We’re still in Twinkle, Vermont this week, talking about the Twinkle Tavern Mysteries.
These stories adhere more closely to the typical cozy formula than the Nautical Namaste Mysteries. They will still intentionally break the rules here and there, but, overall, they are closer to the formula.
I started “Plot Bunnies” when I still lived in New York, so it’s been around for awhile. It’s a pretty straight shot up through Albany, a little higher, and then a bit east to get to Vermont, and I enjoyed time spent in the small towns.
I liked the trope of a small town full of eccentrics, and that’s what I decided to create — and keep.
When I started reading and enjoying and analyzing cozy mysteries back in the mid-90’s, one of the things I loved was that a misfit comes in and solves the mystery. Her intelligence and resourcefulness are appreciated, and she is accepted in this community for who she is, and can continue her growth from there.
What’s saddened and upset me in too many cozies over the last few years (in addition to the heroines getting dumber, more passive, and celibate) is that the misfit solves the mystery and then CONFORMS to the community, because she wants acceptance. Even though she’s smarter and saves the day, she has to compromise her integrity in order to become part of the community. As the books go on, she gets duller, blander, and more passive.
I’ve put down several dozen mysteries for just that reason, and crossed those authors off my list. I want to read (and write) books that celebrate individuality, not encourage conformity.
Gloria Dunkirk, my protagonist, has never fit in anywhere. Her son, Max, is also a non-conformist, at an age where it hurts to be just that. But she hopes that her example and her belief in him makes the journey just a bit easier. It helps that her mother-in-law, Violet, is also a non-conformist, and always has been. Violet was born and raised in the town, and her family has a strong history there, so she is one of the people who sets the tone there.
It’s not always an easy journey for them, especially since people grow, change, move, die, and there’s always someone around looking to change things in order to make personal profit.
Greed, be it monetary or sexual, is the foundation of most murders, so I guess one of the things I’m dissecting in this series is greed.
At the same time, I want it to be a bit more light-hearted than some of the other pieces I write (especially those under the Devon Ellington name), have more of a wry comic tone, and more of a sense of fun.
I drew a map of the town when I first wrote the story, and I’ve added to it as I kept working. It has the central green common in the middle of town, with the small businesses and services all built around it, and the streets in the village radiating from there. Twinkle Tavern and the Inn attached to it are perfectly situated to please tourists and still be a local hangout.
The characters are all different in their unique ways, and have found their way to Twinkle or stayed there after growing up there for a variety of reasons. Monica Dufresne, Gloria’s friend in town, is an aging ex-stripper married to a successful businessman. She’s not worried about fitting in; she’d rather be herself. Her insights provide vital clues to the murderer. Even Dean Eastlake, the sexy, hometown detective on whom Gloria has a crush, has his own eccentricities. So do his friends, and so does Chloe Rendell, the kickass female private eye in town following up on a theory about the murdered man who everyone thought was sweet and harmless.
One of the reasons the second story, “Labor Intensive” is still in revisions is because it took such a dark tone that it didn’t fit as a partner for “Plot Bunnies.”
“Plot Bunnies” is set around Easter; “Labor Intensive” is set over Labor Day weekend. Although I want to focus on minor holidays earlier in the series, I’m considering the third story set around Thanksgiving, which is certainly anything BUT minor in my life.
I have to let the characters tell me tales, and then say “what if?” and then write my way into it for a bit until I figure out the plot. Then I sit down and outline. Then, I go back and write.
For me, that process melds the best of planning with blank-paging. Besides, as far as I’m concerned, an outline is a road map, not a prison. I’m allowed to take an unexpected exit and explore if I choose.
There will not be a post here next Friday; it’s part of the holiday weekend. But I’ll be back in December, talking about Winter Holiday pieces.