzard delays the police from getting in, and him from getting out. While stuck there, Milton begins to use various skills and instincts he’s developed from years in the theatre to determine who the killer may be…and if said killer is still on the property.

As with most of my fiction, I’ve gone to great care with all aspects of this story, but especially into the characters. I’ve often said that if people read my fiction, and enjoy who they have spent time with, (my characters), and find them real and memorable, I’ve done my main job as an author, and can forgive myself for other bumps in a manuscript. That being said, by the nature of the genre, this is one of the more plot-oriented pieces I’ve ever written, and I’m proud of how it turned out.

The audience for this one? Those looking for a shorter, fast-paced read. Those who enjoy character-driven situations and frictions. Mystery readers looking for an entertaining read that hearkens back, (if I’ve done my job) to the smaller literary mysteries of old. It might even make a good beach and/or airport read, though hopefully it will stick with you longer than most books so categorized.

As with Flowers of Dionysus I might post a few brief character overviews between now and the book’s release, it depends on how much time I have. But hopefully this by itself is enough to whet you interest.

I look forward to making it available for purchase next month.

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