Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sounds of Sub-Genre

To keep in line with my March Mystery Madness theme (sadly ending next week), I've decided to follow up my post on Poe by listing a number of sub-genres in the mystery field.  These sub-genres transformed and expanded upon the classic whodunit that Poe created, with authors who took the pandemonium of literary murder and restored order in their own unique fashion.  I can't say that I've read exclusively in each and all of these sub-genres, so I'll admit that I'll need a little Google help in finding some authorial examples.  However, I think when you read a diversity of mysteries, which all seem to involve a series of some sort proximating one main sleuth, you get a taste of each.

So without further ado, let’s break this down…

Regional Mystery

First on the list is the often missed regional mystery.  At least I tend to think of this sub-genre as often missed.  Why?  Because just about every mystery has a particular region in which the sleuth detects.  Except for something like Lee Child’s traveling ranger, Jack Reacher.  In any regard, regional mystery appears to expansive to always contain.  Take Jessica Fletcher’s [Murder, She Wrote] atmospheric blend of cozy and regional, where her cozy-style sleuthing takes place in the idyllic coastal town of the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine.  A defining characteristic of regional mysteries place a chunk of the setting as a character in itself.  In turn, this requires the author to shed information on the setting’s history, economics, and local color/culture.  Maybe those requirements are set above the actual mystery element, however, to a careful degree.  Still, those elements must be there and present, as they are what educates readers and draws color around the sleuth and his/her list of suspects.  Additionally, the regional aspect may also construct itself into the culprit’s modus operandi, as well as the list of evidence.  At least that’s how I see it.  A quick example: Honey Island swamp drownings in New Orleans and the bodies recovered with botanical pieces specific to that swamp region.  When I think of regional fiction I think of two authors who I recall shelving with a double glance at their covers.  Those covers were undoubtedly a sign of their regional based content.  First, Tony Hillerman’s settings take place in New Mexico and Arizona, capturing each of their local zest mostly through Native American culture.  Like I said, this is obvious from the cover but I haven't read him (only researched him).  That second example belongs to Elizabeth Peters.  From the covers of her Amelia Peabody Emerson books, you automatically gather that her regional sparkle takes place in sands of Egypt.

Historical Mystery

I think this sub-genre comes easier to mull over than the last.  They are mysteries that take part in a historical era prior to our own.  In a sense, historical mysteries go hand-in-hand with regional.  They both seem to call on an author’s affinity--or rapport--for a certain setting.  With historical mysteries authors can take their sleuth to China’s Qin Dynasty, sniffing for clues around the Terra Cotta Army.  Or see a sleuth in a lost tribe before the drought of Africa’s the Green Sahara.  Though I imagine that would be tough to pull off.  Nevertheless, some of the common historical locales of this specific sub-genre are European places like Victorian England.  The possibilities go on.  A loose example resides in Diane Wei Liang’s Mei Wang series.  Mei Wang is a private detective in today’s China; however, Liang fuses her protagonist’s personal struggles and job-related riffs with references to China’s outcome years after the Cultural Revolution.  Also included are mounts of discussion about the Red Guards, as well as references to the Tiananmen Square protest.  The only sad part is that the series is currently two books deep after its 2009 release of Paper Butterfly.  Just the mention of this series warrants a re-read.  Also worth mentioning off the top of my head is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Tess Gerritsen's The Bone Garden.

Cozy Mystery

Cozy mysteries are one of the most diversely themed mystery sub-genres.  You walk into a bookstore’s mystery section and see an assortment of murder mystery books adjoining murder and subjects such as sewing, knitting, baking, pasta, ghost, witches, librarians, cats, dogs; it just goes on and on.  Cozies are considered cozy because of their customary blend of light and comical tones.  That’s not to say that many aren't darker, like Charlaine Harris’s Lily Bard series.  Nevertheless, one common trait of cozy mysteries are the off-stage murders.  An immediate example of off-stage murders emerges in Rita Mae Brown’s cozy, Wish You Were Here.  The first murder consisted of a character‘s body found crushed in a cement mixer.  The main protagonist, Harry (she‘s a woman), never saw the body, but had it described to her--as well as the reader--second-handedly.  I should point out that one strong stipulation to the off-stage murder topic is during the final reveal.  It's here that the protagonist sometimes witness or cause the killer's own demise.  Nonetheless, the same example could be said about sex in cozies--which is usually off-stage also.  But that's another post.  However, the off-stage sex deal brings me to another cozy commonality: cozies are often explored by a female amateur sleuth residing in a small town/community.  This amateur sleuth knows the population and their individual ticks as characters, which helps guide her detection toward the murderer.

Police Procedural Mystery

Simple enough.  Mysteries underneath this sub-genre use a professional detective operating underneath the auspices of law enforcement.  Therefore, said detective has access to certain resources that an amateur--or good-natured P.I--would not.  Usually authors portray these departmental sleuths from a big-city precinct’s homicide division, whether the sleuth status himself as detective or lieutenant.  Nonetheless, narcotics, high-tech crimes, undercover, and vice make for conceivable intermingling into murder.  So you often get a blend of much more than a simple murder mystery.  The key of the police procedural lies in the detective’s almost step-by-step case-handling.  Under an authoritarian view, this detective responds to the crime, process and collects evidence, then follows suspects and leads related to the victim.  That’s my simplified version at least.  I won't go into the use of marking paint and traffic cones, blood splatter and insect evidence.  Nor case clearance rates.  It’s hard to find others who talk about this particular series, but one police procedural writer I love is Eleanor Taylor Bland.  She wrote the Marti MacAlister series.  The series follows an African American homicide detective through the streets of the fictional city of Lincoln Prairie (near Chicago).  There will always be series far popular than this, but I point this out specifically because it’s rare to find an author sporting a black woman as the resident detective.  Granted that Bland was black herself.  Nevertheless, Paula L. Woods and her L. A. detective, Charlotte Justice, are murder mystery sisters with Bland and MacAlister.  For more on women of color solving crimes click here.  

P. I. Mystery

So of course the P.I. mystery sub-genre is my favorite.  I like it because it has this lonely hearts taste to it.  Which I can identify with, and also why I would love to write a series in this sub-genre.  I learned to really submerge myself into hard-boiled P.I. novels through Sue Grafton.  Consequently, her Kinsey Millhone detective is high on my list of favorite gumshoes.  I was at a used bookstore recently where a customer asked me to recommend her a mystery to help her out of a reading slump.  Without hesitation I told her to start with Sue Grafton.  Needless to say, Grafton and Kinsey deserve a post of their own.  So I’ll rein back and stick to the topic.  P.I.  Private Investigator.  Characters working in this vocation need a license to sleuth gracefully; a vigilant comprehension of liabilities and insurance; and a profitable, operating niche.  Secondary requirements consist of a good camera, binoculars, digital recorder, and some powerful mettle.  Oh, and sometimes a pack of cigarettes and a liver that can handle alcohol.  For all it’s worth, the P.I. sub-genre is probably the most familiar and easiest to reference.  However, two examples besides Grafton/Kinsey are Raymond Chandler’s classic hard-boiled defining P.I., Philip Marlowe; and Valerie Wilson Wesley’s single mother P.I., Tamara Hayle.  Both show the range and spectrum of characters and voices you'll find in the P.I. sub-genre.  Before I move on, you want to know something funny?  Female private investigators like Kinsey Millhone unearths my need to listen to Giorgio Moroder and Joe Esposito's "Lady, Lady." 

Forensic Mystery

The forensic sub-genre applies a gamut of varied physical evidence to uncover its criminals.  Normally operated in a lab or morgue, an evidence tech or forensic pathologist concerns him or herself with crime-related matters such as the autolysis of a corpse, DNA, bones, fingerprints, and blood splatter velocity.  This science pushing sleuth also uses hard facts, as well as chemicals like fluoresce and cyanoacrylate vapor, to corner criminals with harder evidence.  Considering we're speaking from a murder mystery stance, in the real world these coroners and medical examiners spend much of their time in a lab or court room.  They use their services to aid law enforcers in building a solid case.  However, in the literary world these individuals take on the role of a gumshoe, following their own trace evidences and firearms examinations to the criminal.  It goes without saying that Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series is the king of this sub-genre.  Speaking of Cornwell, I once had a mystery writing instructor mention that she's mean?  Is that true?  Okay, back on the subject.  Tess Gerritsen’s use of medical examiner Maura Isle pulls her own weight, as well as Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan forensic anthropology series/sleuth.

That is it for now.  I haven’t forgotten about the Caper sub-genre which involves a complicated plan designed for a character to break into an impenetrable establishment of some sort.  It might be a little off beat to mention, but Eric Jerome Dickey’s Tempted by Trouble works as a caper of sorts.  It’s not easily recognized, but it involves thieves and an elaborate set of schemes used to relieve its characters of a financial, economic bust.  Naturally, it goes all wrong.  Then there’s the Suspense/Thriller sub-genre (sometimes subcategorized between Romance and Psychological Suspense).  I look quickly to my set of Greg Iles books, remembering the little old lady who suggested his book 24 Hours.  Needless to say, it took me less than five to read it because I couldn't put it down.  

Having years of bookseller experience, I know without a doubt that John Grisham is the defining force of the Legal sub-genre.  That’s not without a healthy mention of Michael Connelly and Lisa Scottoline.

Of course the subject of mystery sub-genres go on.  Listen, we could be here all day discussing it.  We could even have a sub-sub-sub-genre discussion filled with tiers and diplomatic ramblings on the details that make them all difference.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that the mystery genre is about chaos, puzzles, and the necessity to swerve life back into order.  Tact in themes surrounding social issues and personal disparities and you can't go wrong here.

The video below is one of my favorite summaries of mystery sub-genres, delivered gracefully by Lisa Scottoline...  

Each of us like our mysteries like our coffee.  So how do you get your fix?  What’s your favorite sub-genre and why?  Also, share your favorite author and what it is about this particular writer that appeals to you?  And if you like this post and found it entertaining and informative, please share it through the provided networks below.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Manga Mysteries ~ Sherlock Holmes Had a Niece?

Okay, for all the manga readers time to share a series I discovered a little over a year ago.  I almost looked over this one, and then realized my Comic Towel drawings were inspired by this style of art.  Blend that with my month of reading mysteries, and consider me encouraged to share Kaoru Shintani’s Young Miss Holmes (Seven Seas Entertainment), or its Japanese title, Christie High Tension (Media Factory).

Debutting in 2007 (it didn't hit the west till 2012), Young Miss Holmes tales about an aristocratic and--somewhat presumptuously educated--ten-year-old named Crystal "Christie" Margaret Hope.  She goes by "Christie" as a polite throw to English crime novelist, Agatha Christie; and it just so happens she's the niece of famed literary figure, Sherlock Holmes.  The homages to manga-Christie's character blooms rampant and clear.  Nonetheless, as a character who has her own, her University-level education translates through her unique ability to discern her surroundings with blade-like sharpness.  This ability supports her subsequent need to ask questions, leading to a performance of logical deductions and reasoning.  Have I pumped up Christie too much?  Probably so.  But I like her so I must continue.

On the other hand, her aristocratic upbringing translates into her freedom to roughly--but resourcefully--explore her talents with a decorum of respect from others.  Besides her exercised clout of owning the title as the niece of Sherlock Holmes, this exploration includes Christie’s need to run behind her uncle and his murder cases.  However, she often falls down the tunnels of her own hunches until she’s left to dig her own way out.  Which strengths my resolve for loving the mystery genre because it's always about characters thinking for themselves.  

Mutton sleeves attached, Christie is either cornering a jewel thief; deciphering a murderous lithograph; or pursuing Shintani’s twist on Holmes's popular case, The Hound of Baskerville.  And while Christie does much of her sleuthing to gain the approval of her famed uncle, she is not alone in her pursuits as she drags her unexpectedly self-sufficient teacher and nannies into her troubles.  Each and all done with some amazing manga-style flips, flares and wit.  Oh, and some hard India ink.

I am currently working my way through each story-packed volume with a balanced pace.  See, I confess that I sometimes read quickly through manga and graphic novels, to the point of walking away with nothing of use besides admiring the art.  Maybe because this is a mystery manga that I’ve decided to take my time, much like how I did with Tadashi Agi‘s thriller series, Remote, some years ago.  Nonetheless, from Young Miss Holmes, I find myself charmed with Shintani’s whodunit storytelling underneath his obvious, sparklingly admiration of Author Doyle's virtuoso.  Shintani does dip a touch into fantasy, but his stories are not without that cobblestoned London 1891 glow that's probably rarely seen in manga.  The amusing, over-expressed (classic in my eyes) construction of his line work carried each story just as cleanly as the stories themselves.  His style has the throwback appeal of manga from the 1980s, ala Project A-ko and Galaxy Express 999; and that, along with early 90’s style, appeals to me from a growing-up stance.  I should mention that I do adore Christie.  Or did you already figure that out?  Yes, she can sometimes be a brat.  Despite all of her intelligence, she’s still ten.  However, there is a compassionate side to Christie that is easy to miss.  One example lie in her encouraging words to her troubled, illiterate nanny.  Like I said, something unanticipated remains here beyond the mystery and comedic attitude of the series.  

Nevertheless, I love how outstandingly fun and hilarious this series is, as well as bewildering.  Bewildering in a good way I should say.  Whatever the case, Scandal’s “The Warrior” would easily describe Christie’s detective moxie.  After I finish Rita Mae Brown’s Wish You Were Here, I feel another episode of Christie coming along.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: The Writer's Life by Jeffrey Perren

This Writer's Life by Jeffrey Perren

Up before dawn — make tea for me, coffee for the wife. Check emails — marketing tasks, correspondence with beta readers, and miscellaneous. 

So far, that doesn’t sound very exciting. But that’s the business side of things. I leave as much of that as I can to my publicist — remembering how blessed I am to have one who loves my work.

Later, write or edit the latest story. Currently, that’s Clonmac’s Bridge, the tale of a maritime archaeologist who discovers a Dark Ages bridge near Ireland’s Clonmacnoise Monastery — and finds it perfectly intact. Soon, it will be a re-telling of the William Tell legend and later a trilogy set in the Age of Discovery.

But whatever the subject matter, the process is similar: research everything you can about the history, technology, and general society and daily lives of the period and people. Then, weave a plot within and around all that — filled with drama, romance, and ideas to enrapture the reader for every single page until the end.

Tall orders, all of them. But that’s what makes the writer’s life a glorious adventure all on its own. Visit places I’ve never been but want to see. Be people I’ve never been but strive to become.

Like life, the effort is three-parts tedium to one-part heart-pounding excitement. And you’re continuously trying to shift the ratio, despite the never-ending resistance of the universe to move it in the undesired direction. Still, you have to try — and try and try again. To give up is to decay, to die a little, on your way to complete dissolution. No profit in that.

It isn’t for everyone, for sure. It’s cerebral and emotionally taxing. It’s isolated and isolating, and it takes far more self-discipline than most people — me included — can manage on a regular basis.

No one orders you to write all day, every day. But if you don’t the page doesn’t get filled. You feel guilty when you slack off, and rightly so. You realize that no one, yourself included, is paying you to not write — neither in coin nor in praise. So, you pick yourself up by the bootstraps and plunge in.

Then, you find you’re enjoying the process so much you wonder why you procrastinated so long.

That’s one writer’s life, anyway. Your mileage will no doubt vary.

A maritime archaeologist raises a medieval monastery span from the mud of the River Shannon, sunken for 1,200 years… and finds it perfectly preserved.

What could account for this astounding longevity?  Why are his colleagues and the Church so desperate to prevent him learning the secret?  And why is his consummate lover his greatest enemy?

Griffin Clonmac will go through hell to find out.

He won’t go alone.  Inspired by a real discovery, Clonmac’s Bridge shifts between contemporary times and 9th century Ireland.  It tells the story of two men who struggle against envy and mediocrity--a millennium apart--aided only by a loyal helpmate and an unconquerable will.

An archeological thriller, a love story, and a pensée on society then and now, Jeffery Perren fans are sure to find this latest novel his best yet.

Jeffrey Perren

Excerpt from Chapter 1

     Mari Quispe looked down from the peak of a hill above an archaeological dig near her home in Cusco, Peru. She was the official head of the project, largely owing the influence of her father, but she had no illusions. Few would follow her instructions without it, despite knowing she was the most knowledgeable investigator among them.
     As her gaze crossed the dry expanse she saw her assistant climbing the hill toward her. She smiled down warmly. She waved a second then replaced her hand again over her thick eyebrows when the sun blinded her.
     As she waited for Sandrine to walk up the rise, Mari looked off into the distance. She could see the tall rocks of Sacsayhuaman rising from the desert-like ground, some of them heavier than 100 tons. The sight of the Incan site made her smile, just anticipating what treasures she might dig for there in the future.
     At last, Sandrine reached her and said without any chatty preamble, “I think we should shore up that section behind the corner.” She pointed. “I’m worried about the weight from the earth above.”
     Mari nodded her agreement about the cave. “We’ve made good progress. Maybe too good.” She checked the angle of the sun. “Do you think it can wait until tomorrow, or should we clear everyone out now?”
     She scrolled rapidly down a mental list of who would have to be contacted to do the work and how long it would take. She had enough men on staff to tackle it, but no one with the expertise except Sandrine and the three students. She didn’t want to spare them for that.
     Sandrine read her mind. “It will wait, I’m sure. We can get a whole day in today.”
     Mari thanked her and went off to find someone to take a message to town for the contractor. This high in the Andes and several miles from Cusco her cell phone was useless.
     One of the local workers told her the contractor was at a small house a kilometer from the site. She trotted off to deliver it herself, reaching the shack in a few minutes. She knocked on the door and out came the man, the leathery skin on his face looking flushed from drinking too much Chicha de Jora.
     She was still arguing with him, insisting over his drunken resistance that he start first thing in the morning, when a young man rushed up to her. He hadn’t bothered to knock on the open door, a serious breach of local manners. Mari suspected the reason. She turned to him, ignoring the barking coming from the contractor.
     He said, “It’s collapsed! The cave!”
     She rushed up the hill, her running feet barely touching the trail sloping to the dig. She rounded a turn a few minutes later to see a group of young men standing in front of the cave. She screamed, “What are you waiting for?”
     Mari hustled forward to the now-blocked entrance, transformed by the cave-in to an avalanche of dirt, limestone, and shattered support beams. She tapped the stone beside the entrance with a hand pick and waited.
     She heard a hollow echo, a good sign. The interior hadn’t collapsed, just the front. If Sandrine had been deeper inside she would be uninjured. Mari checked her watch. She estimated they had about two hours to dig her out before the air ran out.
     Her time estimate had been too optimistic.
     Three hours later it was nearly dark and everyone was exhausted. Mari was sure they were nearly through, though. They had opened up a hole big enough to admit adequate air. Everyone fed off her confidence and she refused to let up. She urged them on. An hour later, there was at last a hole large enough for a person to slide inside.
     She pulled Sandrine’s upper body by the armpits between her own legs and onto her stomach, then she grabbed her around the chest. She scooted backwards, pushing with her heels, dragging her precious cargo along, careful not to bang her friend’s head on anything.
     When Mari scrambled out after her, she saw Sandrine stretched out near the rubble, lying alone. The group of onlookers stood back several feet. No one was looking at the body. She was about to shout what idiots they all were but stifled it and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She worked at it for a solid two minutes, then paused to examine Sandrine’s face with the flashlight.
     She could see the effort was futile.

Clonmac's Bridge Amazon & Createspace Links

Inspiration of Clonmac's Bridge was a real-life discovery

Perren has always been fascinated by important archeological discoveries, and he found this one particularly interesting. Maritime archaeologists aren't common characters and they fit splendidly in the story he had in mind. 

Also, it’s set in Ireland, a land he loves very much. Like the main character, his mother's ancestors were Irish and he admires the people. But mainly, he wanted to tell about individuals who strive to give their best because they love their profession.

Reader Snippets

"Fascinating, detailed and complex, an investigation that takes us from the present day back to 9th century Ireland." Lili - Goodreads

"Perren's masterfully crafted adventure story covers more than just one marine archaeologist's discovery of a twelve hundred year old bridge. Flawlessly written and paced to take the reader on a journey of discovery with main character, Griffin Clonmac," Gregory Lamb – Goodreads

"Jeffrey Perren has created some fine, odious villains for his protagonists to contend with even as they explore and deepen their feelings for each other."  James Ellsworth, Amazon

Professor Thomas Payne didn’t intend to wind up dead on his caving vacation, and the truth he wasn’t the victim.  But proving his identity to the police becomes tricky after they pull his passport off the lookalike body.

Things go from bogus to baffling when as mysterious phone call at the crime scene leads to the arrest of the young scientist.  His fate seems sealed when the victim’s fingerprints match the professor’s work visa.

Intervention by the police inspector’s daughter frees Thomas to search for clues to prove his innocence.  So, it’s off around the UK with sculptress Terri, one jump ahead of the authorities--and running from his estranged sociopath father.  One slip and claustrophobia will be the least of their problems.

Thomas’ journey soon becomes as much about healing his troubled past as recovering his present self.  Along the way, he’ll battle betrayals by his envious staff, romance the rebellious artist, and suffer harrowing misadventures at historic sites in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Travel--even to find yourself--was never so perilous.

Jeffery Perren

Excerpt from Chapter 12

     “She opened her eyes again and searched discreetly for the man who had invited Thomas to the island.

      She was determined to appear casual, to keep her observer off guard. But the strain of waiting was taking its toll. With every muscle taut, she was beginning to tire. Relax, girl, just relax, she told herself. He’ll get here. And his face will tell you somehow whether he’s the one who put Thomas in the path of the police by false implication.

      She was glad now she’d stopped at a shop in Glasgow to pick up a change of clothing. The bikini top and shorts suited her purpose much better than her business suit. She flicked a look at the lowering sun and hoped she would still be glad in a little while. The weather in the Hebrides could change from bright to stormy on a whim.

     She tipped her head back and slowly moved her face from one shoulder to the other, like a delphinium following the sun. But she took no pleasure in it this time. It was a feint so she could look around again without seeming obvious. She was sure she would recognize the man who sent the email, though she could not have explained why. She saw no one nearby.

     Even during the summer, in late evening there were but a dozen people on the island that held Fingal’s Cave. This day, two were sunning themselves, but far from her. Most of the rest were clambering over the rocks, leaving the cave, trying to avoid slipping off the basalt columns and into the sea. A couple were already waiting at the shore. There was less ten minutes before the last boat left.

     Terri debated whether she should check inside the cave. If she stayed where she was much longer she’d miss the boat and camping on Staffa overnight could be suicide. She looked at the dark clouds in the distance and judged that trouble was on the way. Then she measured again how low the sun was. She’d give him another few minutes to show.

     When he didn’t, she looked at the boat anxiously, checking her phone’s clock for the fourth time. To avoid being reported by the tour boat captain she watched from behind a boulder as the boat left, then ambled back to her previous spot and lay down.

     Unseen, a man lying on his stomach watched her from the flat, tan bluff atop Fingal’s Cave.”


Death is Overrated Amazon & Createspace Links

The inspiration for Death Overrated

Death Is Overrated had its genesis in an old film called DOA. The protagonist is poisoned and has 48 hours before dying to discover who gave him the fatal dose. Perren spun that idea into a scientist on a caving vacation who is accused – through mistaken identity – of killing himself. He has to prove he’s neither the victim nor the murderer. That, combined with his insatiable travel bug, led to the characters and plot of this romantic mystery.

Reader Snippets

"The author has managed to create well developed, likable characters and scenes which are not boring, but realistic.” Teritree001971 Amazon

Death is Overrated is a great blend of suspense, tension, action, villainy and excitement. A modern day crime thriller with the heroic characters and daring escapades of a 1940's Hollywood film. Mr Perren writes in a style that conveys topics from the humorous to the philosophical with great clarity, accessibility and pacing.”  

Frank Palmer-White

Death Is Overrated by Jeffrey Perren is well made mystery novel full of twists and turns that will keep reader excited to the last page.” Denis Vukosav


Jeffrey Perren is an American novelist, educated in philosophy at UCLA and in physics at UC Irvine. The lure of writing soon outweighed everything, though.

He was born in Independence, MO right around the corner from Harry Truman's house. But then, at the time, everything there was right around the corner from Harry Truman's house. Right now he lives in Sandpoint, Idaho with his wife.

He wrote his first short story at age 12 and went on to win the Bank of America Fine Arts award at age 17. Since then he has published at award-winning sites and magazines from the U.S. to New Zealand. He has had short stories published at the award-winning sites Apollo's Lyre and Mystericale.

You can connect to Jeffery at...

Jeffery's Blog

Jeffery on Facebook

Follow Jeffery on Twitter

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Video-less Goodreads Tag

I was tagged by thefictionfairy to do the Goodreads Tag.  I looked over the tag questions for about two weeks and decided to do the tag as a post.  I use Goodreads mainly to keep order of the books I read.  I keep the receipts of the books I buy and write the date I started and ended, as well as the time I finished the book, in the back of the book upon completion.  So Goodreads was a digital way of keeping up, working in tandem with my manual way.  So instead of creating a video, I decided to just do the tag on Comic Towel to further share my reading--or mutual usage of Goodreads--with others.  So here we go.

P.S.  I’m not good at tagging, but I believe it goes without saying that you should freely tag yourself to a tag.  Now, let’s go.

1.  What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?
Concourse by S. J. Rozan.  Be on the look out for my March Mystery Madness book verdict sometime at the end of the month or beginning of April.  I gave the book 5 stars, upset that it took me two years to finally pick this book back up in the Lydia Chin and Bill Smith series.

2.  What are you currently reading?
Takeover by Lisa Black.  I’m sticking with my March Mystery Madness reading plan.  That includes reading the books as I listed in the post and maintaining not buying books until I catch up with these mysteries.  Okay, I did buy two books a couple of weeks ago.  (^.~)

3.  What was the last book you marked as ‘TBR’?
I don’t usually use the TBR section.  When there’s a book I’m interested in reading, I usually mark it quickly on my Amazon Wishlist.  However, I do have four books on my Goodreads TBR.  Apparently, the latest book listed was from March 7th.  It’s called Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li.  Maybe I should transfer it onto my Amazon cart now.

4.  What book do you plan to read next?
After Takeover, I plan on reading Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown

5.  Do you use the star rating system?
I do use the star ratings.  As I use Goodreads to maintain my books, dates, etc., I also use the star rating as well.

6.  Are you doing a 2014 Reading Challenge?
I’m not.  No challenges other than those that I give myself.  Which are usually not much of a challenge in the senses that I’m simply trying to prioritize my reading and book housekeeping.  March Mystery Madness is an example.  A successful one I might add.

7.  Do you have a wish list?
As stated, I do on Amazon.  I also have a full cart ready to make a $67 dollar purchase.  Before I buy the books, I’m contemplating turning the month of April in to Big Book April month.  

8.  What book do you plan to buy next?
Sure.  I’ll show you that cart I just spoke of…

1. Villain: A Novel by Shuichi Yoshida
2.  Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume The Cove by Andrew Chambliss and Joss Whedon 
3.  The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe (which I’ve wanted to read since the dawn of freakin’ time)
5.  The Ghost Children by Eve Bunting

Quite honestly, I’ve been avoiding making a trip to Barnes & Nobles because all of these books are in stock and I want to hold out until I finish March Mystery Madness

9.  Do you have any favorite quotes, would you like to share a few?
One comes instantly to mind.  In book #6 (The Capture) of the Animorphs series Jake was infested with a Yeerk.  Because Yeerk’s have a low lifespan outside of their necessity to recharge in the Yeerk pool, the Animorphs had to tie Jake up and watch over him throughout the wait.  One night the Yeerk uses Jake’s body to morph and take off in the woods.  Naturally, he’s stopped by the Animorphs, particularly Cassie in a great horned owl morph who states:  

That gave me shivers for miles as a teenager.  You could say that I wanted their friendship, too.  Then again, that’s why I loved the Animorphs.

10.  Who are your favorite authors?
Go ahead and put K. A. Applegate up there since I wrote the Animorphs quote.  Nevertheless, Naoko Takeuchi, Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Sue Grafton, and all hell… the list goes on.

11.  Have you joined any groups?
I have.  YouTube Book Reviews group.  Who’s Your Author?  J. D. Robb.  Sailor Scouts.  Afro Literature.  A few others.  I don’t participate in either.  Sadly.

12.  Are there any questions you would like to add?
Nope.  At least not off the top of my head.  Thanks to thefictionfairy for tagging me.  As well as an extended thanks to whoever created this tag. 

Are you a participate of Goodreads and would like to share your thoughts on it?  Have you read any of the books I've mentioned and would like to recommend others or how many stars you've given them?  Send your comments below.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Father Poe & Dic Dupin

1860s portrait by Oscar Halling
When I was too young to know any better, it didn't register to me that American writer, Edgar Allan Poe, is considered the originator of the mystery genre, or detective fiction.  When I was first introduced to his works, back in those ghastly (notice the word choice?) early middle school years, I instantly connected his creativity to that of Gothic horror and swirls of nasty, black ravens perched on iron fences.  The connection appeared that lucid, until I got the chance to dig deeper into his short stories as part of a high school theatre assignment.  Even then nothing about his short stories resonated with detective fiction in my hormone congested brain.  No, it wouldn't be until I became an adult with the taste of hard-boiled P.I. novels, soaking in the plethora of capillaries underneath my tongue, that I made the connection.  So while I do have my specific flavor (my love of female leads...) and a set of caveats (...where romance is handled judiciously), mystery fiction was in my bloodstream by then.  So one college-aged year I had to give Poe a suggested third look; naturally, with Poe’s 1841 short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”.  As I close in on my March Mystery Madness readings, I thought it made sense to revisit and write a short post on this peculiar--yet eye-opening--story.

The "Rue Morgue", lead my Poe's mostly observant-style narrative, introduces us to the extraordinarily keen first sleuth of the literary world, C. Auguste Dupin.  Nope... not Sherlock Holmes, though apparently Doyle bit some of Dupin's flavor to construct Holmes.  Nonetheless, after pages of crowded exposition, servicing Poe's commentary on analytical thinking, the "Rue Morgue" opens with Poe and his French pal, Dupin, having an unhurried stroll through Parisian streets.  Having met and become acquainted with Dupin in the past (through the mutual taste in a library book), Poe arrived in Paris to spend time with the friend that he soon describes as having a "diseased intelligence" and "rich ideality".  Dupin demonstrates those two expressions during their stroll, astonishing Poe with what he first took as Dupin reading his mind.  I won't spoil the fun of witnessing Dupin at work on a bawling Poe.  However, it's not until the two come across a local newsletter that Dupin's "intelligence" and "ideality" skills are truly demonstrated, giving mass to his literary role as the first literary detective written.  

Pausing in their stroll, the two peer through said newsletter that details the locked-room double murder of two women--mother and daughter--in an apartment not far from the city.  It appears that the mother was thrown through an open window, her head nearly severed upon landing.  Whereas the daughter was beaten, then in a puzzling manner, partly stuffed head first up a chimney.  Short of consumed by the horrific details (particularly in relation to the 1800s time period and the conception of murder itself), Dupin's calculating mind doesn't go without notice to Poe as Dupin's practicable questions about the murders stir.  As used in the actual text, Dupin takes note of the mentioned clews, which appears unforeseeable by the Paris policemen investigating the case.  Their dumbfounded response to the murders further interest Dupin in striking a possible conclusion.  

The following day, Poe and Dupin obtain more details concerning the double murder as the daily newsletter lines up a list of individuals who reported to the scene within the time frame of the murders and its unveiling to the immediate public.  As the newsletter keys into the nationality, language, and witness statements of the listed individuals, Dupin ruminates on each statement and whatever inconsistencies he notices.  Finally, Dupin decides that the best way to assist the police in finding the culprit is for him and Poe to pay a visit to the apartment where the murders took place.  So on leads Dupin's need for explaining "the nature of inductions" involving the murders and the clews scattering the wrecked room.  And that is just what he does as Poe follows Dupin in his investigation.  So as not to spoil anything, I'll leave it at that.  However, be ready for a surprise, delivered by Poe's crafty writing.

Following “Rue Morgue” were two other short stories featuring Auguste Dupin.  Those were “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter”.  Combined, the three are known as “The Dupin Tales”, and are acknowledged as the beginning of classic detective fiction.  As mentioned, Poe's Dupin character is the influence behind Sir Arthur Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  Nevertheless, both applied the staple elements to solving literary murder.  And while those staples have transformed today, I believe a cunning eye, deductive reasoning, scientific hypothesizing, and sleight interrogation skills never changes.  It all originated with Poe's Dupin and his linchpin locked-room mystery that makes “the impossible made possible”.

"He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole.  Thus there is such a thing as being too profound.  Truth is not always in a well.  In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial.  The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found.  The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies.  To look at a star by glances--to view it in a side-long way, by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the start distinctly--is to have the best appreciation of its lustre--a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it."

This quote is Poe's "simple" way of illustrating how to the truth behind any murder mystery is always on the surface, and something I would hope to keep in mind if I ever got the opportunity to craft my own as eloquently.

Have you experienced "The Dupin Tales"?  What was your take?  Or favorite of the three short stories?  

Also, while he was short-lived, do you think Dupin would've made for some heavy competition with Sherlock Holmes?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Thinking Punch

Let’s repurpose this for a minute as I ponder why I've always loved learning Japanese, as well as why I find it frustrating but loving.

Everyday interactions activate an individual’s language and critical thinking skills.  We communicate through language skills, interpreted through talking, listening, writing, and--my favorite--reading.  They combine to keep language whole within the definitions of those who speak them.  However, as languages are diverse, critical thinking skills in each element of communication increases in the wake of language exchange.  As we learn new languages we have to apply critical thinking to interpret pieces of the opposite language.  It is these pieces that we manage to interpret, which builds within the vocabulary of our respective language, and must have its context within communication diagnosed for our understanding.  Simply put, we comprehend the meaning of a foreigner’s statement through the interpretation of one word.  This process is activated by critical thinking.

Nevertheless, we gather the diversity of other languages through teaching.  The standard of teaching does apply critical thinking; however, it becomes initiated through processes consisting of creative, procedural, and often specific and direct means.  Practical ideas from teachers merge into each process, and the student learns the language through his or her learning regiment.  Whereas the student may not pick up on every word, those taught become better able to find his or her interpreted counterpart throughout communication with another.

According to Behruz Lotfi, Habibollah, and Mohammad: “the main aim of second language education along with other pedagogies is to produce and create creative and critical learners… it proved necessary to give a detailed explanation about the concept ‘critical thinking’, and then, critical thinking activities, and that how using them helps learns integrate language skills.”

Behruz Lotfi, Habibollah, and Mohammand believed strongly in the ability to integrate language through the use of critical thinking.  As learning language diversity tends to active our productive and receptive skills, the access to those pieces of words produced by critical thinking molds a student to real-world communication outside the classroom.

Language can empower and limit the expression of our thoughts in various ways.  Because learning a language activates both critical thinking and creative participation, it is a process that engages expressions and thoughts.  We learn through our individual and personal processes, each seen differently throughout taught piece of active learning.  As our thoughts connect with learning new languages; learning languages builds inner confidence by expanding our awareness and knowledge of language and different mechanisms of communication.  The process also allows one to discover where his or her gaps in learning are; therefore, students can tackle their weaker points to further increase their ability and self-assurance.

Furthermore, languages empower our expression of thought as it stimulates our learner’s minds, causing us to be receptive to assimilating culture expressions.  With that knowledge of culture do one’s worldly sensibilities expand, producing worth within the self-aware.  Nevertheless, while language has the potential of expanding one’s confidence and self-worth, being unreceptive to differences languages can limit a person.  Diversity is ever present in a person’s daily existence, and to only acknowledge what one has known from birth often leads to discouraging expressions of thoughts, which usually becomes viewed as owning prejudices against others.

Because critical thinking consist of branching concepts and ideas produced to give meaning and definition to a statement or question, its ability to persuade others lies in the careful examination of the subject.  Evidence, fallacies, and reasons become produced because of critical thinking and its use to persuade others.  Because critical thinking requires conscious thinking the proficiency needed to persuade another must be clear with each avenue of reason presented strongly and with evidence.

Language does much more than help us communicate; it activates every aspect of our thoughts, emotions, and practical thinking.  With the addition of critical thinking, languages helps individuals approach learning and acceptance of others, whether it is through narrow reasoning or vastly broad ones.


Kirby, G. R., & Goodpaster, J. R. (2007). Thinking: An interdisciplinary approach to critical and creative thought (4th ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Behruz Lotfi, G., Habibollah, M., & Mohammad, D. (2010). Using critical thinking activities as tools to integrate language skills. Sino-Us English Teaching, 7(4), 33-45. EBSCOHost.

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