Monday, December 3, 2012
Planting the seeds of discontent and motive are essential when writing a mystery, be it short or long. In my novella, Medium Rare, out today, I have sprinkled clues throughout the book.
Because it’s a lighthearted mystery, I dropped the body in the first chapter during real time, then flashed back to the year before and told the story straight through except for a few references to the past so the characters get their thoughts in play and their motives exposed. The ending is in real time, thereby making it a frame story like Fanny Flag’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
Every character in this book has good reason to shut the psychic medium up. She knows about each of them from the gentle to the lethal parts of their personalities. The characters are flawed folk who give themselves away as they interact with their coworkers in the little hospice office awaiting a change of venue. (There will be a larger building, but not in this book.) Because of the close quarters, rumors are easily overheard.
The hospice preacher/chaplain has a past that causes him obsessive concern when dealing with burials at sea—and smokers.
The social worker is a needy but loving adoptee, and her volunteer coordinator has a weight problem as well as a husband problem.
The psychic herself thinks she’s saving them from their worst instincts.
Most lovable is the hospice mascot, a stuffed—and I mean stuffed—14-inch green frog, constantly being dressed in costume to cheer up the group. Her wardrobe ranges from a wet T-shirt to show off her “golf balls’, to a biker babe outfit for Bike Week.
Penny Olsen, now married to her hero Cole, from Kill Fee, is the nurturing figure while she and her husband help Harper, the hapless Keystone Kop, solve the crime with logic and luck.
It’s a romp, but bits of wisdom are dropped throughout. My favorite is in this short excerpt:
At a Hospice Symposium in Orlando, Penny sits in the meeting room and observes:
The chaplains had eight people come forward, not to testify, thank goodness. Penny was always a little uncomfortable when that happened in front of her. What these two were espousing was learning to juggle.
The volunteers were each given one lemon at a time, then two and then three. After enough lemons dropped, and everyone was in hysterics trying to capture them, one beat-up, lopsided lemon rolled under the preacher’s chair.
Penny picked it up for all to see. “Defective lemon.”
“Denial!” yelled one of the ministers. “Good example.”
The other chaplain added, “What do we learn from this example?”
There were murmured answers, but nothing specific.
The chaplain adjusted his jacket. “We always remember the lemon we dropped. And that is how our families are coping.”
Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, Medium Rare releases today December 3. On January 25, 2013, Daughters of the Sea will be available from MuseItUp Publishing.
Visit Julie’s Web site at www.books-jepainter.com