Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Secret to Plotting a Mystery Novel by Hy Conrad and Giveaway!

Brought to you by...

Rally 'Round the Corpse
Hy Conrad

Page Count: 348
Release Date: 29 May, 2012
Seven Realms Publishing

It's two years since her fiance's death. Amy Abel needs to start over. And what better way for a shy, risk-averse woman to start than to sink all her savings into a travel agency specializing in adventure. Her first project? A mystery road rally through the European countryside.

At the starting line in Monte Carlo, Amy finds herself attracted to Marcus Alvarez, the most mysterious of her two dozen game-loving clients. But the rally gets off to a rocky start when an eccentric writer, the only person who knows the game's solution, is himself murdered back in New York.

So who would kill a harmless mystery geek? And why are weird accidents beginning to happen along the way? To her horror, Amy discovers that this fictional mystery was based on a real, unsolved case, one that Marcus knows too much about. Now she has no choice but to join forces with Fanny, her domineering mother, and solve this on her own, before the killer strikes again.

Good Bones: The Secret to Plotting a Mystery Novel

One of the most frequently asked questions for a mystery writer is, “Do you have everything plotted out in advance?” The answer—my answer at least—is “no.” There have been times when I’ve been halfway through a book and not known who the killer would be. Okay, that happened once. But you get the idea.

This isn’t because I’m a daredevil or have no respect for a good plot. I’m devoted to plots. It’s mainly because figuring out where everything is going would take me nearly as long as writing the book or screenplay itself. And then it probably wouldn’t be as good, because you can never foresee everything.

You have to live with a story for a while and make it real before you can figure out where the flaws are, when it’s time to give a character more motivation or where to insert a twist that propels it to a new level.

Since I’m not a complete idiot, I do start from an outline. These are the bones, the skeleton on which I’ll layer my story. But that’s the tricky part, to give your mystery the “good bones” that can hold up to all of your pushing and tugging and still look like a supermodel at the end.

For instance, a friend once told me a true story. A flamboyant relative had died and left instructions in his will to pay for a dozen of his closest friends to fly to Paris and scatter his ashes into the Seine. This instantly struck me as a great idea.

Within a week, I had a rough outline. A retired maid dies of cancer, but has enough money to send all her old bosses on an around-the-world trip, scattering her ashes on the sites she’d always wanted to visit. Over the years, the trusted maid had been the recipient of everyone’s secrets, including an envelope with these words: “In case of my death, give this to the police.” In short, years ago someone had entrusted the maid with an “If I Die” note for safe keeping. But the maid had died first. And the contents of the envelope are missing.

To me, these were good bones. I didn’t have to know what had been in the envelope, who was in danger or who the killer would turn out to be. Those details would all come. But the core of the story had enough richness to assure me that everything would work out. And the characters were there, a flock of spoiled New Yorkers, all dependent upon an eccentric maid who had once dominated their lives.

In case you’re wondering, this is the plot to If I Die Before the Wake, the next book in the Abel Adventures series.

I guess what I’m saying—my golden words on plot structure—is to spend time on your bones. Is it a plot you’ve never heard before? Is it an idea that can keep you excited and creative for the next six months? Does it hold enough possibilities to take you wherever you might need to go?

If not, keep looking. The world doesn’t need another mystery where a person knocks on the door and says, “You have to help me, (insert name of amateur detective). The police think I killed my boss. Sure, I hated him, but... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” Sorry, that was the sound of me falling asleep.

If you do have good bones, ones that you trust, then go for it. Start immediately and don’t look back. Or as the British say, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

About the Author

Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the original writers for the groundbreaking series, Monk. He worked on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer, and received three Edgar Nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best TV Episode.”

In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old. His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.

Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages. Hy’s first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in Key West in May 2012. And, in a different vein, he recently authored a humor book called Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Knowwhich was featured at Books à la Mode a few weeks ago!

Hy splits his time among Key West, Vermont and New York City.


Thanks to the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours, there is one copy of Rally 'Round the Corpse up for grabs—winner's choice of print, Kindle, Nook, iTunes, or Sony eReader format! To enter, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below :)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Rules and Disclosure:
Giveaway ends February 14th at 11.59 EST (your time).
Open internationally! However, only US/CAN residents are eligible for the print copy.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prizes will be forfeited.
Although I will be selecting winners, I am in no way responsible for the prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus, you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!