Tag: A Death in Duck

Dingbatters and Duck Dialect

Agatha Christie was a shy person. Clever as her mysteries were, she felt that, in real life, her wittiest remarks and most amusing observations always came to her too late–when she was alone at home or long after she’d left a dinner party. Part of the reason she loved to write was that she could use these slightly-too-late bits of dialogue for her characters. I, too, love to take a phrase that didn’t come out quite right when I said it, polish it until it gleams, and then put it into a story. Or, better yet, to steal a great turn of phrase I overhear and put it into the mouth of one of my characters. Writers are a bit like magpies, always on the lookout for shiny objects to add to our collections.

A great joy of writing the Lindsay Harding series is that the books are set in different locales around North Carolina. This has allowed me to play with not just dialogue, but with dialects. This was especially true of the second book in the series, A Death in Duck, which opened my eyes, or, more appropriately, my ears to the High Tide/Hoi Toid accent of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

To write dialect is to walk a fine line between authenticity and reader comprehension. For example, it may be authentic, but the dialogue in James Joyce’s writing has baffled readers for almost a century.

“That made him mad, and he said, liter’ry tone be durned.”

“Thunderation! Keep the durned millingtary step.”

Say what?! I’ve never been able to make it through Joyce’s classic Ulysses because the whole book is populated with incomprehensible jargon and phonetically-rendered accents.

My solution for the native ‘Banker characters in my book is to sprinkle in the occasional regional word–e.g. “dingbatter” to mean “outsider,” “whomperjawed” instead of “crooked”–to give the reader an authentic sense of place. And when the accent is first introduced, I explained the sounds this way:

“Well, you must be Little Miss Lindsay, all grown up,” he began. “I remember seeing you around when you was just a tiny, little thing. Have to say, you got your mama’s good looks. I’d’ve almost reckoned that that was a young Sarabelle Harding sitting there by the fire.”

Even after many decades of living in Duck, Butterworth’s High Tide brogue hadn’t been altered in the slightest. For him, “fire” was “foyer” and “sitting there” was a single word— “settinehr.”

I’m not saying I’m a better writer than Joyce, but if you’re looking for a book to take on your Outer Banks vacation and read on the beach while sipping a cold beer, might I humbly suggest you choose A Death in Duck over Ulysses?

If you’ve never heard the unique Hoi Toid accent, take a listen: http://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/hoi-toider-ocracoke-brogue-in-north-carolina.

Hoi Toider Accent

Far out, huh?

You will never find closure

The vet school where I work when I’m not writing the Mount Moriah Mysteries runs a Pet Loss Hotline, and I sometimes volunteer there. Many of the callers use the hotline to support them through the acute, initial phases of grief. The sympathetic ear we provide can be particularly helpful if the pet’s death has been traumatic or sudden, or if the owner’s friends, coworkers, and family are the kind of people who think they’re being helpful when they offer suggestions like, “Let’s go to the Humane Society this weekend and pick out another cat for you.”**

**Note to those inclined to give such advice — For many people, their pets mean as much to them as your human relatives mean to you. So unless you’d feel comforted by someone saying, “Let’s run down to the assisted living facility this weekend and pick you out a new grandma,” maybe keep that particular bit of advice to yourself.

Grandma shopping aside, there’s an aspect of these calls that reminded me of some of the struggles the protagonist of my Mount Moriah mysteries, Lindsay Harding, has faced. Many of the callers are haunted–often for months or even years after their pet’s passing–by unanswered questions. “Did I euthanize Fluffy too soon? Would the cancer really have killed her, or should I have tried another round of chemo?” “What did Max actually die of? Was it really unavoidable, or did my vet just make a mistake and cover it up?” A variation on these calls comes when the pet has simply gone missing. “Where is Bailey? Is he happily living with a new family, or was he hit by a car and killed?” In all these cases, the callers’ brains drive them around the same rutted track, night after night.

My books, too, contain some unresolved mysteries. I don’t want to be accused of dropping spoilers of my own work, so suffice it to say that book two, A Death in Duck, ends with the fate of a major character unresolved. In book three, The Burnt Island Burial Ground, there is still no resolution, and the tension that comes with not knowing impacts many of Lindsay’s actions in that book. I have the luxury of being able to decide if, when, and how the mystery of that character’s fate will be resolved, but my poor protagonist still doesn’t know. One thing I’ve been at pains to have her avoid, though, is seeking closure.

As a hospital chaplain, Lindsay will have heard many variations on the themes of the Pet Loss Hotline’s callers. And I’m sure that she, like me, will have quickly picked up on the idea that it would be counterproductive to offer answers to the person’s questions. Saying something like, “I’m sure Bailey is fine. He was a smart dog, and I bet he’s living a really happy life on a farm,” may fool a five-year-old, but it’s certainly not going to help someone struggling with profound grief. (And if any of you have ever been told the “Bailey went to live on a farm” story as kids, you know how well that worked out!)

So how, then can we find closure when we are confronted by unanswerable questions? Well, we can’t. And I think it’s silly to try.

That may sound harsh, but one thing that has seemed to help callers to the hotline is for me to suggest that humans are hardwired to try to fill in gaps. We are creatures of meaning. We may complain that it’s unrealistic when our favorite TV series ends with a series of perfect weddings and happily-ever-afters, but we roar in agony when they end in cliffhangers, à la The Sopranos. Unanswered questions sit on our brains like itchy scabs, refusing to heal, demanding our attention.

So if we accept that such rumination is normal, what are we to do about it? My belief, which I’ve planted in Lindsay’s head, is to focus on living. Little by little, allow yourself to smile, breathe, and love again. Congratulate yourself when you do. When the unanswered questions start to poke their little fingers into our thoughts, remind yourself that they will always be there, but that you don’t have to let them drag you back to that same mental rut right now. You can choose instead to use those thoughts as reminders to take an action that would honor your loved one or pet. Bailey loved walks? Well, when you start to think about his disappearance, might it honor him if you took a walk and remembered the good times you had? Thinking about Fluffy’s tumor? What is something that might channel that question into something life-affirming? Perhaps putting a dollar in a jar each time you think about her diagnosis, and then donating that money to an animal charity?

As for Lindsay, she struggles to put this into practice, but I’m confident that she’ll keep trying. Sometimes it’s good to know that you’re in control of someone else’s happy endings, because in real life, closure is elusive.

Writers Who Kill Interview

If you’ve never checked out the wonderful Writers Who Kill blog, might I suggest that today would be an excellent day to do so? Coincidentally, they have kindly featured an interview about my Lindsay Harding series. 🙂 I’ve posted an excerpt below.

An Interview with Mindy Quigley

Mindy Quigley writes a mystery series featuring a most unusual sleuth, one with a profession I never contemplated before. Main character, Lindsay Harding is an ordained minister who serves as a hospital chaplain. Her profession brings her in contact with victims, but her personal life and history connects her to criminals as well. She’s not your parents’ minister.

Lindsay Harding Mystery, No. 1

How did you concoct Lindsay Harding? Was anyone you knew a hospital chaplain?

One of my many jobs (and, as a project manager who moved every couple of years, I’ve had many!) was working with the chaplains in the Pastoral Services department of the Duke University Medical Center. The chaplains would come back from the wards with these unbelievable stories, full of drama, heartbreak, and humor. It was a very unique place to work. I often told them, “One of you has to write a book about this.” None of them ever took up the challenge, so I was obliged to do it myself.

I have another source of real-life inspiration in that two of my four college roommates became ministers. One is a very “high church” Episcopal minister who happens to also be lesbian, and the other is an agnostic-leaning Unitarian Universalist minister who was a complete party animal in college. They are both fantastically empathic, deeply spiritual women who help their congregants wrestle with the big questions. Knowing them definitely changed my perception of what kind of person makes a good minister. Read more…

Birthing books, birthing babies, and cuddling with all kinds of feedback

Writer, reviewer, and book blogger Judy Nickles featured an interview with me on her blog yesterday. Check out an excerpt here:

If you’ve written more than one book, what have you learned between the first one and the new release? I’ve learned to greet critiques from my beta readers with wide open arms. The prospect of doing major rewrites (or even minor ones!) can be daunting, but it’s a necessary part of improving the final product. I owe it to my readers to put polished, entertaining work out there for them. Odds are high that anyone’s first draft is going to suck. The more comprehensive the feedback you receive and incorporate, the more you diminish those odds in subsequent drafts!

I’ve also learned that there’s a reason most writers don’t achieve success at a young age. Writing well, for me, involves a deepening of wisdom, a broadening of life experience, a honing of the skills of observation and concision, and a hell of a lot of practice. A few very gifted, very lucky individuals write fantastic first books at an early age, but obviously those people are freaks of nature who should be isolated from society to keep the rest of us from looking bad.

Read the entire interview on The Word Place blog.

I forgot to water the blog.

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, but I have a good excuse! I’m working on two exciting Minty Fresh endeavors:

Firstly, I’m busily drafting A Burnt Island Burial Ground, the third book in the Lindsay Harding series. Although I’m still a few months from publication, here’s a little sneak peak of the Back Cover blurb:

“We hid the body. The money belonged to everyone, but we stole it for ourselves. You have to help me give it back before it’s too late. If I don’t stop this, that money’s gonna drag us all straight down to hell.”

With these words, whispered to hospital chaplain Lindsay Harding as part of a cryptic confession, the stage is set for another intricately-plotted Mount Moriah mystery. All signs seem to point to a murder, but no one can find any trace of a body. Lindsay’s sure that not all is as it seems, but she’ll need hard grit and quick wit to follow a trail that leads from the deathbed of a wealthy textile magnate back through history to Burnt Island, a remote patch of swampland in eastern North Carolina.

Lindsay’s task is made all the more complicated by the quickly shifting landscape of her personal life. After pre-wedding jitters jeopardize a relationship that seemed to be her best shot at happily-ever-after, Lindsay falls under the spell of a charming stranger. Whether she gets another chance at love will depend on following her heart…and on whether she can keep that heart beating for long enough to unlock the mystery of Burnt Island.

The second major development here at Minty Fresh HQ is that I got word last week that A Murder in Mount Moriah is being turned into an audiobook by ACX! I just listened to the first few voice-over artist auditions, and they are SO GOOD. I’ll be posting more on my progress with that as the project takes shape.

Oh! If you don’t yet own A Death in Duck on Kindle, now’s your chance to snarfle up a copy for dead cheap. It’s only 99¢ until January 21st.

Free copies of A Death in Duck

Those of you who obsessively check my Amazon and Goodreads pages (or is that just me…?) will have Final-Book-Cover-Vector-v4seen that the cover artwork for the Lindsay Harding series has recently undergone a facelift. In celebration, I’m giving away three signed copies of A Death in Duck with the older artwork (the original Doberman cover) to the first three people who post reviews of either book on Amazon. Or better yet, review both books and then post your reviews on Goodreads as well! 🙂

Book2-v3 (2)Once you’ve left your honest review on Amazon, post the link in the comments section below. I’m interested in your opinion–both critique and praise–so please opine freely!

Reviews page for A Murder in Mount Moriah
Reviews page for A Death in Duck

If you’ve posted a review previously, THANK YOU. Just post the link to claim your free book! I’m also running this contest via my mailing list, so I’ll post updates in the comments section below as the free books are claimed.

 

There’s no shame in writing fluff! Interview with bestselling cozy author Julie Anne Lindsey

Julie Anne Lindsay, author of the fabulous Patience Price mystery series, muses on feminism, the importance of community and why writing is fun (in a never-ending torture kind of way). She also explains why she won’t be stabbing you with a shrimp fork any time soon. … Continue reading There’s no shame in writing fluff! Interview with bestselling cozy author Julie Anne Lindsey