This week: Nature's MysteriesEdited by: Jeff
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"The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense
of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery."
-- Anaïs Nin
Mystery Trivia of the Week: While August Derleth considered himself a regional writer whose most important work was a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writings about life in Wisconsin, his other contributions to the literary world have left a more lasting impression. After all, he was the first publisher of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, contributed to the Cthulu mythos, and founded Arkham House which was largely responsible for popularizing the publication of supernatural fiction in hardcover in the United States.
During a recent trip to Hawaii, I got to thinking about the natural world and the mysteries present in it. While the focus of the mystery genre is often on human developments and interactions like crimes committed by people against other people, motives surrounding human inventions like money or property, and human motives like revenge and redemption, the natural world offers a multitude of possibilities for the mystery writer.
The truth is, we're only beginning to understand the universe around us. Humans are constantly finding new species of flora and fauna in previously undiscovered corners of the planet. The solar system, and our galaxy beyond that, and the observable universe beyond that are subjects that we're only beginning to scratch the surface of. While ocean waters make up seventy percent of the surface of this planet, human eyes have seen less than five percent of what's on the ocean floor, not to mention the staggering amount of water in the fathoms and fathoms between the bottom and the surface.
With so many unknowns, there are plenty of opportunities for naturalistic mysteries that take place away from a predominantly human setting. I remember reading The Ruins by Scott Smith and being captivated at the events that transpired to a group of tourists who were merely trapped atop a vine-ridden hill. And I recently read The Beach by Alex Garland which also used a naturalistic setting to drive a compelling narrative with interesting characters. The Martian by Andy Weir is set predominantly on the planet Mars and involves surviving against an inhospitable environment more than anything else.
If you're struggling for story ideas, consider branching out into the natural world. Find the mysteries offered by the planet and its as yet undiscovered dark corners and use it as inspiration to ensnare your characters in a mystery.
Until next time,
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I encourage you to check out the following mystery items:
EXCERPT: Saying goodbye is usually the hardest part about leaving home. But unfortunately for me it was quite the opposite. The road before me was covered in a fresh blanket of snow, the sidewalk leading into town was perfectly smooth until I trampled over it in my furred boots. There were no street lamps filled with everlasting flame to light the pavement as there were in the bustling city I had left. The only sound I could hear was the rumbling of the bus that dropped me off, slowly fading in the distance behind me. I exhaled a deep breath, creating a small fog from my mouth. My stinging hands were tightly packed into the pockets of my fancy but hardly warm auburn coat. I looked like an idiot up here in the mountains, dressed as if I were about to shoot a cover for a fashion magazine.
EXCERPT: Marsha was mesmerized by the intricate black and white diamond design of the church floor.
Grant watched as she leaned ever closer; and then she went to her knees and placed her face no more than four inches from the marble.
They were alone in San Giovanni, the cathedral in the Italian town.
Winter light had vanished from the sky while human lights were quickly dotting the frosted windows of a thousand dwellings.
“Did you drop something Marsh?”
Grant’s tone weaved curiosity with some annoyance.
He was freezing, hungry and his visual stimulus meter had barreled through the red zone three sites past—two of which he had virtually no recollection.
“It’s this particular diamond I can’t figure out Grant; it shouldn’t look like this.”
EXCERPT: They had called her Wissy, because of her spectacles and because she had minus four, minus three point five. She was a nice little thing although they always teased her about losing the windscreens before her eyes. They did not sell that along with the specs, obviously, so they made a pair for her birthday. She smiled her little smile, attached both of them on to her glasses and swore she would never lose them. Which she did the following day already, so they made her a new pair, and again, and again. They teased her for years and years, her brothers, but they loved each other dearly and both mum and dad were happy with their brats. Just the ordinary nice family, just down the road, just outside Tempe.
EXCERPT: She sat in a corner of the cafe in the evening, an empty cup in front of her. The barman slipped a quick look at her as he wiped glasses clean with a large check red and white cloth.
She looked twenty two, her body almost entirely concealed in a dull wraparound, though her green blouse and trousers were visible at odd points her neck and sleeves. The cover was artfully draped round her head to conceal her hair tightly tied. Her hair was a rich nut brown.
Most striking was her eyes and their arched eyebrows. She glanced fitfully back over her left shoulder at the darkening street outside with its gathering shadows. Her nose was small with a small bulbous round tip, her lips full and sensual, maddened red. She rested her right hand, long fingers playing with the handle of the china cup.Her left hand gripped the wraparound self consciously.
"More coffee, Madam?" asked the barman, standing closely. - too closely.
EXCERPT: James found the place that he never lost. He had no intention of ever landing there. He had no intention of needing shelter from the elements. No, James was just an ordinary person on a journey of epic fear.
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Feedback from my last newsletter about Amazon's mystery section:
Marci Missing Everyone writes: "That is really great information. Thank you for all the research you did. "
You're very welcome!
Joy writes: "I sometimes buy mystery from Amazon, but I had never paid attention to all those subgenres. Thanks for the heads up, Jeff, and a great NL! "
DB Cooper writes: "You could buy my book at Amazon.Com but only from third party sellers because Amazon's vanity press competes with my publisher. OUTRAGE!"
Sorry to hear that. The tough part about Amazon's ubiquity is that if you don't play by their rules, it can be really hard to sell books and reach audiences!
Jkruse writes: "Thank-you for including my short story "Wake up Barton Fitch" in your editors pick, it was encouraging to my writing effort on this piece, which I am continuing to write. -JK"
You're very welcome!
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