Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just How Real Can It Get?

That's me and our Norwegian Forest cat, Sally, spending a snowy winter day enjoying the first draft of Jeri Westerson's new series, Oswald The Thief. If you've read my previous posts, you'll recognize Jeri as my guest blogger in the piece on crime in the Middle Ages. She's a terrific writer, and her new book is no exception. Having reinvented medieval mysteries by writing the first medieval noir series, she's doing it again by creating the first caper mystery set in the period.

Why do I get to read the first draft? Because I write mysteries, as well, (No, not published; I'll let you know) and we are two of four parts of the online critique group we've fondly named the Vicious Circle.

My story is a cozy mystery set in a small Oklahoma community. The protagonist is a middle aged, beekeeping, B&B owning widow. Write what you know, amirite? Except here on the Dancing Bean Ranch, the Top Hand (my husband, Bill) is alive and well and kept busier than he would like with my many projects. Pippa McMaster, my amateur sleuth, isn't so lucky and has to manage the fictional Dancing Bee Farm all on her own.

But back to Write what you know. How far can that old chestnut be taken? In a county where the Grand Jury just handed out indictments to various county officials, it's tempting to turn the situation into something more spectacular than it is. And with a little scandal brewing in an upcoming election for a local office, the temptation only grows worse. I don't write true crime, so I'll leave the details to the justice system. For local color, however, the allure of our little crime wave is irresistible.

And how about this one: a set of identical twins, two women in their eighties, who still dress exactly like each other. (At least in public, where I see them). Seriously. Not only do their respective clothes and shoes match, so do their eyeglasses, hair styles, jewelry and even shade of lipstick. Replace the smiles on those identical faces with a vacant stare , and you're looking at Children of the Corn: The Adult Years.

When the inspiration for colorful characters is as abundant as it is here in Pawnee County, it leaves only one question: how real can it get?