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Monday, September 7, 2009

Mystery Family Tree - Debut

First, I wish you a great labor day.  Are you enjoying the last of the warm weather with a picnic or grilling?  Smelling the air for any hints of autumn arriving and feeling the change of the season creeping up on us?

Secondly, welcome to the debut of Mysteries and My Musings Blog!  I had put off doing a blog - the idea of a blog made me feel so exposed.  But I am taking the plunge now and am a bit giddy over my premier issue.  I truly hope you like it.

I am using this blog to also keep myself accountable in the writing of my suspense novel.  The working title is The Society and I am  6783 words into it.  I wrote approximately 870 words last week.  I will report in next Monday with how many words I write this coming week.

Now on to the main topic.  After tossing and turning over what my very first blog should be about, I finally settled on my family tree - my mystery family tree that is.

My Mystery Family Tree

It is important to know your roots, your heritage, the stock you are descended from, even as an author. The Mystery Family Tree in my case. There is a sense of completeness in knowing where you come from. As the saying goes “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” So as a mystery author what legacy have I inherited, where did I come from?

Every family has the kooky member, the loud drunk, the embarrassing black sheep and even the uptight buttoned-up stuffed shirt. But when we start talking about a mystery family tree anything can surface! Have you ever noticed that families can disagree among themselves, but don't anybody else attack or disparage somebody in the family? With that in mind, I am giving you a peek inside my family with some trepidation.

Many mystery aficionados already know that Edgar Allan Poe is considered the father of mystery fiction. It is no different in my case. Thanks Dad, you have left a tough reputation for all your children to live in the shadow of. The “locked room” puzzle moved mystery into an exploration of the criminal mind. Father Poe (this is perhaps the only public figure that it feels odd to not use the full name when referencing) challenged his progeny to make the mystery not only a good tale but a brainy ride.

If Poe is the father of my mystery family then Dame Agatha Christie is my mother. Ms. Christie gave to me the cozy style mystery with the beloved Miss Marple. Hercules Poirot is equally as important and everlasting with his exotic ways and “consultant” status. I still stumble over how to pronounce his name after all these years of practice!  The gene pool got quite an infusion from Mother. I am forever thankful and somewhat in awe of her talent. 

Anna Katherine Green “The Leavenworth Case” (1878) was the first woman to write a detective novel. I honor and bow to Ms Green, my predecessor. Before Dame Agatha ever set pen to paper Anna Green charted new territory for women. She was a pioneer, a bestseller, and wrote forty books in her time. She left a tremendous legacy for a woman in the late 1800s in a male dominated industry. I see her as my older sister who blazed some rough trails before me. The younger sibling always benefits from the efforts of the older brothers and sisters! Thank you so much Anna, big kiss.

Most everyone has heard of Father Poe and Mother Christie, a few may have heard of Anna Green.  But they were not the authors who took hold of me when I was young and made me a true mystery child. You know how it goes, kids don’t appreciate Mom and Dad until they mature and older sisters are hard to live up to. Phyllis A Whitney is the favorite aunt of my Mystery heritage. I devoured her books. She received the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award in 1988 and wrote for both teens and adults. I could read two or three Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/Three Investigators a day, but I savored Ms Whitney’s books like premium chocolate milk or a hard earned Little Debbie.

The Secret of Haunted Mesa, The Secret of the Spotted Shell and Step to the Music are still in my memory. Visit Phyllis A Whitney’s official website for a listing of her books ( if you wish to be nostalgic. Looking over the young adult book covers is somewhat like rummaging through a box of old family photos – look at those clothes! Did they really style their hair that way – on purpose? Like a favorite aunt, she heavily influenced my view of the mystery world. She spoiled me with a taste for the gothic touch and heart-pounding suspense.

I have a favorite uncle as well, Ellery Queen. I confess that I first was introduced to Ellery through the old television shows starring Jim Hutton then read the books. This amiable and likable sleuth won me over. As uncles go he was fun, fascinating and quirky.

Some family members I am closer to than others and some I need at certain times. When I have had a hard day who do I turn to? A cozy sister or two just takes the edge off. They are comforting with a cup of tea. I can throw myself into their world with their wacky neighbors and friends and tension just disappears - like some of their acquaintances!

But when I want to spice up my life, need to feel my blood pumping a bit there is nothing better than a visit with a suspense black sheep member. They are always walking with danger and flirting with bad influences. Family reunions are never dull with these guys around. James Patterson and Dan Brown are the successful black sheep cousins that the family is talking about. Whispers of “I heard they got a huge advance and are already talking a movie deal!” can be heard. But Jeffery Deaver is the quiet one that I sit in the corner with talking.  He tells me stories I can't get out of my head.  How much have these black sheep shaped this little mystery child's psyche other than just with a smidge of envy? I have learned from them and taken away what lessons applied to me. Shhhh, don’t let on I have taken any lessons from such rapscallions.

There are a few family members that I only talk about in hushed whispers. They are the brothers and sisters know...see and hears things the rest of us don't. The paranormal members of the family are fascinating and I can't get enough of them. I have heard it said they were left on the doorstep late one night or that they are changelings the faeries have swapped babies with. But no matter – they are part of my big family now and I love them and spend plenty of time getting to know them.

Growing up their have been many friends that have shaped my mystery life and view. Mary Higgins Clark was a positive influence, the kind that parents approve of to drive to the movies. James D Doss and Tony Hillerman expanded my universe like college classmates do. Hillerman/Doss were more like brothers to me. I mourned when I and every other mystery child lost Tony.

Now I have multitudes of associates, friends and co-workers in the mystery world and they continue to challenge me and expand my mystery world, enriching my life.

I am sure I am not the only one with a rich mystery family tree. Please take a moment to share. Who was your favorite aunt or uncle or maybe the black sheep who influenced you as a young person?  Who were the “friends” that started expanding your mystery universe?

Thank you for visiting this blog – I am grateful for your stopping by and spending some time with me. See you Thursday for a book review.   I wish you many mysterious moments until them.

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Beth Solheim said...

Great blog! Congrats on the launch. I'll follow you faithfully. I have a wacky Aunt Celeste and one of my characters in my cozy mystery is based on her antics.

You have a delightfully rich family tree and a good group of mystery mentors. Good luck with your WIP.

Patg said...

Great blog, interesting, and as you well know, that's saying something. I started with Phyllis Whitney too. Wasn't she great. And since I'm interested in genealogy, I think I'll work on my own tree.
If you find the subject interesting than maybe you'll like The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. About a forensic genealogist. This book was wonderful, not sure about the second. But book two frequently are harder than say third or fourth.

Anonymous said...

Great looking blog and an interesting, entertaining launching post.

You've named many of my favorite authors, too.

As for personal genealogy, nothing was more fun that sitting around listening to my mom and her sisters trying to figure out just exactly where Uncle Lucius fit into the family. Never figured it out.

How often will you post?
Best, Lyn

A.F. Heart said...

Thank you for the kind comments. A forensic Geneologist - how fascinating. I am going to check that one out all right. Great tip.

In answer to Anon - I will be posting Mondays with "Musings" such as this one, and Thursdays with a book review. I look forward to sharing more with each of you.

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