Saturday, January 18, 2014

So Long and Au Revoir from Poe's Deadly Daughters

After seven years, Poe's Deadly Daughters are saying goodbye, but we hope it's not farewell for good. We've thoroughly enjoyed your company! Here are some of the places you can still find us and our work.

Sandra Parshall

I'll admit I resisted the idea of blogging at first -- but my first novel had been published, my second was coming out soon, and most of the writers I knew had blogs. My friend Lonnie Cruise thought a group blog was a great idea, so did Liz Zelvin and Sharon Wildwind and Julia Buckley, and all my resistance vanished. We fussed around with a name for a while, knowing we wanted to honor our mutual idol but unable to come up with anything that seemed right until Liz's husband presented us with the perfect moniker. We've filled this space for seven years as Poe's Deadly Daughters, stretching ourselves, exploring an incredible variety of topics, and making many, many new friends along the way. I hope we won't lose touch with the closing of PDD but will continue our conversation in other places.

You can find me spending far too much time chatting on my Facebook profile page:

Book news is easy to find on my Facebook author page:

And, of course, my professional website (which will get a major do-over for spring 2014) will always be available:

I'll pop up as a guest blogger for friends from time to time, and in spring of 2014 I plan to launch an individual blog where I will post -- but not on a rigid schedule -- about books, animals, and any other subject that I just can't fit into a short Facebook message. I'll still be around on DorothyL and various other mystery listservs. I'll talk to you there!

Elizabeth Zelvin

I've loved being a Deadly Daughter: having blog sisters, the ongoing conversation with readers, and feeling like a journalist--in fact, a columnist, albeit an unpaid one--every week. I'll still be blogging every other Saturday on SleuthSayers at
You can get the latest news about my mysteries and fiction on my author website at
You can visit me on Facebook at

All my mystery novels are available in both hardcover and e-editions. Many of my stories are available for e-readers, with more to come. Check out my author page on Amazon at

My most recent novel is VOYAGE OF STRANGERS. It's about what really happened when Columbus discovered America. Voyage of Strangers is available for Kindle or Kindle app on your tablet or other device.

You can hear my CD of original songs, Outrageous Older Woman, on my music website at Buy it there or look for Liz Zelvin on Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.

In my psychotherapist "hat," I see clients by chat and email on my therapy site at

Jeri Westerson 

I feel a little bit like I’m a rude party-goer, last to arrive and first to leave. I was asked to join this prestigious blog only a few years ago. At the time, I was writing three other blogs but I thought, why not? It was a privilege writing alongside some of the hardest working women in the business.

I’ve enjoyed my time here, and I'm still blogging, God help me. I’ve been doing my own blog, Getting-Medieval, since 2006, and don’t intend to hang it up anytime soon. It’s my little magazine of history and mystery (if you ever want to know the latest on medieval skeletons and other medieval news, that is the place to go!). Crispin Guest, my medieval knight turned detective, still writes in his “journal” every month or so. I am an infrequent Tweeter, a too-frequent Facebooker, a Goodreads lurker, and a new Pinterest enthusiast. 

You can find me at and for my Skyler Foxe Mysteries under the name Haley Walsh at

Sheila Connolly

I'm a latecomer to the Daughters (only four years tenure), and I was honored to be invited to join them. This blog had always been one of the first I checked each day because the posts were thoughtful, informative and consistently well-written--a high standard to match, and a worthy one to aspire to.

We have seen some extraordinary and rapid changes in the publishing industry during the past few years, and perhaps we have come to believe collectively that this kind of blog is not the best way to reach our readers.  Certainly the competition for their attention is fierce and constant.

I know I am grateful to have had the opportunity to challenge myself to write something each week that made me think, and I hope made others think as well.  We are all writers first and foremost, and that means we want to reach other people.  That won't stop.

I write three mystery series, a few of which you faithful readers have helped to make bestsellers; I also write short stories and standalone books. That's not going to change, all things willing.

You can find me on my website (currently undergoing a major and long-awaited overhaul) and on Facebook. I will also still be blogging at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen on Fridays, and on Killer Characters on the 25th of each month.

It has been a pleasure to share our journey with you.

Sharon Wildwind

The last quote of the week
To the make of a Piper
goes seven years of his own learning
and seven generations before.
At the end of these seven years,
one born to it will stand at the start of

And learning, a fond ear to the drone he may
have to parlay with old folks of old affairs.

It is said, "When a Piper plays, he's in touch with the past.
The sense of being at one with generations of long ago is totally
- Neil Munro, Gaelic writer, (1863 to 1930)

How fitting to be moving on after seven years. It has been such a pleasure to get to know all of you. I have profited so much by all of the comments and private e-mails we have exchanged.

I love the part about, after seven years, standing at the start of knowledge. That's the way I feel. I'm still trying to get this writers' thing. I look forward to continuing our relationship on my web site, and on Twitter @sharww.

Julia Buckley

It's been lovely sharing a blog for seven years with these fun, intelligent women who happen to share my love for mystery novels. I'm glad that Lonnie and Darlene have posted, as well, since they were among the founders of the blog, and it was Lonnie Cruse who asked me if I'd like to join the gang.  Thanks, Lonnie!

I will miss being a part of PDD, but I'll be around.  I have a new series coming out from Berkley next year, and I hope you'll watch for it either at my website,, or on Facebook (friend me under Julia Buckley or Julia Buckley mystery novels).  My twitter handle is JuliaBucks.  And I'll still maintain my blog Mysterious Musings, where I've interviewed close to 200 mystery writers. 

Happy New Year to you all!  I hope to see you all regularly in all of the cyber places where the lovers of good books gather to celebrate reading and writing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ave atque Vale

by Sheila Connolly

I first posted here almost exactly four years ago.  I was honored to be asked to join the blog, because back then I was a relatively new writer (my first book had been published a year and a half earlier), and I was still learning about the universe of writers and readers.  PDD’s writers had always struck me as thoughtful and intelligent and well-informed, and I had learned a lot from their posts.

Being part of the blog forced me to be thoughtful too. Sometimes it’s easy to toss off a quick post about whatever strikes your fancy at a given moment.  You can be cute and glib and make a few people laugh or smile, and then they forget about it.  There’s nothing wrong with entertaining people--isn’t that what fiction writers do?  But making readers take a step back and think is harder.

The world of publishing has changed dramatically in the past four years.  Early fans of Dick Tracy might have seen it coming (remember that wrist device?) but probably the rest of us who yearned to become writers had grown up with a very different model, one that involved sitting in an unheated garret with a quill pen.  No sooner did we think we had learned something than the publishing universe made a 90-degree shift and we had to start all over (more than once).  When we did master a medium, such as one of the social networking sites, it collapsed of its own weight or was taken over by somebody else or its managers decided it should be something different.

I’m sounding like a Luddite, aren’t I?  I embrace technology, and the expanded opportunities to communicate with many people in a timely fashion.  And there’s no stuffing the genie back in the bottle: the Internet is not a flash in the pan, but a part of our daily lives.  But that comes with its own problems, not the least of which is the demands that constant, instant communication place on our time.  We’re afraid we’ll miss something critical or be left out of the loop, so we’re always checking this or that.

And that can be a challenge for bloggers.  Remember when blogs were new? They were a novelty and a curiosity.  Then for a while, everyone believed they had to have a blog, or participate in multiple blogs, often egged on by their agents, editors and peers. Predictably, thousands of blogs popped up, and now it’s very hard to stand out, much less attract new followers. No one person can follow more than a handful—and that includes me.

So we at Poe’s Deadly Daughters are folding our tents and slipping away. (I was thinking of quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poignant poem The Day is Done, where this image originated, but since Longfellow tended to be a bit longwinded, it’s better to read the whole thing here. Don’t worry—the Daughters will all be around, just not in this space.

Thank you all for following us.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christopher Columbus and Me

Elizabeth Zelvin

As my blog sisters and I prepare to say farewell to Poe's Deadly Daughters and all of you, the readers who have joined us here, I'm hoping fervently that this is not the end of our relationship but just a bend in the road, a hiccup in our ongoing conversation online, with some of you in person, and through the books we all love. So this is not a valedictory post. In fact, it didn't even occur to me that was an option until I started reading this week's posts. I'm sad to see the blog ending and to lose the daily connection with my blog sisters. AND (as we used to say in the Seventies, when we first discovered there was an emotional down side to BUT), I'm excited about my new novel, Voyage of Strangers , the sequel to my short story, "The Green Cross", which first appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

SO (great way to start a sentence if you're writing a New York Jewish character--no comma, and it doesn't have to be a sequitur) here's how it came about that I wrote "The Green Cross." One night about five years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with an unfamiliar but insistent voice knocking on the inside of my head.

"Let me out! Let me out!" it said.

It was Diego, a young marrano sailor, who would board the Santa Maria with Columbus in 1492, on the same day the Jews were expelled from Spain.

"Leave me alone!" I said. "I don't want to get out of bed and write your story down. I don't write historical fiction. I don't want to do research. I hate research."

"Let me out! Let me out!" Diego said.

Eventually, if only to shut him up, I got out of bed and scribbled a few notes. In the morning, reading them over, I still didn't want to write the story. I hated research. But Diego's voice was still insistent. I went online and discovered that material was readily available. It even included portions of the logbook that Columbus himself kept on the voyage. Within half an hour, I had enough for that first story, which took place on the Santa Maria and ended with the sighting of the first signs of land.

In turn, "The Green Cross" led to its sequel, "Navidad," which also appeared in EQMM. The novel itself continues the story of my protagonist Diego and his sister Rachel on Columbus's second voyage in 1493-1495. By that time, I had changed my mind about research, having fallen under the spell that motivates writers of historical fiction, learned a lot more about the tragic course of Columbus's discovery, and become fascinated by the many details that were more mindboggling than any I could have invented. My character Columbus changed from a kindly father-figure with detective skills to an obsessed and deluded leader who destroyed an earthly paradise and committed genocide on its people.

Diego and Rachel, secret Jews and therefore outsiders surrounded by the Spaniards' Christian culture, come of age in this doomed paradise, experiencing divided loyalties, love, and heartbreak in the course of Voyage of Strangers. Rachel, who was born as I wrote the first draft, is one of my favorite characters among all those I've created. Her voice and Diego's got stronger and stronger. The story poured out of me--not my usual experience with the first draft of a novel--my hero and heroine's fictional adventures weaving themselves almost effortlessly into the fabric of what actually happened in history.

Unfortunately, in another of those stranger-than-fiction scenarios, as I wrote Voyage of Strangers, our own early-twenty-first-century world underwent a paradigm shift. The publishing industry imploded. By the time my novel was ready, everything had changed for both readers and writers. The agent for my mysteries was not interested in representing Voyage of Strangers. Over the next two years, I tried assiduously to find an agent or a publisher. I had some near misses, but the net result of 150 attempts was zero. Finally, I decided to publish Voyage of Strangers as an e-book.

My decision to publish Voyage of Strangers on Amazon for Kindle is based on my experiences with marketing and promotion in the digital age, both with e-publishers who have picked up my work and previously published works that I've put online myself. I hope that not only those of you who have Kindles will read it, but also readers who have or can download a free Kindle app on your computers or tablets, especially existing fans of my work. If you enjoyed my Bruce Kohler mysteries and/or my short stories, especially "The Green Cross," I bet you'll like Voyage of Strangers. You'll learn a lot you didn't know about the discovery of America. I hope you'll fall in love with the characters and that the book will make you laugh and cry. I'll leave you with a bright idea about time management for readers. Our blog posts on PDD average about 700 words. A novel runs 70,000 words. So if you take the time you've been using to read the blog and apply it to each of our latest novels (Julia's on Mondays, Sharon's on Tuesdays etc)--well, you do the math.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This isn't goodbye

The winner of a free copy of Poisoned Ground is Aubrey Hamilton. Aubrey, please send your mailing address to Thank you all for reading Poe's Deadly Daughters! 
By Sandra Parshall

Sitting down to write my last blog entry for Poe’s Deadly Daughters prompted me to look up my first – a post about the transformation of a novel into a film and why it shouldn’t be regarded as an assault on the original, unchanged work of the author. 

That first piece was published on January 24, 2007. So long ago. So many posts between then and now.

Letting go of something that’s been a major part of one’s identity as a writer is a daunting prospect, and it’s not something any of us on PDD is taking lightly. Like all my blog sisters, I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie with our readers, getting to know new people, stretching my mind by tackling subjects from the familiar (writing; animals) to the professional (the impact of ebooks on the publishing business) to the thought-provoking (recent discoveries about the function of memory, a particular interest of mine). I hope all of you have enjoyed my posts too. Your feedback has always been appreciated – and yes, I’ll miss PDD and its readers.

But it’s time to make changes and shake things up a little. The simple fact that most of the comments about our blog entries are now being posted on Facebook rather than the blog itself indicates that readers are choosing new ways to communicate. And that’s what we’ll be doing: finding new ways to communicate with our friends in cyberspace. It’s not as if we’re moving to a Siberian outpost without internet access. We’ll be around, and most of us will still be blogging here and there. After a brief and much needed vacation from blogging, I’ll be doing some guest posts when my sixth Rachel Goddard novel, Poisoned Ground, comes out March 4, and I’ll have a personal blog on my snazzy new website, which should be unveiled sometime in February.


So it’s time to retire the Poe’s Deadly Daughters pin I’ve worn to mystery conferences. (If anybody wants one as a souvenir, I have half a dozen I can give away. Just ask.) Despite a tinge of sadness, my strongest emotions are pride in what we’ve done here over the years and pleasure in the friendships I’ve formed with my wonderful blog sisters and our readers.

To mark the occasion of my last PDD post, I’d like to offer a free hardcover copy of Poisoned Ground to one of our readers, to be delivered when I receive my author copies in late February. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment.

Thank you again for your loyalty to PDD. I know we’ll be talking again many times, in other places.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

Sharon Wildwind

The weather is appreciably gloomy this morning: sleet, frozen rain, and a promise of snow and wind until noon. I’m rather glad. It fits my mood. If it were bright sunshine and blue sky, it would be even harder to say good-bye.

When I started here with the Daughters, I was working on book number three in my first mystery series. That series finished out at five books.

As I leave the Daughters, here’s what I have on the go:

  • Carrying the Blood - a stand-alone mystery set in a Calgary folk music club needs one more read through before it’s ready to go looking for a publisher.
  • Willful Missing - my first complete play will be entered in a contest March 1
  • Whiskeyjack - I’ve started work on the first book in my new series, set in a nursing station in northern Alberta. One of the main characters is from the Isle of Sky, and Burns Night is only 11 days away, so here’s a little bit of Scottish flavor to go out on.
Some ad is likely to pop up in the middle of this. I'd turn it off if I knew how, but I don't, so just click the little X to make it go away.

And here’s my deep, dark secret — I’m writing a little fan fic set in the Harry Potter universe. At my age? As someone in my critique group said, “Why the heck not?”

I know if I hit a rough spot in any of this I can call on any of you, and you'd be glad to help. That's what friends are for.

The same back to you. If I can be of any help as you write, please get in touch with me.

web: www.
Twitter: @sharww

Final quote:
© Photo Lance Keimig/Isle of Skye

Lance is a wonderful photographer who specializes in night photography. Check out Night Photography here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Farewell, Shakespearean Style

by Julia Buckley

We are all saying bittersweet goodbyes on Poe's Deadly Daughters this week.  As life would have it, I am also teaching Shakespeare's The Tempest, which is filled with themes of loss, sacrifice, and farewell, so I've been contemplating my farewells via the language of The Bard.

The main character of The Tempest is Prospero, a brilliant man who becomes a mighty sorcerer.  Some critics suggest that he is meant to be a reflection of Shakespeare himself, since The Tempest was his final play. While Prospero enjoys twelve years alone on a magical island (aside from his daughter and a monster named Caliban), and his personal power builds to a mighty climax, he ultimately sees it all as an illusion--"We are such stuff as dreams are made on"--and decides to give it all up: his power, his daughter, his grudge against those who tried to kill him, his spirit friend, Ariel.

Despite the enormity of his loss, Prospero sees that it is right for him to move on.  His daughter will marry, he will forgive his murderous brother, and he will return to Italy, where he plans to retire, and "where every third thought shall be my grave."

The beast Caliban, once Prospero's slave, will be left to rule his island alone, and Ariel, Prospero's beloved spirit slave, will be allowed, after decades of servitude, to fly away.  Prospero asks him to do one last job--to ensure good winds to blow the ship back to Italy. Prospero says, "Ariel, Chick, that is thy charge, and then to the elements be free, and fare thou well."

While we daughters were not mighty sorcerers, we enjoyed a special camaraderie here on the blog, which was its own little island in the virtual world.  We all feel, despite our enjoyment of the blog and one another's company, that it is time to move on (where our thoughts will not be of our graves, but of our new writing projects).  Like the other daughters, I will still be posting--in my case, at Mysterious Musings, a blog even older than PDD, but which has been mouldering a bit and now will be revitalized.  I have a new series contract with Berkley Prime Crime, and I look forward to writing about my experiences in the coming months.

I will miss being a part of this blog, which I like to think was a fun and interesting resource for those in the mystery community, and even for those who merely sought a thought-provoking post.  I will miss my fellow daughters, but I will keep in touch with them online (thank you, Facebook).

I wish all of our readers well, and to my wonderful Poe sisters, I say, "To the elements be free, and fare thou well."

Sunday, January 12, 2014

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

by Darlene Ryan
aka Sofie Kelly and Sofie Ryan

I was going to begin by saying that everyone dislikes goodbyes, and then I remembered one of my mother’s friends, who always said she didn’t mind goodbye because it just put her a little closer to hello again. This is my second goodbye to Poe’s Deadly Daughters. The first time, I knew the blog was going to continue. I knew I could drop by. I knew that I was just a few cyber-steps from hello again. This time however, it really is so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

My first post on Poe’s Deadly Daughters was as a guest in January of 2007, seven years ago. It feels a lot longer than that. Later, I became a weekend regular on the blog. I almost said no to that invitation. I was a Young Adult author, intimidated about being in the company of women who were more accomplished in a genre that I used to joke I couldn’t break into with a crowbar. But I swallowed down those fears long enough to say yes. And quickly discovered that I had found my tribe. I wasn’t just surrounded—figuratively if not literally—by five women who were doing what I aspired to do—publish a mystery novel. I had been embraced by five women who were happy to share what they knew, and to encourage me not to give up on my dreams.

In 2007, I had five books to my credit, but my first mystery wouldn’t be published for four more years. Now I have thirteen published books, with two more coming out later this year. That’s close to 700,000 published words and even more written and discarded. Back then the only name I wrote under was my own. Now I’m Darlene Ryan, Sofie Kelly and Sofie Ryan. (The Sofies have better hair than I do.) Sofie Kelly has made it into the top ten of the New York Times paperback bestseller list. That was a dream I would never have shared with anyone back in 2007 because it seemed so farfetched.

Seven years ago, I was the mother of a nine-year-old with a mouth full of braces. Today I’m the mother of a beautiful sixteen-year-old with straight, white teeth. Her orthodontist has gone to Vegas five times in the past seven years. I’m pretty sure I know who paid for those trips.

Four days before my first Poe’s post, my smart-beyond-his-years great-nephew was born. He’s either going to grow up to be the next Bill Gates or a real-life Iron Man. Any day now he’ll become a big brother for the first time: a joyous hello. Sadly, his great grandmother—my mother—who was so delighted by his birth, can’t remember that a new baby is going to join the family. Alzheimer’s Disease takes away another little piece of her each day in a long, slow goodbye.

There is a quote, often attributed to Chaucer, that reads, “There is an end to everything. Good things as well.” Poe’s Deadly Daughters is one of those good things. Thank you to the original daughters, Sandy, Liz, Julia, Lonnie and Sharon for letting me be a small part of what you created here. I hope this ending just puts us that much closer to hello again.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Beginning and Ending of Poe's Deadly Daughters

by Lonnie Cruise
Founding member of Poe's Deadly Daughters 

I was extremely honored to be a part of Poe’s Deadly Daughters when we began the blog and only left the group when I retired from writing mysteries. Each of us Daughters wrote very diverse kinds of mysteries yet there was that “Poe’s thread” that ran throughout.  Sort of like a dark cloak surrounding the group, holding us together.  If you’ve read Poe’s work, you know what I mean.  If not, you should get a copy of his works right away.  You won’t be disappointed.
I still write non-fiction for women, but mysteries are my first and greatest love.  I retired from writing mysteries because I’d pretty much said all I had to say in that genre, writing novels takes a lot out of everything in me, and getting published is tough, at best!  Still, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.  Holding the very first hardback copy of my first published book in my hands just one month shy of my sixtieth birthday, wow, that was something!  Meeting fans who were as excited to meet me as I was to meet them.  Signing autographs.  Giving talks.  Appearing on panels at mystery conferences.  Teaching classes on writing.  I dreamed of writing but I never dreamed those kinds of wonderful perks came with it!

Most of my life I enjoyed reading various mystery authors with wildly varied points of view and dreamed of writing my own mystery novels one day. But in the back of my mind I thought authors had to attend college for the purpose of becoming an author, and that if I tried my hand at it, the journalism police would show up on my front door step.  Thankfully that never happened.  What did happen was that I read two mysteries by different well-known authors but each with HUGE plot errors that their well-paid editors didn’t catch.  Hmmmm.  Could I do any worse?  Probably, but why not give it a try?  I did.  And five years later, after many rejections, tears, long hours at the keyboard, encouragement and help from other writers (writers’ groups ARE your friends) I had my first manuscript published by a small but up-and-coming publisher.  

I now have six mysteries in print, still available on, the cyber-heaven for all readers and writers. And I still pinch myself now and then when I think of those books, like this morning when I walked by one of the many bookshelves in this home and saw them safely snuggled in there.  Wow! I actually wrote six books and someone actually published them!  And people bought them, read them, and let me know they enjoyed them!  MY books.  MY thoughts.  Who’da ever believed that would happen?
Do I have a point here?  Yeah, stick with me, we’re nearly there.  I preach this to any and everyone who will listen.  Is there something you dream of doing? No matter your age, education, experience, or current circumstances? Writing a book, climbing a mountain, traveling to a distant dream place, starting a different career? The list is endless.  My point is:  GO FOR IT!  You might fall flat on your face.  So what?  You learned something, right?  And probably had fun while you tried?  And supposing you succeed?  Then, what happens to you after will have endless varieties and endless surprises! And endless possibilities to lead you elsewhere.  One of my fondest dreams had been to write non-fiction for Christian women, and being published in the mystery genre opened the door for that dream to become reality.  Two published non-fictions, one in the works! So go after your dreams and enjoy the ride, for the journey is as much fun as getting there! 

Thank you all for your loyalty to Poe’s Deadly Daughters.  May all your life’s mysteries be enjoyable and solvable!  And may all your good dreams come true!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Who Do We Think We Are?

by Sheila Connolly

We’re all writers here, which means we create characters from our imagination.  That means we observe and analyze people (hoping we’re not too obvious).

But I started wondering about how people choose to present themselves to the world, and I realized I had a perfect (if small) sample, when I was looking at the Personals section of an alumni magazine for an institution of higher learning that shall remain nameless. It’s not a very long section, tucked in the rear—I guess a lot of alumni, most of whom are older and/or widowed, don’t want to admit they’re having trouble finding connections in the real world.  The young’uns still have hope, so they don’t bother.

So these well-educated people have one column inch, more or less, to define who they are—or who they want potential partners to believe they are. I was curious to see what features the seekers believed were important.  Here’s a list of first words, most often bolded: 
Searching for
Warm, witty
A breath of fresh air
Warm, youthful (looking for someone 60-70)
Beautiful professor wonderful smile, contagious laugh, sparkling blue eyes
Smart and pretty, gracious warm and slender

This is the first thing you’ll see in a person’s listing; the opening chapter, in book terms, where you have to snag the reader’s attention and make them keep reading.

The next item is most often about the appearance of this person (each line comes from an individual listing): 

Radiant, inspiring, attractive, slender
Youthful, in shape, petite, brunette
Fit, very youthful (at age 70)
Stunning 5’8” blonde
Beautiful, outgoing, slender, fit, an eye-catcher
Handsome, intellectual
Dynamic and outstanding VIP, stunner
Exceptionally accomplished, beautiful blonde, slender, fit

Beauty and fitness seem to come out on top.  I suppose we all want that from somebody north of 60.

What are these beautiful healthy people looking for?

Love, laughter and a beautiful future
Professionally accomplished (is that a code for wealthy?), healthy, active
Nice, sensitive, warm, finds humor in banter and whimsy
Someone to help me make the rest of my days more agreeable
A world traveler, exuberant with international sophistication, who enjoys contributing and giving back
Authentic, intellectually curious, loves nature/outdoor activities
Rugged/masculine on the outside and sensitive, kind, with good values on the inside
Soulful, creative, intellectual, attractive, thin, accomplished

There seems to be a balance between those who will share the life of the mind and those who want to go hiking, at home or abroad.

Whether they know it or not, these seekers have written the beginning of a romance novel or twelve.  Only they’re not young; they’re on the downhill slope of their lives and they’re still looking for that elusive someone.  Maybe they had it with someone who is now gone, but hope lives on.

Why is beautiful more important than kind and funny?  Is nobody looking for someone who will make you tea when you’re sick, and take out the trash and clean the cat litter?

And why are these listings so sad to read? Is it because they’re fiction?  How many beautiful people do you know?  I’m willing to bet you know more kind, nice, decent, helpful, responsible people that stunners. But admit it:  you kind of like to read about the beautiful (if lovelorn) ones.

 Coming February 4th

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beloved Books

Elizabeth Zelvin

On the mystery e-list DorothyL not long ago, Josephine Tey's Golden Age mystery Brat Farrar became the subject of a prolonged discussion. It's come up more than once before. There's plenty for mystery lovers to say about this book. For example, is it the best of Tey's small output of eight enduring mysteries, or do readers prefer The Daughter of Time or The Franchise Affair? It's on any list of impersonation and inheritance mysteries, another topic DLers turned to recently. It's also a horse mystery. But none of that came up in the latest discussion. These avid readers and re-readers, myself included, were tripping over each other in our eagerness to say, not merely that we loved this book, but that Brat Farrar, both the book and its eponymous protagonist, were beloved. "I love it to pieces," one enthusiast commented.

What makes a book beloved? (And as a writer, don't I wish it could be bottled?) For me, the key is that we fall in love with the characters. As someone pointed out in the discussion I've mentioned, although Brat is committing a crime by impersonating a boy who disappeared for the sake of an inheritance, his reasons for doing so--his loneliness, his hard luck, his yearning to belong--immediately engage our sympathies. He is such an appealing character, so genuinely decent, that we quickly find ourselves rooting for him. And the people among whom he finds himself--except, of course, for the villain--are equally endearing: the kind of family we'd love to have ourselves if we were horse-loving Brits in the English countryside a few decades ago.

That's the first of my top three beloved books. The second is Gaudy Night, the next-to-last and richest of Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. It's the one that has prompted critics to say that Sayers actually fell in love with her protagonist. To tell the truth, I don't see what's so bad about that. Lord Peter, who started out in the early novels as a flat-character cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bertie Wooster, has developed by Gaudy Night into a startlingly complex character with such a finely tuned sense of honor in relationships that it's no wonder that Harriet Vane, who's been holding out since they met in Strong Poison, throws away her feminist scruples and falls in love with him too.

Harriet Vane herself is the other reason we love Gaudy Night so much. The setting of an Oxford women's college in the Thirties, when intelligent women were forced to choose between scholarship and marriage, appeals to the sensibilities of a twenty-first century woman like me. There's no murder in Gaudy Night, only an increasingly pernicious poisoned pen, a near-suicide, and a couple of assaults. These provide ample grounds for detection and free Sayers to write a multilayered character-driven novel that wins our hearts.

My third beloved book is outside the mystery genre: A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold's cross between space opera and comedy of manners, part of the brilliant Vorkosigan saga. Bujold dedicates it to "Jane, Charlotte, Dorothy, and Georgette"--the Brontes, Sayers herself, and Heyer, an author of Golden Age mysteries herself along with her lighthearted and durable Regency romances. Like Gaudy Night, it's a novel of courtship between two complex and endearing characters. There are some subplots of mind-boggling brilliance, dazzlingly imaginative world-building that provides a context for ideas and issues that are relevant to the present-day reader, and a cast of characters, Miles Vorkosigan's family and friends, whom I for one would be thrilled to take home with me. A bonus: the book is hilarious--laugh-out-loud funny--even on repeated re-readings.